Here is my guide to all 63 Rottnest Island beaches and bays, plus other special places around the coast of the island. I’ve included not only the popular swimming spots and old favourites like The Basin and Cape Vlamingh, but also some secluded and rarely seen corners of the island that are well worth a visit for their fantastic fishing, snorkeling and scenery.
Rottnest Island Beaches and Coastal Features Index:
This guide to Rottnest’s coast begins at Thompson Bay, then follows the coast of the north side of the island to Cape Vlamingh, then back along the south side with photos and descriptions along the way.
Click a link to jump down the page to the beach, bay, point or rock of your choice!
Thomsons Bay | Bathurst Point | Pinky Beach | The Basin | Cove next to The Basin | Longreach Bay | Fays Bay | Point Clune | Geordie Bay | Little Geordie Bay | Little Parakeet Bay | Parakeet Bay | Little Armstrong Bay | Armstrong Point | Catherine Bay | Charlotte Point | City of York Bay | Ricey Beach | Stark Bay | Rocky Bay | Marjorie Bay | Mabel Cove | Eagle Bay | Cathedral Rocks | Shelly Beach | Cape Vlamingh | Fish Hook Bay | Radar Reef | Wilson Bay | South Point | Strickland Bay | Mary Cove | Kitson Point | Nancy Cove and Green Island | Salmon Bay | Salmon Bay’s eastern corner | Salmon Point and Chicken Reef | Little Salmon Bay | Jeannies Pools | Parker Point | Porpoise Bay | Henrietta Rocks | Pattersons Beach | Bickley Bay | Phillip Point and the Natural Jetty
Thomson Bay faces north-east, looking back towards the Perth skyline. It is here that the Rottnest Island ferries arrive, and where you’ll find the island’s main historic settlement area. Thomson Bay has a beach of pure white sand curving 3km round from Bathurst Point to the Natural Jetty. There’s always plenty to see and do on this beach, because it bustles with boats and ferries. Thompson Bay has 5 jetties that you can walk out along and fish from, extensive seagrass meadows, clear sandy areas for swimming where the boats don’t go, 2 platform reefs (one with a shipwreck underwater that you can snorkel over!) and a long, thin reef that forms a natural breakwater and at low tide is like a jetty.
At the northern end of Thompson Bay is Bathurst Point, a bluff of low cliffs and a hill with a lighthouse on top. There are wonderful views from the point, where you can watch the waves breaking across the Kingston sand bank and try to spot the “duck” in Duck Rock. And the view of Pinkies Beach below the lighthouse is true paradise!
You couldn’t find a beach more relaxing than Pinkies beneath the Bathurst Point Lighthouse, just a short amble from the Thompson Bay settlement. It rarely gets too windy and its sparkling blue water is always crystal clear.
During school holidays, teenagers staying on the island all gather at Pinkies between about 8pm and 11pm.
The Basin is by far the most popular swimming beach on the island, and for good reason. Just a metre or two off the beach, a hole in the platform reef forms a large natural swimming pool of crystal clear, cool blue water. It’s a paradise on a hot summer day. The platform reef here isn’t too sharp underfoot so you can walk out and dive straight into the deep water. The Basin’s eastern beach has another ocean reef pool and is a bit more peaceful and secluded than the western beach, but becomes awash with waves in some conditions.
Rocky Cove Next to The Basin
It’s a short walk from the Basin over a low sanddune down onto the beach at Longreach Bay. In between the Basin and Longreach is this small rocky cove, which I mention here because it’s a good place to snorkel – you’ll see a lot more of interest here than next door at the Basin. You can easily swim around into the cove from The Basin when the tide’s high.
Longreach Bay is one my favourite places to moore the boat because it’s easy to get to and is well-protected from all southerly winds. It’s quite a long beach with some nice areas for swimming, but it’s one of the worst beaches on the island for stingers, particularly at the eastern end. There’s good snorkeling around the weedy reefs in the far eastern corner and, even better, the reefs further offshore beyond where the boats are moored. Lots of crayfish hiding in the caves and ledges!
