When most people think about Rottnest Island, cute and happy Quokkas are usually what springs to mind first. This small island (which is 11km in length and 4.5km in width) is well renowned for containing Quokkas which are small marsupials and the only mammal native to Rottnest Island. Other than these little joyful creatures, Rottnest Island has a spectacular coastline which contains over 63 beaches and 20 bays, each with its own uniqueness and crystal-clear waters.
A Little History Of Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island is theorized to be separated from the mainland around 7,000 years ago. This pristine island sits off the coast of Western Australia, 19.7km west of Fremantle and 22km southwest of Hillary’s Boat Harbour. Rottnest wasn’t always a holiday getaway destination and has been used as a prisoner of war camp and army barracks in the past. The island got its name when a Dutch captain by the name of William de Vlamingh saw a Quokka way back in 1696 on the island. He went something along the lines of “Oh damn! That’s a huge rat!” and called the island ‘Rotte nest’ which meant rats nest. The name gradually evolved and adapted to become Rottnest which is what we know today.
How Do You Get To Rottnest Island?
There are currently 3 ferry operators (Sealink, Rottnest Express and Rottnest Fast Ferries) that commute from the mainland to Rottnest and back. The ferries depart from a number of convenient locations which are Perth City, Elizabeth Quay, Barrack Street Jetty, Fremantle and Hillary’s Boat Harbour and average about 7 journeys daily during off-peak season and 11 journeys during peak season (December to February).
Each of the operators have different discounts depending on the season so be sure to check all 3 operators to get the best deals. For example, Sealink is currently having a promotion where a same day return ticket cost AUD$49 and Rottnest Express is cheaper on the weekdays, especially Tuesday, as compared to the weekends.
Bike rentals and various tours can also be made when you book your tickets online. You can also choose to bring your own bike for AUD$15. If you have any luggage, it would cost $3 for each luggage you have. The luggage can also be delivered directly to your accommodation if you already pre-booked your stay.
We recommend taking the ferries from B shed Fremantle as it is convenient to get to and if you are driving, a full day parking cost AUD$10 which doesn’t hurt your wallet too much.
Ways To Explore The Island
There are a number of ways to explore the island and everything can be done or hired on Rottnest Island.
Rottnest Island by Foot
There are a number of walking trails from that can be done from the main settlement where you alight from the ferry if you are not into cycling or taking the bus. If this is your preferred mode of transport, we recommend looking at the Wadjemup Bidi which a is trail that comprises of 5 different sections and has a total distance of 45km. For more information on the different walking trails and routes, you can check out Rottnest Island walking trails.
Prefer to take the bus instead?
There is the option of the Island Explorer Bus that operate around Rottnest island and an adult day pass would cost you AUD$20 while a child pass would cost you AUD$15. One important thing to take note is the bus timetable. The last bus departs the main bus stop at 3pm and returns to the main bus stop at 4pm. Make sure you don’t miss the last bus or you might end up stranded far away from the main settlement. Everything you need to know on the bus timetables and routes can be found at bus timetables for Rottnest Island.
Renting a bicycle will probably be more fun!
If you didn’t hire a bike with your ferry ticket, there is Pedal and Flipper which is the bike rental shop located at the main settlement. It would cost AUD$30 to rent a bike for a day and it gets cheaper overall if you intend to hire the bike multiple days. The rental of the bike includes a helmet (which is mandatory to be worn at all times while riding) and a bike lock. Pedal and flipper also have gophers, ebikes, wetsuits and snorkeling gear which can be rented.
We recommend hiring your bikes at Pedal and Flipper rather than with the ferry operators as the shop has bikes of various sizes which you can choose from and you can take your time to find your perfect bike for the day. Keep a look out for their special deals which will be written at the entrance of the shop, when we were there they were having a special deal which combined snorkeling gear and a bike for a cheap price.
(Pedal and Flipper Bike Rental Prices)
Riding a bike would be our recommended mode of transport around Rottnest Island as you could get places faster, take your time at attractions and stop whenever you want.
Tips when going around with your bike:
For more information on Pedal and Flipper and bike rentals, visit Pedal and Flipper bike rental.
