Written by lschulz
The results are in from Spinal Life’s latest accessibility review: this time, it’s all about Rockingham!
Rockingham is a lovely spot about 45-minutes south of Perth. With 37 kilometres of beautiful coastline, protected bays and gorgeous beaches, it’s no wonder it’s well-known for its water activities. Recently, Spinal Life Australia received a grant from the City of Rockingham to deliver a report called “Accessible Rockingham”. It involved staff and volunteers with disabilities visiting 20 points of interest in order to highlight their accessible features and identify changes that could improve the accessibility of the region. The aim was also to educate tourism operators and small businesses on steps they can take to make these changes happen.
Advocacy officer, Karen Harvey, headed up this great project. Here are Karen’s top 5 accessible places to visit in Rockingham.
1. Tandem Sea Kayaking
While in Rockingham, I was able to experience sea kayaking. It was my first time and I was very excited about it. The tours are normally six hours, and you hop in and out of the kayak on different islands. This was going to be impossible for me, but Jimmy, the tour guide and owner of Capricorn Sea Kayaking, really went the extra mile to allow me to experience it. He tailored a one-hour sea kayaking experience just for me. The first step was for me to transfer myself into a two person kayak. As a paraplegic, I was able to do this myself directly from my chair, as I do have strong upper limb function. We then had a safety briefing and a practice on solid ground before launching our kayak from the local boat ramp. My anticipation grew as got to the water’s edge. I was pushed out gently and then.. I was away! I can recall saying: “Look, I’m doing it!” like a proud child riding their bike for the first time. It’s moments like this that really enhance your quality of life and I’m grateful for such a fantastic experience. It’s such great news that Jimmy is very open to creating tours like this so that other people with a mobility impairment, as well as older people and families with young children, will be able to experience this wonderful activity.
2. Dolphin, penguin and sea lion cruise
A great spot to visit from Rockingham is the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, one of Western Australia’s most important protected marine areas, encompassing more than 6,000 hectares. Perth Wildlife Encounters offers wildlife cruises that let you come face to face with this amazing local wildlife, including dolphins, sea lions and penguins. I was lucky enough to go on a one-hour boat cruise, travelling to Seal Island (which, in actual fact, is home to sea lions). This tour is available for people of all abilities and takes place aboard an accessible boat with a glass viewing area. Getting on the boat was a little tricky on the day. It has a ramp that sits higher or lower depending on the tide, so it’s easier to board when tides are high. The tide was low on the day I boarded, so even though I was able to access the boat, I couldn’t do it independently – the angle of the ramp was just too steep. Once on board I was able to find a spot with maybe the best view on the boat. From there, as we approached Seal Island, I was able to watch sea lions in their natural surroundings and learn a little about them from the commentator. Later, we were lucky enough to see dolphins, who rode alongside the boat and dove in and out of its wake. It felt so lovely to be out on the water and have the wind in my hair, and seeing such incredible mammals was a special experience I will treasure for a long time.
3. Penguin Island
Part of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, Penguin Island is a small island just 700 metres off the coast of Rockingham. To get there you take a five-minute ferry ride from the mainland (also run by Perth Wildlife Encounters), which depart hourly from 9am to 3pm. A ramp allows you to board the ferry via a wheelchair, however the angle of the ramp depends on the level of the tide, so you might need assistance to get on board. Once off the ferry I was able to freely wheel down a wooded pathway to the Discovery Centre. The island is home to a colony of more than 1,000 Little Penguins, the world’s smallest penguins and the only species to live permanently in Australian waters. I had timed things perfectly: a penguin feeding show was just starting, and I was guided to an area where I had a great view of the show. The visit to the Discovery Centre was amazing and there were many “Aw, that’s so cute” moments that I can treasure when thinking back. After watching the feeding, we went for a look around the island via the wooden pathway. It was easy to navigate and wide enough to accommodate both wheelchairs and other pedestrians comfortably. It also afforded me some beautiful photo opportunities and more lovely memories of a great day out!
4. Point Peron
I hadn’t heard too much about Point Peron before I visited it for the Accessible Rockingham report, but this is a beautiful spot, also known as Cape Peron, just five minutes from the heart of Rockingham. Finding our way there was exciting: we travelled up a winding country-looking road until, to our surprise, we came across the most beautiful limestone coastline, with bush paths and an amazing lookout; a man-made structure from where you get an incredible panoramic view. For me the push up to the lookout was really steep, but with the assistance of my friend pushing we made it to the top. It was so worth it. I felt like I was on top of the world. It was a peaceful and beautiful experience as I sat at the edge of the viewing platform and took in so much natural beauty, as far as the eye could see.
5. The Rockingham Beach experience
I highly recommend that anyone coming to this part of the world visits the Rockingham Foreshore. My day there started with a trip to the jetty. You can wheel right out to the edge, plus there’s a lower level that can be easily accessed by people using wheelchairs. On the day I visited the tide was quite high, so the water almost reached this lower level. The ocean was so close – if I could have jumped in, I would have. I sat there for a while, just enjoying the calming sensation you get from being so close to the water and nature. My next adventure was to experience the beautiful and accessible Rockingham Beach. Thanks to its north-facing position giving it protection from the winds, it’s is famous for its calm waters. And with seasonal beach matting, two beach wheelchairs available for free at the nearby yacht club, and a concrete path down to the edge of the sand, people in wheelchairs can easily enjoy a day here. I used one of the beach wheelchairs to go into the ocean. It was a beautiful moment: the first time I’d felt seawater on my body in more than 20 years. Having worked up an appetite after these incredible experiences, it was time to hit the fantastic cafés and restaurants on the Rockingham Beach Boardwalk, which runs along the Foreshore. There’s parking directly out front or by the yacht club, and accessible toilets are not far away, in Churchill Park. The restaurants that line the very front of the foreshore offer picture-postcard views, awesome accessibility… and incredible food. Over the days of my visit I experienced some wonderful meals, but I would have to give five stars to Rústico Tapas on the Boardwalk. We chose a five-course shared tapas degustation menu, and it was an amazing culinary experience.
Reviews were done all over Rockingham and they can be see by using the Accessible Australia web App – www.accessibleaustralia.com.au