Whether you are planning a day trip or an overnight stay on Rottnest Island, expect to be wowed. With its incredible beaches, its cute wildlife and its small island tropical vibes.
Rottnest Island also known as Wadjemup is the land of the spirits.
Located off the coast of Fremantle, Perth is this little island measuring 11km long and 4.5km wide. Which is hard to believe when there is so much to do there. No cars are permitted on Rottnest, which means the main forms of transport are cycling, walking or the bus.
Travellers from all over the world come to visit Rottnest for its world-renowned white beaches, its snorkeling opportunities and its local mascot, the Quokka.
An easy getaway from Perth, Rottnest Island/Wadejemup is a must-see destination when travelling through WA.
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Everything you need to know about Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island Best time to visit
The best time to visit Rotto is in the seasons of Spring and Autumn. This allows you to explore this beautiful island without the crowds and the summer madness.
I visited the island in the Months of March and May and it was still warm enough to swim and explore in a T-shirt and shorts.
How to get to Rottnest Island
The most common way to get to Rotto is by taking one of the Rottnest Island Ferries.
All the ferries have similar departure times and prices.
Departs from: Fremantle B Shed
Departure times: 7.30am, 8.30am, 9.30am, 10am, 11.30am, 1.30pm, 4pm
Departs Rottnest: 8.30am, 10.30am, 11.45am, 2.30pm, 4.30pm, 5pm, 5.30pm, 6.30pm, 7.30pm
Rottnest Island Ferry tickets, *rough* round trip price: $78 (£41)
Departs from: Fremantle or Perth
Departure times (check location): 7.00am, 8.30am, 9am, 9.45am, 11am, 3.30pm
Departs Rottnest: 8am, 10am, 11am, 2.30pm, 4pm, 4.45pm
Rottnest Island Ferry tickets, *rough* round trip price:: $74 (£39)
Departs from: Hilarys Harbour
Departure times: 7.30am, 10am and 3pm
Departs Rottnest: 8.15am, 11.15, 4.30pm
Rottnest Island Ferry tickets, *rough* round trip price: $89 (£47)
If you are planning on staying overnight (which I recommend you do!) and you have a lot of luggage like tents and eskys ect. Then, for $2/$3 per bag, the ferry staff will deliver the items to your accommodation. Check each site for further details.
When you are booking your transport you will see an admission fee to the island. As the ferry companies handle this payment, you will not need to worry when you land at the dock. The price per adult is $20 (£10.50) for a day trip and $27 (£14) for overnight.
This fee contributes to the conservation of the island and the upkeep of facilities.
A good tip for getting a cheaper ferry ticket is to check out the Bookme website, as they have lots of discounted deals on excursions all over Australia.
Surprisingly, Rottnest island has an airport. These flights only return from Perth and are geared towards scenic flights rather than a means of transportation.
If you know someone with a boat, you can also get to Rottnest that way.
Where to stay on Rottnest Island
Types of Rottnest Island Accommodation
Like transport, accommodation on Rottnest island isn’t cheap.
If you are planning to stay on Rottnest island, book in advance. As the island is so small, there aren’t many options.
I recommend camping on the island as it is the most affordable way to see Rotto after hours.
A non-powered campsite at Camp Rottnest starts at $40 (£21). Each plot comes with a picnic bench and has a large area to pitch your tent.
There are toilet facilities with hot water showers, plenty of BBQs and a kitchen area.
Camp Rottnest is located right on the edge of Pinky’s beach. In less than a 10 minute walk, you can go from your tent to the ocean.
If your budget allows and you aren’t a tent person, then Rottnest Island Glamping might be for you.
Discovery Resorts‘ superior tents have a gorgeous layout with a double bed, ensuite, fridge, microwave, tea/coffee maker, patio area, free wifi and breakfast included.
An overnight glamping trip in Rottnest starts at around $349 (£184).
Normally, I would recommend a hostel over any other style of accommodation, but not this time.
Kingstown Barracks (part of Stay Rottnest) have hostel-style dorm rooms but the starting prices in the quiet season are $70pn (£37) and only continue upwards.
