Rottnest Island is off the coast of Western Australia, home to dazzling marine life, pristine beaches & Quokkas! See why it’s the place to be for summer!
Western Australia’s most beautiful island home is Rottnest Island – just 18 kilometres off Perth’s coastline, and a fast 40 minute ferry ride across the ocean.
Being just a short ferry ride from Perth, Rottnest is one of the more affordable islands to visit off Australia’s expansive coral coast (yeh, I’m looking at you, Queensland, and your fancy pancy Hamilton Island), and a very popular getaway spot not just for tourists, but for us locals too.
☀🌻 About Rottnest Island – A Brief but Deep Introduction 🌊 🌿
At 11km long and 4.5km at its widest point, “Rotto” (as it’s affectionately nicknamed here in West Australia) is an A-Class reserve that enjoys a semi-arid Mediterranean style climate with stunning coral reefs, crystal clear waters and unique wildlife. It boasts pristine bays and white-sandy secluded beaches, some of the finest in the world, and has a unique style of architecture dating back to the 1800’s.
But there is far more to Rottnest than it just being a vibrant tourism destination full of fun recreational activities. The island has a very complex and layered past behind it, which makes it even more worthwhile island to visit, if not for its unique environment, but for its maritime, indigenous history, and involvement in the World Wars.
The island’s multiple layers of history and heritage co-exist with its natural heritage values. From Aboriginal experiences, convict history, the Boy’s Reformatory, maritime history, colonial experiences, military history and prisoner of war camps (World War 1 and World War 2), as well as economic and environmental uses of the island (agriculture, fishing and salt collection to name a few); there is a wealth of educational stories that can be told at Rottnest Island.
So before you head straight to sun-baking, enjoy the preserved 19th century architecture on the island and learn something new!
How to Get to Rottnest? – Ferries!
There’s only one way to get to Rottnest Island (if you don’t own your own boat) and that is… by ferry! Rottnest ferries take approximately 25 minutes from Fremantle, 45 minutes from Hillarys Boat Harbour, or 90 minutes from Perth’s Barrack Street Jetty.
Transfers across to Rottnest Island can be booked through one of the two ferry operators -Rottnest Express and Rottnest Fast Ferries. Depending on the time of year and the company you choose to travel with, ferry times and inclusive packages do vary. Contact the ferry company directly for any queries relating to ferry travel.
Explore Rottnest for a day, or a weekend – or more!
Whether you are new to Rottnest Island, or a comeback local that needs to replace their tethered map, the first thing many do is visit the Rottnest Island Visitor Centre which welcomes you as you get off the wharf.
There is plenty of information about the island at the centre and more importantly, free maps of the roads and bays (which comes in handy for those bicycling around). If you need an ATM machine, there’s also one right there next to the entry. There is also a hop-on, hop-off bus for which you can buy a ticket for at the visitor centre.
In regards to how long you visit Rottnest for – that’s totally up to you! You can choose day trips to overnight accommodation packages, or just do a one-day trip and explore Rottnest by yourself.
Camping on Rottnest is probably the most affordable option you could go with – and the most fun for those travelling in groups who don’t mind having a bit more of a ‘natural’ outdoors experience thrown into the mix. Camping is what myself and my friends did, and I was really impressed with the camping facilities at Rottnest Island – they are high quality and well maintained.
You can look up package deals and search for accommodation types on the Rottnest Island website. Another accommodation option (for those wanting something a little more fancier) is Hotel Rottnest, which offers its own premier hotel accommodation with views of Thompson Bay.
🚴 Bicycling around Rottnest – The Best Way to Travel 🚴
The most popular activities to do on Rottnest Island is bicycling around. This is the best way to travel around and see all that Rotto has to offer. We cycled around the island (took us 4 hours) and the best bit is stopping randomly to go snorkelling!
You can either take your own bicycle to Rottnest Island via one of the Rottnest Isand Ferry + Bike Transfer services (scroll to the end of the article for those contact details), or you can easily hire a bicycle from the Rottnest Island Pedal & Flipper Warehouse.
The Pedal & Flipper Warehouse is pretty much your one-stop-shop that has all the recreational accessories you might need (like a basketball, beach cricket, bodyboard, dive tank, etc) as well as essential snorkel sets. Mobility assistance options are also available, as are special group discounts and a call-out recovery service in the event of tyre punctures for island cyclists. Download their Equipment Hire Price List.
