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Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth, Western Australia is a uniquely wonderful place to escape to for the day, the weekend or the week. It's only a half hour ferry ride from Fremantle port, but it feels a whole world away from the city.
It's a place to escape to for the best swimming, snorkelling, fishing and diving that Perth has to offer, and staying overnight on the island is about as relaxing as a holiday can get.
On this page: Bays, Beaches and the Best Swimming Spots | The Quokkas | Rottnest Activities | More Things to See and Do on the Island | No Cars! | Daytrips to Rottnest | Accommodation | Getting There | How Much Does it Cost? | Rottnest in Winter
The Beautiful Bays and Beaches of Rottnest Island
Rottnest's coastline is an island paradise of long white sandy beaches and tiny sheltered coves.
Limestone reefs surround the island, sheltering the crystal clear water close to the beaches from big waves. No matter which direction the wind is blowing from, you can always a calm, sheltered beach.
The best beach for swimming and snorkelling changes from day to day, and even from morning to afternoon. It mostly depends on which way the wind's blowing from, because a sheltered Rottnest bay is always more pleasant and inviting for a swim than a chilly, windswept one with choppy water.
The most popular beaches to swim at are The Basin, Little Parakeet, Little Salmon Bay, Fays Bay and Pinky Beach. These beaches are popular for good reason - they're absolutely beautiful and convenient to get to - but they start to feel a bit crowded on a hot summer day when the island's busy.
Mary Cove, Little Armstrong Bay, Ricey Beach and City of York Bay are just as nice as the most popular swimming spots, but don't get quite the same crowds.
The Rottnest Island Quokka
If you go to Rottnest, you're pretty much guaranteed to see a few of these cute furry marsupials! There are over 10000 of them on the island and they're not fearful of humans.
A quokka with a joey hopping around outside the Rottnest Bakery:
Rottnest Island Activities
Activities on Rottnest revolve around the ocean, and fun in the sun.
- Snorkeling - see Discovering the Best Rottnest Snorkeling Spots
- Scuba Diving
Relaxing Rotto Holidays - No Cars!
A holiday on Rottnest is a time to slow down and relax completely with not a care in the world. It's also the perfect opportunity to get lots fresh air and exercise.
There are no cars on the island, so bikes are the main method of transportation - especially when you want to explore all the beautiful beaches outside the settlement areas. Rottnest is made up of hilly sanddunes, so bike riding can be hard work at times. The plus-side is that each day's outing brings with it a sense of accomplishment and makes you stronger and healthier!
If that sounds like too much effort, you can always take the bus that circuits the island at least every hour (yes, there are a few vehicles on the island - just no cars!). There are also some absolutely exquisite beaches within a 10 minute's walk of the settlements.
The lack of cars on Rottnest has a huge effect on your sense of freedom and relaxation - way more than you'r probably realise. You can wander wherever you want all over the road, or even set up a game of cricket right in the middle of it!
Kids get to experience a level of freedom unknown to them in their everyday life. On Rottnest they can roam around on foot or by bicycle to their hearts content - climbing trees, building homes for the quokkas and making new friends.
Rottnest Island Daytrips
A daytrip to Rottnest isn't as relaxing as a longer stay and ends up being quite expensive, but if you only have one day free or can't get accommodation, you won't regret spending the day on beautiful Rottnest!
Of course you can't expect to see and do everything the island has to offer, but if you're up for an action-packed day and get there early enough you can fit a lot in. Here are some ideas on what you can fit into one day on Rottnest Island:
- Circle the island by bike or bus, stopping at 2 or 3 beaches for swimming and snorkeling and at Cape Vlamingh, the westernmost point of the island.
- Check out some of the historic sites - ride out through the salt lakes to Oliver Hill, which has great views and guns and tunnels from WW2. Next ride to Wadjemup Lighthouse and join the tour where you can climb to the top. From here you could ride out to Cape Vlamingh, swim or snorkel at one of the beaches on the south side of the island or ride back to the settlement and hang around there.
- Join a bus tour of the island and learn about the island's natural and cultural history (if you're into that sort of thing) then wander around the settlement, or walk to the Basin for a swim.
- Hop on a boat cruise for some wildlife watching, or snorkeling/scuba diving on shipwrecks and other offshore dive sites around the island.
Or you could just have a chilled out, relaxing Rottnesty day - walk around Bathurst Point and along Pinky Beach to the Basin, lie in the sun and go for a swim, then head back to the settlement for a long lunch or a few drinks at the pub.
How much does it cost to go to Rottnest?
Rottnest Island holidays and daytrips have been getting more and more expensive as the years go by. It's no longer the cheap family holiday it used to be!
The costs of a daytrip for one adult adds up to about $130 or so - factoring in ferry tickets, the landing fee, bike hire, snorkel hire and a bite to eat. Save about $15 by bringing your own bike, hiring a bike only for the afternoon, or catching the bus around the island instead of riding. Bringing your own snorkeling equipment will save another $20.
