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Planning a trip to Rottnest? Keeping reading for the ultimate Rottnest island guide and tips.
Rottnest Island is one of the top destinations to visit in Australia. Home to unique wildlife, breathtaking scenery, and some of the most beautiful sandy beaches, Rottnest is paradise on earth.
It’s only a short ferry ride off the coast of Perth, and a must visit if you’re ever on the West Coast. I’ve put together this Rottnest Island Guide for everything there is to know about visiting this national treasure.
Rottnest is a protected nature reserve, and home to the Quokka – the only mammal which is native to the island. They have become one of the biggest tourist attractions of Rottnest island because they are super cute, and it’s the only place in the world you can find them.
The island got its name from a Dutch explorer who mistook these cute animals for giant rats, and thus gave it the name “rotte nest,” meaning “rat nest” in Dutch. The Quokka is a small type of wallaby and is labelled as the happiest animal in the world. It’s illegal to touch them, but be sure to get the famous Quokka selfie.
Rottnest island is also home to many types of birds, snakes, fur seals, and whales – which we were lucky enough to see. However, whales are only in the area between September and October.
The island is truly breathtaking with some of the most exquisite scenery that I’ve ever seen. Read my Rottnest Island Guide below for more info.
Rottnest Island Guide: How to Get There
Rottnest island is located 18 km off the coast of Western Australia, and you can get there by a fast ferry boat. The Rottnest fast ferries leave from three ports; Freemantle, Hillarys Boat Harbour, and Barrack Street Jetty. The ferry ride length depends on which port you travel from:
- Freemantle: 25 minutes
- Hillarys Boat Harbour: 45 minutes
- Barrack Street Jetty: 90 minutes
You can book ferry tickets online via one of three ferry operators. These are; Rottnest Express, Rottnest Fast Ferries, and SeaLink Rottnest Island. Ferry times vary depending on the company you choose and time of year you travel. You will need to check each company for their specific schedule.
Ticket prices seem to vary depending on time of travel. We paid about $80 for a round trip in October 2019 – this price included the Rottnest island admission fee. From what I’ve read, tickets are usually cheaper on Tuesdays (we visited on a Tuesday).
Residents of Western Australia can get to Rottnest island by using their own boat. So you may want to make some high-roller friends during your trip. If you’re looking for a more extravagant option, you can travel by air on a seaplane. As you can imagine, the views are said to be incredible.
Getting around the island
Once on the island, there are a few different ways to get around. There are no cars, but there are bikes to hire, or you can use the hop-on-hop-off bus. If you don’t plan on going very far, you can walk. But Rottnest is 19 square kilometers so if you want to explore it properly, it’s best to either bike it or bus it.
We didn’t have much time so we decided to use the bus. It’s a great way to see the island quickly, and you can pick and choose which stops to hop off at, and spend your valuable time swimming, snorkeling, or sun-tanning.
But cycling is the most popular choice and best way to take in the beautiful scenery. To ride around the entire island will take between 3 – 5 hours, depending on how long you stop off at each point.
A daily bus pass costs $20 per adult and $15 per child, and can be purchased from the visitors center. You can also organize the Rottnest bike hire here, and pick up a Rottnest island map. Alternatively, you can pre-book a bicycle when booking your ferry ticket. The bike hire costs $30 for adults and $20 for children. You can bring your own bike for a small fee.
Rottnest Island Guide: How much time to spend on the island
We spent about 5 hours exploring Rottnest Island. I would recommend trying to get the earliest ferry out (9 or 10 am) and the latest return ferry (4 pm) if you are doing a day trip. This will leave you with about five hours to explore. It’s not enough time to see everything, but you can definitely get a good amount of the island done.
The bus worked well for us because it’s a quick way to get around. We used the Rottnest island guide map to choose which stops were worth hopping off at. But we would have loved to have the time to cycle and explore it all.
If we ever return, I would love to stay over on the island for a night or two. There are a number of accommodation options to choose from.
Most of the accommodation is located around Thomson Bay on the east coast of the island – where the ferries arrive. Both the Rottnest island hotels are in Thomson Bay. There is also some accommodation on the north coast up to Geordie Bay.
