A Complete Guide to Rottnest Island

Only a short ferry ride off the coast of Fremantle, Rottnest Island is the perfect place to soak up the ultimate west coast island vibes, with no cars at all on the island, and everything you need only a short walk away from wherever you are. Although it’s a small island, there really is so much to do here, with activities to keep you busy from morning until night.

Kick back and relax on one of the 63 incredible beaches and 20 bays dotted around the island, zip your way around the trails on an electric bicycle, snorkel in the crystal-clear water, enjoy the sunset views with a delicious cocktail at the beach club, or give yourself the ultimate view of the island, skydiving over the island and landing on the beach below.

wadjemup lighthouse rottnest island

Affectionately known as Rotto, or Wadjemup to the local Noogar people, the island sits just off the coast of Fremantle, a short 30-minute ferry ride from the mainland. Best known for its famous quokka population, people come from all over the world to try and snap the perfect selfie with the cute smiling little quokkas that roam all over the island. They’re definitely not shy, and you’re likely to spot them all over the place, from the main street to the beach club, and maybe even having a midday nap in the shade near your luxury glamping tent.

An easy weekend getaway from Perth, Rottnest Island feels like it’s a whole different world, and is a can’t miss for anyone heading to Western Australia.

rottnest island

Getting to Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island lies just 18 kilometres off the coast of Fremantle along the West Coast of Australia.

The easiest way to get to Rottnest Island is to catch a ferry service from Fremantle to Rottnest Island with SeaLink Rottnest Island. The trip takes about 30 minutes from B Shed at Victoria Quay and there are multiple services throughout the day. You can also jump on the ferry right from Barrack Street Jetty in the heart of Perth CBD. The ferry ride from here takes about 90 minutes (with a stop off at Fremantle), but you get to experience a lovely river cruise down the Swan River on the way. Such a peaceful way to start your adventure.

Ferry tickets also include the government admission fee, which is $20 per adult for day trip guests and $26 per adult for overnight guests, with discounts for kids and families. This admission fee contributes to the conservation of the island and the upkeep of facilities and is charged to everyone visiting the island.

Take advantage of SeaLink’s luggage concierge, and let them know where you’re staying when you check into the ferry. They will deliver your luggage straight to your accommodation, so you don’t have to worry about lugging it around the island and holding onto it until you can check in to your room. You can start enjoying island life as soon as you set foot on Rotto. How perfect is that!

Book your ferry to to Rottnest Island here: sealinkrottnest.com.au

swan river sea planes

Swan River Seaplanes

Alternatively, to arrive in a little more style, book a seaplane transfer to Rottnest Island with Swan River Seaplanes. A short 20 minute flight connects Rottnest Island and Perth CBD, and a scenic seaplane flight offeres you stunning views of both the city and the island, before an exciting water landing.

Land on Thomson Bay on Rottnest Island (weather permitting) or take off and land from Queen Street Jetty in South Perth. And can we just say, wow, a water landing is so much smoother and more peaceful than a regular landing! You can book either a one way or return trip, with multiple departures each way throughout the day to choose from.

This was our first time flying and landing on water in a seaplane and we absolutely loved it, highly recommend for your visit to Rottnest Island. Swan River Seaplanes also offer Perth scenic flights, Margaret River day tours and even tours out to the Abrolhos Islands! If you have some extra time around Perth, definitely check out their other tour options as well.

Book now: Swan River Seaplane to Rottnest Island

discovery rottnest island

Where to stay on Rottnest Island 

Without a doubt, Discovery Rottnest Island is the place to base yourself during your visit. Sitting just behind the sand dunes of the iconic Pinky Beach, Discovery Rottnest Island has glamping-style accommodation, with luxury tents set up to give you the ultimate island experience. The beds are big and comfy, the tents are kitted out with their own bathrooms and small kitchens, there’s a deck to relax on out the front, and the beach is only a few steps away. It’s also home to Pinky’s Beach Club, serving our favourite cocktails on the island, as well as complimentary breakfast during your stay.

Across our two visits to Rottnest Island we’ve now stayed in a deluxe dune tent, superior tent, and the deluxe family tent. They are all wonderful options. If you’re ready to splurge, you can’t go past the deluxe tents, with ocean front or dune views, you can walk straight to the beach from your deck and it is the ultimate in glamping luxury. Honestly, it doesn’t even feel like you’re staying in a tent at all, these tents are the absolute height of luxury.

If you’re travelling with a group of family or friends, the deluxe family tents were fantastic as well. They include a shared deck, outdoor shower and BBQ space – great option for a group staying together. We loved the deck on our stay as it was plenty of space for Macey to play.

Book your stay at here at Discovery Rottnest Island

pinkys rottnest island

During your stay at Discovery Rottnest Island, make sure you check out Pinky’s Rottnest Island. Offering a buffet breakfast to kick start your day, followed by a menu of local produce, tasting plates and seafood inspired mains throughout the day, there’s always something great to taste at Pinky’s.

At the end of the day, settle into their sunset deck with a signature cocktail and enjoy the best sunset views on the island. Or grab an outdoor table and enjoy dinner under the colourful sky.

Find out more at: pinkysrottnestisland.com.au

rottnest island

Things to do on Rottnest Island

Whether you’re up for a day of adventure, or you’re just looking to eat your way around the island and relax on the beaches, there is something for everyone on Rottnest Island.

