Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth City is home to plenty of idyllic swimming beaches. But one beach in particular that has been the popular favourite for as long as people have been living and holidaying on the island…
“The Basin” is the most perfect natural swimming pool you could possibly imagine.
Two or three steps from the beach across a shallow reef platform will find you standing at the edge of a large hole in the reef, very similar in size and depth to a man-made swimming pool.
The difference is, the Basin is full of crystal-clear, refreshing ocean water over soft white sand. Gentle waves wash over the reef and into the pool, seagulls hover overhead and schools of buffalo bream swim around your ankles.
A summer holiday on Rottnest is just not complete without a refreshing dip in The Basin’s cool, clear green water.
Swimming in The Basin
Take a few steps from the beach across the shallow reef, and you’ll be standing at the edge of The Basin, ready to jump in…
It really does feel like swimming in a huge basin of crystal clear, refreshing seawater.
In the right conditions (summertime, low tide, gentle breeze) The Basin is easily the best swimming beach at Rottnest – if not all of Western Australia! Check out the Top 10 Must-Visit Beaches in Western Australia page and you’ll see it there at number 6.
Close to the beach, the water in the basin is only knee to waste-deep. The soft, sandy seafloor slopes away gradually into water about 3 metres deep. One of the best things about swimming at The Basin is walking further out to the edge of the reef – which is neither sharp nor slippery – and diving straight into the deep water.
Within the main swimming area of The Basin there are plenty of fish to be seen – mostly buffalo bream, old wives and scalyfins. It’s a nice, non-threatening place for kids to learn snorkelling skills.
The Best Areas for Snorkelling:
Most of the Rottnest maps and tourist brochures suggest The Basin as one of the best snorkeling spots around the island, but I think this is a bit misleading. The main swimming areas closest to the beach where most people choose to snorkel are nowhere near the best snorkeling that Rottnest has to offer.
To get to the really good areas for snorkeling at The Basin, you’ll need to venture out into deeper water along the outer edge of the reef towards Longreach Bay. You’ll see lots of fish and even some coral, but it’s a long swim more suitable for experienced snorkellers.
Another excellent option for snorkeling at The Basin is the reef pool of the rocky cove in between The Basin and Longreach (see the “Exploring” section below).
The eastern corner of Longreach Bay (and the reefs further out) also has great snorkeling, and is only a minute’s walk over a dune from The Basin beach.
Exploring The Basin’s Beaches and Rocks
The Basin has two beaches and two separate pools, separated by low limestone rocks on the beach and a platform reef that extends out from the shoreline.
The Basin Main Beach
The main beach at The Basin is the western one. It is also the smallest. This beach is right beneath the grassed terrace and the bike racks, so it gets very busy on hot days.
The western Basin is the large, round reef pool that features in most of the photos on this page.
The Quieter Eastern Beach
The Basin’s eastern beach is bigger and more spacious, and also less busy and popular. Even on hot summer days it feels quite peaceful and secluded.
The reef pool here is a lot smaller than the one off the main beach to the west, but it opens out into a deeper channel.
The Big Hill
Walk up onto the limestone hill that overlooks the western end of The Basin for beautiful views of Longreach Bay, The Basin and Bathurst Point. This is a great vantage point for taking photos!
The Rocky Cove
On the other side of the big hill, between The Basin and Longreach Bay, there is a small, sheltered cove that has limestone rocks all the way down to the water’s edge.
The cove has a large reef pool, similar to The Basin, but rockier, weedier and generally more interesting for snorkelling.
Here’s an Aerial View of The Basin:
B. The Main Beach
C. Platform Reef
D. The Rocky Hill (Worth climbing up for the views)
F. The Eastern Beach
G. Good Snorkelling
Safety and Conditions at The Basin
Picking the Best Conditions for The Basin
The Basin is nicest when the water is calm, the wind light and from the south or south-east, and the tide low. Most summer mornings tick all of these boxes. When the seabreeze comes in later in the day, both the beaches are reasonably sheltered, but the water can get a little wavy.
