Only 19km from Fremantle, this car-free, slice of paradise is off-the-grid. Surrounded by secluded beaches and bays, Rottnest Island feels a million miles away. Once serving as a penal colony and even an army barracks, this now popular holiday destination is sure to enchant and inspire.
Rottnest can get busy - very busy. In fact, during the summer months of December and January, those who wish to visit need to book their ferry ticket months in advance as they can run out very quickly – the same goes for bicycle hire and restaurant bookings.
If you are looking to avoid these crowds then the best time to visit is in autumn or spring. Rottnest Island has a Mediterranean style climate so autumn and spring will still be warm enough to swim with calm seas for water sports.
The ferry is the most common way of getting to Rottnest Island. However, for those with a more luxurious budget, you can charter a private plane or boat.
There are three main ferry services which operate to Rottnest Island, running daily services throughout the day. Most ferries depart from either Hillary’s, Perth City or Fremantle’s B-shed markets. Fremantle’s B-Shed markets are the most popular departure point thanks to its abundant parking and shortest ferry journey to Rottnest.
Rottnest Express: departs from Fremantle and Perth City
Rottnest Fast Ferries: departs from Hillary’s Ferry Terminal
SeaLink Express Rottnest Island: departs from Fremantle
The ferry journey can be quite an adventure, so for those who suffer from seasickness, taking an anti-nausea table prior to boarding is highly recommended.
If you are only visiting Rottnest for the day, then be sure to book your departure for the early morning and return ferry for the late afternoon so that you can get the most out of your day trip. Your return ferry will pick you up from where you were dropped off and return you to your departure point, with each journey taking around 35-minutes from Fremantle and 90-minutes from Perth.
If you are staying in Fremantle and departing from the B-shed markets, then be sure to also explore everything Fremantle has to offer as well.
Rottnest Island has created a great interactive map of the island. From swimming and snorkelling spots and to water fountains, restaurants and bike paths, this map will help you plan out your next trip.
Rottnest Island is jam-packed full of protected coves and long-white beaches making it a very popular swimming and snorkelling spot amongst tourists and locals alike. The best beach to go swimming largely depends on the direction of the wind, because finding a bay which is sheltered from the wind makes for calm water and excellent snorkelling conditions.
The Basin is a popular swimming spot with great snorkelling. One of the most photographed places on the island, this beach is laced with shallow coral making it an excellent spot for snorkelling amongst the rock pools. Neighbouring Pinky’s Beach is a picture-perfect cove with an overlooking Bathurst lighthouse. While Bathurst is not open to the public, Wadjemup Lighthouse in the centre of the island is. For just $10 per person, you can climb to the summit of this still in operation lighthouse and enjoy 360degree views across the Indian Ocean – well worth the $10.
While all of these beaches are jaw-droppingly beautiful, they can get rather crowded during the summer months. Head west to Parakeet Bay or south to Porpoise Bay, if you are looking for less-crowded swimming and snorkelling spots with crystal-clear waters and soft white sand. Or if you are looking for somewhere even more off the beaten path then make a beeline for Mary Cove, Ricey Beach and Little Armstrong Bay.
Out of all the animals on Rottnest Island, Quokkas are by far the most famous. Taking a #QuokkaSelfie is a bucket list item for most of those who visit Rottnest. Legend says that the island was in fact named after these happy marsupials. The story goes that when visitors first came to the island, it was overrun by Quokkas, who were mistaken for rats, hence giving the island its name of ‘rat’s nest’ which was later to become Rottnest.
While these adorable bundles of fur are typically nocturnal, you will still see them throughout the island, stealing food from tourists or lazing in the shade. They have become very used to humans and are not afraid to hop on over and pose from a smiling selfie with you. However, it’s important to remember that they are still wild animals and should be treated with respect. It is also against the law to touch Quokkas – which includes feeding them. You need to be patient, wait for them to come to you and never invade their space.
If you are interested in other great, Australian wildlife and how you can get up close, read our articles on the unmissable wildlife experiences around Australia.
As Rottnest is a no-car island cycling is by far the best option. While the island is quite small there is still enough to keep you busy for a five-hour long bike ride if you wish. If you are only on Rottnest Island for a day, then we recommend only doing a smaller loop around the island so that you have plenty of time to stop off for a swim or snorkel.
A one-day Rottnest bike ride itinerary would look like the following:
1. Beginning in Thomson Bay, cycle around to The Basin for crystal clear swimming water
2. From here, head around to Parakeet Bay for a less-busy swimming spot
3. Next, cycle around to Lake Baghdad and the Pink Lake – which really is pink!
4. Lastly, cycle to Lake Herschel before heading back to the ferry pier.
Alternatively, you can check out this great Rottnest Island’s Interactive Map for all bike paths around the island.
If you have your own bike that you’d like to bring to Rottnest, then you can bring it on the ferry. However, if you are looking to hire a bike, you have the option of either renting a bike with your ferry provider when you pre-book your tickets or picking up a rental once you arrive on the island. If you are looking to hire out a bike from the island, simply follow the signs from the ferry docks to Pedal and Flipper where you can hire both bikes and snorkel gear.
Most hire bikes cost around $30 per bike and come with a helmet (legally, you must wear a helmet at all times when on your bike), as well as a chain and lock to secure your bike when you’re off swimming or eating, and even some bag straps to help tie down any bags or picnic baskets.
If you are visiting Rottnest on a day trip then its recommended that you bring along lunch or picnic nibbles as the only place to buy take away food is at the ‘settlement’ in Thomson Bay right as you get off the ferry. Mind you, the General Store is well worth a visit for its former colonial settlement vibe.
You can bring your picnic basket with you on the ferry and it’s a great option if you are planning on biking around to the island’s many beaches for the day and won’t be near Thomson Bay for lunch. You should also bring along lots of water as the only refillable drinking stations are in the main settlement.
If you are planning on dining-in on your trip to Rottnest there are a handful of places to grab a bite to eat, all within a very short walk of each other. Rottnest’s Bakery is an institution, offering freshly baked pies, sausage rolls, freshly made sandwiches and sweet baked goods – and coffee. Thomson Rottnest offers up a great selection of dine-in dishes with sweeping sea views and plenty of alfresco seating making it the perfect spot for a long lunch after ocean swimming and a bike ride.
Perth and Fremantle make a great base to explore Rottnest Island. Whether you want to be in the inner CBD or along the beach, Accor offers a range of hotels to suit your next holiday to W.A. Discover Perth accommodation now!
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