This small, peaceful beach is right in the middle of the Geordie-Longreach Settlement, but it feels nicely secluded from all the boats and cottages. Swimming there is nice, so long as you don’t mind the seaweed, and there’s good snorkeling along the cliffs and reefs of either edge of the bay. The Point Clune side is better than Longreach Point for snorkeling, though. More than a few times, I’ve found a starfish on the small flat rocks in the middle of the bay.
Point Clune, between Fays Bay and Geordie Bay Beach, is an area of limestone rocks and cliffs. It’s an interesting place to explore, both on land and underwater, with sweeping views across Geordie Bay to Parakeet Bay and North Point. It’s my favourite place on the island to watch the sunset from. The sheltered north-western end of Geordie Bay beneath Point Clune is particularly nice for snorkeling on summer mornings, because it’s protected from the south-easterly, but the visibility is no good once the sea breeze comes in.
A wide, round bay with good shelter from most winds. Geordie Bay is a common place to stay the night on the island as the bay is bordered by a string of villas and is full of boat moorings. Out where the boats are moored, the seafloor is completely covered in seagrass and sting rays are very common. There’s good snorkeling on the reefs at the north-eastern end of the bay (Point Clune), and also in amongst the rocky coves over on the western side around Little Parakeet Bay.
Little Geordie Bay
Little Geordie Bay is a tiny cove just around the corner from Little Parakeet Bay. It doesn’t have much of a beach as such, but it is sheltered and secluded, and an excellent spot to start a snorkeling adventure from. To get there, find the sandy track heading east from the Little Parakeet Bay Road, or swim/snorkel around the reefs from Little Parakeet Bay.
Little Parakeet Bay
Little Parakeet Bay is a small cove next to Parakeet Bay. Its proximity to the Geordie-Longreach settlement and the fact that it’s well protected from the sea breeze means it’s rivalled only by the Basin for popularity. It’s an absolutely gorgeous spot for swimming and snorkeling and is an excellent beach for young children learning to snorkel. The reefs off Parakeet Point are one of the places on the island where you’re most likely to find starfish and nudibranchs, but watch out for the stingers!
Parakeet Bay is a paradise, with a long and open north-east facing beach that’s sheltered from the sea breeze by the sanddunes. Climbing up the steep dune at the southern end of the beach and tumbling down is one fun thing to do at Parakeet Bay, and if you walk around to the left on Parakeet Bluff you can easily get down to Little Parakeet Bay. An even better way to get there is to snorkel around the reefs of Parakeet Point. I like the absence of mooring buoys at Parakeet Bay, but it’s one of my all time favourite places on the island to anchor the boat at for the day.
Armstrong Bay (and Little Armstrong)
Armstrong Bay is long and mostly rocky, with a small sandy beach in a cove (Little Armstrong Bay) at the eastern end that’s a gorgeous place to swim. The snorkeling in the bay is excellent, both along the platform reef and all around the reefs offshore and to the east off North Point. It’s a great spot for finding nudibranchs on the reef and has a large variety of mostly temperate fish species.
Armstrong Point is great for snorkeling and diving. The fish life is plentiful and the reefs have lots of interesting caves, ledges and arches to explore. A gutter in the reef flat leads to a deep pool at the base of the Armstrong Point cliffs. It’s fun to jump in here and snorkel or swim around to either the beach at Catherine Bay or Little Armstrong Bay, a bit further away.
A wide bay almost completely enclosed by reefs, but for a narrow boat channel. It can be a nice place for swimming, but my main reason for going there is to snorkel around the reefs of Armstrong Point and to jump into the reef pool.
On a ride around the north side of the island, it’s worth stopping at Charlotte Point for a rest. This high limestone bluff separating Catherine Bay from City of York Bay offers beautiful views out to sea and down into both bays. Scramble down the cliffs on the north side of the point to find a tiny secluded cove that looks out over Catherine Bay and is sheltered completely from the seabreeze, even when it’s strong.
City Of York Bay
This is one of my favourite places for swimming and relaxing on the island. It’s a small bay sheltered by reefs, and is often just as nice for swimming as the Basin or Little Parakeet, but far enough out from the settlements that not too many people go there. It has a peaceful and secluded feel.
