You may or may not have not heard about it, but sitting just off the coast of Perth, Western Australia, is a small island with picturesque sights, pristine beaches, salty warm breeze and the cutest animal in the world: quokka! It’s called Rottnest Island.
If you're planning a trip to Western Australia sometime in the future, read along to find out all about the quokkas, fun things to do around the island and how to get there.
And even if there’s no possibility you’d go there for a weekend getaway… it’s so worth reading and learning about it!
Rottnest is located 18 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia and covers 19 square kilometres – it is only 11 km long and 4,5 km wide. The island has a permanent population of around 300 people and around 500,000 annual visitors (up to 15,000 visitors at a time during peak periods!). And it's lovingly called Rotto by Australians.
In 1696 Willem de Vlamingh, a Dutch explorer, mistook the island’s unexpected marsupial population for common rats and named it Rottnest – literally translating to “rats’ nest” in Dutch.
Quokkas are native to Rottnest Island and you can’t find them NOWHERE else on Earth. They are related to wallabies and have no fear of humans, so will often come right up to you. It is illegal to touch or feed quokkas, so keep a distance and be considerate when taking photos, especially selfies.
Quokkas use the front paws to search for and pick up food and this is the best moment to take a photo of them. Because it is when they’re eating it looks like they’re smiling!
There are around 10,000-12,000 quokkas on Rottnest Island and this habitat is essential for the survival of the species. They are listed as vulnerable and highly protected.
And as the tourism on the Rottnest Island has gone up 15% in the recent years, it also brought in funds towards research and preservation of the quokkas. So as you can see, simply by posting a selfie with this cute animal, you can raise the awareness and help out!
If you’d like to have a lovely souvenir from Rottnest Island and do your bit for the future of quokka species, you can adopt one! All you have to do is buy a quokka soft toy, which comes with an Adoption Certificate. 1.00 AUD from every sale will go towards quokka conservation efforts. They are available for purchase at the Visitor Centre.
The island is essentially a car-free zone, so the best way to see the island is on a bicycle! You can explore over 22 kilometres of suggested cycle trails. You would need between 3-5 hours to ride around the entire island, but there are shorter routes available as well.
Bicycles can be hired through the ferry company or once you’re on the island.
A day hire of an adult bike cost AUD 30.00 / children’s AUD 20.00.
Snorkel Hire: AUD 20.00.
There’s nothing better than kicking your shoes off, feeling the soft sand underneath your feet and jumping into a clear blue water. And on Rottnest Island with its 63 beaches and 20 bays (!), you will be spoilt for choice. It’s easy to spend entire days beach-hopping and exploring the unique bays.
You can go swimming, snorkelling, diving, standup paddleboarding, fishing, surfing, boating, kayaking or sailing!
If you can’t wait to get straight into the water for a swim after you arrive, head to the Thomson Bay. Based in the main settlement, it is very popular with families and has a roped-off area for swimming. Other beautiful spots include The Basin, Little Parakeet Bay, Longreach Bay, Geordie Bay and wonderfully long Rocky Bay Beach.
The Basin, with its shallow clear waters, is only 10 minutes from the main settlement and makes for a great underwater snorkelling playground. You can put on your snorkelling gear as well at Henrietta Rocks, Parker Point, Little Armstrong and Little Salmon Bay.
If you prefer to just relax, there are plenty of amazing spots to just sit and enjoy your surroundings. For example, located at the westernmost tip of the island West End, provides spectacular coastal views. On the way there you can stop at the Cape Vlamingh and admire the sights from a viewing platform. There’s one at the Cathedral Rocks next to Eagle Bay as well, where you can spot the pelicans and seals, if you’re lucky!
Rottnest Island is also renowned for surfing, with some of the best breaks in the world. Strickland Bay, Salmon Bay and Stark Bay are particularly popular among surfers, bodyboarders and stand-up paddleboarders. Actually, Strickland Bay has been ranked in the top 50 breaks in the world!
Surfing season is at its best from May to October and boards are available for hire from Rottnest Island Peddle & Flipper.
You can take a walk along the Wadjemup Bidi – a series of trails that will take you across spectacular coastal headlands and past inland lakes.
The 5 sections vary in length and style: the shortest one-way trail is 5.9 km long, whereas the longest is 10 km. All of them add up to 45 kilometres of walk trails!
If you’re spending more than one day on Rottnest, there’s a lot you can go to have fun! You can enjoy a game of tennis, basketball, lawn bowls or a round of golf.
Or join a tour, there’s a lot of them to choose from! For example, a walking, segway, sea bike or a glass-bottom sea kayaking tour.
You can also jump on a train ride from the Settlement Railway Station to Oliver Hill on the Captain Hussey train, to view the WWII guns and investigate the maze of underground tunnels beneath. Or even see the island from a seaplane.
Go cultural and visit the Rottnest Island Museum, Lomas Cottage, Wadjemup Lighthouse (pictured here) or Pilot Boathouse.
Families will surely enjoy a visit to the Fun Park for a game of mini putt-putt, trampolines, pinball machines and even the classic Pacman. At the Just 4 Fun Aqua Park in Thomson Bay, you can find inflatable floating rides, as well as rock climbing walls and an obstacle course.
If you’re a thrill-seeker, you can even see the island from above! Skydive Geronimo is Western Australia’s only island skydive experience. You will jump out of the plane from 15,000 feet, land on the beach, and enjoy a complimentary drink to celebrate afterwards.
In autumn (April to May) or spring (October and November). Spring months are recommended as the weather is perfect and the seas calm enough for a swim or water sports.
The best way to reach Rottnest is a ferry ride from Perth and you have a choice of the three ferry operators.
Rottnest Express and SeaLink Rottnest Island offer departures from Fremantle and Perth City. It takes approximately 25 minutes to get from Fremantle to Rottnest. The adult same-day return ticket from Fremantle costs AUD 70.00, concession AUD 65.00 (including AUD 19.00 island admission fee). Kids and families discount available.
Leaving from Perth’s Barrack Street Jetty it will take 90 minutes to get to Rottnest Island. The adult tickets are AUD 109.00, concession 104.00. Kids and families discount available.
Rottnest Fast Ferries depart from Hillarys Boat Harbour in the northern suburbs of Perth. It takes 45 minutes to get to the Island. Same day returnadult ticket costs AUD 87.50, concession AUD 77.50 (including AUD 19.00 island admission fee).
Rottnest Island is a such a gorgeous spot to visit and offers a lot to see and do! (Quokkas, especially the quokkas 😉 ) I hope you find them lovely, because I certainly do! And I also hope you’ll be able to visit Rottnest one day and snap a selfie with these cute creatures.
Explore the outer coast of Pohatu Marine Reserve and marvel at its spectacular towering cliffs, rock stacks, reefs, and deep sea caves. Observe the diverse wildlife and marine species such as penguins, seals, various sea birds and possibly the world’s smallest dolphin!