The idyllic Rottnest Island lies just off the coast of the city of Perth yet feels a million miles away from city life thanks to its laid-back island vibes. With over 60 pristine beaches to choose from and plenty of vibrant turquoise bays to snorkel in, Rottnest is a true paradise getaway.
The island is also home to the world’s cutest animals, the quokka! These friendly little marsupials are native to Western Australia and Rottnest Island is one of the few places you will find them.
A short 30 minute ferry ride from Fremantle is all it takes to get there making it the perfect day trip from Perth. However if you wish to stay for the weekend, that’s a great idea too! No matter how long you choose to spend, you will never forget your time on this unique and special island.
Whether you’re seeking a jam packed day of adventure and sightseeing or you’d prefer to relax on the soft white sand beaches, Rottnest Island offers the best of both worlds. Read on to discover all the best things to see and do on your day trip to Rottenest Island from Perth.
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The Perfect Day Trip to Rottnest Island From Perth
How to Get to Rottnest Island
Ferries depart from Perth to Rottnest frequently throughout the day from a number of locations. You can choose from a few different ferry companies but the one that we have always gone with is Rottnest Express. This is simply due to the fact that their tickets are usually the most affordable, the prices do change throughout the year.
A return ferry ticket for one person will cost around $100 and if you add the bike hire option it will come to around $110 depending on time of year. Click here to book your ferry and bike hire package.
There are several ports in Perth where you can catch the ferry to Rottnest Island:
- Northport Fremantle – If you’re planning to drive to the ferry terminal, this is by far the most convenient port to choose. There are more than 400 parking bays here with reasonable daily rates. Every time we day trip to Rottnest, we always choose to depart from Northport.
- B Shed Fremantle – This location is great if you are planning to travel by public transport. The ferry terminal is only a short walk from the Fremantle Train Station. Note that there is limited parking available around B Shed.
- Barrack Street Jetty, Elizabeth Quay – If you’re staying around the Perth City area, this is a great place to catch the ferry. It’s also easy to reach by public transport with the Elizabeth Quay Train Station only a 5 minute walk away. Parking is also quite limited around this area.
To maximise your time spent on the island, I would recommend taking the 8am ferry over and then taking the 5:30pm or 6:00pm ferry back to Fremantle/Perth. Click here for the Rottnest Express ferry timetable.
*Insider’s Tip* The ferry journey from Perth to Rottnest may be short but it’s almost always a bumpy ride. If you’re prone to sea sickness, you should definitely take some tablets beforehand!
Best Way to Get Around Rottnest Island
Hire a Bike – Since the island is car-free, the best way to explore is by bike. Cycling around Rottnest Island will allow you to discover all the best secluded beaches and hidden gems. Don’t be surprised when you stumble upon long stretches of the most beautiful beaches you’ve ever seen without any crowds in sight! There are plenty of jaw-dropping lookouts and viewpoints around the island that you can easily pull into as you make your way around.
It’s easy to include the option of bike hire when you purchase your ferry ticket. You’ll just collect your bike rental from the ferry staff when you arrive on the island. For a small fee, you also have the option to bring your own bike with you on the ferry.
If you didn’t hire one through the ferry company, no worries! Simply head over to Pedal & Flipper bike rentals as soon as you arrive on Rottnest.
Island Explorer Bus – For those who aren’t a big fan of cycling, there is a hop-on hop-off bus called the Island Explorer that runs around the island regularly stopping at the most popular beaches and bays. The only downside to this is that when you’re ready to move on to the next beach or viewpoint, you’ll have to plan your day around the bus timetable.
A one day pass for this bus service will cost $20/adult and $15/child. Find more info about booking your Rottnest Island bus pass here.
Rottnest Island Tours
For those who prefer to leave the planning up to the pros, you might choose to visit the island on a tour. Below are some of the top rated Rottnest day tours that depart from Perth/Fremantle. If you prefer to see the sights on your own time, skip ahead to the next section for the best things to do on your day trip.
