Rockingham is a city in the South West region of Western Australia, about 50 km south of central Perth. An unsung hero of the metro area, it is often left off tourist radars, but it well worth a visit for its stunning beaches and laid back coastal lifestyle. On the surface, it looks like a suburban dystopia, but scratch below the surface, and you will find some beautiful hidden gems.
The City of Rockingham covers 257 km² and is home to over 133,000 residents (2018). It has grown incredibly rapidly: a mere 12,000 people lived here in 1971, and 70,000 in 2001. But its history begins over 45,000 years ago, when Binjareb Noongar people settled in the area.
European arrivals started in the late 1847, but there was little interest in the area until the timber jetty and railway were established in 1872. The port continued to operate until 1908, when it was closed due to competition from port in better locations with better rail connections.
Rockingham did not undergo its first major expansion until the 1930s, when a Road Board - now the City of Rockingham - was established to oversee the area. The Road Board building is now a museum. The next big boom did not come until after World War II, when it became a popular seaside destination. Growth continued until the 1970s, when the area gained enough residents to be aware official city status.
The next big boom started in the 2000s, when new housing developments began to spring up all over the city, and high rises first appeared at the foreshore. The demand for new homes continues.
Like many cities in Australia, Rockingham is split into suburbs. Some of these suburbs, in turn, have distinct neighbourhoods within them. Some are worth exploring, while others have very little for visitors to see.
The beating, economic heart of Rockingham is a densely populated mecca for shoppers.
Home to Hillman and a large stretch of bushland to explore, including the famous Lake Cooloongup.
Head here for the city's unique north-facing beach, wonderful public parks, and amazing festivals.
Shoalwater and Safety Bay
Stunning beaches without the crowds give way to natural landscapes and a stunning national park.
Mostly residential, but with more stunning beaches to enjoy.
Secret Harbour, Golden Bay, and Singleton offer - you guessed it - more beaches! But there are also opportunities for nature lovers, if you know where to look.
The fastest growing area of the city serves as a gateway to the Darling Scarp and dozens of bush walking opportunities.
Karnup and Stake Hill
There are still rural parts of Rockingham to explore, and you might even get to see some endangered species.
Rockingham's climate is mostly the same as the rest of Perth's, but with a few differences. Summers are long and hot, with the temperature easily reaching 37 °C or more. Expect warm nights during this time of year. Long stretches of humid days often end in thunderstorms. Autumn is pleasant, with a mix of hot and cold days, but mostly clear skies that will give you plenty of opportunities to explore. Winter is cold. Although it does rain much in winter, rain is usually concentrated to several days of heavy downpours followed by cold, clear days. It does not snow in Rockingham, but hail can occur, and not just in winter. Spring is similar to Autumn, but with the transition taking place in reverse. Spring is also flower time, so stock up on anti-histamines if you have hay fever.
Storms in Rockingham can occur at any time of year, but mostly occur during late summer and winter. Due to the city's geography, storms can occur without warning and are more intense than in other parts of the metro area. Damaging winds always occur during these storms. If a storm is forecast, or you can hear thunder, stay indoors.
For the latest weather forecast, check the BOM website
If a property you are staying at is damaged by severe weather, call the State Emergency Service on ☏
Several major highway pass through the city. National Route 1, which circles Australia, passes through the city. The route follows Patterson Road, Ennis Avenue, and Mandurah Road. It is often busy, but provides good connections to Mandurah and Fremantle. Mundijong Road connects the city to the Darling Scarp via Kulija Road.
The Kwinana Freeway runs north to south through the rural sections of Rockingham, but provides direct access to the city from Perth, the Peel Region, and the southwest via the Forrest Highway. Local businesses often claim that you can drive from Perth to the city centre in just 45 minutes, but that only applies when traffic on the Freeway is very light. Most of the time, the trip takes an hour, but can take even longer during peak periods, or in the periods before or after major holidays like Easter and Christmas, when a mass exodus of travellers heading south, or coming home, turn even a short trip into a nightmare. Driving into Rockingham has its benefits, but if you are coming and going by the freeway, be prepared.
