Rottnest Island is not only home to the cuddly marsupial dubbed the ‘world’s happiest animal’ – the quokka – but happiness seems to be in the very air on this picturesque island.
“When you sit here, you have the smell of the sea air in your nostrils, the sound of the waves lapping at the shore and the sight of the golden sunsets. It engages more senses than just taste – it’s an experience,” says Karl Wulff, executive chef at Pinky’s Beach Club and Thomsons Restaurant, the two premier eateries at Discovery – Rottnest Island. The smiles continue behind the scenes, too, since the master chef also believes that ‘a happy kitchen creates beautiful food’ – an ethos that’s easy to endorse once you’ve dined here.
The Rottnest allure
A prominent fixture on the island, Wulff’s 21-year career spanned many prestigious resorts and restaurants across Australia’s east coast and New Zealand – including MONA in Hobart, Port Douglas’ Peppers Beach Club, Hamilton Island Resort and Tatler Restaurant in Queenstown – before the lure of Rottnest Island drew him west.
And he’s not alone. The pint-sized 19km2 island destination is attracting a record number of visitors since the eco-friendly Discovery – Rottnest Island took up residence along the alluring shores of Pinky Beach. Right next door to the island’s best swimming beaches, and with million-dollar sunset views and the iconic Bathurst Lighthouse completing the picture-perfect vista, Discovery – Rottnest Island is a glamping experience like no other.
Discovery – Rottnest Island: the foodies’ base
The property features 83 eco tents in a range of styles to suit both budget and luxury travellers, all interconnected via walkways woven through the sand dunes and native landscape of the island. Holidaymakers can stay by the beach, close to nature – but with all the creature comforts one would expect from an island getaway. Meander through the dunes to arrive at Pinky’s Beach Club alongside the newly developed pool, complete with poolside bar.
It’s here that Wulff practises his happy food ethos. His philosophy – that a kitchen’s energy flows into its food – has helped to put Discovery – Rottnest Island’s relaxed restaurant on the map for foodies the world over. It’s why he encourages a positive, happy workplace: so his guests have a superior dining experience.
Loyal to local
His approach to menu design is ever changing, but grounded in a deep commitment to celebrate fresh, local produce – an approach that’s hard to whittle down in a region so spoilt for choice as Western Australia. Local fishermen catch seafood from the water at the resort’s doorstep and the team utilise local ingredients, such as sandfire and saltbush, which grow right on the island.
“It speaks to the story of Rottnest Island and pays homage to its hunter-gatherer history,” says Wulff.
Complementing this is his passion for the great Aussie barbecue, which inspires him to prepare many of his dishes over fire and coal. This, he says, “is where it really allows the foods’ own flavours to speak for themselves”.
“The island has a very simple quality that’s being preserved beautifully,” muses Wulff. “Food trends come and go but I really believe in a simplified, pared-back menu that lets the natural flavours of the food shine through.”
Luxury meets simplicity
Simplicity is a common theme for Rottnest and the resort is no different, boasting the island’s first low-impact glamping experience. What’s glamping, you ask? It’s a clever portmanteau that has been bandied about quite a lot recently, but one that Discovery Parks – Rottnest does so well. Literally meaning ‘glamorous camping’, it’s where luxury meets simplicity.
Combining a light environmental footprint with high-end luxury, guests to the property sleep in an eco-tent (almost) under the stars in an immersive experience rarely seen. It’s no surprise then that the resort opened its doors to visits from all-star celebrities Sir Bob Geldof and Chris Hemsworth in the first few weeks.
Despite its celebrity appeal, Rottnest is known for its peaceful setting where families can come to enjoy a relaxed and secluded getaway. Located just 25 minutes by ferry and with bikes the transport method of choice, getting to the island and exploring its unique wildlife and setting is easy. From the birds cruising above, to friendly quokkas roaming the island freely at leisure, it’s hard not to feel unbridled joy as you truly get back to nature.
Discovery – Rottnest Island is a place where you can reimagine the great Australian family holiday, disconnect from the world and enjoy freedom, space and simple pleasures.