Rottnest Island Day Trip Including Bus Tour – Depart Perth in the morning from the ferry terminal of your choice and spend a full day exploring and learning about the history and wildlife of Rottnest Island. As soon as you arrive, you’ll board the tour bus which will take you around the island stopping at several points of interest.
Once the guided tour is finished, you’ll have some free time before catching the ferry back to Perth. This means you could either rent a bike and check out some of the beaches, go for a snorkel or just relax on a beach and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Rottnest Island.
This tour includes the round-trip ferry with Rottnest Express, guided bus tour, and Rottnest Island Authority fees. Hotel pick-up and drop-off are not included. Check tour prices and availability here.
Rottnest Island Day Tour Including Speed Boat Ride – This popular tour departs Perth in the morning from the ferry terminal of your choice. Once you arrive, you’ll board the speed boat for an exciting adventure around the island. Your guide will take you to some of the island’s most beautiful beaches and bays where you’ll get to see wildlife like dolphins, fur seals and birds.
After the boat tour, you will have time to enjoy the afternoon to yourself to swim, snorkel, cycle or search for a few quokkas. This tour includes the round-trip ferry with Rottnest Express, the wildlife speed-boat cruise, and Rottnest Island Authority fees. Hotel pick-up and drop-off are not included. Check tour prices and availability here.
Full Day Guided Rottnest Island Tour Including Lunch – The day begins with a pick-up from your hotel and transfer to the northern ferry terminal at Hillary’s Boat Harbour. Once you arrive on the island, you’ll board the tour bus to enjoy a 3.5 hour tour led by an experienced guide. Some of the stops include Wadjemup Lighthouse, Henrietta Rocks, Cathedral Rocks lookout, Cape Vlamingh and more.
When the tour finishes you’ll have the rest of the day to explore the island at your own pace. This day tour includes morning tea, lunch, round-trip ferry tickets, guided bus tour, hotel pick-up and drop-off, and Rottnest Island Authority fees. Check tour prices and availability here.
Rottnest Island Accommodation
Perhaps you feel like Rottnest Island deserves more than just a day trip. If you have the extra time why not spend the night? You’ll be glad to know there are all kinds of accommodations to choose from here. From basic camp sites to glamping style tents and even hotels with all the amenities, there is something to suit every style of traveller.
Camping – Bring your tent and camping gear over to enjoy the peaceful nature and scenery of Rottnest. The camp ground is located near some of the most popular beaches. It features toilets, a communal camp kitchen, 4x shared BBQs, delivery of your camp gear from the jetty to the camp ground. Reserve your camp site here.
Self-Contained Cabins/Villas– Within the main settlement there are plenty of cabins and villas to choose from. This is ideal for families or groups travelling together as it’s more cost effective than booking a hotel room. These accommodations feature bunk beds, a small kitchen with fridge, microwave and oven, toilets & showers, and a shared outdoor BBQ. Book your cabin/villa here.
Karma Rottnest – We’ve stayed at Karma on previous trips to Rottnest and have always had a comfortable stay. The rooms are fairly basic but since we always spend the majority of our time exploring, we find it to be more than sufficient. The rooms all have a private bathroom, TV, and fridge. The property features a pool, 2 bars and a restaurant that includes the option to add on a buffet breakfast.
Karma also has a spa that offers many different massages, facials and treatments. Book a room at Karma Rottnest.
Discovery Rottnest Island – A unique accommodation that offers the chance to camp in luxury next to Pinky Beach. These glamping style eco-tents feature a comfortable bed, hot showers, and all the comforts of home. There’s a beautiful pool to swim in and Pinky’s Beach Club is only steps away from your tent. The reviews on booking.com are all excellent, we can’t wait to try this place out next time we visit! Book your stay at Discovery Rottnest.
Best Things to See on Your Day Trip to Rottnest Island
There are plenty of awesome things to do on Rottnest that can easily fill up your entire day. It’s up to you whether you decide to tick every item off this list or just kick back and chill out on a nice beach. Here is a loose itinerary including all of the main attractions that can be seen on your day trip to Rottnest Island.
