What comes first in your mind when you think of Rottnest Island?
Most probably Quokkas, the cute marsupials that gave the island its name. But Rottnest Island is a lot more than just a Quokka sanctuary. 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.
So, is Rottnest Island worth the expensive ferry trip?
It wasn’t ten times better than the $12 national parks, but we had a fantastic day. If you are in Perth for a short time, it’s an amazing day trip.
Although it’s more crowded than bigger national parks, there were fewer people than I expected considering its proximity to a city. That could be the only advantage of the pricey ticket.
I particularly liked cycling, as it is different from our usual explorations by car or by foot. And finally getting to meet the cute quokkas was awesome. Something to tick off my Australian must-do list.
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 day trip from Perth to Rottnest Island
Locals all recommended staying there overnight. During school holidays, it was mission impossible.
We took the earliest ferry to Rottnest Island (leaving from Fremantle) and came back with the latest one. Hence, we had almost 12 hours to enjoy the island. And we used them to the fullest.
Here’s the map we used during our trip to find the best bike circuit and snorkelling spots (click to see it bigger):
Cycling Rottnest Island
We explored the island by bike, all the way to West End. The 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 circuit was about 30km long.
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, it’s 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 when you still have the opportunity to swap!
Rottnest Island’s Beaches and Snorkelling
We 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. 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.
Visit of the lighthouse on Rottnest Island
I love lighthouses. They often have 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 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 view from up there will blow you away. Almost literally, considering the strength of the wind!!
Meeting the Quokkas of Rottnest Island
It 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 the visitors’ pleasure, it’s different on Rottnest Island. We hadn’t been cycling for more than five minutes before we spotted a few.
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!
Are you planning a 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.