Rottnest Island is a small island off the coast of Western Australia and is best known for its population of quokkas (a small marsupial – only the cutest animal ever), as well as pristine beaches and swimming spots. The island got its name from a Dutch captain who mistook the adorable quokkas for giant rats, and gave the island its name of “rotte nest“, meaning “rat nest” in Dutch.
The island has also served as a penal colony, army barracks and prisoner of war camp, but is now a popular holiday destination. I first heard about Rottnest Island after seeing a “quokka selfie” on Instagram – chances are, you’ve seen this photo before and thought to yourself, “oh that looks like a small rabbit/large rat”.
Ever since seeing one photo of a quokka, I have been, simply put – obsessed – with these animals, and have traveled to Rottnest Island twice for the opportunity to observe these marsupials hop around and nibble on greens.
The Perth to Rottnest Island journey is easier than you might think as Rottnest Island can be easily reached by ferry from several different ports around Perth. Read on for everything you need to know about planning a Rottnest Island day trip!
How to get to Rottnest Island and how to get around
Where is Rottnest Island? The island is about 18 kilometres west of Perth, and getting to Rottnest Island from Perth is fairly straightforward: there are 3 ferry operators that operate ferries between Rottnest Island and Perth: Rottnest Express, Sealink and Rottnest Fast Ferries. Ferries depart from Perth City, Barrack Street Jetty Elizabeth Quay, North Fremantle (Rous Head), Fremantle (Victoria Quay) and Hillary’s Boat Harbour in north Perth.
Ferries from Perth to Rottnest Island operate 6 to 7 times every day in the off-peak season and 10-12 times a day in the peak season from December to February. The ferry ride varies from about 30 minutes to an hour depending on where you depart from – in my experience, the B-Shed in Fremantle is the most convenient and offers (limited) overnight parking for $10 a day. Make sure you check the websites for updated Rottnest ferry times.
If you’re planning a Rottnest Island day trip, make sure you book your Rottnest ferry tickets online ahead of time as ferries do fill up fast. If you are bringing luggage it will cost $3 per bag and you will need to make sure there is space in the luggage hold. Those who are prone to seasickness might want to pop a Dramamine before hopping on the ferry as the ride can be fairly bumpy.
Wondering how to get to Rottnest Island? Pre-book your same-day return Rottnest Island ferry ticket in advance here – you can travel to Rottnest Island via Barrack Street Jetty Elizabeth Quay (departure at 8:45 AM, return at 5 PM, ferry ride is 90 minutes) or via B-Shed Victoria Quay in Fremantle (departure at 7:30 AM, 9:30 AM and 11:30 AM, return at 2:30 PM or 4:30 PM, ferry ride is 30 minutes).
You can also book an extended stay return ticket between Perth and Rottnest Island if you want to stay overnight on Rottnest Island. Pre-book your non-same day return Rottnest Island ferry ticket in advance here – the schedules are slightly different so check your departure and return timings on the website.
When you pre-book your Rottnest ferry tickets, you can also book a bicycle from the ferry operator. Cycling is the best way to get around the island once you’re there. If you forget to pre-book a bicycle, don’t sweat it as there is a Rottnest Island bike hire shop on the island: once you hop off the ferry, just turn left and follow the signs to Rottnest Island Pedal & Flipper.
The daily bicycle rental rate is approximately AUD$30 (or cheaper for multi-day rentals) and includes a helmet (mandatory), a lock as well as bag straps if you need to tie your belongings to the bike. There are tons of different bike sizes ranging from small to extra large, as well as a limited number of e-bikes. You can also rent snorkeling gear and wet suits to explore some of the marine life around Rottnest.
If cycling is not your thing, there are also local hop-on, hop-off buses that operate around the island. A 1 day adult pass will set you back AUD$20, and a child pass costs AUD$15.
How much time to spend on Rottnest Island
During our first visit, we only spent 3-4 hours exploring Rottnest Island: I would recommend trying to catch a ferry at 9 or 10 AM in the morning for a Rottnest Island day trip and returning to Perth at 3-4 PM in the afternoon for a day trip. If you are staying overnight in Perth, I would recommend staying in Cottesloe or Fremantle. Click here to check out accommodation options in Perth.
