Only 19km from Fremantle, this car-free, a 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 Island can get busy - very busy. In fact, during the summer months of December and January, you'll want to book a ticket for the short ferry ride months in advance so that you don't miss out. The same goes for bicycle hire and restaurant bookings on Rottnest Island.
If you are looking to avoid the Rottnest Island 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 in, and the seas will be calm enough 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, or even arrange a helicopter transfer with Corsaire.
There are three main ferry services that operate to Rottnest Island, running daily services throughout the day. Most ferries depart from either Hillarys, 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 Hillarys Ferry Terminal
SeaLink Express Rottnest Island: departs from Fremantle
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.
Look for key points like Geordie Bay, Little Salmon Bay, and Cathedral Rocks, as well as the walking trails that criss cross Rottnest Island.
Rottnest Island is jam-packed full of protected coves and long-white beaches. Activities like swimming, snorkelling, canoeing, kayaking, and plenty more are popular with Western Australia locals and tourists alike. The best Rottnest Island beach for swimming depends on the direction of the wind, because finding a bay that 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. Strickland Bay is popular amongst surfers as well as anyone who loves ocean views, thanks to how open the bay is.
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 spots for swimming and snorkelling 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. The quokka population lives on Rottnest Island, largely free of predators. Thanks to this comfortable lifestyle, the adorable animals are curious and happy to come and say hello to visitors.
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 for 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. 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 fastest option to get around, or the hop on / off Island Explorer bus that traverses the Island. While the island is quite small, there is still enough to keep you busy enough for a full day of cycling. If you are only on Rottnest Island for a day, then we recommend only doing a small 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 can rent one while on Rottnest Island—just follow the signs from the ferry docks to Pedal and Flipper where you can hire push bikes and snorkel gear. There’s also the opportunity to hire electric bikes if you’re looking to take things a little easier and perhaps go a little further.
Most hire bikes cost around $30 per bike and come with a helmet (legally, you must wear a helmet at all times when riding), 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 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. Isola 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.
If you are visiting Rottnest on a day trip then you can choose to bring along lunch or picnic and 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.
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 wander out yonder in WA! Discover Perth accommodation now!
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