In winter, some days are safe and calm for swimming, but strong onshore winds and larger waves are more likely.
It’s not uncommon for large waves to break at The Basin in winter, especially during cold fronts and storms. When the Basin is rough and wavy, it becomes terrible for swimming, but remains perfect for walking along the beach and enjoingy the beautiful scenery (you might even see people surfing!).
As The Basin is a such a popular family swimming beach, it is generally thought of as being safe, sheltered and protected. But, this is only the case when the weather and ocean conditions are just right.
The Basin is exposed to wind and waves coming in from the north. Only a few scattered, thin bars of reef protect the swimming areas close to shore from the open ocean.
Luckily, the ocean along the north-eastern part of the island is generally pretty flat, as most of the winds and waves at Rottnest come in from the south and west. This is particularly true during summer, so on hot, sunny days when people most want to swim, The Basin tends to be very safe and calm.
- Big waves
- Stingers (more of a nuisance than a real hazard)
Safest Areas to Swim:
The main Basin (western side) is almost always safe for swimming.
Sometimes when the summer afternoon seabreeze is strong (or at any time with large swells and/or northerly winds), waves will break on the outer edge and wash in across the reef pool, but these waves are rarely big enough to be dangerous and can actually be pretty fun and refreshing to swim in.
The waves could be scary for little kids, in which case you’d be better off going to one of the more protected beaches nearby, such as Pinkies, Longreach or Fays Bay.
The Eastern Basin stays nice and calm most summer mornings, but often has large waves breaking during the winter months, and on summer afternoons when the seabreeze is strong.
It’s best to avoid the eastern side completely when waves are breaking there. They tend to be a bit bigger and stronger than the ones that break over the western reefs, and rips are a possible hazard (I was once caught in a strong rip there when it wasn’t even that wavy).
Visiting The Basin
Behind the western beach, 4 tall Norfolk Island pine trees shade the road and the bike racks. On the other side of the road you’ll find changerooms and toilets.
A small flight of stairs leads down to the beach from a flat grassy terrace built on the low limestone ledge. Next to the grassy area is an undercovered area with picnic benches.
For the safety and enjoyment of the people swimming, it’s strictly prohibited to bring a boat of any size into The Basin itself.
But you can anchor just outside the swimming area, so long as you stay behind the reef line and at least 100 meters from the shore.
Photo: Graeme Churchard on Flickr
On a sunny, flat day without much wind, this is a great way to spend the morning. The water off The Basin is the most beautiful clear turquoise colour over a sandy seafloor, with no seaweed for a long way out. Best of all, you can anchor right near where the best snorkelling is – the outer edge of the reef directly north of the high limestone bluff.
To get there, head out along the channel into Longreach Bay, but turn south when you can see you’re nearing The Basin. You’ll know for sure when you see the four Norfolk Island pines standing tall behind the beach. There are no leads or markers, but on a calm day any hazards should be easily spotted.
Where is The Basin, and how do you get there?
Location of The Basin on Rottnest:
View The Basin in a larger map
Getting There from the Main Settlement in Thomson Bay
It is very easy to get to The Basin from the main settlement in Thompson Bay – one of the many reasons why it’s the most popular beach on the island.
It’s also a quick ride or pleasant beach walk from the Geordie/Longreach settlement.
From the main jetty in Thompson Bay, walk or ride up the path curving steeply uphill, then turn right and continue through the shopping area. Keep heading north past the park and you’ll see some signs with directions to various places, including The Basin. Two roads (Kings Way and Strue Road) lead to The Basin from the settlement, both take about the same amount of time.
If you happen to find yourself at the country club, you’ve taken the wrong turn and should retrace your steps back to Kings Way.
View The Basin in a larger map
Getting There from the Geordie/Longreach Settlement Area
From Longreach/Geordie Bay, walk the full length of Longreach Bay and up over the small dune at the very end, or ride along the road heading east from the Longreach Bay cottages.
View The Basin in a larger map
Last Updated: 15th June, 2014.
First posted on 27th October, 2013 by Bonny.
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