Located just 18 kilometres off the coast of Fremantle in Western Australia, Rottnest Island is a popular holiday destination for local Perth residents, domestic and international visitors. The island is approximately 19 square kilometres in size and has a long history that includes everything from Dutch explorers to WWII internment camps. It is also home to more than 50 beaches, and some very unusual Australian wildlife.

rottnest-island-main

Highlights

  • Coast and Sea – In the earliest days of its discovery, Rottnest Island was considered dangerous by sailors due to the surrounding reefs. Now, those reefs entertain visitors who come to the area to swim, surf, dive, snorkel and fish. There are some 63 beaches on the island. Many of the beaches are secluded and undeveloped, making the island a popular location for beach-lovers looking to escape the crowds. A large variety of equipment for snorkelling and other watersports can be hired on the island.

rottnest-island-coast

  • On The Island – Beyond the beaches, there is more than enough to occupy visitors on Rottnest Island. Walkers can choose from a network of paths that make up the 50km long Wadjemup Walk Trail, which explores various Rottnest Island landmarks and natural attractions. The island also has a number of historic buildings including the Bathurst and Wadjemup Lighthouses, the WWI Prisoners of War Internment Camp Site, the Boys Reformatory, the Lodge (a former Aboriginal prison known as The Quod), the Rottnest Island Cemetery, and the Aboriginal Burial Ground.

rottnest-island-activity

  • Flora and Fauna – The location and underdeveloped nature of Rottnest Island has made it a sanctuary for Western Australian wildlife, including many species rarely seen even by mainland Australians. The most popular animal by far is the quokka, a small kangaroo-like creature that is native to the island and only found in a few other places in WA. These unusual marsupials are nocturnal by nature, but can still be seen around the island during the day. Along with the quokka, Rottnest Island is also home to a large number of bird species, reptiles, amphibians and a greater range of marine plants.

rottnest-island-quokka

  • Museums and Galleries – As is fitting for this historical island, Rottnest Island is home to a number of museums and galleries that are popular with island visitors. These include the main Rottnest Island Museum, where visitors can learn about the island’s history from pre-European settlement to present; the Salt Store Gallery and Exhibition Centre, an occasional gallery space located in one of the island’s oldest buildings; the Lomas Cottage, home to a poignant series of photographs known as the Angelo Collection; and the Pilot Boathouse, which offers insight into Rottnest Island’s maritime history.

John at Lomas's Cottage, Rottnest

Prices

Ferry To Rottnest Island – Day Return

Fare TypeBase PriceLanding FeeTotal Cost
Adult$68$17$85
Concession$58$17$75
Child (2 – 12 yrs)$42.50$6$48.50
Infant (under 2)$5Nil$5
Family Pass$181.50$39.50$221

Ferry To Rottnest Island – Extended Return

Fare TypeBase PriceLanding FeeTotal Cost
Adult$68$22$90
Concession$58$22$80
Child (2 – 12 yrs)$42.50$7.50$50
Infant (under 2)$5Nil$5
Family Pass$181.50$49.50$231

Family pass is for two adults and two children, aged 2 to 12 years. Extra charges for large freight like bikes, surfboards and other watersports equipment.

On-Island Equipment Rental: A variety of factors, including the length of stay and your equipment needs, will decide the price you’ll pay to rent equipment like bicycles on Rottnest Island.

Tips

  • Staying On The Island – There are a small number of accommodation options on Rottnest Island for visitors who want to stay overnight or spend a few days exploring what the island has to offer. These accommodation options vary from self-contained apartments, basic bungalows and even luxury ocean view suites.
  • Interacting With Wildlife – The quokkas and other Rottnest Island wildlife are a big attraction for island visitors, but there are certain rules in place for interacting with them, both for their safety and yours. When you’re on the island, if you see an animal you aren’t familiar with, don’t get too close or try and illicit a reaction, as this may cause the animal to lash out. Also, do not feed any animals or encourage them to approach you, as this destroys their natural instincts, and can be damaging to their health.
  • Eating and Drinking – There are a number of cafes, restaurants and other eateries on Rottnest Island. However, as is often the case with out-of-the-way attractions, prices can be much higher than on the mainland. If this is an issue for you, consider bringing your own food, or a picnic lunch.

rottnest-island-map

Transport

  • By Sea: You can catch a ferry to get to the island or go on your own boat. In both cases fees apply for landing (usually calculated on top of ferry fees) as Rottnest Island is located inside a marine reserve. The money paid is contributed towards environmental conservation.
  • By Air: There is a small airport on the island, so it is also possible to take a plane or chopper to the island. This provides an opportunity to capture aerial photographs of the island, and more information can be found here.
  • With A Tour: take a tour to Rottnest Island, which avoids the extra work of booking ferries and activities. There are a number on offer, including an Island Tour from Perth or Fremantle, a Snorkelling Cruise, a Wildlife Cruise, and a Bike and Snorkel Tour.