Otherwise if cycling is not for you, there’s other transport options available – like Island Bus Tours, Joy Flights for stunning aerial views, free guided walk tours and segway tours. Or, if you an adrenaline junkie, then may I suggest skydiving over Rottnest as another way to enjoy it ;P
The limestone coral reef that surrounds Rottnest grew approximately 100,000 years ago when the sea level was thought to be at least three mreatres higher than the present day.
This reef system is fed by the warm Leeuwin Current, providing a home to much of Rottnest’s marine life, as well as presenting a significant hazard for shipping.
If you’re a scuba diver – you’ll love it here. The diversity of fish, coral species and number of shipwrecks scattered around the island makes it one of the most fascinating dive sites to be found in such close proximity to a capital city. Plus if you have a crayfish license – there’s bulk lobster catching opportunities everywhere! There are many dive operators based on the Perth mainland that conduct day trips and dives out to Rottnest Island.
🏄 Surfing 🌊
Still searching for that ‘perfect wave’, duuude? Try Rottnest, it’s lit af and pretty gnarly!
Rottnest Island has some of the best surfing conditions and most consistent breaks in Western Australia, with some waves off Rottnest often being two to three feet larger than those at Perth beaches. Popular surf spots include – The Rotto Box, Riceys Beach, Stark Bay, Strickland Bay, The Basins Ledge, The Fruit Bowl (between Catherine Bay and City of York Bay), Chicken Reef’s Salmon Bay and Transit’s Thompson Bay.
Strickland Bay, Salmon Bay and Stark Bay are particularly popular breaks for surfers, bodyboarders and stand-up paddle boarders. In fact, Strickland Bay has been ranked in the top 50 breaks in the world. Rottnest also has various reef breaks on both sides of the Island including Radar Reef, Cathedral Rocks and Chicken Reef.
During the cooler months Rottnest becomes a popular spot for Surfing competitions, attracting great events such as the HIF Pro AM #2 (Surfing WA), while Offshore Boardriders Club also hold local competitions.
🌞 Coastal Scenery & Walk Trails! 🌊
The geographical history of Rottnest Island has been dominated by changes in sea level, which occur either as sea water became trapped and released when ice sheets advanced and retreated, or as the land slowly rose and fell in response to changing stresses in the earth’s crust.
It’s believed that Rottnest was separated from the mainland 7,000 years ago. When you walk around the coastal edges of Rottnest Island – think about that! A must visit is Wadjemup Bidi: which is a series of walk trails that take you across coastal headlands, past stunning inland lakes and both natural and man-made attractions along the way. Ensure you take sufficient drinking water and beware of snakes before you attempt any long walk trail!
🍉 🙃Frolick on the White Sandy Beaches with Crystal Blue Waters 🌊🍭
Did you know that Rottnest Island beaches were awarded Top Australian Beaches by Australia’s prestigious travel guide ‘Explore Australia 2007′, and voted the ‘Top Destination to Experience in Australia 2014‘ in the Experience Oz poll?
Rottnest Island is home to the finest, postcard-perfect beaches and bays in the world. You have a choice of 63 secluded beaches and 20 bays.
“The Basin” is probably the most popular on the island, being a perfect natural swimming pool that’s shallow that all can enjoy. It’s only 10 minutes from the main settlement and has been roped off for swimming, so its great for families who wish to go snorkelling together. Other popular beaches and bays include:
- Cape Vlamingh
- Fish Hook Bay
- Geordie Bay
- Little Armstrong
- Little Parakeet
- Little Salmon Bay
- Parakeet Bay
- Parker Point
- Ricey Beach
- Salmon Bay
- Stark Bay
- Strickland Bay
- West End
Being an A Class Nature Reserve, Rottnest Island preserves and protects its natural beauty; so you’ll see spectacular flora, lots of marine life and wildlife, as well as many unique species. At West End Boardwalk, you’ll see Osprey raptors and their nests, and burrows in the sand which are nests of Wedge-tailed shearwaters, also known as muttonbirds. If you go to Rottnest in April, or September through to December, look out for Humpback and Southern Right whales migrating past the island.
At the New Cathedral Rocks viewing platform you can see the resident New Zealand fur seals colony, and look out for wild birds, frogs, and bats!