A long straight beach with course-grained (ricey?) sand. Next to the beach, the seafloor is sandy and clear, which is part of what makes Ricey’s one of the nicest swimming beaches on the island. It’s pretty much completely enclosed by reefs, and also has a lot of limestone on the beach. I’ve seen people surfing here a few times, they seemed to be catching some good waves. Also good for fishing and snorkelling.
Stark Bay is has quite a long beach facing north-west, plus a couple of deserted sandy coves. It’s a popular place to moore a boat but not many people staying in the settlements seem to go there. At the southern end of the beach are some pure white sanddunes devoid of vegetation (although this bare dune area seems to be shrinking). The reefs off shore make a pretty good surf break.
Lady Edeline Beach in Rocky Bay
Rocky Bay has a long, yet sheltered beach. It’s only a few hundred metres from wild and windy Strickland Bay on the other side of Narrow Neck, but you couldn’t find a Rottnest Island beach more different, because Rocky Bay faces north and is well-protected from the sea breeze. It’s such a nice place to relax and swim. I like to stop there for lunch on the way home from Cape Vlamingh to break up the long bike ride.
Marjorie Bay is one of my favourite places to stay overnight on a boat because it’s close to the excellent snorkeling and fishing spots of the west end. There’s a large rockpool (Marjorie’s Bath) in the reef flat off the eastern end of the beach, which makes a great lap-swimming pool. Anchor a small boat amongst the reefs around the corner from Marjorie Bay to the west for some great fishing or snorkeling, or set off on a walk out to Cape Vlamingh, South Point or Wilson Bay. Marjorie Bay is very popular with boaters, but is quite a trek to get to from land.
Mabel Cove on the wild West End of Rottnest is an often forgotten bay. It has 3 coarse-sand beaches separated by cliffy limestone. It’s best when the swell is low as it’s fairly exposed and usually seaweedy, but even on a stormy day it’s great for beach combing and exploring.
Eagle Bay is surrounded on 3 sides by vertical limestone cliffs, similar to Fish Hook Bay but bigger. It has a beach under the cliffs that isn’t so easy to get to (accessed from the east), and is often visited by boat. The reefy area around the rocks off Eagle Bay is an awesome snorkel – with reef caves, tunnels and ledges, patches of coral and prolific fishlife.
See this wild part of the Rottnest coastline while walking the sandy track between Cape Vlamingh and the western cliffs of Eagle Bay. The Cathedral Rocks is the long spiky limestone island offshore. If you find a safe way down the cliffs and over the spiky rocks to the water’s edge, you can get to the fantastic snorkeling area around the rocks off Eagle Bay without the long swim from the beach. Snorkeling to the left towards Cape Vlamingh, you’ll encounter the wreck of the Kiryo Maru scattered across the deep seafloor along the edge of the kelp-covered platform reef. Whatever you do, don’t swim or snorkel outside of Eagle Bay in rough or windy conditions. Within the past few years, a New Zealand fur seal colony has established itself at Cathedral Rocks. If you look closely, you can usually see a few of them basking in the water with their flippers in the air in the reef pool to the right of the rocks. The best spot to view the seals from land is just to the west of Eagle Bay, at the end of the 4WD track.
At Shelly Beach next to Cape Vlamingh, large waves wash over a reef flat that extends out to sea from the course-grained sand beach made up of tiny shell fragments. Sit on the beach and watch the waves for a while and you’ll probably spot some surfing dolphins – they’ve been there most times I’ve visited Rotto’s west end.
The wild, wavy seaward end of the island is Cape Vlamingh. It can be pretty spectacular on a rough day, especially around the rock arch which acts as a blowhole when large waves break through it. Wild though the scenery may be, you are supposed to stick to a boardwalk rather than exploring as you wish, and the tour bus offloads a crowd of people every hour throughout the day. Cape Vlamingh is the best point on the island for whale watching in winter and spring. They often put on quite a show breaching and spouting far out to sea. It’s worth bringing some binoculars if you want to get a good view.
