Western Australia

A Day Exploring Rottnest Island: Turquoise Sea, Cute Quokkas, and Beautiful Beaches

When we decided to kick-off our venture to Australia, we chose to do so in Western Australia.

The biggest factor in our decision? Flights from Bali (where we were living) to Perth were insanely cheap- less than $60 USD one way in the midst of Oz’s winter.

Plus, I’d heard some of ‘Straya’s best beaches were in WA, and to say I was super keen to seen quokkas, as well as kangaroos beachfront would be an understatement.

Also at the tippy top of my partner’s ‘must see’ list in Australia?

Rottnest’s cute quokkas.

In hindsight, only spending 2.5 days in Perth and Fremantle was an oversight- there was loads more we wanted to see and do.

But, with friends saying Perth was cool, but not worth spending tons of time in, we decided to blow through, leaving only enough time to spend a day on Rottnest Island, and get quick feels for downtown Perth, and historic Fremantle.

How to Get to Rottnest

To us, Rottnest was non-negotiable. Even though we’d done little research about the island itself, we understood it was somewhere we had to make it.

And, so we purchased our ferry tickets in advance for a discount and crossed our fingers for good weather in Oz’s winter.

We ferried with Sealink Rottnest, which was more affordable than competitors and had a time schedule compatible with our needs (early am departure, mid-afternoon return to Fremantle). The ferry ride itself was only about 25 minutes each way, making it a quick jaunt from mainland Australia.

Because we hadn’t done much research into Rottnest, we didn’t really have a mental picture of the island.

This kind of surprise travel is one of my favourite things to try and do in an over-Instagrammed age.

In this particular instance, it meant we spent the entire day on Rottnest exclaiming our surprise over and over- the island is gorgeous. From rolling hinterland to white beaches with sparkling turquoise water, it’s an incredible place.

How to Get Around Rottnest

Rottnest is car-free, so the best way to get around is by foot or bike. We hired bikes for entire day for $30 AUD per person, which felt a bit pricey in the midst of winter, but that’s just Australia pricing for you.

The island is well paved, and easy enough to cycle around. There are a few hills, but no dramas if you need to get off and walk your bike up them- we chose to do so on a few, and spotted many others doing the same.

There’s also a shuttle service, the Explorer Bus, on the island, but we didn’t test it out- I’d heard its service is limited in terms of timings and stops.

It may be a good option if you just have one or two places you want to visit, and more time to explore Rottnest. But, if you’re on a short-stay schedule like we were, then having the freedom to come and go when you want, and the means to do so (a bike) is important.

The company that rents bikes, Pedal and Flipper, also rents snorkel equipment if you visit in the warmer months. During summer, I’d definitely rent a snorkel set as well, as some of the beaches we visited looked to have great coral formations just off shore.

What to See on Rottnest Island

It is possible to cycle the entire island in a day, but we decided we’d like to have a leisurely pace, and planned on just hitting a few places.

A friend had told us the south of the island is best in the morning, so we started clockwise around the loop.

During our cycle ’round Rottnest, we visited: 

  • Parker Point
  • Henrietta Rocks
  • Salmon Beach (the colour of the water is absolutely breathtaking here, and the coral reef makes it a great place to snorkel)
  • Pinky’s Beach
  • The Basin
  • Parker Point
  • Henrietta Rocks
  • Bathurst Lighthouse 

Whether you visit the same spots we did or choose to explore on your own, I think it’d be hard to go wrong on Rottnest.

The entire island is a protected natural reserve, renowned for its gorgeous beaches and pristine waters. In fact, there are over 60 beaches on the island and 20 secluded bays, with a host of reefs for diving and snorkelling.

Where to Find Quokkas on Rottnest

Most visitors to WA head to Rottnest in search of cuddly quokkas.

The quokka selfie put Rottnest Island on the map of many travelers, and for good reason- they’re insanely cute animals and only found on the island.

They’re a mix between a kangaroo and a rat- in fact, Rottnest got its name from an early explorer who mistook them for giant rats. The name, Rottnest, means rats’ nest, as such named by a Dutch sea captain who observed the animals in the early 1700s and dubbed them ‘a kind of rat as big as a common cat’.

Before visiting, we wondered if they’d be tough to find.

Fortunately, there were quokkas everywhere.

The best time to spot them is early morning or late afternoon- like other marsupials, they sleep during the day.

And the best place to see them?

Although, they’re all over the island, the area around Thompson Bay has the highest concentration. Wherever you see them, please remember not to touch or feed them- quokkas are wild animals.

Where to Eat on Rottnest

We packed a picnic to save costs, but there are a few restaurants in Thomson Bay, where the main port is. Here, in addition to restaurants, you’ll find a bakery and Subway.

And, if you’re by Pinky’s Beach, check out Pinky’s for seaside eats.

Before we knew it, it was time to return our bikes and ferry back to Fremantle. We’d booked an overnight departure to Queensland (11:30 pm flight), but would have loved to spend the night on Rottnest.

After only one day, we realized, there’d certainly be enough to see and do over the course of a few days on the island.

And with views like Rottnest boasts, it’s the perfect holiday escape.

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Have you ever been to Rottnest Island? What would you advise someone with only one day to see the best of Rottnest do and see? 

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