Rottnest Walks : Colonial Buildings of Thomson Bay

When I left the museum, honestly I thought that I will go straight to the jetty and will just wait there until boarding time. But while walking, I found information boards not far from buildings. And I saw a couple of them. When I approached one of it, I realized that the building it describes are historical building. Then, I remembered that I had a brochure about Rottnest Colonial Buildings, I took it out from my bag. Then, I checked the time, I knew I had at least half an hour to spare for a walk to see the historical buildings in the island before the scheduled boarding time. I was time conscious or else I will be left behind by the ferry and most likely to miss my flight back to Manila that night. But, it did not happen as I quickly stride from one building to another. Below are some if not all colonial buildings that I was able to see as fast as I can while in the island.

Since I came from Rottnest Island Museum, the first building that I was able to recognized as colonial building in Thomson Bay Settlement area was Old Mill and Hay Store.

Old Mill and Hay Store (1857) – Rottnest Island Museum






The building was constructed after previous farm buildings were destroyed by fire as part of the complex farm buildings alongside with General Store. The building was first converted into staff accommodation for the Island’s hostel in 1911 when the prison was closed, it also housed the Rottnest Literary Institute and Club until it finally became a museum in 1979.

Then I walked along Digby Drive towards the bay and turned left and went inside the General Store to buy post cards as my souvenir in the island.

Hay Store (1857) – General Store



The island’s current shopping mall was part of the complex that includes two-storey prison/workshop building, stables, barns, and a piggery. The General Store was a former hay store and converted for commercial use in the early 20th century.

With the arrival of the first holiday makers in early 1900s, The General Store and Bakery were the first to welcome the public, followed by a greengrocer, butcher, laundrette and hair salon.

From General Store, I walked along Somerville Drive and turned right at Maley Street where I found the Military Barracks and now serve as accommodation units for guest and visitors in the island.

Military Barracks (1844)  – 3 Flats (“E”,”J” & “H”) or Room 339, 338, & 337



Originally a military barracks and accommodated soldiers that guarded Aboriginal prison. When a new prison built in 1864, the soldier replaced by resident  prison warders. This building consisted of 3 rooms and modified later for Prison wardens and their families. It was altered again and extended  to provide accommodation for the Island’s School Teacher in 1898. Then it divided again into 3 Flats in 1917.

Then, I turned left in Vincent Way while facing the bay. The next building that I saw was the Second Superintendent’s House, which serve as another accommodation unit in the island.

Second Superintendent’s House (1848) – Sullivan or Room 336




This building built in 1848 when Governor Fitzgerald expressed interest in taking over the First Superintendent’s House. The building also accommodated the Island’s store keeper (1898), the Colonial Secretary (1908) and the Officer-In-Charge (World War I & II). It later became the Island Manager’s House.

I was still walking along Vincent Way, when I found the Pilot’s Quarters or Pilot’s Cottage which now serve as additional accommodation unit.

Pilot’s Quarters / Cottage (1847) – Room 335 & 334



Mr. Francis Armstrong arrived at the island in 1847 as Storekeeper and Moral Agent to improve the habits and morals of the prisoners. He lived in the cottage for less than a year to avoid conflicts with Henry Vincent – the Superintendent of Aboriginal Prison. After Armstrong, the chief pilot occupied the cottage, that is why it was called as Pilot’s cottage.

Another building that I found along Vincent Way was Coxwain’s Cottage. I was not able to capture the photo of the next building beside which called as Pilot Crew Kitchen

Coxswain’s Cottage (1871) with Photo – Room 333 & Pilot Crew Kitchen (1867) No Photo – Room 332



Coxwain which was an Assistant Pilot stayed in the cottage and was built in 1871. Between 1848 and 1903, pilot crew were needed for guiding ships between the island and Fremantle Port. Cottages are need for Coxwain and other pilot crews. Pilot Crew Kitchen was built inn 1867.

The last building that I saw along Vincent Way before I turned left to Cusack St was the Pilot’s Crew Quarter but was not able to capture a photo of it. But currently the quarter is now served as guest accommodation too.

Pilot Crew’s Quarter (1846-1852) No Photo – Room 301


Pilot Service was stationed in the island as guide ship due to treacherous reefs and the Pilot Crew Quarters became their accommodation.

While taking the Cusack Street, I had a chance to see the Orchard.

The Orchard




The Orchard showcases that during the colony period, vegetable yards was very important for the early settlers, until the said industry became big and this enabled them to trade to the mainland. The orchard shows the fencing style and plantings during that time.

While I was checking the Orchard, I was lucky so see Quokka for the second time (the first was while I was in Parker Point). This time, I realized how these animals are so cute and charming when up close with them.