Fish Hook Bay
The crystal-clear, turquoise lagoon of Fish Hook Bay, a deep cove surrounded by high limestone cliffs, is one of the most beautiful on the island. And the scenery is even better underwater. In clear, calm conditions it feels like you’re swimming in an aquarium, surrounded by schools of big and small fish. The reefs edging the bay have some interesting ledges, caves and gutters to explore, and when the ocean is calm you can swim outside the bay and around to the east into a very deep lagoon which is also home to a huge variety of fish. Some of the more interesting marine life I’ve seen while snorkeling at Fish Hook Bay include a large unicorn fish and a green sea turtle.
Radar Reef is a wild beach at the base of some cliffs and steep dunes, with a huge shallow platform reef extending out to sea. A lonely, windswept part of the island home to sea gulls and other birds, and rarely visited by anyone except for the most adventurous surfers and anglers. The deep water outside of Fish Hook Bay to the east, sheltered by Radar Reef, is a fantastic snorkeling/diving spot in calm conditions.
This is one of those bays on the island that people almost never visit. Perhaps that’s why the fishing and beach (reef) combing are so good. There are a few beaches in Wilson Bay, the one that the path leads down to being small and shadowed by overhanging cliffs. When the tide and the waves are low you can walk out over the platform reef searching for cowrie shells, throw a fishing line into the deep water off the reef edge or jump in for some snorkeling. To get there, take the second sandy track on the left after the track that leads to Marjorie Bay. For a view of the bay and to see the South Point osprey nest, take the South Point track and take the right fork each time the track divides. The other way to get there is to anchor a boat in the bay (calm conditions only).
South Point between Wilson Bay and Strickland Bay is another remote corner of the island that is rarely visited. It’s exposed to all southerly winds, but when the weather and ocean are calm the reefs can be snorkelled. There are a great many fish swimming around in this area, and some corals too. The fishing from a boat or off the reef is as good as snorkeling, if not even better. You can get there by taking the first sandy track on the left after the track to Marjorie Bay, then take the right fork twice. When conditions are right, there is a decent surf break over the reefs at South Point – paddle out to it from Strickland Bay’s western beach.
This has to be the windiest and most exposed of all the Rottnest Island beaches and bays. It’s a wild and wavy bay popular with surfers for the awesome break at the eastern end of the bay, but is rarely visited by anyone else. There are several beaches and coves along the shoreline, broken up by sections of cliff and platform reef. The westernmost beach is sometimes nice for swimming.
This secluded bay on the island’s south coast is completely enclosed by a reef, and the eastern half of the bay is riddled with a maze of reefs to explore. It’s a safe and sheltered place to snorkel with plenty to see, including a good variety of corals and tropical fish.
Nancy Cove and Green Island
This cove is the easternmost section of Salmon Bay. Offshore from the beach at Nancy Cove is Green Island, a big rock topped with hairy looking brown grass with not much hint of green at all for most of the year. The Cove is seaweedy and often a little bit murky, so not the best place for swimming. However, the snorkeling around the island and along the platform reef is excellent, as is the fishing. It’s a good place to anchor the boat for a day of snorkeling and fishing because it has navigation leads, unlike the eastern end of Salmon Bay. There’s a small jetty at this beach which is the only place in the Green Island Reserve where fishing is permitted.
Salmon Bay is the biggest bay on the island, containing a number of different Rottnest Island beaches – some where the surf breaks on shore and others that are more reefy and somewhat protected. It’s a spacious, wild beach that’s great for walking, fishing, bird watching and beach combing. If you want to anchor your boat in Salmon Bay, the options are the eastern corner (unmarked) or Nancy Cove in the far western corner.
The Eastern Corner of Salmon Bay
In the far eastern corner of Salmon Bay is a gorgeous white beach and a lagoon riddled with reefs beginning not far from the shore. These reefs make for a spectacular, yet safe and easy snorkel, but the conditions have to be just right because as soon as there’s a wind blowing from the west or southwest, the water gets choppy and churned up. If you’re there at the right time when the water’s clear and calm you’ll see a huge variety of fish, both tropical and temperate, and corals including pocillopora and brain corals. Sometimes when the swell’s up large waves break across the outer reefs, forming a decent surf break.