However, it is also possible to stay overnight on Rottnest Island. Staying on Rottnest Island gives you a tad more flexibility so that you aren’t rushing to catch the ferry back, and allows for plenty of time lounging on the beach or exploring some of Rottnest Island’s more far-flung corners. Wondering where to stay on Rottnest Island? There are a number of accommodation options but many older hotels are due for some sprucing up and renovation. The good news is that a new accommodation option has opened up on Rottnest Island and it is unique to say the least: Discovery Rottnest.
This eco-resort offers glamping on Rottnest Island with beach access to both Pinky’s Beach as well as The Basin – the location really can’t be beat. The property has a number of different room categories from the couple’s superior tent to ocean view deluxe tents; families are welcome and there are a number of family tents equipped with bunk beds for the little ones. We stayed in a couple’s superior tent along the roadside, and were impressed by how spacious yet cozy it was. As I’m not much of a camper, you can imagine my delight when I saw the bathroom.
There is free wi-fi, an onsite restaurant, a pool and pool bar as well as several communal barbecue grills for those who want to self-cater. Click here to check current rates at Discovery Rottnest – make sure you book early, especially if you are visiting during the weekend or public holidays as they are often fully booked. You can read my full review of Discovery Rottnest Island here.
The best time of year to visit Rottnest Island
Remember, Australia is in the southern hemisphere which means that its summer season runs from approximately November to February. It does get very cold during winter and autumn, so the beaches are not going to be fantastic during those months. Over the years, Rottnest Island has also become a popular destination for high school graduation trips, or “Schoolies week”.
This celebration usually take place during the first 3 weeks following graduation beginning in mid-November and is not a great time to visit Rottnest Island, unless you want to be surrounded by intoxicated 17 and 18-year olds. You’ll also want to avoid WA public holidays and the annual Rottnest Channel Swim (February) and the Port to Pub Swim (March) as the small island does get extremely busy.
I recommend heading to Rottnest Island on a weekday between November to February, but the weather is also pleasant on either end of the peak season in October or March/April.
What to bring and wear
Bring a printout of your ferry ticket, motion sickness tablets for the ferry ride, swimsuit, lots of sunscreen (reef-safe if possible), sunglasses and a towel for your Rottnest Island day trip. Food and water can be purchased from a number of restaurants/bakery on the island, but you should also bring your own water bottle as there’s tons of places to refill your bottle for free.
While the days may be steaming hot during the summer season, the evenings and early mornings can be bitterly cold – bring some warm clothes if you are staying overnight on Rottnest Island.
Things to do on Rottnest Island
Making the trip from Perth to Rottnest Island is rewarding in more ways than one. There are a few Rottnest Island tours that run throughout the year, but to be honest it’s such an easy day or overnight trip from Perth and the island is small enough that you really don’t need to join a tour. Wondering what to do on Rottnest Island? Grab a bicycle or hop on the local bus and you’ll be able to cover a lot of ground by yourself! Read on for what to see and do on Rottnest Island.
1. Meet a quokka
First things first, you absolutely must see THE QUOKKAS! Seriously, these marsupials are incredibly adorable and always look like they are smiling. They roam around the island freely and can often be found hiding out in the shade or eating berries off the ground. Though they can be found elsewhere in Australia, they have thrived on Rottnest Island as there aren’t really any natural predators.
Many visitors have “take a Rottnest Island quokka selfie” on their list of things to do, and while it is true that the quokkas are extremely tame and you can get quite close to them to take photos (turn the flash off!), it’s important to know that it is illegal to feed or touch them. You could even be fined $150 on the spot for deliberately interfering with (including feeding) wildlife on Rottnest Island! The Quokka is a vulnerable species, and if not protected could become extinct. You should also wait nearby and allow them to approach, and do not tempt them with food or water if they are feeling camera-shy.
This is the moment I knew my life was complete.