Then, I walked along Kitson Street until I found what I was looking for, the School House.



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Pilot Crew Quarters & School House (1890) – Guest House / Accommodation




The building was built in 1890, to be used by Leading Hand of the Pilot Crew. Then, became island’s first designated school-house from 1910 to 1962 when the Pilot Service was closed in 1903. Until it finally became staff and holiday accommodation.

Not far from School House, I saw information board telling the readers that the land is a sacred site.

Wadjemup Burial Ground – A sacred Site







When I read the information boards across burial ground area, it was a relief that there was a ground dedicated and recognized as sacred site for the aboriginals throughout the island. After learning that a lot of aboriginals were buried somewhere within the island and yet unidentified was somewhat a sad story for the natives. And having this kind of site returns respect to Aboriginals after a tragic history that happens in Rottnest.

Then, I looked again on the brochure map that I was holding and following the location of the other colonial buildings. But before I found another one, I saw again a familiar flag while I was traveling in Western Australia, an Australian Aboriginal Flag. Not far from where the Australian Aboriginal Flag stands, I found the Lomas Cottage.

Australian Aboriginal Flag



Lomas Cottage (1871) – Exhibition Space




Lomas Cottage or commonly known as “Buckingham Palace” a named it received in 1880s when Warder Buckingham lived in the cottage. Formerly it was built for John Lomas, ex-convict and became “Imperial Pauper”. The cottage served many different purposes. Right now, it servers as an exhibition space.

Next to Lomas Cottage, the vast space or grasssed area now with trees is known as Heritage Common.

Heritage Common





These place witnessed the men whom crossed here from 1864 to 1903 as over 3000 Aboriginal men came to Rottnest’s infamous Quod.

The Quod (1863-1864) – Karma Rottnest












Quod is an old English slang word for prison. And the Quod served as prison in Rottnest island for Aboriginal men. When the prison was closed, it was converted into a hostel or lodge as holiday accommodation today as Karma Rottnest.

After passing “The Quod”, my walk continue until I saw another board information which signifies another historical colonial building, where I saw “The Chapel”.

The Old School and Chapel (1856 – 1857)



The building was originally built as school by aboriginals and became local point of the island’s community. It was used as school during weekday and chapel on Sundays. It has been venue for tea dances and meetings of the Rottnest Island Institute. When the prison was closed, it was stopped as school and converted back as chapel.

Just beside “The Chapel”, another colonial building is still standing, it is called Boy Reformatory and now additional accommodation for guests in the island.

Boys Reformatory (1880-1881) – Accomodation Hostel



The building was designed by Public Works Department, it was completed in 1881. Before, the juvenile prisoners sent to Perth Gaol, but when this was built, young prisoners sent here so that they can be separated to adult criminals to be able to change their way of life and not to be influence of prisoners in gaol. Now, the building was converted into “Accommodation House” for the State Hostel and the dormitories were divided into bedrooms.

Then, as I look into the map, the last building that I can visit to see before I walked towards the jetty to board a ferry was “The Salt Store”. One of the buildings that easy to see since it is standing not far from the jetty. But because, of the time the building was already closed, where the volunteers in the picture took care the Australian flag.

The Salt Store (1868) – Gallery and Exhibition Centre


Capture before boarding the ferry


Captured when arrived in the island

Salt which crystallizes on the beds of the salt lakes when dried were brought to Salt Store since 1830s by the settlers and then later by aboriginals. Salt Store supplies the salt to the whole Western Australia during its early years.

There is one and probably the most charming building of all colonial buildings that I should see but I missed was Governor’s Residence as it is separated to most of the colonial buildings that I saw. Because of limited time, I had to run to jetty not to missed my ferry.

Until then.

Notes :
1. Plan to visit Rottnest Island ? Please check latest information here.
2. Location : Rottnest Island, WA 6161, Australia
3. Directions to Rottnest Island :
Transportation :
a. Join Day Tours from Perth or
b. Go to Barrack Street Jetty Elizabeth Quay terminal and take Rottnest Express
c. Go to Hillarys Ferry Terminal and take Rottnest Fast Ferries boat
d. Go to Northport Rous Head Harbour or  B Shed Victoria Quay in Fremantile and
take Rottnest Express ferry or
e. Go to B Shed Victoria Quay in Fremantile and take Sealink Rottnest Island ferry
4. Directions to Thomson Bay Settlement area
a. From Main Jetty go to Rottnest Island Visitor Centre and get a brochure for
Colonial Buildings of Thomson Bay to follow the historical walking trails of the
Official Website : Rottnest Island