Rockingham is a local government area in the Perth metropolitan area, about 50 km south of central Perth and 20 kilometres north of Mandurah. An unsung hero of the metro area, it is often left off tourist radars, but it is 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. This is where you will find the main shopping centre, council officers, and the courthouse. It is the most densely populated part of the city, so expect traffic at most times.
This area features the suburbs of Hillman and Coloongup, which border the Lake Cooloongup Regional Park, featuring a large salt lake surrounded by bushland. Lake Coolongup is a perfect spot for hikers and nature lovers, and the lake can be explored on foot when dry.
If anything is going to happen in the city, it's going to happen here. Historic buildings clash with low-rise apartments, while locals come to enjoy the beach and the many festivities that make the area come alive multiple times a year. Foodies will find some great restaurants to try, and families can take advantage of the many facilities for kids and kids at heart. Nature lovers should head to Point Person to explore the massive hill and its hidden secrets.
Shoalwater and Safety Bay
Love the ocean, but hate crowds? Come to this part of the city to enjoy the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, home to the iconic and much loved Penguin Island and a seal colony, right on the edge of laid back, beachside neighbourhoods.
Warnbro and Waikiki are mostly residential, with good parks and excellent beaches to try out. Kids and kids at heart can find dinosaurs (fake ones, anyway) in Fantasy Park, while Waikiki Beach can kick up waves that are great for body boarders.
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. Head up to the look-out on Mandurah Hill for the best views in the city, with vistas stretching all the way to the Darling Scarp - a perfect place for Instagram fans.
The fastest growing area of the city serves as a gateway to the Darling Scarp and dozens of bush walking opportunities hemmed in by fast growing neighbourhoods and small scale farms. hikers and equestrians will have a great time in the rural parts of Baldivis. Everyone else will enjoy lush public parks.
Karnup and Stake Hill
There are still rural parts of Rockingham to explore, and you might even get to see some endangered species if you look carefully.
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.
Before arriving, you need to decide how to get around. Rockingham might not be dense or highly populated by global standards, but it is huge in terms of size. For comparison, the city's total land mass is two and half times bigger than San Francisco, California, with thousands of kilometres of roads to navigate. A good GPS or mapping service is highly recommended regardless of how you get around.
Deciding what transport mode to use is a game of trade-offs. A car will give you the convenience to go where you want, when you want, but it also means you'll be dealing with the city's chronic parking shortage, depending on where you go, and the high cost of fuel if you don't have access to an electric vehicle. Public transit avoids the parking problem, but buses don't go everywhere and operate at low frequencies, requiring careful planning. Ride shares give you the best of both above option, but the expense can add up. Cycling is possible, but bike paths are non-existent in many areas and some landmarks are too far apart for cycling or walking.
For these reasons, you should have a plan of what you want to see and do before you arrive, which will help you figure out how to get around. Don't forget you can always ask locals for help, but don't assume they will be helpful in all cases.
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.
If none of the above is to your liking, you can always try ride share. The entire city is now covered by Uber, which is often, though not always, cheaper than taxis. Beware demand pricing: this can kick in at any time, and can sometimes double the price of your trip. And don't forget to tip your driver. One advantage of Uber is the lack of area restriction, so you can go anywhere they operate.
Another ride share operator, Shofer, popped up in Perth a few years ago, but it's nowhere near as popular.
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.
Cycling is not hugely popular in the city, but it is a growing means of getting around. The city has several shared paths for use by both pedestrians and cyclists, though that distinction has been lessoned by legal changes that now allow bikes on any footpath. When it comes to cycling on roads, you should always stay on the left, make yourself as visible as possible to cars, and stay close to the gutter if possible. Cars are supposed to give each cyclist one meter of space when passing, but this is not possible on many suburban roads, which are too narrow for drivers to this safely. Helmets are mandatory! Bike hire is almost unheard of here, so be prepared to bring your own.
In an attempt to revive the city's economy post-COVID, the city has introduced e-scooters. This purple scooters can be taken anywhere, are unlocked via a mobile app, and charge you for every thirty seconds of use. Unlike bikes, there are more legal restrictions on e-scooters which make them useless for reaching some places: you can't use them on footpaths or roads where the speed limit is above 50 km/h. Like bikes, helmets are mandatory. There have been several fatal accidents involving e-scooters since July 2022. Please be safe, and don't become a fatality - or cause one. And remember, not everyone appreciates this new mode of transportation, so be respectful.
Walking within an area of the city can be a great way of exploring, especially around Old Rockingham. Due to the city's size, walking between areas is not recommended, though it can be done. The walk from Rocking Centre to the waterfront village will take about twenty minutes, for example. Some of the city's parks are only accessible by foot. Wear sturdy shoes and drink plenty of fluids if you do decide to walk, but beware: public toilets can be few and far between. Many suburban roads lack footpaths, though the situation is improving. If you do have to walk on a street with no path, walk on the verge, not the road.