Hotel Rottnest is the former summer residence of the Western Australia Governor and is situated on the Thomson Bay waterfront. It has four bayside rooms overlooking the ocean, as well as a few lovely courtyard rooms.
Karma Rottnest is the other hotel. It has a lot more rooms, with hotel style suites, apartments, delue, and standard rooms available.
There are a number of other accommodation options on Rottnest island – all on the eastern side. These include a range of wooden cabins, beautiful old cottages, and glamping facilities. For those on a budget, there is also the Rottnest island hostel.
Discovery Rottnest is an eco-resort that offers glamping on the island. It has beach access to both Pinky’s beach and The Basin. There are a variety of room categories from a couple’s superior tent to ocean view deluxe tents.
Peter and I book almost all of our accommodations through Airbnb. If you haven’t yet signed up on Airbnb you can follow my link here and get £33 off your first home booking, and £12 to use towards an experience worth £40 or more
Rottnest Island Guide: Things to do
Most of the Rottnest island activities center around spectacular beaches and natural attractions. The island is home to 62 secluded beaches and 20 bays – so there’s lots to see. Not surprisingly, water activities are the main attraction. From swimming, snorkelling, diving, surfing, fishing, kayaking, and more, Rottnest is the perfect destination for adventure.
There is even a golf course, archery tag, museums, galleries, restaurants and cafes. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you can go skydiving from 15,000 feet over the stunning island and land on the beach.
We only had a few hours on the island, but explored as much of it as we could. The natural landscape and wildlife were our main focus. The bus does a loop of the island, and a bus is scheduled to arrive at each spot every 30 minutes.
Thomsons Bay: We started off in Thomsons Bay where we grabbed some coffee and something to eat. This is the main area and where you will find the “bus station.”
My favourite stops on the hop-on-hop-off bus
- Porpoise Bay: A large bay and beach area with incredible views, Porpoise Bay is one of the first stops on the bus trip and it’s a beautiful one.
- Little Salmon Bay: As one of the most popular stops on the island, Little Salmon Bay is quite busy but it’s absolutely stunning. It’s sheltered and calm making it a great spot for swimming and snorkelling.
- Cathedral Rocks: This stop was amazing because we saw whales. After following a short trail to the seal viewing platform, you will find plenty of seals lazing about. And if you’re lucky, there may be some whales in the area.
- Ricey Beach: A long stretch of silky white sand that leads to crystal clear calm water, Ricey beach is oh so pretty. It was also so quiet and peaceful with only a few other people on the beach.
- Pinky Beach: Home to one of the most exquisite beachside views on the island, you won’t be disappointed with the scenery at Pinky Beach.
If you’re enjoying this guide, you may also like my guide to the Robberg Hike in South Africa.
Rottnest Island Guide: Restaurants and Shops
As part of your Rottnest Island guide, I’m sure you’re wondering where you can find the restaurants, cafes and shops.
The best stocked general store, selection of cafes, restaurants, a boutique, and a bakery are all located in the main Thomsons Bay settlement near the jetty. Geordie Bay is the only other place with a cafe and shop. The rest of the island is pure nature.
Be sure to stock up on food and snacks, as well as water before making your journey around the island.
Rottnest Island Guide: Top Travel Tips
- Don’t feed or touch the quokkas. They eat a plant-only diet and feeding them can result in illness, death, or aggressive behaviour. Touching or feeding them will get you a $150.
- Remember to pack your swimsuit, lots of sunscreen, sunglasses, and a towel
- Wear comfortable shoes but you might also want to bring a pair of slops for the beach.
- Bring a water bottle because there are plenty of places to fill up
- Be smart! Stick to trails, stay away from cliff edges and beware of snakes
- Be sure to get an island guide from the visitors centre so you can easily get around
Australia Visa Requirements
If you’re planning a trip to the Australia and need help with visa information, I would suggest checking out iVisa.com. The visa process can be very time-consuming, not to mention confusing, and iVisa strive to make the whole process simpler for travellers by taking care of all the nitty gritty details.
Just follow my iVisa application link here and you can do a quick check to see what is required and proceed with an application if necessary.
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