How To Visit Rottnest Island: Day Trip Itinerary For Nature Lovers

Located a few miles away from Perth, it is a well-preserved jewel with a stunning coastline. A paradise at the doorstep of a city. We kept Rottnest Island for the end of our trip in Western Australia. We hesitated to go there as it’s an expensive day trip from Perth or Fremantle (we paid $130 each) compared to the $12 beautiful national parks we visited during the previous two weeks. Learn more from our Rottnest Island day trip experience in this article, including a map and an itinerary to help you plan your visit.Rottnest Island Quokka 02

Is a Rottnest Island day trip worth it?

Locals all recommended not going to Rottnest Island for a day trip but staying overnight instead. During school holidays, it was mission impossible. Not only was it super expensive, but everything had been fully booked for a while. So we could only organise a Rottnest Island Day Trip.

We left Perth early in the morning took catch in Fremantle the earliest ferry to Rottnest Island. We came back with the latest one. Hence, we had almost 12 hours to visit Rottnest Island. And we used them to the fullest.

Some will organise a Rottnest Island day trip just to see the cute quokkas.

Rottnest Island is one of the very rare places where it’s possible to see quokkas in the wild. With their friendly attitude and cute smiling face, they’ve become famous buddies for iconic selfies. So if you want to tick this off the bucket list, a Rottnest Island day trip will meet your expectations.

I didn’t travel to Rottnest Island for the quokkas, but I admit that meeting the cute animals was awesome. I included tips on where to see the quokkas later in this article. But bear in mind that Rottnest Island is a lot more than just a quokka sanctuary. 

Rottnest Island wasn’t ten times better than the $12 national parks, but we had a fantastic day trip. If you are in Perth for a short time, it’s worth to pay it a visit. Although it’s more crowded than bigger national parks, there were fewer people than I expected considering its proximity to Perth City. That could be the only advantage of the pricey ticket.

But if you’re on a tight budget and have time to explore the coast further down, don’t be too sad to skip it.

Our Rottnest Island Day Trip Itinerary from Perth / Fremantle

Here’s the map we used for our Rottnest Island day trip itinerary to find the best circuit and snorkelling spots (click on the image to see it bigger):

Rottnest-island map bike and snorkelling


Cycling Rottnest Island 02Rottnest Island day trip itinerary: Cycling around the island

We explored the island by bike, all the way to West End. Rottnest Island is hilly but nothing too hard to make us turn back – although I could not remember the last time I cycled for a full day. It was nice to have time for long and short breaks!

Our Rottnest Island day trip itinerary by bike was about 30km long. We started with the south coast, all the west to West End with a detour to the lighthouse, and came back via the north coast.

The other option was to take the bus. Of course, it is less tiring, but it’s not adventurous at all! I loved the freedom I felt on my bike. With no cars allowed on the island, cycling was a real pleasure!

We hired a bike and a snorkelling kit when we purchased our ferry tickets. We got them straight away on the jetty after exiting the boat: it couldn’t have been quicker or easier!

Tip: I know it’s tempting to race to the beach but don’t forget to check the size of your mask and fins at the wharf when you still have the opportunity to swap!

Rottnest Island day trip itinerary: the best beaches and snorkelling

Rottnest Island snorkellingWe had already seen many incredible beaches and coastline all around the south coast of Western Australia, but Rottnest Island was again a great surprise. I found the southern beaches particularly beautiful, but West End was my favourite part as I love rocks and more dramatic landscapes. And it’s always a great pleasure to spot seals!

Rottnest Island is reputed for snorkelling. Although it was a beautiful day with 25° to 30°, the water wasn’t hot at all. I’m now very used to the temperatures in Queensland, and I look ridiculous when I have to enter cold water. My love for the underwater life still made me do it. Was it worth it? Well, I’m not sure about that. The visibility was fantastic, despite the wind. The underwater world is pretty, but there was nothing exceptional for us who are used to have the Great Barrier Reef not too far from home. Are we too spoilt with our travels? Now, I need ‘amazing’ to enter a cold water like this…

For those who unconditionally love snorkelling and those who haven’t done it a lot, make sure you’re equipped to have a look down there!

I recommend taking your time when you’re on Rottnest Island. If you’re patient enough to let people go, you can easily enjoy the place by yourself. Little Salmon Bay was packed when we arrived at 12 pm. 45 minutes later, after the bus left, there was only us and another couple.

Rottnest Island Coast 02

Rottnest Island day trip itinerary: visit of the lighthouse

Cycling Rottnest Island - LighthouseI love lighthouses. They often offer the best views of a dramatic coastline. During our road trip around the south of Western Australia, I missed two opportunities to visit a lighthouse. So I got very excited when we saw the sign “lighthouse open” as we were cycling. It gave me the motivation to push harder on my pedals and climb the hill in one go where many others gave up and pushed their bike.

We arrived just in time for the 2 o’clock tour. They run tours every half an hour until 2.30 pm, so we were very lucky!

It was interesting to learn a bit more about the history of the island from a local volunteer. And the views from up there will blow you away. Almost literally, considering the strength of the wind!!

How to find quokkas on Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island Quokka 03It is very cliche but I will admit that Quokkas were a big highlight of this island trip.

Unfortunately, these small marsupials became very rare. The imported foxes killed most of them on the mainland, where they also struggle with the bushfires. For all visitors’ pleasure, it’s different on Rottnest Island.

We hadn’t been cycling for more than five minutes before we spotted a few quokkas.

Quokkas on Rottnest Island are not shy at all. If you kneel down to take a closer pic or a selfie, you may actually struggle because they are curious and come too close! Rottnest Island has been named after them as the explorer thought they were big rats (rat nest…)! But with their adorable happy faces, they are a lot cuter than big rats! Quokkas are supposed to be nocturnal. Although we did see more and more of them as the sun was going down, we still could spot many during the day!

We saw many quokkas at our first stop on the south coast of the island (Henrietta Rocks). The place with the highest number of quokkas during our visit was the road leading to the lighthouse. At we were getting closer to end of the day and the night, we saw more and more quokkas when we were finishing our loop in the north of the island.

To sum up: don’t plan your Rottnest Island day trip itinerary according to the quokkas, we saw them almost everywhere and at any time of the day.

Responsible Travel Tip: Don’t feed wild animals, it’s never good for them. It can make them sick, change their natural behaviours and even disrupt an entire ecosystem.


Are you planning a day trip to Rottnest Island? Or have you been there already? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


Where is Rottnest Island?


Rottnest Island is near Perth, in Western Australia. It’s 20km away from the continent. You can catch a ferry from Fremantle (25 minutes), Hillarys Boart Harbour (45 minutes) or Perth’s Barrack Street Jetty (90 minutes). Click here for information about the ferries. It cost us about $130 per person with the bike and snorkelling gear rentals.


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How To Visit Rottnest Island: Day Trip Itinerary For Nature Lovers was last modified: March 11th, 2018 by Eloise

I am a part-time traveller: I combine a full-time job with a passion for travelling. I love to share my trips and tips to inspire others to explore what’s around them. Before moving to Australia, I lived in France, England and Turkey. I’ve finally found my balance in Brisbane.

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