Rottnest Island, located a short ferry-ride off the coast of Perth in Western Australia, is a pristine paradise that attracts thousands of visitors each year. With its stunning beaches, abundant wildlife, and a variety of recreational activities, Rottnest Island has something for everyone.
Rottnest Island a must-visit destination for anyone who loves the ocean, wildlife, and outdoor adventures. This car-free island is a paradise for beach lovers and snorkelers, with crystal clear waters and vibrant coral reefs teeming with colourful marine life.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at Rottnest Island’s top attractions and provide all the information you need to plan your visit.
Visit Rottnest Island
A Brief History of Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island has a rich history that dates back over 40,000 years when it was first inhabited by Aboriginal people.
In the early 17th century, Dutch explorers visited the island and named it “Rotte Nest,” meaning “rat’s nest,” after the quokka, a small marsupial that inhabited the island. In 1838, Rottnest Island became a penal colony for Aboriginal prisoners, and it remained a prison until 1904.
During World War II, the island was used as a military base and was home to a number of anti-aircraft guns.
Today, Rottnest Island is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and fascinating wildlife, including the adorable quokka.
Best Times of Year to Visit Rottnest Island
The best time to visit Rottnest Island is often thought to be during the summer months, from December to February, when the weather is warm and the water is perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
However, it’s worth noting that this is also the busiest time of year, so be sure to book your accommodation and ferry tickets in advance, and be prepared for the crowds. School holidays are usually always busy even in the winter months too.
Getting To Rottnest Island
The island is mostly accessed by boat, with regular ferry services departing from Fremantle, North Fremantle, Hillarys Boat Harbour, and Barrack Street Jetty in Perth City. The ferry ride takes approximately 25-90 minutes, depending on your departure point, and offers stunning views of the coastline and Indian Ocean.
You can take your own boat over too, and just pay the landing fee per person and per boat. You can find these fees on the Rottnest Island website.
If you really want to splash out you can take a helicopter with Rottnest Air Taxi from just $105pp.
How to Get Around Rottnest Island
There are a few different ways to get around Rottnest Island once you arrive.
One of the most popular options is to hire a bike or bring your own. With 63 beaches and 20 bays to explore, biking is a great way to see everything the island has to offer at a leisurely pace.
Visitors can also take a bus tour, use the hop on hop off bus, hire a Segway, or hire a boat. There’s also a private transfer option called the Quokka Hopper, which is a 7 seater electric cart.
You can also walk around most of the island, but this means you might see less, and in peak summer it can be exhausting, so bike or bus is best to make the most of your time.
Where to Stay on Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island offers a range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly camping sites to luxurious villas.
Some of the most popular options are the Rottnest Island Authority’s accommodation, which includes campgrounds, self-contained units, bungalows, cabins and cottages, as well as private accommodation options such as Samphire Rottnest and the Hotel Rottnest.
Discovery Rottnest Island is a popular spot for families, with luxury style tent accommodation. There’s also hostel and dorm accommodation.
You’ll need to book months in advance to get any accommodation over school holidays or the summer months, but going during term time is a little easier.
Where to Eat and Drink on Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island has a range of dining options to suit all tastes and budgets.
The Rottnest Island General Store is a great spot for a quick coffee or snack, while the Rottnest Bakery is famous for its freshly baked pastries and bread.
For those who prefer something familiar, you’ll find a Dome, Subway, Simmo’s and Boost Juice too.
Pinky’s offers delicious cocktails and an amazing range of WA wine – perfectly matched with the best sunset views.
For a more substantial meal, head to the Hotel Rottnest, Isola Bar E Cibo for a taste of Italy, or Lontara, inspired by South East Asian flavours. Almost every dining option on the Island offers stunning views of the ocean, beaches or landscape.
For something completely out of this world, check out the Luxe Island Seafood Cruise with Rottnest Cruises – I was lucky enough to experience this and honestly was one of the best days out I’ve ever had!
And remember you can always bring your own Eski too!
Wildlife on Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island is home to a variety of wildlife, including quokkas, including the adorable quokka, a small marsupial that’s become the island’s unofficial mascot.
Commonly spotted too are seals, dolphins, and whales (in season). Visitors can also see a wide range of bird species, including ospreys, eagles, and terns.
The island’s marine life is also abundant, with many visitors spotting colourful fish, rays, and even sharks.
Best Beaches On Rottnest Island For Snorkelling
- Parker Point: Parker Point is one of the most popular snorkelling spots on Rottnest Island. With its crystal-clear waters and vibrant marine life, it’s easy to see why. Visitors can expect to see a wide range of fish, including colourful parrotfish, angelfish, and butterflyfish. The water can be a little deeper here, so it’s best for more experienced snorkelers.
- Little Salmon Bay: Little Salmon Bay is another great snorkelling spot that’s perfect for beginners. The shallow waters are home to a variety of fish, including stingrays, octopus, and tropical fish. Visitors may also spot sea stars, crabs, and other marine creatures.