Stay Rottnest also offers cabins for accommodation from $148pn (£78).
If you are looking for something boujee and luxurious, then you will want to stay at Samphire Resort. Located near Thomson Bay, Pinky beach and The basin. This beautiful hotel has an outside pool, shared lounge, restaurant and bar.
A queen room with balcony, mini fridge, wifi and ensuite will cost around $577pn (£304).
Packing list for Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island is a tropical paradise, so keep that in mind when packing. With its own mini-weather forecast you can expect sun nearly all year round. There is never really a bad time to go to Rotto.
Here is what I recommend packing for an overnight stay:
- Beach towel
- flip flops/burks
- Trainers (for cycling)
- Portable charger
- Sleeping bag
- Jumper/hoodie for the evening
- An esky of food and drinks
- Snorkelling gear (also available for hire)
Rottnest island history
Unfortunately, Rottnest island has a dark history. It wasn’t always smiling Quokkas and happy tourists.
The island was first discovered or at least documented in 1696 by a man named Willem De Vlamingh who called it “rat nest island” because of all the Quokkas.
Rottnest Island then became an Aboriginal prison and a forced labour camp between 1838 – 1903.
Records show that 3,700 Aboriginal boys and men were sent there with ages ranging from 8 to 70.
During these dark times of harsh treatment and terrible living conditions, 373 men died and were placed into unmarked graves on the island.
After the prison closed, the 373 buried seemed to be forgotten. This was one of Australia’s largest aboriginal burial grounds and yet they stuck a budget camping ground on top of it.
Wrongly, in 1970, human remains were discovered when they were extending the sewage system for the golf course and then just reburied and covered up.
It wasn’t until 1985 when many people found out about the reburial and were outraged that the cemetery was recorded and protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972.
In 1992, the cemetery was fenced off and a sign for the public was placed on the grounds to educate people and remember the fallen.
Map of Rottnest Island
Click here for the locations mentioned in this blog post. And yes that is a beaver emoji, but we will pretend it is a Quokka!
Can you do Rottnest in a day?
You can explore Rottnest island in a day, but to really get the most out of the experience, I recommend an overnight stay. That way you can watch a beautiful sunset, see the island after all the tourists have gone home and get cute Quokka selfies when they are at their most active.
How long should you stay on Rottnest island?
I think staying on Rottnest Island for 1 night is plenty of time to see this tropical paradise.
If your budget allows and you are a keen snorkeller, then maybe a 2nd night, but I do not think it is necessary.
Getting around Rottnest Island
Rent a bike to cruise around the island
Bike hire on Rottnest Island is really easy to do and quite affordable. The Pedal and Flipper which is located 5 minutes’ walk from the bakery, will fit you with the right size bike and includes a helmet and padlock in the price.
As the name suggests, you can also hire snorkel gear!
The price for a bike is $30 (£16) for 24 hours with an additional $14-$16 (£7-£9) for any extra days.
You can also get a bike with a surfboard rack for an extra $11 (£6).
A snorkel set is $21 (£11) for 24 hours with an additional $15 (£8) for extra days.
The Pedal and Flipper also rents out paddleboards for $75 (£39.50).
Bus tours and daily shuttles
If you prefer not to cycle and want to sit back, relax, and take in the sights, then the hop-on, hop-off bus may be the option for you.
Tickets for this mode of transport are $25 per adult. The Rottnest Island Explorer bus stops at all the must see spots.
Click here for the timetable.
Walking trails around the island
Rottnest Island has several trails that will get you walking all over the island.
While this method may take you longer than a bus or cycling, it will allow you to see the island from a different point of view.
Rottnest Island is made up of five walking trails, with the full island walk being 45km.
The whole walk will take a few days, but with the five trails interconnected, you can do different sections throughout your time there.
Pick up a map at the Rottnest Island visitor centre, pack plenty of water, and be aware of the sun’s temperatures before embarking on your journey.
Things to do on Rottnest Island
Best snorkelling spots on Rottnest Island
With 63 beaches and 20 bays to choose from, it can be a little daunting to decide what spots to adventure to.