The Mandurah Line serves the city, running 72 km from Perth to Mandurah. Rockingham station, located on Ennis Avenue, is the closest station to the city centre. A journey from Perth takes about 35 minutes, with trains running every 10-15 weekdays and every 15 minutes on weekends. Service is less frequent after dark. Warnbro station, off Safety Bay Road, is better for travellers heading to Baldivis or southern areas of the city. A trip to Perth is 38 minutes. Warnbro has the same frequency as Rockingham station. A trip to Mandurah is 14 minutes from Rockingham and 11 from Warnbro. Both stations have bus connections to surrounding areas.
Rockingham used to have direct bus connections to Perth, but those services were withdrawn when the train line opened. Today, there are three direct bus connections to Rockingham, two heading to Fremantle and one heading to Mandurah.
Route 548 operates every two hours on weekdays and Saturdays, running to Fremantle via Cockburn Road and Coogee. There is no Sunday or holiday service. The trip takes about 50 minutes. Route 549 also runs to Fremantle, but takes a longer, winding route through the suburbs of Kwinana, Phoenix Park, and Hamilton Hill, and takes about two hours. It does have a higher service frequency than the 548 though, which departures ever 20-30 minutes most days. Be aware that some late afternoon trips end in Kwinana, not Rockingham, so check the timetable carefully.
For passengers heading to Mandurah, route 558 is the only choice. It takes about 90 minutes, and the route is not direct.
There are advantages to driving in Rockingham. The biggest of these is the ability to go where you want, when you want. While roads can and do get busy during school hours and peak time, a car journey is very easy and even relaxing at most times of the day or night.
The biggest problem is parking. Car parks at Rockingham Centre, the Waterfront Village, and the train stations fill up very quickly regardless of the time of year, but during major events or sales, things can get even worse. Road rage is not unheard of at Rockingham Centre during the lead up to Christmas, though it is still rare.
You should also be aware of time limits. Some limits are very generous, such as the all day parking next to Contest Parade, while others could see you being forced to move your car every 30 minutes or face a fine. Limits are stricter around the foreshore, where parking is limited. There are, of course, parking areas with no limits, and these are easy to find. Be aware that council rangers, who hand out parking fines, are becoming more aggressive when it comes to enforcement. Fines are $120.
Also, don't park at certain business or shopping centre car parks unless you plan to do business there. There are dozens of places through the city where building owners or managers will be more than happy to tow your car if they realise you are not one of their customers. Impound fees can be high, so check signage before you leave your vehicle.
Parking is free throughout the city except at the train stations, where the daily fee is $2.
Rockingham has an extensive bus network that serves most areas of the city. With proper planning, it is possible to explore the city by bus, which will help you avoid the city's chronic parking problems. However, much like the situation in Los Angeles county, the transit system leaves something to be desired.
All routes are focused on either Rockingham or Warnbro train stations, thanks to most public transit users travelling during the peaks. As a result, there are no cross town routes, so if you aren't travelling to or from one of these stations, you will need to make a transfer. The best place to transfer for most routes in on Kitson Street, at the stop outside Bradbury Villas. All but four of Rockingham station's routes stop here, and the stop is relatively quiet. If you are heading to Baldivis, you will need to transfer at Wanbro station.
Most buses run hourly throughout the day, although some routes run more frequently while others have very limited service. The 555 bus runs every 15-30 minutes, while the 550 only runs six times a day on weekdays. Some routes, like the 550 and 554, only run on weekdays. Many routes offer enhanced service during peak hours, but not all do. In addition, there are many landmarks and areas of the city, mostly small suburban shopping centres and new suburbs, that do no not have any bus service
Beware of travelling between 14:30 and 16:00 on school days: that is when high school students pile onto buses in order to get home or go shopping. They are noisy and lack basic manners, and can make a bus trip very unpleasant. This is not true for all high school kids, but beware of this if you planning to ride the bus on school days. Also, some bus trips run special trips for school students, sometimes going well away from their normal route and adding ten minutes or more to journey times. These trips are always clearly shown on timetables so you can avoid them.
Rockingham has many taxis, although fares can be high. Expect a base fare of at least $3.50 during the day and even high base fares at night. Fares increase for every minute, not by distance. You will also be charged more for luggage or for advance bookings, although the latter fee will be waived if your driver arrives late. If you are happy to pay, taxis offer the convenience of car travel without the parking problems, and are the best option for car free travellers who need to go somewhere the buses don't.