History

What is now Rottnest Island was once a part of the mainland and inhabited by Aboriginal people. Around 7,000 years ago rising sea levels caused Rottnest Island to separate from the mainland. By the time of European exploration in the 17th century, it had been uninhabited for several thousand years.

Rottnest Island was observed and explored by Dutch sailors from the 1610s onwards, and it wasn’t until 1831, not long after the Swan River Colony at Fremantle was established, that land grants for the island were given, and the land was opened for settlers. Early settlers developed pasture land for hay, and harvested salt from the island’s salt lakes.

Around 1839, it was declared that Rottnest Island become an Establishment for the Aboriginees, or an Aboriginal prison, and it remained one until 1931. During that time around 3,700 Aboriginal men and boys were imprisoned there. The island was also home to a boys reformatory between 1881 and 1901. The building remains and is used as holiday accommodation.

Rottnest Island was also used as an internment camp during both WWI and WWII, mostly for German and Austrian suspected enemies. Also, during WWII a small amount of military infrastructure was established, including some large guns, a light railway, concrete lookouts, bunkers and tunnels. These remain today and are popular tourist attractions.

Rottnest Island has had a long and interesting history, which is being preserved and enjoyed by around 500,000 visitors every year.

Interesting Fact

  • The name Rottnest comes from the Dutch phrase “rotte nest”, which means rat’s nest. It was so named by Dutch captain Willem de Vlamingh who explored the island for a short time in 1696 and mistook the quokkas for giant rats.

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7 Reviews

  1. Dennis
    Dennis 15 Comments
     -  11 Oct 2017

    Good experience for those visiting Perth. It can be expensive to get there and back on the ferry, but try to book ahead for the best price. The beaches and the quokkas are a highlight and it’s a wonderful experience to ride around the island on the bikes provided (for rent). The best weather for swimming is between November and April when the water will be warm enough. Other than that, there’s not much else to do really.

  2. Jen11
    Jen11
    Germany 60 Comments
     -  02 Oct 2017

    I went to Rottnest Island on a perfect sunny day and bycicled my way around the island. Definitely hire a bike, as the walking distance is too long, and there a different streets that you can bycicle on. The view on the sea is beautiful but the highlight on the island are the quokkas. They can be found close to the port of the island and and they don´t mind you taking a selfie with them, on which they might even smile. 🙂

  3. Mademoiselle_MM
    Mademoiselle_MM
    Yugoslavia 17 Comments
     -  21 Aug 2017

    If you’re in Perth, you simply HAVE TO VISIT Rottnest Island. It’s almost magical. I did not like the fact I had to catch a ferry to go to the island and the day retour ticket is not cheap, but the experience is amazing! To be in touch with nature, it’s priceless. And it’s peaceful! And quokkas, they are sooooo cute! I didn’t even know they exist before I visited the Island. Still I am not sure are there small kangaroos, but who cares? I’d come back again just to see them! 🙂

  4. EleanorH
    EleanorH
    United Kingdom 45 Comments
     -  18 Jul 2017

    You have to visit Rotto! Just for the Quokkas alone (think hamster kangaroo love child), they’re so friendly, you can feed them by hand – a couple even came in our tent to have a go on our bananas! Rottnest is Perth’s answer to the Hamptons and while a Peroni at the waterfront restaurant will set you back a nauseating $16, there are facilities for all budgets. Great snorkeling at The Basin, myriad wildlife, beautiful beaches, and the famous west coast sunsets – it’s a must see. Plus there are no cars on the island, everyone gets around by bike. So peaceful!

  5. belle_angel
    belle_angel 10 Comments
     -  21 Apr 2017

    After the bouncy journey from the ferry going to the island welcomes the impressive shorelines surrounding the island. Riding a bicycle is so much fun to enjoy the scenery and was able to feed quokka for they are freely roaming near the nature reserved areas. The white sand and the crystal clear blue water from the beaches is more than enough to go for a swim.

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