Yes, I know there are a lot of quokka photos! Sorry not sorry!
Wondering how to take the perfect selfie with a quokka? It’s tougher than it looks as quokkas do tend to move around quite a bit! Here are some quokka selfie tips that might come in handy:
- Use a long selfie stick so that you give the quokka some space, and do not touch or feed them
- Turn the flash off
- Switch to burst mode if you’re using a GoPro, or just hold down the shutter icon or volume button if you’re using an iPhone
- Wait for quokkas to find some food on the ground before you attempt a photo – this is when they stop moving about and focus on chewing
- Squat down, or even better, lie on your front to get as close to the ground as possible for the photo
- The best time to try to spot a quokka is in the early evening or when it’s cooler. They are nocturnal but you will find a few scattered around during the daytime.
2. Go beach hopping
Rottnest Island is also home to some incredibly stunning beaches and you can hop from one to the other in a matter of minutes. Don’t miss The Basin, a swimming spot with crystal clear waters which also makes it a perfect place for snorkeling.
Make sure you also check out the neighboring Pinky’s Beach, a stunning and quiet beach with Bathhurst Lighthouse in the backdrop.
The best part? Pinky’s Beach Club where you can grab a vino or cocktail!
Head west and also stop off at Parakeet Bay, a smaller and less crowded swimming beach. Porpoise Bay to the south is also a pristine white sand beach that you can lounge on for a few hours.
3. Cycle around the island
Cycling is one of the best ways to explore Rottnest Island. It can take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours to ride around the island depending on how many stops you make, so if you are only there for a day trip I would recommend doing a small loop and heading to the Basin, Parakeet Bay, around Lake Baghdad and the Pink Lake, across Lake Herschel and back to the ferry pier.
If you have more than 1 day on Rottnest Island, you might want to make your way over to Wadjemup Lighthouse or Little Salmon Bay and Henrietta Rocks. Feeling ambitious and up for a more strenuous ride? Head west all the way to Cathedral Rocks, nearly 11 KM away from the main ferry terminal on the island.
4. Check out the view from above
We didn’t make it to Wadjemup Lighthouse (one of the most popular Rottnest Island attractions), but you can climb to the top during guided tours – tickets are available from the Visitor Centre and tours begin at 11 AM each day and run every 30 minutes until the last tour at 2:30 PM. Tickets cost $9 for adults and $4 for children. Bathhurst Lighthouse is also a slightly shorter lighthouse close to the ferry pier, though it is currently closed to visitors.
For the fearless, take to the skies and try your hand at skydiving – my idea of fun doesn’t entail free-falling at 200 kilometres per hour but to each their own! Looking for something tamer? It’s also possible to hop on a 10-minute sightseeing flight around Rottnest Island for $65 per adult with Rottnest Air Taxi.
For even more ideas of things to do on Rottnest Island head on over to the official website here.
I hope this guide helps you to plan your perfect Rottnest Island trip! Have you ever done a day trip to Rottnest Island or stayed overnight? What was your favorite thing about this destination? Remember, ferries book up during the peak season so pre-book your same-day Rottnest Island ferry tickets here or your round trip, flexible return ferry tickets here.
If you’re ready to book your trip, click here to check out accommodation options on Rottnest Island or head on over here to check availability at Discovery Rottnest’s glamping tents. Alternatively, you can stay overnight in Perth in Cottesloe or Fremantle. Click here to check out accommodation options in Perth!
You might also enjoy these Western Australia guides:
- Wine lovers will love the Margaret River region. Here are some of the best wineries in Margaret River
- But that’s not all – the Margaret River region is home to millenia-old caves, beaches, rock pools and more. Here are 12 places you won’t want to miss
- Dunsborough is a perfect base for your Margaret River region adventures. Here are the best things to do in Dunsborough and where to stay
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My stay at Discovery Rottnest was sponsored; however, no compensation was received for this review, and as always, the opinions on Yogawinetravel.com are (and always will be) my own! I only recommend products, services and hotels that I have had positive personal experiences with.
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