If someone mentions Rottnest Island my mind instantly floods with happy childhood memories. Growing up in Perth and having this small piece of paradise so close to home was a privilege and a blessing. If you have never heard of this amazing place before Rottnest Island is only 19 km off the coast of Perth and it is simply stunning. This island is the perfect place to escape city life for a day, a weekend or better yet the whole week. Once you are on the island, you will find yourself riding a bike taking in the fresh salty air and peddling past crystal clear water.
Bays and Beaches
Rottnest's coastline is truly a picturesque island paradise. Just imagine yourself on a long white sandy beach. Then exploring sheltered coves. Next taking a dip in at one of the bays surrounded by marine life. There are over 60 beaches and hidden coves lining the 11km diameter island for you to explore. You could never get bored of this beautiful place. The island's most popular bay is called the 'The Basin'. It is only a 10 - 15 minutes walk from the main settlement which makes it easily accessible on foot or by bike. It received its name due to the fact that it looks like a natural swimming pool. The Basin is full of crystal-clear water over soft white sand. One meter from the white sand you step across to a shallow reef platform where you will standing at the edge of a large hole in the reef. Gentle waves wash over the reef into the pool and schools of buffalo bream swim around your ankles. My other favourites that you must check out are 'Little Parakeet' and 'Parakeet Bay', 'Little Armstrong', 'Little Salmon Bay' and 'Ricey Beach'. So grab your towel, suncream, water bottle and go beach hopping around the island. You might even find a private beach all to yourself. The coastline is protected as part of a marine sanctuary to preserve this beautiful yet fragile ecosystem.
Rottnest Island received its unusual name from the Dutch explorer William de Vlamingh. Over 300 years ago he mistook the island's unusual marsupial population for a specie of giant rats. Hence, the original name 'Rottenest' in Dutch translates to 'rats nest'. Today, having a selfie with these little 'rats' that are called Quokkas is definitely one of the main highlights for visitors to the island. There are over 10 000 of these friendly furry little friends on the island and they are quite social with humans. Their high numbers are due to having no natural or introduce predators on the island. Rottnest is special because these animals are rarely found anywhere else in the world. From March to August you might be lucky to spot a young joey peaking from its mothers' pouch. Then from September to November you can enjoy watching these cute little newborns hopping around the island.
Getting To The Island
The easiest and most popular way to get to Rottnest is by ferry. Taking a ferry over is the fastest, most comfortable and reliable way to start your journey. Bookings can be made online or on the phone. Make sure you go on an early ferry and arrive at least 20 minutes before departure to make the most of your time on the island. I would recommend booking in advance rather than buying a ticket on the day. You definitely don't want to miss out.
Rottnest Express (1300 467 688)
B Shed, Fremantle - a short walk from the Fremantle train station.
Rouse Head, North Fremantle - a small harbour on the north side of Fremantle Port which is better than the B Shed for driving/parking. The secure parking at Rouse Head costs $10/day.
Barrack Street Jetty, Perth CBD - on the Swan River next to Perth CBD.
Rottnest Fast Ferries (08 9246 1039)
How Much Is It?
Ferry tickets cost about $60 return for adults and there are discounts for children, students and seniors. In addition to this, just be aware that you will pay an additional $15.50 Rottnest island landing fee at the same time as buying the ticket. This money goes toward the island conservation which is really important for the preservation of this amazing place. Save some cash on a day trip by bringing your own bike. However, if bikes aren't your thing then you can also take the bus around the island. If you haven't got your own snorkel equipment yet, do yourself a favour and buy one because you can't really travel Western Australia without it. It will also save you $20 on daily hire fees. In the low season when people aren't on holidays be sure to keep a look out for great deals on accommodation and ferry tickets!
Overall, the cost of a day trip for one adult will probably add up to about $130. This includes a return ferry ticket, Rottnest landing fee, bike hire, snorkel hire and food. I know it is a little pricey but it is worth it.
