Although most people associate Rottnest with swimming, snorkeling and lazing on paradise white sand beaches under a hot summer sun, a holiday on Rottnest in winter is equally as relaxing and fun – just in a completely different kind of way.
10 Reasons to Visit Rottnest In Winter
1. Peace and Quiet
Far fewer people visit Rottnest in winter than during the warmer months. Walking around the settlement you’ll notice a good many of the cottages are unoccupied – something very rare during the summer holidays.
While the atmosphere on the island in summer is a lot of fun, and extremely relaxing in a casual anything-goes way, I find the quiet calm and solitude of winter to be more conducive to rest and rejuvination. In winter the streets of the Settlements are peaceful and quiet, free for the most part from partying teenagers playing loud music (well unless you’re there during UWA mid-year Rotto!) or noisy kids running and riding around playing games in the road.
The lack of crowds is just one of the reasons why Rottnest feels even more wild and natural to me during the cooler months of the year. But my favourite thing of all is that there’s no queuing at the bike hire place, or at the bakery at morning tea time!
Cold weather also means peace and quiet beyond the settlements, on the beaches. It’s not uncommon to have several hours or even days of sunshine and crisp blue skies even in the darkest depths of winter. On days like these you’ll be able to enjoy the island’s best and most popular beaches and bays such as Little Salmon and Little Parakeet Bays – or even The Basin and Pinkies if you’re lucky – in near-paradise conditions without another soul in sight.
2. Discover a Different Side of the Island – Other Than the Paradise Beaches
The cooler weather, wilder ocean conditions and quiet sleepy atmosphere around the Settlement are all great opportunities to explore a different side to the island that you might not have tried before if you’ve only ever been there in the warmer months of the year.
Venture inland to the salt lakes, lighthouse and WWII gun embankments, and go for long walks exploring some of the wilder and rockier parts of the coast. Maybe even sign up for one of the adventure tours or walking tours around the settlement. All those things that you wouldn’t usually do on a hot day when you’d rather be swimming and snorkeling are perfect Rottnest in winter activities!
It’s also a great time of year to find out more about Rottnest’s fascinating and haunting history. Take a wander through the Thomson Bay Settlement, Kingston Barracks and Bickley Point and stop in at the small museum hidden away behind the General Store. Get a copy of Rottnest: Its Tragedy and Its Glory by Edward Jack Watson to read on your holiday and find out more about the early white settlers, the Aboriginal jail and life on the island in the 19th century.
3. Lower Prices, More Availability of Accommodation, and Good Value Deals
Winter is the low season, so prices on the accommodation drop dramatically. As there is plenty of accommodation to go round, you don’t need to book a long way in advance for a holiday on Rottnest in winter. So keep an eye out for great value accommodation deals.
Ferry prices are also a whole lot cheaper in winter, sometimes half the price or less of what they cost in summer.
4. Whale Watching
Humpback whales and southern right whales visit the waters around Rottnest every year between April and October, so during winter you have a good chance of seeing one but during summer, no chance at all.
If you want to see the whales around Rottnest up close, then you should definitely get on board a whale watching tour! Seeing whales up close is an awe-inspiring experience that I think everyone should do at least once in their life, if they get the chance.
Alternatively, you can watch whales from on the island, but you’ll be seeing them at a great distance. The best place on the island to watch for whales in winter is Cape Vlamingh. Look south and west out to where the water is very deep and you can often just see plumes of spray from their spouts and splashes. But bring some binoculars if you want a chance at seeing an actual whale! I’ve also seen whales far out to sea from other points around the island, including Charlotte Point and The Basin.
And if you’re heading across in your boat during the whale season, watch out! My dad and I once found ourselves surrounded by a pod of whales when we were half way to Rottnest in our boat – a boat which was probably smaller than an adult whale!
5. The Leeuwin Current is Stronger in Winter
The Leeuwin Current is a current of warm water that follows the west coast of Australia down from the tropics, but parallel to the coast and several kilometres out to sea. Rottnest lies directly in the path of the Leeuwin Current, so the ocean around the island is 19°C during winter. That sure sounds cold, but it’s 4° warmer than it is at the mainland Perth beaches.
If you are brave enough to go snorkeling in the cold of winter, you probably won’t notice that the water is warmer and be absolutely freezing anyway unless you wear a wetsuit (recommended!). But, you’ll be rewarded with the sight of lots of tropical fish, thanks to the Leeuwin Current.
Find out more: The best places for snorkeling at Rottnest
6. Big Waves, Strong Winds and Thunder Storms
Stormy winter weather makes for some absolutely spectacular ocean views and seascapes! Rottnest feels even more wild and natural in winter, and there’s nowhere better to experience this than at the West End. Watch waves roll in and crash on Radar Reef and Cape Vlamingh, go for walks along deserted sandy tracks for views from South Point or Cathedral Rocks, and take a walk along the beach at wavy and windswept Strickland Bay.
Other places with great wild ocean views of huge rollers and crashing waves include Salmon Bay – the beach in front of Fairbridge Bluff being especially dramatic, Strickland Bay, North Point and Ricey Beach.
Even The Basin gets wavy and rough when a cold front is on its way through.
7. Awesome Surfing Conditions at Rottnest in Winter
If you’re a surfer, then winter is the best time of year to head across to Rotto. Cold fronts and big ocean swells bring great conditions for surfing.
8. Be Cosy and Warm in Your Cottage
I remember on my first ever Rottnest winter holiday at the age of about 10 being thrilled to actually use the log fireplace and toast marsh mallows in the evenings while the wind and distant breakers on the reef roared outside.
I’m pretty sure you can’t light fires in the fireplaces anymore, but the cottages still very cosy in wintertime. One of my favourite things is sitting out on a balcony overlooking Geordie or the northern end of Thomson Bay, rugged up in a blanket with a book and a cup of tea, looking out over the grey stormy ocean and the rain clouds rolling in.
A holiday on Rottnest is always a great opportunity to disconnect from the TV, internet and phones, and spend more time reading and spending quality time with friends and family. On a cold rainy day, read books, play cards and board games, and cook something nice for lunch (some freshly caught fish, perhaps?). You could also venture outside your cosy cottage to see a movie at the old-style picture hall, or enjoy a coffee at The Dome while the rain pours down outside.
9. Beautiful Winter Sunshine and Milder Weather
When you visit Rottnest in winter, you might experience storms, rain and strong winds. Then again, you might be lucky enough to get one of those crisp, clear blue sky days that aren’t so uncommon in winter, thanks to Perth’s dry Mediterranean climate.
Winter is drier and also and a few degrees warmer on Rottnest than it is on the mainland.
10. Invigorating Winter Swims
You might think I’m crazy, but I’ll go swimming at Rottnest no matter how cold it is. I especially enjoy swimming at Rottnest in winter when the sky is stormy and grey, but the water glassy clear and turquoise.
I miss swimming in the ocean during the colder months of the year and always make the effort to brave the freezing cold water when I’m on holidays somewhere with nice beaches, like Rottnest.
Last Updated: 29th July, 2014.
First posted on 27th July, 2014 by Bonny.
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