(Pedal and Flipper Bike Helmet)
Checking Off Your To-do Bucket List In Rottnest
The number of things that you can do in Rottnest is near limitless and has nearly everything that suits any traveler type. There are various island activities like golf ,fun parks, fitness retreats and massage sessions. From natural attractions, such as beaches and rock formations, to tours, such as segway tours and skydiving, you will never get bored.
1. Taking the Quokka Selfie Challenge
Quokka’s can be found almost anywhere on the island. As we arrived at the main settlement we spotted a few of these cute marsupials. An important thing to take note while coming in close contact with the Quokka’s is that feeding and touching them is illegal and will amount to a AUD$150 fine on the spot.
Heres a few tips on taking a killer quokka selfie:
- Make sure your phone is on the right settings. Turn off the flash as it might scare them off and put it in selfie mode.
- If you have a selfie stick that would be great! It helps in getting more distance so that your more of your body can be seen for that stunner shot!
- Wait for the quokka to stop moving about, this is usually when they find food on the ground.
- Get as close as possible to the ground and beside the quokka but make sure you do not touch them.
- Definitely use the burst mode on your phone for the pictures so that you can choose the best picture later on.
2. Cycle to your hearts content!
Cycling is one of the better options of exploring the island, you can stop whenever or wherever you like. Take your bike and enjoy the sights and sounds of the island at your own pace. Be sure to not overstrain yourself and drink lots of water as the weather can be really hot during the day. You don’t want to get a heat stroke during this amazing getaway.
3. Explore the white sandy beaches
The island is surrounded by crystal clear water and there is literally a beach at almost every turn. Be sure to take a mini beach hopping adventure. Some popular beaches that deserve to be visited are the basin, pinky beach, Geordie bay, parakeet bay, little salmon bay, salon bay, porpoise bay and little Armstrong bay.
(Little Salmon Bay)
4.Meet the marine life
Rottnest island is a Class A reserve and is well known for its flora and fauna. Snorkeling is a great way to discover the marine wildlife. Grab your snorkels from Pedal and Flipper and hit the waters for a hell of a time!
5. Discover the lighthouses
You can take a tour at the Wadjemup Lighthouse where they offer daily tours starting at 11am and runs every half an hour till 2.30pm which is the last tour. Adult tickets cost AUD$9 and child tickets cost AUD$4. Bathhurst lighthouse is the lighthouse nearest to the main settlement but unfortunately it is currently closed to visitors.
(Wadjemup Lighthouse in the distance)
All In A Day’s Work On Rottnest Island
It is nearly impossible to explore the whole island in a day, the aim is to pick and choose the sights and attractions you want to see and do before you go to get the best experience.
The ferries start as early as 7.30am but we recommend taking the 8.30am ferry so you can take your time in the morning and also beat majority of the crowd which comes on the 9.30am and 10.30am ferries. Bike rentals at Pedal and Flipper would also be a breeze as you beat the queue to hire your bike. The last ferry back to the mainland is at 5.30pm and we recommend taking either the 4.30pm or 5.30pm ferries back so that you can make full use of your day on the island.
The summer season is usually from November to February and can get pretty scorching as well as crowded. We recommend going around October, March or April when the weather is more delightful, reasonably hot in the day and cooling at night.
Depending on the timing of your ferry tickets, you would roughly have a good 4-5 hours to explore the island. Here are 2 routes that we recommend exploring by bike.
Main Settlement – Parakeet Bay Loop
Once you are all settled and ready to set off, head up north towards the Bathurst Lighthouse and stop by Pinky Beach and the Basin. Continue towards Geordie bay and Parakeet Bay then make a loop by heading down south and back to the main settlement passing Lake Baghdad, the Pink Lake and Lake Herschel.
Depending on what you want to do, Pinky Beach, the Basin, Geordie Bay and Parakeet Bay are all good spots for just chilling and having a dip in the waters. There is also the option of snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of Pinky Beach, the Basin and Parakeet bay. Don’t forget to stop and take in the pink lake as you cycle back to the main settlement.
The total cycling distance of the loop would approximately be 7km and the bike path is fairly easy with a few up and down slopes.