Besides seeing Quokkas everywhere, my friends and I also saw dugite snakes (they are poisonous, so be alert), local lizards about 8 inches long (one stole my crackers!), lots of birds (some of the birds unzipped our bags while we were snorkelling and stole our biscuits!), and sea lions frollicking. If you’re lucky, you will also see whales and dolphins on the island too.
🍧Explore the Salt Lakes & Pink Lake 💦
With Rottnest having six major habitats (coastal, brackish swamps, woodlands, heath and settled areas), salt lakes occupy ten per cent of the area of the island. Many of them – including Lake Baghdad, Lake Vincent,m Herschel Lake, Garden Lake, Government House Lake and Serpentine Lake are permanent and have surrounding beaches. Other lakes such as Pink Lake, Lake Sirius, Lake Negri and the twin Pearse Lakes may dry out in summer.
Rottnest is indeed, the island with a thousand stories.
During World War 2, gun batteries and associated coast defense infrastructure (railways, radar, search lights, airfield and camps) on the island were part of a series of gun placements along the West Australian coast at Point Peron, Fremantle Harbour, Leighton and Garden Island.
The Oliver Hill Battery is a significant heritage site and an icon of the home defence of Australia during World War II. It was one of seven similar gun emplacements built between 1937 and 1945 to defend major Australian ports from bombardment by warships.
The main feature at each of these batteries was a pair of 9.2 inch guns, which could fire an armour piercing shell to a distance of 28 kilometres. By 1960, all of the batteries had become obsolete and were closed down. Oliver Hill is the only intact emplacement of its type left in Australia. Whilst the others were stripped of their guns, the then Rottnest Island Board was able to arrange with the Department of the Army to have the guns at Oliver Hill left in situ as historic site for island visitors.
Apart from the gun emplacements, Oliver Hill houses underground tunnels, railway lines and paths and remnant coastal defence system structures. It is a 36 hectare site situated three and a half kilometres from the Settlement, in the centre of Rottnest Island.
🍻🍕Good Food & Nightlife!🍹😋
You’ll find the local bars are pumping with good music, hearty food and friendly locals and tourists.
The Rottnest Bakery is iconic! You should drop in here for breakfast to try their organic meat pies (the meat pie is like the Australian signature dish), or delicious jam and cream donuts. Their bread is baked-daily on premises from local ingredients. Alternatively give Quokka Joe’s a chance – apparently they do gluten-free meals here. Or just do Subway – that’s on the island too!
For the best coffee on the island, go to The Lane Cafe. They also do delicious gourmet food and Simmos Icecream is right there too. Alternatively, Dome Cafe is nearby – which is perhaps a better alternative for large groups.
Hotel Rottnest’s Bar + Bistro has the ultimate beachside backdrop in a nice alfresco area. It’s a large venue with an extensive range of seating, so no table booking is necessary, guests can just find their own table. They also have a Bottleshop so so you can enjoy some of their stock back at your accommodation on the island.
For bars/pubs, there is The Governors Sports Bar, which is an original and iconic Australian Sports Bar with TAB, Fox Sports and big screen TV’s – offering great pub food.
Other Activities To Do at Rottnest Island:
- Boating -with Western Australia having the highest per capita boat ownership in Australia, Rottnest Island is WA boaties’ favourite destination. Learn more here.
- Play a round of golf at The Rottnest Island Country Club which provides golfers with a thrilling 9 hole layout.
- There’s also the family friendly Mini Golf too – with classic pin-ball machines, homemade crepes, trampolines and more.
- Do the lighthouse tours – There’s Wadjemup Lighthouse Tour that was completed in 1849, and is the original 20 meter lighthouse was Western Australia’s first stone lighthouse and was built to provide a safer sailing passage for ships to Fremantle Port and the Swan River Colony. There’s also Bathurst Lighthouse which is a great spot to capture sunsets over the famous Pinky Beach.
- Walk through history at some of Rottnest’s cherished heritage-listed buildings and learn more about the homes of early European settlers including the Pilot and Pilot Crew Cottages.
- Tandem skydive from 15,000 feet over Rottnest Island, land on the beach and enjoy a complimentary drink afterwards to celebrate!
- How about a game of Archery Tag? Which is a cross between Lasertag and Paint Ball, but with specially designed low impact Archery equipment. More info on that here.
