Holidaying at Rotto, then and now

Headshot of Geoffrey Thomas
Geoffrey ThomasThe West Australian
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Rottnest luxury. Samphire Reception.
Camera IconRottnest luxury. Samphire Reception. Credit: Geoffrey Thomas/The West Australian

In 1967, then Rottnest Island Manager Des Sullivan told my parents that they had the most luxurious accommodation on the island.

And so we had.

My mother, Una could turn her hand to anything and had made not one but two permanent tents in tent-land.

One had our beds, the other a dining/lounge room and kitchen complete with stove and kerosene fridge.

For many years we would spend all our holidays in this idyllic almost resort style luxury and the bus tour would stop in front of our "palace" to show what some folks had done.

But that was our undoing for many permanent tents sprang up and the Island Board decided it was all out of control.

We were forced to sell to the board and left Rottnest for many decades as nothing on the island could match what we had enjoyed.

Rottnest luxury. The Thomas family twin permanent tents at Rottnest in 1967.
Camera IconRottnest luxury. The Thomas family twin permanent tents at Rottnest in 1967. Credit: Geoffrey Thomas/The West Australian

Fast forward to 2021 and I have rediscovered luxury at Rotto.

In January it was a couple of nights’ glamping at the new Discovery property at Pinky’s Beach which is superb.

The tents are tents in name only and ours – a superior tent – came with every luxury including a beautifully appointed ensuite bathroom and kitchenette.

Cost was around $365 a night but pricing for a standard tent starts at $339 on various travel websites.

The location is only metres away from the Basin and overlooks Pinky’s Beach which is great for a dip at any time.

There are 83 eco-tents, and the premium tents feature spacious en-suites, pillow-topped beds and furnished outdoor decks.

Rottnest luxury. Superior tent.
Camera IconRottnest luxury. Superior tent. Credit: Geoffrey Thomas/The West Australian

Boardwalks and pathways between eco-tents help to keep the landscape undisturbed.

Pinky’s Beach Club is the restaurant and bar and perfect for watching the sunset.

If the ocean is not your style there is a 30m guest swimming pool and poolside bar.

We had a perfect couple of days immersed in luxury but with that classic Rotto feel all around us.

The next brush with luxury came more recently with a couple of nights at the Samphire, which is located adjacent to the hotel.

Quite simply, a seven-star experience with magnificent facilities and rooms and in the off season that luxury starts at just $240 a night.

In fact, it seems odd to have that level of luxury at Rotto but you soon get used to it!

Rottnest luxury. Samphire pool area.
Camera IconRottnest luxury. Samphire pool area. Credit: Geoffrey Thomas/The West Australian

The staff excel and it seems nothing is too much trouble.

And there was something very special about having breakfast on the open deck overlooking Thomson Bay only beaten by watching the pink moon rise during dinner – priceless.

Our Samphire visit was first disrupted by the recent COVID lockdown and then impacted by subsequent mask and space restrictions but the staff had work-rounds and the disruption was minimal.

Credits were given without question while Rottnest Fast Ferries responded in literally seconds with new tickets.

Samphire has special packages such as the Food Lovers in a Poolside King Suite which includes two signature cocktails at the Bayside Bar, dinner at Lontara, enjoying the chef’s specialty "Feed Me" menu for two. The package also includes breakfast, bike hire and a 12pm late checkout.

Cost for the weekend of June 4 to 6 is $1,340 for two people with some conditions.

The Samphire has a wide range of room and price options with the beachfront villas the flagship. Holiday times command a significant premium at both Discovery Rottnest and Samphire but that is not deterring bookings with accommodation snapped up.

Geoffrey Thomas paid for all his accommodation, meals and drinks.

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