Keep reading if you're thinking about staying multiple nights at Rottnest Island.
Getting Around The Island
We highly recommend discovering Rottnest Island by bike. If you want the freedom to go where ever you want when ever you want. Cycling around is a fun recreational activity for all ages and is environmentally friendly. With sealed road around the whole island it is easy to see all the beautiful beaches.
A small side note: As per WA state law, wearing a helmet is enforced on the Island for your safety.
If cycling just isn't for you then you can see many spectacular views of Rottnest Island on the Island Explorer bus service. Taking a total circumnavigation of the Island, this tour allows you to take in the breathtaking views of the whole Island and discover areas that you can later explore by bike or foot.
Whenever you see a beautiful beach where you'd love to go to, just hop off the bus and hop on the next bus later that day.
Book your tickets online or purchase them from the Visitor Centre or the Main Bus Stop.
Accommodation On The Island
A day trip just isn't enough time to truly enjoy everything this island as to offer. Accommodation on this island ranges from camping to very comfortable serviced apartments.
The cheapest accommodation is obviously camping. The camp site has been recently renovated and now has great new facilities available. This includes a big camp kitchen and nice hot showers on site. We camped together for 3 nights early December 2016. We loved it and would highly recommend it. A campsite is only $37 per night every day of the week. On 1 camp site you can have up to 6 people. So invite 5 of your travel buddies to come along to share the experience. Split the camping fee price and you will only spend $6 a night! The campsite is located close to the main settlement and a few metres from the beach. From your tent you are very close to the Bathurst Lighthouse to capture breath-taking sunsets over the famous Pinky Beach.
If you have a little more money to spend, there are bungalows and cabins to make your stay a little more comfy but be aware that they are usually fully booked during summer.
Do You Like Fishing?
What better way to spend an evening than having a fishing rod in 1 hand and a nice cold beer in the other? Rottnest Island is a very popular site for recreational fishing. The bays have many fish species so drop a line in and you might pull up a Skipjack Trevally, Australian Herring, Tailor or Whiting. Good spots for a little fishing is the main Thompson Jetty (where the ferry arrives) and the jetty at Georgie Bay.
The Island's Dark History
It is important to acknowledge the cultural significance on this island to the indigenous people of Australia. For nearly 100 years Rottnest Island was actually a prison for 3700 Aboriginal men and boys from eight to 70 years old. The "crimes" they committed were usually minor for things such as stealing food. Sadly, these people were brought from all over Western Australia to be imprisoned on the island. According to Aboriginal elders, being a prisoner here was a double punishment for the indigenous people because the island was a place considered culturally forbidden. It was forbidden because it was believed to be the island of the spirit people. In Perth, the Aboriginal community are the Nyoongar people and in their language the island is called Wajemup. Most of the old historical buildings on Wajemup (which you still see today) were built with Aboriginal labour. There are museums and galleries you can visit on the history of Rottnest Island.
A Piece of War History
Oliver Hill Battery is also must when on Rottnest if you love a bit of Ozzie History. You can take a lovely train ride up to Oliver hill and take a tour that gives fascinating insight into the Battery. All the tours are given by volunteer guides who are very knowledgeable and will tell you all about its history. You will find yourself walk down old tunnels and seeing exactly how the place used to work. Taking a look at the big gun on the top of the hill and hearing about how it was all built by hand is pretty cool. It was state of the art when it was installed prior to World War II. It had a range of 29 kilometres to protect shipping to Fremantle.
Jump On The Ferry And See It For Yourself
Do yourself a favour and jump on the ferry. There is just so much to see and do on Rottnest Island and you won't want to leave. Even if you want to simple relax and do nothing, the scenery is just breathtaking. For us, 4 days just wasn't enough but that's just all the more reason to keep coming back! Speaking from personal experience, no matter how many times I visit Rottnest Island it is always a magical experience.