Salmon Point and Chicken Reef
In between Salmon Bay and Little Salmon Bay, is Salmon Point and an unnamed cliffy bay with a small beach. This beach is wonderfully peaceful and secluded and the lagoon surrouding this beach is yet another fantastic snorkeling spot. Offshore is a reef break that’s often good for surfing. On top of a rock sticking out of the water sits an osprey nest. If you’re lucky you might see the osprey who calls it home.
Little Salmon Bay
Little Salmon Bay has a tiny beach made up of shell fragments with low limestone cliffs on either side. I just love swimming at Little Salmon Bay, even when it’s cold and windy! Large waves break on the reefs that shelter the bay, and even at the beach the waves are a little larger than at other Rottnest Island beaches protected by reefs. The snorkeling is superb – especially over the deep reefs in the middle of the bay where you’ll see the most pocillopora coral and tropical fish species. The reefs along the sides of the bay are good too, with good holes and ledges, but they have less coral.
Jeannies Pools and Little Salmon Pool
Jeannies Pools are a series of holes in the reef between Parker Point and Little Salmon Bay with superb snorkelling. The area is not well protected, so should only be snorkelled when winds are light and the ocean is calm. Climbing down the cliffs to the pools is difficult and risky, but you can swim around from either Parker Point or Little Salmon Bay, or else anchor a dinghy close by. The view from Jeannies Lookout and the road above the Pools is idyllic, as you can see from the photo.
At Parker Point there is a long beach of powdery white sand and a lagoon of the most perfect shade of clear turquoise sheltered by the Pocillopora Reef. Parker Point has the most coral of anywhere on the island, making it one of the best snorkeling sites. As well as pink pocillopora coral and seagrass meadows, you’ll see lots of tropical fish, especially moon wrasses. The smaller cliffy bay just beneath the point is a sanctuary area roped off to keep boats away. Here you will find the Parker Point snorkel trail following a line of coral reef in shallow water. The anchorage at Parker Point is in my opinion the best place on the whole island for staying on a boat. It’s well protected from large waves and the seabreeze, is excellent for fishing as well as snorkelling, and stingrays glide through the crystal clear water beneath the boats.
This big bay is full of seagrass, making it not the most pleasant for swimming. I enjoy walking along it though, and I like the way the beach is peaceful, backed by steep dunes and cliffs with views of Garden Island and the mainland. There are a few boat moorings in the western corner of the bay but other than that hardly anyone ever goes there.
The lookout at Henrietta Rocks is my favourite view of the island. You can see Dyer Island, the wreck of the Shark, the clear turquoise water of Parker Point and the far distant mainland. Beneath the lookout is a delightful small beach. The shipwreck is only a few metres offshore, making for a fun and easy snorkel with plenty of fish swimming around. I haven’t been fishing at Henrietta Rocks, but I suspect that it’s a pretty good fishing spot because I’ve noticed there are often skippy, herring and other delicious fish species swimming about when I snorkel on the wreck.
Patersons Beach (which I’ve also heard referred to as Walcotts Beach) is one of the only beaches on the island that doesn’t have a clearly marked access path. It’s close to the Thompson Bay settlement, but feels far away because it’s always deserted, which makes it one of my favourite Rottnest Island beaches for walking along. I usually get there by walking up and over the hill at the southern end of Bickley Bay with the old war bunkers on it. Further west the beach is divided into a series of small coves backed by cliffs, ending at the Henrietta Rocks beach.
If you’re staying in the Kingston Barraks on Rottnest Island, Bickley Bay will feel like your own private beach. It’s a very relaxing beach of powdery white sand. The water is clear and inviting for a swim, but can be a bit seaweedy at times. The waves here are almost never very large, but are sometimes surgy.
Phillips Point and the Natural Jetty
At the far end of Thompson Bay, at the point where it meets Bickley Bay, a long thin reef extends out to sea towards Phillip Island. This reef helps shelter Thompson Bay from waves, and at low tide makes a natural jetty that you can walk out on (if the waves aren’t too big!). It’s quite a popular fishing spot.
Last Updated: 22nd March, 2016.
First posted on 11th March, 2014 by Bonny.
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