Some taxis are area-restricted, which means they can only travel in certain regions. These restrictions won't affect you if you are traveling within the city, but could impact your journey if you are travelling to neighbouring areas or regions. If you are taking a taxi to a destination outside the city, call ahead and make a booking to be sure you don't get caught out.
There are two destinations in Rockingham that can only be accessed by boat. Private boats are banned from landing at Penguin Island, but there is a regular ferry service departing from the jetty at Safety Bay. A trip costs $32 for adults, $29 for concession card holders, $25 for a child, and $16 for carers. Rockingham Wildlife Encounters] ☏ .
Parts of Garden Island can be accessed by boat between sunrise and sunset, but because the island is an active Naval base, there are restrictions on where you can go and what you can do. Follow your charts and avoid restricted areas.
Do not go boating near the grain terminal dock. It is an active shipping dock and going anywhere near the large ships that use it to load grain is dangerous. There is an exclusion zone in place in this area, and the terminal's owners take trespassing seriously.
The biggest reason most people live in and visit Rockingham it for its beaches. The entire northern and western edges of the city form one long stretch of sand facing the Indian Ocean. While parking is difficult at the foreshore, most other beaches have ample parking, and some are served by bus. Swimming and snorkelling opportunities are available almost everywhere, but the best snorkelling spot is the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, although there are some access restrictions in this area.
Bush walkers and hikers will find Rockingham a paradise. There are many bush walks and nature trails, both official and unofficial, within the city. The most notable natural attractions are Point Peron, Lake Cooloongup, and Lake Richmond (Naragebup). Rural areas of the city offer many chances to spot animals such as kangaroos, and Paganoni Swamp in Karnup is home to the endangered Quenda, a bandicoot species under threat from foxes.
History enthusiasts should pay a visit to the Rockingham Museum on Flinders Lane.
Rockingham has two cinemas, United and Ace, both in the city centre. For people who prefer a live show, the local theatre company operates out of The Castle in East Rockingham.
Wildlife can be found all over Rockingham. Bird spotting is easy, with native birds often found in parks and front yards, sometimes in very large flocks. Kangaroos and marsupials can be found in bushland areas, alongside lizards and snakes - be cautious when it comes to the latter, as most snakes in the area are venomous. Penguins can be found in the marine park, and you can get a closer look at Penguin Island. Cockburn Sound is also home to a pod of dolphins.
Festivals: Rockingham is home to several small but growing festivals each year. The biggest and most popular take place at the Waterfront Village, including the International Food Festival and Cast Aways sculpture display. Other events, such as the Baldivis Fair, are scattered around the city.
Sports: Like the rest of the country, Rockingham residents love their sort. The biggest drawcard is the annual Beach Cup, a charity horse race run on the sand at Rockingham Beach. Local football, soccer, and rugby teams can be found all over the city, and horse riding schools can be found in Baldivis, and the beach near the grain terminal is open to horses. There are several skate parks found throughout the city. Bushwalking trails and beaches offer opportunities for jogging and running.
Swimming, fishing, and water sports: Most beaches offer opportunities for water sports. Water sports are banned in the marine park, and there may be some restrictions in other areas. Every beach except those in the marine park also offer fishing opportunities, with plenty of local species out in the deep waters. You can also try your hand at crabbing.
- Rockingham is host to some friendly nightlife.
- 1 Rockingham Beach, Rockingham Beach Road, Rockingham (Take a Mandurah line train to Rockingham, then change for the 555 bus. Get off on Railway Tce.). One the best beaches in the Southern Suburbs, Rockingham Beach is served by two public parks, a boardwalk lined with cafes, numerous boutique cafes and shops and frequent public transport. Food prices are relatively low. There are several playgrounds in the area, one of which caters specifically for toddlers. If you get bored of the beach front itself, there are more shops on nearby Kent Street, including a bakery and deli. The visitors centre is located inside the Gary Holland Community Centre, at the corner of Kent Street and Flinders Lane. On Sundays, the Rotary Club hold a market in the carpark behind the centre; entry is by gold coin donation and there is always a great bargain to find. During the year, several major events, including the Community Fair (formerly Spring Carnival) are held on the Village Green, also behind the community centre. The park in front of the beach is also home to an annual sea food festival and New Year's Eve celebrations. The NYE event is one of the safest in the state and is very family friendly.