Cycle Around the Island
The most popular Rottnest Island activity is riding around the island on a bike. Cycling along the coast of Rottnest will reward you with spectacular views around each corner, this is truly one of the most scenic places I have ever cycled!
The island is 11km in length and will take around 3-5 hours to complete the entire circuit. However there are a few shorter routes to choose from, see the link for the map of Rottnest below.
It’s worth mentioning that there are many hills on the cycling routes around Rottnest. You’ll be getting a good workout in as you sightsee. For those who aren’t a huge fan of riding up and down hills in the heat (and very little shade), then you might consider hiring an electric bike for a more enjoyable experience.
Pop into Pedal & Flipper to choose from a huge selection of standard and electric bikes with the option of adding on extras like snorkeling gear, wet suits, stand-up paddle boards and more.
*Free Rottnest Island Map* Download this free map to help you plan out your cycling route.
Discover the Best Rottnest Island Beaches
Rottnest Island is home to some of the best beaches in WA. With 63 world-class beaches to discover on the island, you don’t have to go very far to find the best ones!
We couldn’t believe how many of these incredible beaches were completely empty and free of crowds. Of course the quieter ones will be found further away from the busy hub of the Thompson Bay settlement. It’s special places like Rottnest that remind us how truly lucky we are to call W.A. our home.
Here are a few of the top rated Rottnest Island beaches:
The Basin – A popular swimming and snorkelling spot easily accessible from the ferry terminal by foot in just 10 minutes. This amazing beach certainly lives up to its name as one of Perth’s best beaches.
Pinky Beach – This gorgeous beach is right next to the Basin. It offers a lovely view of the Bathurst Lighthouse and is home to the popular Pinky’s Beach Club bar and restaurant. This beach bar is arguably the best place to watch the sunset on Rottnest, so grab a cocktail and enjoy the views!
Paterson’s Beach – A personal favourite of ours that we stumbled upon on our explorations around Rottnest. You can find it by following a small trail from Parker Point Rd. It’s easy to overlook the entrance, click here for the exact location.
Little Salmon Bay – This scenic little bay can be found on the most southern point of Rottnest Island. It’s easy to reach by bus or cycling. The calm and shallow waters of Little Salmon Bay make for excellent swimming and snorkelling conditions. There are plenty of colourful reefs and a variety of beautiful fish to be seen here. This spot is particularly great for the beginner/novice snorkeler.
Salmon Bay – Located just around the corner from the previously mentioned bay, you’ll come across this pristine stretch of white sand. The inviting turquoise waters of Salmon Bay offer the perfect refreshment after a sweaty cycling adventure.
Little Armstrong Bay – A small but quiet and sheltered bay located on the northern side of the island. Dive in for some great snorkelling among the pretty fish followed by some relaxation on the soft white sand. This spot is easy to reach from the main settlement, it’s a 13 minute cycle or a few stops away on the bus.
Parakeet Bay – The clear and calm waters of Parakeet Bay make it a great beach for families to spend the day relaxing and swimming. With rocky cliffs protecting the bay on either side, this picturesque spot is not to be missed on your day trip to Rottnest!
Take a Quokka Selfie
Along your explorations, it’s only a matter of time before you come face to face with a quokka. Most people are eager to capture their very own quokka selfie but there are a few things you should know first! Quokkas are extremely friendly little animals and they aren’t afraid to get up close to humans.
Keep in mind that it’s illegal to touch or feed a quokka so it’s best to try and keep a safe distance. Feeding them things like bread, meat or any human snacks can actually make them very sick and potentially even be fatal. So as tempting as it may be, please do not feed the quokkas!
How can you take the perfect quokka selfie without touching them? Using a selfie stick or having someone else to take your photo is the best way to go about it. There are plenty of rangers on Rottnest Island and they won’t hesitate to fine you $150 on the spot if they see anyone breaking the rules, so make sure to respect these special little animals while you’re visiting their home.
Read more about Rottnest Island wildlife protection here.