- The Basin: The Basin is a sheltered cove that’s ideal for snorkelling. The water is clear and calm, making it a great spot for beginners and families with young children.
- Parakeet Bay: Parakeet Bay is another top snorkelling spot that’s known for its clear waters and diverse marine life. Visitors can expect to see a variety of fish, including schools of silver drummer and yellowtail. It’s also a popular spot for sea turtles, so keep an eye out for these gentle creatures.
- Cathedral Rocks: Cathedral Rocks is a more advanced snorkelling spot that’s perfect for experienced swimmers. The rocky reef is home to a variety of marine life, including colourful sponges, sea stars, and fish.
- Salmon Bay: This secluded bay on the northern side of the island is another great spot for snorkelling, with an abundance of marine life to see. The water can be a little choppy here, so it’s best for more experienced swimmers.
Best Beaches On Rottnest Island For Families
- The Basin: The Basin is a sheltered cove with calm waters that are perfect for children to swim in. The beach also has picnic tables and barbecue facilities, making it a great spot for a family day out.
- Geordie Bay: Geordie Bay is another popular spot for families with young children. The shallow waters are perfect for splashing around in, and the beach also has a playground and plenty of shade.
- Longreach Bay: Longreach Bay is a quieter beach that’s perfect for families looking to escape the crowds. The shallow waters are safe for children to swim in, and the beach also has barbecue facilities and toilets.
- Pinky Beach: Pinky Beach is a beautiful white sand beach with calm waters that are perfect for children to swim in. The beach also has a kiosk and toilets, making it a convenient spot for families.
- Little Parakeet Bay: Little Parakeet Bay is a secluded beach that’s perfect for families looking for a peaceful spot to swim. The shallow waters are safe for children, and the beach also has picnic tables and barbecue facilities.
- Thomson Bay: This sheltered bay on the eastern side of the island is the main swimming spot on Rottnest Island, with calm, shallow water that’s perfect for young children.
Main Tourist Attractions On Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island is known for its beautiful beaches, and there are over 60 to choose from! Some of the most popular beaches include the picturesque Pinky Beach, the family-friendly Thomson Bay, and the secluded Little Parakeet Bay.
Aside from the beaches, Rottnest Island is home to a range of natural attractions, including the Wadjemup Lighthouse, which offers panoramic views of the island, and the salt lakes, which are home to an array of birdlife.
- Rottnest Island Visitor Centre: Located in the island’s main settlement, the Rottnest Island Visitor Centre is the perfect place to start your visit to the island. Here, you can pick up maps and brochures, book tours and activities, and get advice on how to make the most of your time on the island.
- Wadjemup Lighthouse: Built in 1896, the Wadjemup Lighthouse is one of the island’s most iconic landmarks. Visitors can climb to the top of the lighthouse for panoramic views of the island and its surrounding waters.
- The West End: The western end of the island is a rugged, remote wilderness area that is home to some of the island’s most spectacular scenery. Visitors can take a guided tour to explore the area and see native wildlife, including seals and dolphins.
- Oliver Hill Battery: This historic site is home to a World War II-era gun battery that was used to defend the island against enemy attacks. Constructed in 1937 to defend Fremantle Port from potential enemy seaborne attacks, the battery of two 11-metre 9.2-inch naval guns at Oliver Hill is now a significant heritage icon, and in fact it’s the only intact emplacement of its type left in Australia. Visitors can take a guided tour of the battery and the tunnels used to house the gun’s engine room and ammunition to learn more about its history and see the restored gun emplacements
- Cathedral Rocks: These striking rock formations are a popular spot for snorkelling and diving, as they are home to an array of colourful marine life.
- Rottnest Island Museum: Located in the island’s main settlement, the Rottnest Island Museum tells the story of the island’s history and culture, including its Aboriginal heritage and early European settlement.
- The Rottnest Island Pedal and Flipper: One of the most popular activities on the island is to rent a bicycle and explore the island’s 50 km of bike trails. Visitors can also rent snorkelling gear, stand-up paddleboards, and other water sports equipment from Pedal and Flipper.
- Rottnest Island Salt Lakes: The Island is home to a number of salt lakes, including Pink Lake, which gets its distinctive color from the presence of algae. An array of 12 salt lakes occupy 10% of the island, covering more than 200 hectares. Visitors can take a 9.5km loop trail to see first-hand the island’s unique ecosystem.
- Quokkas: One of the island’s biggest drawcards is its unique wildlife, particularly the adorable quokkas, which can be found throughout the island. These friendly marsupials are a big hit with tourists and are known for their cheeky smiles. Quokka selfies have become quite the thing to do on Rottnest, but as an animal lover I would advise you to snap as many photos as you like but don’t interact with them just to get that selfie.
Overall, if you’re visiting Western Australia you simply must visit Rottnest Island. With its stunning beaches, unique wildlife, and range of activities and attractions, it’s the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Australian coast. I hope this blog helps you plan a great visit to Rottnest Island.
Looking for more places to explore around WA? Read my post on fun things to do in Fremantle and stunning places you must visit in Western Australia.