I have condensed it down to 5 of the best snorkel spots on Rottnest Island and why.
Let’s start with a firm favourite. Parker Point is one of the best snorkel spots to visit due to its 12 plaque trail along the reef leading to an epic drop off.
Follow the buoys along the reef and see manta rays, tropical fish and scary looking crayfish!
Parker Point is a protected marine sanctuary zone. Which helps to keep the underwater life healthy and thriving. The zone was put in place to protect the pocillopora (pink) coral reef.
Located on the South-East side of the island, it is a popular favourite amongst the crowds. But that is for a very good reason; Parker Point is gorgeous!
Little Salmon Bay
Little Salmon Bay is great for beginners as well as experienced snorkellers.
The 700 metre trail along the reef is marked by 10 buoys. With information boards along the way that explain the different underwater habitats you are gliding above.
Expect to see seagrass meadows, limestone formations and, pink hued coral. You will also see lots of tropical fish darting through these habitats. If you are lucky, you could also see octopus and eagle rays!
As Little Salmon Bay is located around the corner from Parker Point, it also falls into the Marine Sanctuary zone.
Another amazing snorkelling spot on the south side of Rottnest Island is Henrietta Rocks.
Underneath the waters of Henrietta Rocks, you will discover a shipwreck known as “the shark”. This shipwreck is metres from the shoreline, making it easily accessible to discover and explore.
This shipwreck was originally a hopper barge that came free from its mooring in Fremantle in 1938. The barge travelled all the way over to Rottnest Island, where it hit the reef and slowly sank.
The shark shipwreck is home to lots of different sea creatures.
The shipwreck makes for an exciting and historical snorkel spot.
On the north side of Rottnest Island is Little Armstrong Bay.
This bay is covered by rocks, making it a more sheltered spot. The reef is in the shallows, making it easy to swim out, with deeper water further in for the more experienced snorkellers.
What makes Little Armstrong Bay’s snorkelling spot so special is that there is a chance to see species of sea life that cannot be found on any other part of the island.
You will be greeted by lots of colourful fish and a maze of seagrass to enjoy.
Because of the importance of this seagrass, it is also a Marine Sanctuary Zone.
Little Parakeet Bay is around the corner from Little Armstrong Bay.
I am adding this bay to the best snorkelling spots in Rottnest because you will be able to see blue-scaled fish, starfish, and maybe even a friendly stingray!
As you swim further out of the bay, you will discover a long coral reef with lots of formations, making it a playground for the colourful and curious fish of the island.
If you feel more comfortable snorkelling with an organised tour then click here.
Visit Rottnest island bakery
I would start your day off right with a coffee and a sweet treat from Rottnest Island Bakery. They have a wide selection of pastries, pies, breakfast/lunch sandwiches and baked goods.
This little pit stop is in the heart of the Thomson bay settlement, which is a 10 minutes walk from the main jetty.
This will be where you first encounter the cute quokkas!
There are a few nice little shops in this area which you should definitely check out during your time here.
Get an Ice Cream at Kuld Creamery
Located at The Basin is a must visit ice cream van called Kuld Creamery.
This little ice cream chain started in Perth and is an absolute favourite amongst locals.
When I lived in Fremantle, I would visit their shop every Monday with the hostel gang.
Which means when we found out they had a Kuld ice cream van on Rottnest island, we had to visit.
They create epic tasting flavours like carrot cake, gingerbread spice with caramel, and vegan cookie dough made with either coconut or oat cream.
The Basin is the perfect backdrop to sit and enjoy your ice cream. Soak up the spectacular views and watch the cute Quokkas roaming.
Explore The Basin
The Basin is the most popular beach on Rottnest Island. With its clear turquoise water, colourful reefs and soft white sand. This beach has to be on your Rottnest itinerary.
This is a great spot to cool off after cycling around the island.
Get a selfie with a Quokka.
Known as one of the happiest creatures on the planet and only located on Rottnest island, is the Quokka.