Wadjemup & Bathurst Lighthouses
Wadjemup Lighthouse – At the highest point of Rottnest Island is the 19th century Wadjemup Lighthouse. While it’s not currently open to visitors, it’s well worth a stop to check out the spectacular views. From this vantage point you’ll be able to admire the beauty of Rottnest Island and even see the city of Perth in the far distance.
Bathurst Lighthouse – On the north side of Rottnest, this iconic lighthouse has stood tall guiding ships to safety since the year 1900. Towering over Pinky Beach, the Bathurst Lighthouse offers an awesome view of the beaches below and is a particularly epic spot to watch the sunset.
See the Salt Lakes
As you make your way inland on Rottnest, you’ll come across a series of salt lakes. Some of these lakes will dry out in the summer months while others are permanent year round. Depending on the time of year that you’re visiting, a few of these lakes can appear pink. On our most recent trip to Rottnest in December, we were lucky to catch them at their most pink!
The best way to reach the salt lakes is to cycle inland from the Thompson Bay settlement. Following Digby Drive will take you on a scenic route through the salt lakes. If you continue to cycle along that road, you’ll eventually end up at Wadjemup Lighthouse.
Cathedral Rocks Viewing Platform
If you manage to make it all the way to the western point of Rottnest Island, you can follow a small boardwalk that leads you to a lookout. Besides the beautiful ocean views that can be seen here, the main attraction of Cathedral Rocks is getting up close to the resident New Zealand Fur Seals. Watch the seals flip around as they play in the water and lounge on the rocks below.
Keep an eye out for dolphins and migrating humpback whales too (from September-November). This spot is located at the farthest end of the island from the ferry terminals and shops. Getting here can be done by cycling (approx. 35 min) or by taking the Island Explorer bus.
Rottnest Island History – Wadjemup Museum
Dive into the island’s fascinating history by visiting the Wadjemup Museum. Rottnest Island was first discovered by Dutch explorers in the 17th century. Mistaking the quokkas for large rats, William de Vlamingh decided to name the island Rottnest which translates to “rat’s nest” in English.
The Wadjemup Museum showcases the complete history of Rottnest Island from the ancient times when the Whadjuk Noongar people called the island home, to the first British settlers of the 19th century, all the way until the present day where Rottnest is considered Western Australia’s favourite holiday island.
Inside the museum you’ll see plenty of displays and historic artefacts walking you back in time through the island’s history. The museum is located near the General Store in the settlement area. It’s open daily from 10am-3:30pm and operates on a donation basis.
Best Places to Eat & Drink on Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island offers many different choices when it comes to dining. Whether you’re after a quick bite to eat on the go or you’re looking for a restaurant with a bit more ambiance for dinner, see the below options for some of our top picks of places to eat and drink on Rotto!
Breakfast/Café’s – The Rottnest Bakery is an iconic staple of Rottnest serving the classic bakery items like sausage rolls, meat pies, and sweet treats. If you plan to spend the entire day exploring the island, they also offer freshly made sandwiches that can be easily thrown into your backpack to take along.
Lunch/Quick Bites – The Lane Café has always been our favourite go-to place for a healthy lunch stop on Rotto. They serve up freshly squeezed juices and smoothies, delicious salad bowls and wraps, and their coffee is pretty good too. If you’re on the go and just want something quick, there is a Subway and general store nearby selling the standard super market items.
While you’re exploring the island, you’ll come across a few food trucks selling coffee, ice cream and snacks which is perfect if you get hungry when you’re out and about.
Dinner/Restaurants/Bars – The busiest restaurant on Rottnest, and the place that we normally go for dinner (or even just a few drinks before catching the ferry back), is Hotel Rottnest. Watch the waves roll in as you sip a glass of wine and devour one of their amazing gourmet pizzas to round off a perfect day of adventures.
If you’re after some fine dining, you could try Lontara which is another lovely beachfront restaurant located at Samphire Rottnest. Don’t forget about Pinky’s Beach Club, this is our top pick for sunset cocktails but they also have an excellent food menu.
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