Rottnest Island is a gorgeous island off the coast of Western Australia that is a popular vacation destination and day trip excursion. It is small enough to see a good chunk during a day adventure, but filled with enough activities and beautiful locations that you could enjoy a few days of exploration.
The island, which is colloquially called Rotto, is well known for its quokka population. Quokkas are cute little native marsupials. They look a bit like a giant rat combined with a miniature kangaroo, but somehow the combination is very endearing. Quokkas are the reason for the name of the island; it was first called Rotte Nest, meaning rat’s nest.
Obviously, you should maintain a healthy distance from these wild animals, but they are used to humans, so don’t be surprised if they approach you. I happily got up close, because I wanted to get a quokka selfie. Thankfully, there was no backlash from any of the creatures, and I ended up with a few photos with the little guys. They are quite photogenic, especially if you get a close-up shot of their faces.
Rottnest Island Attractions
In addition to its adorable native marsupial, Rottnest Island has some incredible beaches and gorgeous azure water. In fact, the island boasts 63 beautiful beaches and 20 bays, which are ideal destinations for a variety of water sports, including surfing, snorkeling, diving and swimming. Between late August and November you might see humpback and southern right whales as they migrate.
Beaches and Bays
You’re going to have beautiful bay views and lovely beaches no matter where you go on the island, but these are a few notable spots worth a stop. The Basin, which is located on the northeastern side of the island, is one of the most popular swimming beaches. A platform reef is located off of the beach, and a couple of meters out, there is a large hole in the reef that make a natural swimming pool. Geordie Bay is a wide rounded bay on the north coast. The bay is a popular spot to stay the night and often has several moored boats. Little Salmon Bay is a small beach located on the southern coast. This is a beautiful spot to snorkel and swim.
There are two lighthouses on Rotto. Wadjemup Lighthouse is situated near the center of the island on Wadjemup Hill. The lighthouse offers incredible views of the whole of the island and surrounding ocean. Tours start daily at 11 a.m. and run every half hour until the final tour at 2:30 p.m. Bathurst Lighthouse is located on the coastline. The lighthouse is closed to visitors, but it is a great spot to watch the sunset over Pinky Beach.
Oliver Hill is a World War II gunnery near the center of the island. The hill features many military remnants, including a 9.2-inch gun and a series of underground tunnels. Tours operate daily at Oliver Hill at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase at the hill and at the Rottnest Island Visitor Centre. In addition to biking, walking and bus tours, you can get to Oliver Hill via the 64-seat Captain Hussey train, which leaves from Settlement Railway Station at 1:30 p.m. daily.
Staying on Rottnest Island
The island has a few dining and shopping options, including a general store, a bakery and cafés. There are several accommodation options for staying on the island. Options range from premium chalets and rooms with ocean views to dormitories and campgrounds. There is also a hotel on the island that overlooks Thomson Bay as well as a hostel in the Kingstown Barracks.
Rottnest Island Transportation
There are a few options for getting to the island. Ferries depart from Perth, Hillarys Boat Harbour and Fremantle daily. The ride from Perth’s Barrack Street Jetty is about 90 minutes and passes through the Swan River. It’s a convenient option if you are staying in the city, and it gives you the opportunity to enjoy a cruise through Swan River with commentary of the history and attractions on the river. The ferry from Fremantle leaves from two locations, B-Shed and Northport, and the journey takes about 30 minutes. Rottnest Express provides transportation from Perth and Fremantle to the island. To get to Rotto from Hillarys Boat Harbour, use Rottnest Fast Ferries. The ride is about 45 minutes.
The island itself does not allow cars, other than those used for official purposes. So to get around Rotto, you can either walk, bike or take the bus. Both of the ferry companies that travel to Rottnest Island have several package deals to cover all of your transportation needs. Popular combinations are day packages that include a ferry return trip and a bicycle rental. Other options include tacking on a bus tour, adventure boat tour, train tour, snorkel gear and more. Expect to pay at least $80 for a basic return ticket, which includes the admission fee to Rottnest Island.
I did the ferry and bike combo with the snorkel gear added on. I highly recommend hiring a bike, but would skip the snorkel gear. The island itself has plenty to do and see to keep you busy the whole of the day, and it is much more attractive than the underwater world around Rotto. Plus I really enjoyed the freedom of exploring the island via bicycle. The majority of the island is a fairly easy ride, though some parts can get a bit steep. Be sure to be choosy with your bike when collecting it from the ferry, because many of them are not well maintained. Investing time into finding a good bike will make your island exploration much more enjoyable.
What do you most look forward to exploring on Rottnest Island?
Biking on Rottnest Island
Quokkas eating on Rottnest Island