- 2 Safety Bay. The beach here is sheltered from the waves, making it appropriate for children. There are also boat excursions from here (nearby wildlife includes dolphins, whales, sea lions and penguins). There are also shops and restaurants in the nearby neighbourhood.
- 3 Penguin Island, ☏ . A small island of the coast of Rockingham, home to a large colony of "little penguins". It is best accessed by a quick ferry ride from Rockingham, costing about $20. Some people swim across to the island, or even walk there on the sandbar which is exposed at low tide. However, this can be dangerous and is not recommended.
There are several opportunities to buy surfwear in the city, either from independent stores or chain stores found in shopping centres. There are also several places to buy scuba and snorkelling equipment.
Various retailers can be found in the city, selling anything from hand-made crafts to fast fashion. Rockingham Centre and Warnbro Centre are the major shopping malls, but don't expect to find luxury outlets in either of them. For unique items, try the many Sunday Markets that take over local car parks most weekends, but be aware of knock-offs and pirated goods. These do show up on market stalls on occasion.
If you are looking for genuine Indigenous art, head online. If you find Indigenous art in a store, there is a chance that it could be fake. If the seller cannot tell you where the artist comes from and only gives vague answers about the artist's culture, then don't buy it. Finding a gallery or artist online is the best way to find real Noongar art in the city.
Any one who sells you anything in the city, whether it's a second-hand car on eBay or a high-end TV from a big box store, must abide by the Australian Consumer Law, which sets out your rights as the buyer. If you believe you have been ripped off or your rights violated, contact Consumer Protection online or ☏ 1300 304 054 (domestic).
- 1 Surf Mania, 7 Railway Terrace (overlooking Rockingham Foreshore), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 9AM - 5PM. Locally owned and operated surf shop. $20.
Not surprisingly, seafood, especially fish and chips, can be found almost everywhere. Some can be bought at suburban delis for next to nothing, while seafood sold from restaurants will cost a lot more, especially if that restaurant serves tourists. A higher price does not always mean higher quality. In most cases, the best fish and chips can be found at delis.
Thanks to its English heritage, staples such as roast meats, pies, sausage rolls, and sandwiches can be found everywhere, also at different prices. The Chiko roll - mashed vegetables deep friend in a pastry shell - is an Australian invention that can be found in various locations.
Thanks to immigration from around the world, Chinese, Middle-Eastern, and Indian foods are widely available. You can also find Mexican in Safety Bay.
Vegetarians will have a hard time finding food they can eat, although Indian and Chinese places offer better selections. If you are vegan, or follow a religious diet, you'll have an even harder time finding suitable meals. Rockingham has not yet caught on to veganism, Kosher, or Halal, although there are a limited number of Halal-certified places, mainly serving Middle Eastern fare, if you know where to look.
Coffee is everywhere, but it's also expensive. Both coffee chains and independent cafes sell coffee and tea, but don't forget about MacDonald's, which also sells surprisingly good coffee.
The city is also full of bars and pubs catering to those who like to drink something a little stronger.
There are a few hotels and serviced apartments in the city, but it is mostly concentrated near the city centre or the waterfront. A number of Bed and Breakfast businesses have appeared in the last decade, usually near the beach. Do your research and you'll find something to suit your taste and budget.
Crime rates are low in Rockingham, but low crime does not mean no crime. The usual precautions about keeping your valuables safe apply here, as they would in any other city. Confidence scams and pickpocketing are rare, but can happen from time to time. Most of these scams usually involve the internet, usually "love scams". If someone you met online starts asking you for money, do not give them any. Also, do not give your details to anyone who contacts you by phone climbing to be from a telephone company, the police, government agency, or corporation like Microsoft. These types of phone scams, targeting your bank accounts, are common in Australia. You may be targeted if you are staying here for a long time.
