Learn About Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island is just 19 kilometers (12 miles) off the coast of Perth, but its tranquil setting will make you feel a world removed. Rotto, as the locals name it, is a protected nature reserve teeming with unique flora and fauna, including spectacular marine life and the island’s most famous resident – the adorable quokka. Discover a rich cultural heritage, explore beaches with white sand, and bathe and snorkel in pristine waters, all in this idyllic enclave. 

Continue reading to find out more about Rottnest Island!

Rottnest Island

What to Know About Rottnest Island

The name Rottnest Island is derived from the Dutch term for “rats nest,” which was given to the island in 1696 by Willem de Vlamingh, who mistook the island’s resident quokkas for rats. 

The Noongar people inhabited Rottnest Island until approximately 7,000 years ago, when rising sea levels separated the island from the mainland. It became known as “Wadjemup,” which in the Noongar language means “the place across the water where the spirits are.”

Before Europeans began to settle in Australia, the island was uninhabited for thousands of years. Throughout the 1600s, the island was frequently visited, and in 1831, Robert Thomson and his family settled there. The island’s first permanent settlement, Thomson Settlement Bay, is now a prominent tourist destination.

The majority of Rottnest’s hotels, shops, and restaurants, as well as a visitor center to help you organize your day, are located in Thomson Bay.

In 1838, a prison for approximately 3,600 Indigenous people was established on Rottnest Island, where they were subjected to inhumane conditions and forced labor. The prison’s abolition was proclaimed in 1902, but it remained operational until 1931 before becoming a military base during World War II. 

Rottnest Island is currently one of the most popular tourist destinations in Western Australia, and once you visit, you’ll realize why. On this tiny island alone, there are 63 beaches.

Accessing and Navigating Rottnest Island

Biking in Rottnest Island

With Rottnest Express, Rottnest Fast Ferries, and SeaLink Rottnest Island, Rottnest Island is easily accessible from Fremantle, Perth City, and Hillarys. Kookaburra Air, Rottnest Air-Taxi, Corsaire Aviation, and Swan River Seaplanes also offer flights.

Bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation for getting around Rottnest Island and can be rented or taken on the ferry. The island is only 11 kilometers long and 4.5 kilometers wide, making it simple to explore with a variety of excellent paths to follow upon arrival. If cycling doesn’t appeal to you, you can also travel by air-conditioned carriage on the Island Explorer. This hop-on/hop-off service operates daily with 18 scheduled destinations. The tour takes you to a number of the island’s secluded coves and hidden enclaves. The island can also be explored by bicycle and transport. Simply ride your bicycle until you are exhausted, then abandon it at a bus stop and take the bus back to the community. This is an ideal route for families and novice cyclists. 

The visitor center is also an excellent location for booking excursions. Historic train rides, lighthouse tours, snorkeling excursions, Segway tours, skydiving, and photography tours are among the options.

Settling in

The majority (about 70%) of Rottnest visitors are day-trippers, but if you don’t feel like rushing to catch the last ferry, stay the night and appreciate the sunset. There are a variety of accommodations on the island, ranging from primitive camping to beachfront glamping and luxury lodgings. However, accommodations on the island typically fill up quickly.

Samphire Rottnest, the newest accommodation on the island, features opulent villas, enticing restaurants, and a prime beachfront location on Thomson Bay. 

Discover a sustainable resort Rottnest Island’s 83 tents behind Pinky Beach’s dunes provide a close encounter with nature without sacrificing creature amenities. All cabins are equipped with en suite bathrooms and outdoor decks for a low-impact glamping experience.

Karma Rottnest is concealed behind the town’s patisserie. Located in a former penitentiary, this hotel is unpretentious and conveniently situated. There is also a campground near to the settlement, and The Basin beach is a short walk away.

Engage with Nature and Animals

Rottnest Island has numerous bike and walking pathways that crisscross the island; once you disembark the ferry, you can obtain a map from the visitor center. 

The Wadjemup Bidi will transport you past breathtaking lakes and natural and manmade attractions, as well as across spectacular coastal headlands. Wadjemup Bidi consists of 45 kilometers of trails divided into 5 sectors, each of which features culturally and environmentally significant landmarks to be admired and experienced.