- For some water-related easy fun, check out Just 4 Fun Aqua Park which is great for families, birthday parties, school groups, corporate team-building, bucks or hens. There’s slides, giant see-saws, rock climbing walls, water volleyball, paddleboards, and a knee deep park for little ones.
- Watch the latest blockbuster movies at Rottnest Island Picture Hall – session times and movie guide available from the Fun Park and Visitor Centre. More info here.
- School Holiday Activities – every school holidays, the Rottnest Island Authority with Rottnest Voluntary Guides Association offer a program of activities and tours that get kids and adults out exploring and learning about the islands environment and history. Get the latest activities & program info here.
❤Learn More About The Quokka!❤
Quokka’s are like a mix of kangaroo and wallaby with a touch of rat. Now if that’s not Australian enough for you, than fair dinkum mate, I don’t know what is.
Lets get more specific. They are marsupials in the macropod family (which also consists of kangaroos and wallabies) and are herbivorous and mainly nocturnal. They can be found on some of the smaller islands off the coast of Western Australia and in particular, on Rottnest Island.
The size of a domestic cat, the quokka weights 2.5 to 5kg, with a stocky build, rounded ears, and a short, broad head. Although they look like a tiny kangaroo, they can actually climb small trees and shrubs (and in my case, open up zipped-up tents… more on that later).
The “Quokka Selfie” Viral Trend Sensaion
As the quokka has little fear of humans, it is common for it to approach humans closely. In fact, you’ll see them under the table and around your legs at the outdoor pubs and restaurants on Rottnest Island. With this being said – it is illegal for members of the public to handle the animals in any way on Rottnest Island, and feeding, particularly of “human ford” is discouraged as they can easily get sick. You can get fined A$300 by the Rottnest Island Authority for such behaviour, with the maximum penalty for aninmal cruelty being up to a A$50,000 fine and five years in jail.
However, since a 2013 Huffington Post feature article, it’s become popular to take “selfies” with the quokka where it seemingly smiles, which, combined with its relative lack of predators on Rottnest Island, has caused many to label it “the happiest animal in the world”. The hastag #quokkaselfie is commonly used to share the images on Twitter and Instagram.
Cute, right? What if I told you a Quokka bit ME on the arm! 😮
Yes, you read that right. Naturally, I wanted to be in on this Quokka Selfie Trend too. I already had it pictured in my mind – my selfie would be spectacular, the Quokka would smile a toothy grin and would love me. We would have the perfect #quokkaselfie photo that would get at least 30+ likes on instagram. Alas, I was wrong, so so wrong.
Within an hour of arriving to Rottnest Island, I decided to try my #quokkaselfie attempt in the busy cafe strip while waiting for my coffee. I saw a quokka near me, and I knelt down with a piece of muffin in my hand. I beckoned the quokka over to me with the muffin. It tried to take the muffin out of my hand – so I moved my hand away from it. That’s when it happened – the quokka bit me in frustrated retaliation, and blood was drawn. I yelped and threw my muffin in the air while onlookers laughed and the quokka ate my whole muffin.
A valuable lesson was learned already – the animals are wild here, and they are certainly not selfie objects!
So there you have it! In my opinion (and I’m probably biased when I say this) but Rottnest Island is one of the most beautiful little islands on Earth – and the fact its not far from Perth at all makes it a super convenient getaway.
The lighthouses are spectacular, as are the secluded beaches. I highly recommend bicycling around the island – while it may be challenging with strong winds and uphill climbs, its worth it – for both your fitness and for flexible sightseeing. You will see lots of wildlife at Rottnest Island – especially Quokka’s!
Enjoy your time at Rottnest Island and make sure to respect the land and animals! Also, don’t go chasing reluctant Quokka’s for selfies too much, otherwise you will get bit like I did (I deserved it!) haha.
Rottnest Island Contact Details 📞
Rottnest Island Visitor Centre
Thomson Bay near the main jetty.
Saturday – Thursday: 7.30am to 5:00pm | Friday: 7.30am to 7:00pm
ROTTNEST ON SOCIAL MEDIA
- Official Website: http://www.rottnestisland.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rottnest
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rottnestislandwa
- Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rottnestisland
Have you been to Rottnest Island? Did you enjoy it? Share your experience below, I’d love to hear it!