(Windmill On The Way To Bathhurst Lighthouse)
(The Pink Lake)
(The Pink Lake)
(The Pink Lake)
Main Settlement – Salmon Bay Loop
The other route we recommend is to go down south from the main settlement. Take a ride past the train tracks towards Kingstown Barracks and then continue towards Henrietta Rocks. Take some time to walk around Henrietta Rocks and then set off towards Porpoise Bay where you can take a swim. Continue to Parker Point and Little Salmon Bay which are great snorkeling hotspots. Finish off with Salmon Bay then head pass the Wadjemup Lighthouse towards Lake Baghdad, the Pink Lake and Lake Herschel finally arriving back at the main settlement.
The total cycling distance of this loop would approximately be 10km and the bike path is harder than the first loop as it is more of a hilly terrain and the distance is longer.
(On The Way To Salmon Bay)
Spending a couple of days in Rottnest
We stayed in Rottnest for 2 days and we still felt like that wasn’t enough to really explore and take in Rottnest island. For a good time spent at Rottnest island for the true adventurer we would recommend a 3 day and 2 night trip. And here is our suggested itinerary or way to fully cover the island.
Accommodation at Rottnest Island
There are tons of accommodation options to choose from and all the accommodation is controlled by the island itself. Whether it’s a romantic getaway, camping adventure or a family vacation, they have the perfect option to suit every occasion. For a list of accommodation and prices during off peak and peak season, check out Rottnest Island Accommodation.
We stayed at the Caroline Thompson cabins which were near the main settlement. The cabins can hold up to 6 people with 4 bunk beds and a double bed. Everything was clean including the toilets and the kitchen had all the essentials such as a stove, oven and kitchen ware.
The 3 day Rottnest itinerary.
Take the 8.30am ferry and check in your luggage with the ferry operator so that they send it directly to your accommodation (this is only if you booked online and know where you are staying). Rent your bikes and snorkels at Pedal and Flipper and cycle down south towards Kingstown Barracks passing the train tracks. Continue down to Henrietta rocks, porpoise bay, parker point, little salmon bay and salmon bay. Be sure to do the triple S’s (Stop, Snorkel and Swim) at parker point, little salmon bay and salmon bay before you head back to the main settlement for a nice dinner at one of the restaurants or have a barbeque at your accommodation. If you feel like having a nice cold beer, head down to the Gov’s sports bar located beside Karma Rottnest. You can also go stargazing near the pink lake as it is really dark and you can see an abundance of stars and the milky way!
Have a good breakfast and pack some food before you start your day by going towards Wadjemup Lighthouse passing the 3 lakes (Lake Baghdad, the pink lake and lake Herschel). Once your reach the lighthouse, you can either take the tour or continue towards Green Island and onwards towards narrow neck, Eagle bay, Cathedral Rocks and Cape Vlamingh.
Try and spot the seals at the seal spotting platform of the Catherdral Rocks and catch a stunner sunset at the west end and ride through the last light and a beautiful horizon back to your accommodation for a good meal.
(Sunset at Cape Vlamingh)
Just be careful riding in the dark back to your accommodation. Make sure you have torchlights or use your phones flashlight and beware of the quokkas as they are nocturnal creatures and are more active at night. Beware not to run over them as you are riding.
(Cape Vlamingh Rock Formations)
Today will be more relaxing after a fairly tough day on day 2. So head towards Bathhurst lighthouse. Head west stopping by the basin, pinky beach, Geordie bay, parakeet bay and little Armstrong bay. Take your time to snorkel or have a swim at these areas. We recommend snorkeling at the basin, pinky beach and parakeet bay. If you have more time you can go further down the trail to Ricey beach and stark bay. Arrive back at the main settlement to catch your ferry back to mainland and while waiting, you can chill at any of the restaurants or bars, edit your quokka selfies and reminisce the best trip ever!
Your Essential Must-Haves:
What did you do in Rottnest and what is your favourite part of the trip? Let us know in the comments below.
For more information on Rottnest Island, everything can be found and booked from their official website here Rottnest Island Official Website.
(Rottnest Island Pier)