If you’re planning on visiting Western Australia, you’d be well aware of its breathtaking rock formations and ancient Aboriginal sites to vast green vineyards of world-class wineries and amazing beaches with azure waters. However, a trip to Australia’s largest state for all beach lovers is not complete without a visit to the idyllic Rottnest Island.
Rottnest Island, located in Western Australia, is known as the home of the world’s happiest animal, the Quokka. The island, also affectionately known as “Rotto” to its locals, is a fantastic place to visit all year round. You’ll find 63 uncrowded beaches with soft white sand, pristine swimming conditions in its 20 bays, and over 135 species of marine life to marvel at as part of its attractions.
In this travel guide, you’ll discover everything you need to know about visiting Rottnest Island.
How to get to Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island is a short ferry ride away from Fremantle (25 minutes), Perth City’s Barrack Street Jetty (90 minutes) and Hillarys Ferry Terminal (45 minutes). There are three main ferry operators that provide daily services between the mainland and Rottnest Island – The Rottnest Express, Rottnest Fast Ferries and SeaLink Rottnest.
The prices for the ferry tickets vary from point of departure, time and day. For extra savings, weekdays are usually priced lower. No cars are allowed on Rottnest Island but there are parking spaces available at the ferry terminals on the mainland.
It is advisable to book your ferry tickets to Rottnest Island online to avoid disappointment and queues.
You can also opt to take a luxurious 15-minute scenic seaplane ride to Rottnest from Perth, a private boat charter or even go by helicopter.
There is an admission fee of AU$20 (day rate) / AU$26 (overnight) to the island. These charges are usually included in the ferry ticket.
Getting around Rottnest Island
Getting around the island is relatively easy. As a car-free island, Rottnest is relatively safe for walking along its 45km trails.
The most popular way to get around Rottnest island is by renting a bicycle. There are trails that wind all over the 11km length and 4.5km width of the island, providing endless scenic views everywhere you go. Bicycles can be rented on the island itself or brought along with you on the ferry for a small fee.
There is also a hop-on hop-off Island Explorer Bus which stops at 14 main attraction points around the island. Day passes for the Rottnest bus can be purchased at the Rottnest Island Visitor Center on the day itself for AU$20.
Another fun option is to join in a Segaway tour of Rottnest Island.
What to do in Rottnest Island
A trip to Rottnest Island is incomplete without spending time at one of its 63 amazing world-class beaches. There are also 20 secluded bays with coral reefs and 13 shipwrecks to explore just off the coast for the avid divers. Little Parakeet Bay, Little Salmon Bay and Geordie Bay are amongst the most beautiful and popular beaches. Thomson Bay has a roped off area for swimming that is perfect for families, while The Basin offers one of the best spots for snorkeling. From May to October, you can find the best surf breaks around Strickland Bay. Surf boards can be hired at the island shop.
The famous Quokkas were once mistaken for giant rodents by Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh which gave Rottnest (Rat’s Nest) Island its name. The tiny marsupial is related to another Australian native animal – the wallaby. Quokkas are usually found in the wild in small groups on Bald Island or in parts of the Western Australian mainland, but live in larger groups on Rottnest. These cute little herbivores aren’t shy nor afraid of humans and will walk right up to you for photos. Be warned, however that there’s a $100 ($150 AUD) on-the-spot fine for feeding or touching the Quokkas – a measure that’s there to protect both them and you, since they’ve got sharp claws and can bite. The best time to see Quokkas wandering around the island is during the late-afternoons and evenings.
Rottnest is an ideal spot to watch humpback and southern right whales as they make their annual migration. In April, the whales pass by as they swim north from Antarctic waters to feeding and birthing grounds in the warm Indian Ocean. From late August to late November they can be found around Rottnest Island’s warm and protected waters with their newborn calves.
Land-based whale watching is possible from Cape Vlamingh on the West End during the migratory season, or you can schedule a boat tour with Rottnest Express.
Rottnest Island served as an Aboriginal penal settlement from 1838 until 1904, when it became a forced labor camp until 1931. While many of the heritage buildings on the island were constructed by forced indigenous labor during that time, they’ve since been converted into accommodations. You’ll find 17 Aboriginal heritage sites on the island, which is also known by its indigenous name, Wadjemup. Rottnest Island Museum was originally built by Aboriginal prisoners in 1857 as a hay shed and granary. The museum now provides informative exhibits on the natural history of the island, the vast graveyard of marine wrecks, European settlement, the stories of Aboriginal prisoners and many historical photographs.
Besides getting in the crystal clear waters for snorkeling, swimming and surfing, you can also head over to Aquaplay Rottnest on North Thompson Bay for above-water fun family activities. Rent a seabike, pedal board, SUP board or even a kids-sized inflatable jet ski.
For the bravest of hearts, why not leap out of an airplane and skydive your way right onto a beach. If you manage to keep your eyes opened throughout the 30-66 seconds freefall, you will be rewarded with unparalleled views of Rottnest Island from above. Tandem skydiving can be booked online here.
There are also numerous activities on dry land on the island. Accessible for hikers of all levels, the Wadjemup Bidi trail system features 45 kilometers of trails split into five sections that pass stunning coastal headlands and gorgeous lakes.
A Pink Lake can also be discovered along the island trail. This salt lake has a light pink shore and will give you an illusion of walking on water.
Eat and Drink
There are around 15 restaurants, cafes and beach bars around Rottnest Island to pick from. You can also head over to the Rottnest Bakery on Thomson Bay to pick up fresh baked goods and drinks to take along for a picnic. There are also two general stores where you can get anything you need 7 days a week.
Where to stay in Rottnest Island
If a day trip doesn’t give you enough time to explore the island, consider spending a night or two at one of the campgrounds, cabins, hostel dormitories, bungalows, chalets or hotel-style accommodations around the island.
Discovery Rottnest Island, an eco-friendly resort that opened in March 2019, offers a glamping option where you can sleep under the stars in luxury in one of their eco-tents. The tent are located right next to Pinky Beach.
For a hassle-free travel experience to discover Western Australia and Rottnest, check out Sedunia Travel.
Their 1-Day Grand Rottnest Tour is a 3.5 comprehensive tour that will take you to all of Rottnest’s must see locations.
This tour will commence with a unique historic train ride and site visits to Wadjemup Lighthouse, Henrietta Rocks, Oliver Hill Gun Fortification and Tunnels, and the majestic lookout point at Cathedral Rocks and Cape Vlamingh (West End). This day tour includes ferry tickets, admission fees and a splendid picnic lunch.
Sedunia Travel is an award-winning Aussie Tour Specialist with ready-to-go packages and can also customise your ideal Western Australia itinerary to suit your needs.