The Hike Collective offers pack-free, luxury adventure walking excursions on Rottnest Island that are ideal for beginning hikers and hiking enthusiasts. 

Paul’s Eco E-bike Tours is for those who wish to see the island’s most breathtaking sights on an electric cycle. During an electric bike tour, you will follow a knowledgeable guide, walk along the shore, and swim in one of the many beautiful bays.

Rottnest Island Beaches

Rottnest island beach

The beaches of Rottnest resemble a slice of paradise, with blindingly white sand, water so pure that you can see your toes, and majestic coves formed by naturally sculpted rocks. 63 secluded, sandy havens are interconnected by paved bicycling and walking trails. The Basin, Geordie Bay, and Little Parakeet Bay are popular locations close to Thomson Bay, whereas those in the direction of West End have a raw, rugged allure. From certain vantage points, you can observe breaching humpback whales (they migrate from September to November), drifting seals, and bobbing dolphins. There are numerous species of coral, tropical fish, and vegetation beneath the water’s surface. The snorkeling trails at Parker Point and Little Salmon Bay are dotted with underwater panels. The island’s interior is crisscrossed by more than 45 kilometers of interconnected pathways and boardwalks that are marked with signs. Obviously, the primary attraction is the photogenic quokka, a sociable marsupial that appears to smile.

Rottnest Island is only 19 kilometers offshore from Perth, surrounded by the sparkling Indian Ocean, and is renowned for its laid-back atmosphere and gorgeous beaches. Locals come here to swim, surf, snorkel, fish, and unwind.

The diving and snorkeling is out of this world because it is surrounded by coral reefs and shipwrecks. Rotto is a car-free zone, and the easiest way to get around is by renting a bicycle. The local Bayseeker bus makes frequent trips throughout the island, and some of the more secluded beaches and surf breaks are within easy walking distance. There are 20 bays to choose from, so you can frequently locate a private stretch of sand.

The island’s fascinating history is brought to life through guided excursions that detail its past as an Aboriginal prison and its role in Australia’s military defense system during World War II. Explore the underground tunnels, lighthouse, and colonial structures.

Have the experience of your life

Some areas of the west end of the island are only accessible by bicycle. When cycling the entire 22km route of Rottnest, the island narrows and becomes more rugged and untamed as it approaches the western end. The annual migration of Australian sea lions, Bottlenose dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, and (from August to November) humpback whales can be observed from viewing platforms at Cathedral Rocks and Cape Vlamingh. 

The quokkas 

The quokkas

Given the profusion of marine life and wildlife to observe on Rottnest Island, this is quite an honor for these native marsupials. The island’s most popular resident may be extremely photogenic and friendly (possibly due to the absence of natural predators), but do not feed or contact them.

Free, daily (1pm) guided hikes from the main town will take you to see the quokkas in their native surroundings and teach you all about these fascinating creatures. Rottnest is the best location for interacting with sociable quokkas. This may explain why these adorable, furry creatures are not fearful of humans: they live unimpeded on an island devoid of automobiles and predators.

Facilities on Rottnest Island

There are two ATMs on Rottnest Island; one is located at the Geordie Bay jetty and the other is located in the Hotel Rottnest in Thomson Bay. Due to the limited number of ATMs, it is prudent to carry some cash with you.

There are public BBQ grills for grilling. These are located close to the visitor center and on the shore. I’ve never used them, but they are certainly useful!

On the island, filling stations for water bottles can be found in Thomson Bay, Kingstown Barracks, the Basin, Geordie Bay, and Vlamingh Lookout. However, due to their rarity, it is advisable to fill up your water bottle before heading out on your bike, particularly if you’re exploring the island during the summer.

Since cycling is the most popular mode of transportation on the island, there are numerous bike racks near beaches and major attractions where you can safely lock up your cycle while you take a break.

Public WiFi is accessible throughout the island, including throughout the majority of Thomson Bay Settlement. Additionally, WiFi is available at the Thomson Bay and Geordie Bay centers, throughout Bathurst and Geordie Bay, and in Fays Bay and Longreach Bay. Therefore, you are essentially protected!

In conclusion, Rottnest is one of Australia’s most gorgeous locations. There is an abundance of unspoiled landscape to appreciate, and the quokkas are beyond endearing. A visit to Rottnest Island is an unforgettable experience.