Start your day with a lap of the island, either by bicycle or by bus. Rent an electric bicycle from Pedal & Flipper to quickly zip around the island, stopping whenever you like for photos or a quick dip, or jump on the Island Explorer for their hop-on, hop-off bus service around the island. The Discovery Bus Tour also loops around the island, with a guided 90-minute tour of the island’s cultural and historical heritage sites.

little salmon bay

Beach hop across the island, stopping for a dip at as many of the beaches as you can. Head to The Basin early in the morning to get this stunning natural swimming pool all to yourself, definitely one of our  favourite spots on the island, especially if you can beat the crowds. Some more great spots around Rotto include Fish Hook Bay, Pinky’s Beach, Geordie Bay, Little Salmon Bay and Little Parakeet Bay.

Jump on a daytrip with Boutique Cruises to experience the best of Rotto from the water, where you can snorkel around , check out lots of the different bays and beaches around the island and stop at a rocky little island to check out a local colony of Australian sea-lions.

rottnest island

Stop to take the perfect quokka selfie, the most photogenic and smiley animal on the planet. Native to Rottnest Island, this is one of the only places in the world where you can meet a wild quokka, as they roam the streets of the island. Super cute and always looking like they’re smiling at you, quokkas have no fear of humans and if you sit still will often come right up to you. I loved to see them taking a nap in the shade right in the middle of the garden beds in main shopping area. Keep a respectful distance when taking photos, and remember that there is a fine if you’re caught touching or feeding them.

Take a free guided walking tour with Rottnest Voluntary Guides, who have so much knowledge and insights to share about the history of the island. Free tours depart from outside the Salt Store each day, with a whole schedule of different tours on offer.

pinky's beahc club

Grab a cocktail and settle in for the sunset at Pinky’s Rottnest Island. Although the sun doesn’t descend over the ocean from this spot, the sky still lights up in a beautiful swirl of pink, orange and yellow as the sun sets behind you that can’t be beaten. They have a delicious cocktail menu to choose from, but you can’t go past the Summer Sunset Iced Tea.

Eat your way around the island, with endless great food spots to try. Head to The Mezz on Rotto for sunset drinks and snacks, Rottnest Island Hotel for great pub-classics and live music and entertainment during the summer months, Frankie’s on Rotto for takeaway and dine in pizzas, pastas and fresh salads, the iconic Rottnest Island Bakery for homemade pies, sausage rolls, sandwhiches and sweet treats, or Isola Bar e Cibo for an Italian feast. And don’t forget about Kuld Creamery at the Basin for an afternoon ice-cream.

Hire some snorkels from Pedal & Flipper and snorkel the underwater self-guided snorkelling trails at Little Salmon Bay and Parker Point to explore some of the beautiful marine life that surrounds Rottnest Island.

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rottnest island

Getting around Rottnest Island 

The main way to get around Rottnest Island is by bike, which you can rent from Pedal & Flipper on Bedford Avenue. The island is quite hilly and can also get a bit windy, so choosing an electric bike during your visit is the best way to go. It makes riding around the island quick and easy, with a little extra oomph to get you up those hilly roads.

Pedal & Flipper are open from 8.30am until 5pm daily, with discounts for multi-day hires. Plus, they also rent out snorkelling equipment, paddleboards, wetsuits, diving tanks, beach equipment and more.

You can also jump on the Island Explorer Hop On Hop Off Bus to get around the island, which runs from 8.30am each day and has 19 different stops around the island for you to get off and explore. A day pass will give you the freedom to hop on and off as many times as you’d like, which costs $20 for an adult ticket.

rottnest island

When to visit Rottnest Island 

For the best weather and to take advantage of the many beaches around the island, head to Rottnest Island between October and April, when the weather is warmer and the days are long and sunny. If you can, avoid travelling during the Western Australian school holidays, when families from Perth flock to the island and it’s generally a lot busier. There is less rainfall on Rottnest Island than on the mainland, so there’s really not a bad time to visit the little island, it just depends how warm you want to be.

Rottnest Island is a great spot for humpback whale spotting between August and November as they migrate south with their newborn calves. They spend lots of time hanging around the waters of Rottnest Island, so it’s a great place to jump on a whale-watching cruise. Check out Rottnest Fast Ferries for their seasonal two-hour whale-watching cruises, for your best chance of getting close to the action.

kuld creamery

Important information

Droning for recreational use is not permitted anywhere on Rottnest Island. If you are desperate to drone during your visit you will need to apply for a commercial photography or filming permit for approval, submit a risk management plan, and if all that is approved, meet with the RIA Aerodrone Manager before you are able to get going.  You can find all the information here. Permits can take up to a month to be approved, so make sure you submit them well in advance.

To help you plan your visit to Rottnest Island head to rottnestisland.com or check out @rottnestislandwa for all the best spots to check out around the island.

We visited Rottnest Island in collaboration with Discovery Parks Rottnest Island and SeaLink Rottnest Island. All opinions are, as always, our own. 

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rottnest island

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Emma is a travel writer, photographer and blogger, chasing the sun around Australia. Travelling in her recently renovated vintage Viscount caravan, along with her husband Thom and daughter Macey, she's sharing the very best experiences from around her beloved sunburnt country.

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