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.
1 Rockingham Beach, Rockingham Beach Road, Rockingham (Bus route 555). 24 hours. The best, and busiest beach in the city, this is the only north facing beach in the entire Perth region. Located within an easy walk of shopping and dining, it offers stunning views of Garden Island and, on clear days, the shipping channel for Fremantle Port. Swimming, water skiing, and boating are common activities. If you want a big adrenaline rush, try skydiving onto the beach! Free.
1 Penguin Island (take the ferry from Mersey Point), ☏ . Sunrise - sunset outside breeding season. (Ferry hours differ). Home to a colony of Little Penguins, this slice of paradise is located within the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park. It includes walking trails and a discovery centre where you can get up and close with the penguins. It is possible to walk across to the island, but this is dangerous and discouraged. Free (ferry tickets: $35 adult, $30 concession, $25 child, $17.50 carer, infants free).
2 Point Peron (Cape Peron), Point Person Road, Peron (Drive or ride share.). 24 hours. Excellent beaches and hiking trails, plus some restored World War II ruins for history/military buffs to see. South facing beaches are sheltered, making it a great place for families. Free.
3 Lake Richmond (Naragebup), Safety Bay Road, Shoalwater (no official street address) (Drive or take bus route 551). 24 hours. One of only two places in WA to see Thrombolites - living rocks that produce oxygen which are older than the dinosaurs. To protect the fragile rocks, you can't enter the lake, but you can find many places to view it from. No swimming, and don't take anything with you when you leave. Free.
4 Mandurah Hill, Crystaluna Drive, Golden Bay (Drive or ride share). 24 hours. Wonderful look out with excellent views. A paradise for photographers. Free.
5 Rockingham Museum, Corner Flinders Lane and Kent Street (Drive. Bus routes 550, 551, and 555), ☏ . Tu-Th Sa Su 1-4PM, closed holidays. Closed first Saturday of the month. A quaint but detailed museum focusing on Rockingham's history, starting with European settlement. Features a collection of clothing and artefacts in the historic Road Board building. Can be viewed in an hour. $2.50 adult, 50 cents children/concession.
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.
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 fried 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 Maccas, 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 they are 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.
Rockingham has a very low crime rate, the lowest in the entire metro. Violent crime is almost unheard of, and the chances of you falling victim are next to zero. But low crime does not mean no crime. Just like in any city, visitors should take precautions regarding vehicles and valuables.
Some isolated beach carparks are targeted by thieves looking to steal from unattended vehicles. The best way to avoid having your car broken into is to do what the locals do and "Look, Lock, Leave": Look and see if you can spot any valuables from outside the car. If you can, thieves can too. Lock your car, and double check it is locked before you go. Don't leave until completing both these steps.
Like many other places in Australia, the city is not immune to the ills of methamphetamine. However, this is not something tourists will, or even the majority of locals, will ever need to worry about, unless you are actively seeking out drugs. The penalties for drug possession are already steep in WA. Get caught with meth, and you'll get hit with even harsher penalties.
Racism, homophobia, ect. are extremely rare in the city, and you are unlikely to encounter these issues. Racism is actually illegal in Australia, so if you do encounter any, you can report it to the police.
Hillman, a neighbourhood on the eastern edge of the city, has a reputation for crime, though the crime rate is only slightly higher than the rest of the city and is mostly centred on drug and property crime. There is nothing for tourists or visitors to see there anyway, so you won't experience any of it.
Woman should exercise caution at night, especially in Hillman and Cooloongup.
The city's bushland is full of wildlife, which can pose a risk to humans, though most of those stories you've heard about deadly wildlife are made up to scare tourists. Snakes and kangaroos, which you can encounter in the bush, can be dangerous when provoked, though if you follow common sense and don't approach or startle them, you won't need to worry. Kangaroos are naturally fearful of dogs and have attacked and killed dogs in the past, so reconsider your need to bring your pet with you if you go bush walking.
The blue-ringed octopus, which is venomous, sometimes appears at Point Person. Stay out of the rock pools and you'll never have to worry about them. Stonefish have been seen in local waters on rare occasions.
Magpies can be aggressive during spring and summer, and are found in parks all over the city. Different people will give you different methods of protecting yourself, but the best protection is avoidance.
Thunderstorms can be dangerous if they break out in Rockingham. Don't go bushwalking on days when storms are forecast, and go inside if you lightning or hear thunder. Make sure you tie down loose objects like trampolines or deck chairs: winds generated by these storms can be powerful enough to toss these into the air.
Don't try to walk across to Penguin Island. The sandbar is always shifting and the sea breeze will kick up dangerous currents. There have been two fatal drownings as a result of people trying to cross on foot. The ferry might be expensive, but please don't use its cost as an excuse to risk your life.
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.