ROTTNEST ISLAND

Location: Rottnest Island, Western Australia

Affectionately known as ‘Rotto’ by the locals, Rottnest is known for it’s sunny shores, laid-back atmosphere, and it’s infamous locals – the Quokkas! Rotto has long been an escape for West Australians that are too time poor to head overseas or interstate, or prefer a holiday closer to home. This beautiful island is only a 90 minute ferry ride away from the Perth central business district, and can accommodate any type of budget or traveller who visits its sunny shores.

How to get there

You can make the journey here on an express ferry, boat or even by plane! If you don’t have the luxury of your own boat to take you across, the express ferries take 25 minutes from Fremantle, 45 minutes from Hillary’s Boat Harbour and 90 minutes from Perth’s Barrack Street Jetty. Alternatively, flying to Rottnest will also allow you the privilege of viewing Perth’s coastline and the island from the air and will set you back only slightly more than a ferry and bike hire. In the summertime the express ferry leaves at regular intervals (check the website for up to date times) and the last ferry from the mainland leaves at 6:30pm so you can still make it there after work for the weekend.

Where to stay

There is a limited number of accommodation options on the island which helps give it that relaxed holiday town vibe, so in the summertime it pays to book in advance, and be aware that a ballot system is held for major holiday times such as Christmas, New Years, Australia Day and Easter long weekends. During School Leaver’s time (November) you’ll want to avoid the island when it’s overrun with Year 12 students celebrating the last of their High school exams, and any school holiday times as the island is full of family holiday goers and the prices for accommodation and and everything else increases a lot.

A view of Longreach Bay at Rottnest Island

Rotto offers luxury accommodation, budget accommodation options (including units and bungalow’s) and camping sites which are all bookable through the Rottnest Island website. All accommodation options (except camping) offer the usual facilities as kitchenette, bathroom and bedding (but the website will clearly state what is included in the price); whilst camping offers access to shared bathroom facilities only.

Things to do  and see

Beaches
Just as you’ll find on the mainland, the beaches and water activities are plentiful, with the entire island offering many options for beach goers including Parakeet and little Parakeet Bay, Pinky’s Beach and the popular Basin for sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling. Further afield there are also diving options off the beach and also off boats to the underwater cavern where you can see small rays and sharks, as well as different fish and even a nudibranch! There are also a few spots on the more rugged parts of the island that are great for surfing, and the fishing is pretty plentiful anywhere you cast your line.

Sunbaking on Rottnest Island

Cycle
The other must do thing on Rotto is to attempt to cycle the loop around the island,  ranging from short 4km rides to the big one, 22km around the entire island visiting every bay! If you don’t have a bike to bring over on the ferry, it’s easy to hire from the bike hire centre once you get on the island. Cycling will definitely help you get around the island and see more, like the pink salt lakes that are inland, and go beach hopping as the sun seeker bus is also chock full in the summer time; and not to mention, burn off those calories from all the food you’ll be eating here!

Bikes on Rottnest at the beach

The View
West Australia is knows for it’s beautiful ocean views, and you’ll want to get yourself to one of the many view points around the island with a small picnic and a bottle of wine to watch the sunset over the water, and the sky turn all hues of orange, pink, red and sometimes violet. Pinky’s beach at the lighthouse is one of the popular spots as you can also see a view of Perth city, as well as the Basin which is further along from Pinky’s. Longreach and Geordie Bay are also great vantage points and are always less crowded as they’re a little further away from Thompson’s Settlement.

Pink skies over Rottnest

Food and Drink

Rotto does have a number of dinning and drinking options, and of them a must is an afternoon spent in the beer garden at the Hotel Rottnest, a heritage listed building that overlooks Thomsons Bay; to and sample some fresh seafood and some local WA brews. There is also The Dome cafe which greets visitors on arrival and is in prime position with many outdoor seating options to take in the view of the bay, and there is also the General Store located in the Settlement, and cafes, the bakery and other food places close by. Further afield at Longreach and Geordie Bay, there is another General Store and cafe that opens all day, everyday in the summer time.

Rottnest on the cheap

The best way to do Rotto on the cheap is to go across on the ferry during the week day (with Tuesday being the cheapest for ferry tickets) for a two day and one night stay at one of the campsites (or in a bungalow during the low season), and hire out a bicycle to cycle around the island. The bike hire centre does offer snorkel, fishing and board hire as well if you wanted to do any other activities. The supermarket isn’t ridiculously expensive compared to the mainland, but you can pick up some great mark down food as long as you eat them that same day. Plus there are some free informational walks that are held regularly that anyone can join.

A cute Quokka!

Lastly, you’ll definitely run into the locals, the quokka’s on your time on the island. These cute little marsupials are native to the island, and once were spread down the south coast of WA, however they’re mostly seen here on Rotto with the best time to see the young joey’s peaking out from their mother’s pouches from March to August. They’re friendly, used to visitor’s interacting with them, however please don’t feed them or intimidate them as they’re gorgeous and harmless.

For a tiny island that you can circle in a few hours, there’s a lot on offer! You can snorkel, dive, swim and surf at any of the many coves, offshore breaks and underwater caves. There’s excellent fishing opportunities and abundant wildlife including snakes, reptiles and birds to be seen on many of the free guided tours of the island covering it’s history and traditional culture. The island also houses a healthy dose of shopping and eating too with Geordie Bay and Thomson Bay lined with cafes, restaurants, a bakery, retail outlets and even a small shop for groceries. And lastly, you can take yourself around the entire island by bus or even better, by bicycle! Rotto holds a really special place in my heart, and it will definitely keep you busy for a day trip or a long weekend, and coming back again and again.

Watching yachts on Rottnest Island

Heading to Western Australia and looking for ideas on what to do? Check out my other articles here and DIY vanlife information.

Photography by Jelena Stipanicev.