In the low season when the weather is cool and people aren't on holidays you can get some great deals on Rottnest accommodation. Also keep a look out for ferry ticket specials.
Getting There - Rottnest Ferries
By far the most popular way to get to Rottnest is by ferry. The ferries are fast, comfortable and reliable, making the journey to Rottnest and back several times throughout the day.
Rottnest Ferry Companies
|Ferry Company||Departure Points||More Info|
|Rottnest Express |
1300 467 688
|B Shed, Fremantle |
Rouse Head, North Fremantle
Barrack Street Jetty, Perth CBD
|The main ferry company - runs every day and leaves most frequently.|
|Rottnest Fast Ferries |
(+61) 8 9246 1039
|Hillarys Boat Harbour, northern suburbs||Subsidiary of Rottnest Express. Also does whale watching tours leaving from Hillarys.|
- The B Shed in Fremantle Harbour - a short walk from the Fremantle train station
- Rouse Head (Northport) - a small harbour on the north side of Fremantle Port - better than the B Shed for driving/parking. The secure parking at Rouse Head costs $10/day.
- Hillarys Boat Harbour - Perth's northern suburbs
- Barrack Street Jetty - on the Swan River next to Perth CBD
Ferry tickets cost about $30 one way for an adult, with discounts for children, students and seniors. In addition to this, you'll pay your $15.50 island landing fee at the same time as buying the ticket.
Ferry reservations can be made online or over the phone, which is the smart thing to do. Reservations can be cancelled or changed fairly easily, although you may have to pay a $5 admin fee. You can also just show up at the departure point and buy your tickets there, but there's a chance you'll miss out.
If you've got luggage or a bike to load onto the ferry, get there about half an hour early to allow enough time to get everything organised.
Other Ways to Get to Rottnest:
With a group of three, flying to Rottnest instead of catching the ferry can be surprisingly economical, especially when you consider the added bonus of a scenic flight over Fremantle and the island.
Several light-aircraft companies offer charters to Rottnest from Jandakot airport in Perth's south east, as well as plane hire for licenced pilots. Once you get there, the Thompson Bay settlement is a short walk past a salt lake from the airfield.
By Private Boat
Taking your boat to Rottnest is a different sort of holiday. You can explore the bays and get to the offshore fishing and dive sites, and stay overnight far away from the main settlement areas.
The following bays have marked navigation channels and so are the most popular places to moor or anchor the boat:
- Thompson Bay - moorings, jetties (including a refuelling jetty) and a designated anchorage area
- Porpoise Bay (via the Parker Point passage, or past Henrietta Rocks)
- Parker Point - anchorage only
- Nancy Cove - anchorage and a small jetty
- Marjorie Bay
- Rocky Bay
- Stark Bay
- Catherine Bay
- Parakeet Bay - anchorage only, right next to Little Parakeet!
- Geordie Bay
- Longreach Bay
Most of the other larger bays around the island are navigable with some experience and a good degree of caution. Some favourites include Armstrong Bay, Eagle Bay and the far eastern corner of Salmon Bay.
Rottnest Island Accommodation
Accommodation on Rottnest Island ranges from a campground, dormitories and one-room cabins, to self-contained cottages and bungalows, to the Lodge and the Hotel.
The island has a unique style of buildings and accommodation. You may find yourself staying the night in one of Western Australia's oldest buildings, or (in the case of the lodge) a converted prison, which has a very sad history.
The cottages and villas, and even the "luxurious" lodge are comfortable and well-appointed, but have a spartan feel about them that goes well with Rottnest's barren landscape and casual, laid-back way of life.
Rotto in Winter
Rottnest Island makes a wonderful winter getaway. It's too cold to swim and sunbake (for most people, anyway), but there are a number of advantages to visiting during the cooler months that you only realise when you give it a try:
- No crowds - The island is so quiet during winter that you feel like you've got the whole place to yourself.
- Low prices - you get some great deals on accommodation during the low season, and the ferry tickets are cheaper too.
- A good chance of seeing whales - they visit each year between April and October.
- Stronger Leeuwin Current - you won't notice any affect on the water temperature, but if you brave the cold and go snorkeling you notice that there's more tropical fish than you see in summer.
- If you're a Rottnest regular, a winter island getaway is a good time for doing those things that you never get round to doing in summer when the beach is beckoning, such as riding out to the Oliver Hill Guns or the Wadjemup Hill lighthouse
- Big waves - makes for spectacular ocean views and some awesome surfing
- The cottages are cosy! You actually get to use the log fireplace
- Winter sunshine - you might be lucky enough to get one of those crisp, clear blue sky days that aren't uncommon in winter, thanks to Perth's dry climate
- Milder weather - winter is drier and a few degrees warmer on Rottnest than on the mainland.
Rottnest Island Pages:
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