Property crime, usually theft and shoplifting, happens often. Be especially weary of isolated carparks at Point Peron, or ones near less crowded beaches, as these are targeted by thieves. Remember the golden rule: Look, Lock, Leave. Look to see if you can easily spot any valuables from outside your car. If you can see a laptop or wallet, thieves can too. Lock: double check your car doors to make sure they are locked. Use your alarm if you have one. Don't leave until you have completed both these steps.
Drug crime, mostly related to the use of methamphetamine or "ice", has impacted crime across the state, but most drug crime only impacts people who are directly involved with it. Unless you are actively seeking out drugs, you won't need to worry about this issue. Avoid anyone who appears to be under the influence, although you most likely won't encounter any affected person during your stay.
Assaults, sex crimes, and murders are extremely rare, however, women should exercise caution at night, especially in Hillman and Cooloongup.
To report a crime after it has occurred, dial ☏
Racism and discrimination
Racism is rare in Rockingham, and you are highly unlikely to experience any during your stay. Hate crimes are extremely rare. Racism does, however, happen from time to time. Racism is illegal in Australia and can be reported to the police at ☏ website.. If you are refused service because of your race, sex, gender identity, or religion, you can contact the Equal Opportunity Commission
If you have a guide dog, you cannot be refused service on public transport, in taxis, or in any public facility or business, although some people don't seem to understand this and will refuse service. Contact the EOC if this happens.
It's great to see the wildlife, but don't get too close. Kangaroos may look cute and cuddly, but they can disembowel other animals, including you, if they feel threatened, so stay away from them, especially if there are joeys near-by. Don't provoke any kangaroos, and they'll leave you alone.
Venomous snakes can be found in the bushland throughout the city. Venomous spiders, especially the Red Back, can also be found. Bites from venomous animals are rarely fatal, but can make you extremely sick. If you are bitten by something wild, call 000 immediately. Anti-dotes are available at the hospital. Avoid upsetting Magpies during spring, as they may swoop in order to defend their nest, but the threat they pose to humans is overblown.
While it is true that some wildlife can be dangerous if provoked, most of the stories you've probably heard about wildlife are exaggerated, often deliberately. Many wildlife stories you hear are made up to scare tourists. Behaving yourself around wild life is the best way to avoid trouble. As long as you don't do anything to scare a wild animal, you will be fine.
If stung by a blue bottle jellyfish, submerge the affected part of your body in hot water as soon as possible. Call 000 if you experienced difficulty breathing or are stung on the neck or face.
Stone fish are rarely seen in Rockingham, but can appear from time to time. Avoid them. Avoid the rock pools at Point Peron: blue-ringed octopus, which can kill a human if they bite, can be found in these pools.
Don't go bushwalking on days with a high fire danger rating or if severe weather is forecast. If you do go bushwalking, wear enclosed shoes, long sleeved shirts and pants, and a hat. Carry lots of water, some snacks, and a cell phone. Every where in the city has cell coverage. If you do get lost stay where you are and call 000.
Avoid anyone who appears to be drunk, and avoid drinking too much yourself, and you'll be fine.
Natural disasters are extremely rare. As long as you avoid going outside when a storm is forecast, or you can hear thunder, you will be fine.
Rockingham has a large population of elderly people. Many elderly residents have a nasty habit of walking out in front of traffic without warning, and this has led to fatalities. Be especially cautious if driving near Rockingham Centre or Anniversary Park. Be prepared to slow down or stop quickly if you see an old person standing near the edge of the road.
The intersection of Rockingham Beach Road and Railway Terrace is a shared zone where pedestrians have right of way, but signage is poor and most people don't know about this rule, so be aware of drivers failing to stop.
Sunburn is common, but can be avoided if you use sunscreen or wear clothes that cover as much of your skin as possible. Heatstroke is also a risk on hot days, so pace yourself and drink plenty of water.
There are many medical centres, pharmacies, and health care providers in the city. Nearly all pharmacies are open seven days, and some are open until midnight. Most medical centres close on weekends or at night, but some operate seven days and well into the night.
Rockingham General Hospital: Elanora Drive, Cooloongup. ☏ .
If you are planning on staying for a long period of time, you should visit the City of Rockingham website. It provides information on what services they provide and how to submit requests or complaints.
- Kwinana and Cockburn: Industrial cities to the north.
- Mandurah and the Peel Region to the south.
- Serpentine-Jarradale to the east.