This smiley, cute creature has no predators and goes about its day roaming around the beautiful island.
The Quokka became famous when celebrities like Chris Hemsworth, Shawn Mendes and Roger Federer took iconic smiley selfies with them.
These sweet, small marsupials are really friendly, curious creatures and will approach you if you are patient.
We had one hop into our tent, which was quite a funny experience.
Remember not to touch them or feed them. However, saying that I had one, put its tiny paw on my leg and rubbed its little body on me and IT WAS THE SOFTEST!! They also liked the smell of my hair.
Here are some tips for getting a selfie with a Quokka without causing the animal distress.
1. Sit near the Quokka but not next to it. Give them space and let them come to you; they are curious creatures and will want to come over and smell you. Or you can get in a low crouching position and slowly move towards them.
2. I recommend having your phone in video mode so you can record and screen grab later in case the little one doesn’t want to stay for long.
3. Either have your phone to the side or upside down. In the side version, you will be able to get you both in the frame and the upside down version, you can get them smiling more.
4. The best time to get your picture is either early in the morning or early evening. I managed to get my interaction just before sunset.
Visit Cathedral Rocks to see fur seals.
At the most western point of Rottnest Island is Cathedral Rocks. Here you will find a viewing platform specifically designed to watch the fur seals bask in the sun and chase and play with each other in the ocean.
You might also be lucky enough to spot dolphins and migrating whales!
The best sunset spot on Rottnest Island
If you chose the option to camp, then 5 minutes walk from your tent will be the beautiful Pinky’s Beach. This beach is also home to the Bathurst Lighthouse.
I recommend walking up to the base of Bathurst lighthouse with a picnic blanket, some drinks and Timtams and watching the sun set over the ocean. As you are above the beach, you also get a beautiful birdseye view.
Skydive over Rottnest Island
If you are feeling brave and want to skydive over this tropical oasis, then check out this tandem experience with Skydive Geronimo.
This 2.5 hour activity will have you jumping from 10,000, 14,000, or 15,000 feet with 30 to 66 seconds of free fall. For $347.90, it is a once in a lifetime experience.
Parasail over Rottnest Island
The company I used to work for; Cicerello Jet Adventures, has taken its parasailing boat over to Rottnest Island and now you can see the tropical blue water from above. This is a more affordable and less scary option to skydiving.
Jet Adventures also does whale watching parasailing which is an incredible experience!
Souvenir shop and wander around the boutique stores.
In the main settlement area, 10 minutes walk from the main jetty, are some lovely little local shops. Whether you want a soft toy quokka or a postcard, you are bound to find something that will commemorate your trip.
My friends brought me “A Quokkas Guide to Happiness” book for my birthday and I love it. A photographer called Alex Cearns paired adorable Quokka photographs with quotes from many talented gurus.
Get some drinks at Bayside Bar
Minutes from the jetty is also a nice outside seating bar called Bayside. This is the perfect location to people watch, gaze the ocean and take in the sites.
Prices are reasonable, and it has a really nice vibe to it.
Frequently asked questions
How many days do you need at Rottnest Island?
You can easily visit Rottnest Island in a day, but to get the most out of your experience I would say 2 days.
What is the best way to explore the island?
Cycling around Rottnest is the best way to explore the island. The roads are quiet as there are no cars and you can visit all the hidden bays in the area.
Is Rottnest worth it?
Absolutely! Rottnest Island is an incredible place that showcases world famous beaches, cute wildlife and amazing snorkelling spots.
How long does it take to ride around the whole of Rottnest Island?
The cycling trail is 22km along the coastline of Rottnest Island. Depending on your fitness level, you could complete the trail within 3 to 5 hours. But the point is to enjoy the island, so take your time and stop off at all the stops along the way.
Can you get around Rottnest without a bike?
Yes, if you do not like cycling you can walk around the island on the many trails or take the island bus.
In summary, Rottnest Island is an incredible little paradise that has everything you need for a night away. After you have visited, you will want to go back immediately. It ticks all the boxes: wildlife, stunning scenery, and feel good vibes.
As Always, Happy Exploring!