Are you wondering what to do on Rottnest Island? Is it worth your time to visit? The short answer is yes.
Not too far off the coast of Fremantle in Western Australia sits a small island known as home to the quokka, the happiest animal on earth. However, there are plenty of things to do on Rottnest Island on a day trip.
Rottnest Island is an idyllic beach destination, a bicycle lover’s dream, and a photographer’s paradise.
Rottnest Island or Quokka Island
When the Dutch settlers first arrived on the island in 1696, they discovered the quokka. Having never seen quokka before, Captain de Vlamingh thought the quokka were giant rats and named the island accordingly as rat’s nest, or “Rotte nest” in Dutch. The name stuck. Reserve your Sealink Rottnest ferry tickets here
What is a quokka?
Quokka is the smallest of the marsupials and is only found in a few spots in Western Australia. While similar to tiny kangaroos, they have thinner tails in proportion to their bodies. There is about 12,000 quokka living on Rottnest Island, Australia.
More about quokka
Quokka can carry several strains of salmonella, so be sure to wash your hands after you touch them.
- Quokkas are nocturnal. The bright sunlight is blinding to them.
- They have no natural predators on the island.
- On Rottnest Island, they breed in January and February, and gestation is 27 or 28 days (we had two guides during the day, each offering a different number).
- At birth, the joey is about the size of a jelly bean. It will crawl back into the pouch and grow there until about September when the joey comes out of the pouch.
- Quokkas are herbivores and eat succulent, leafy greens.
- Due to inbreeding, the quokka on the island are now too genetically distinct to breed successfully with the few remaining ones on the mainland.
- Don’t feed the quokka. Eating the wrong food is the number one cause of premature quokka death.
Sometimes we can’t resist joining in the fad of the day, and on Rottnest Island, that is quokka selfies.
If you follow us on social media (or you are one of our natural or hosted children), you may have told us we are “too old” to take selfies. But if Roger Federer and Hugh Jackman could do it, so could I. What do you think? Is it a success or a failure?
Other Rottnest Island animals
Aside from the cute quokka, we also saw a king skink, a poisonous dugite snake, small lizards, and plenty of birds, most often crows and seagulls. There is also a New Zealand fur seals colony at Cathedral Rocks on the island’s west end.
How to get to Rottnest Island
The ferry from Fremantle takes about 40 minutes to travel the 18km to the island. It is easy, reliable, and fun. While more than one company makes the crossing, we opted to sail on the Quokka 1, a catamaran from Sealink. Their newest ship Quokka 2, joined the fleet in mid-November 2019 and sails from Perth.
Each ferry holds 400 passengers, yet we never felt crowded. We opted to sit outside on the ride from Fremantle to Rottnest Island and inside on the way back.
Tips for taking a Rottnest Island ferry
- The limited outdoor seating goes quickly to the people who queue up early. We joined the queue about 30 minutes before sailing in both directions and had no problem getting outdoor seats.
- There are snacks and barista coffee onboard.
- Inside is air-conditioned, while outdoor seating offers some shade, but passengers are often in the sun.
- If you tend to get seasick, think about taking something for motion sickness, although our ride over was like glass.
- Book in advance, especially during peak season. Reserve your Sealink Rottnest ferry tickets here
What to do on Rottnest Island (besides quokka selfies)
The island isn’t that big, but too big to walk the perimeter in a day, yet we wanted to see things on all sides and in the centre.
Rottnest Island bus tour
We took the 1.75-hour Sealink’s Bayseeker bus tour around the island. The excellent commentary gave us insight into the island’s history and present-day status. We stopped frequently for short photo opportunities. It was a great introduction to the island and really left us wanting more.
On the plus side, we saw quite a bit of the island and had several photo stops. The downside was no time for options like walking to the top of the lighthouse or even having a coffee during the tour. ⇒Reserve your Bayseeker Tour here (includes optional ferry transfer)
- Of 13 major shipwrecks on the island, only this portion of the wreck of the Shark can be seen above the waterline.
- A portion of the Emergency or Army jetty collapsed last year. (It is used for freight.
- The airstrip is mostly used for seaplanes, skydiving, and by workers. Today most tourists arrive via ferry.
Free walking tours led by passionate island volunteers are available. We joined a quokka tour that took us into the bush near Garden Lake to learn how to spot quokka in their natural environment. You don’t need a tour to spot quokka on the main street (the road with all the cafes and shops) as they are everywhere.
Swimming, snorkelling, and other water activities
One look at the sea, and it’s easy to imagine that snorkelling and swimming are excellent. With 63 beaches and bays on the island, there is something for everyone.
From the main street in town, there are several nearby options for stunning white-sand beaches. Two of the best are the Basin and Pinky Beach. Also popular are fishing, surfing, and diving.
Bike hire is quite popular amongst the things to do in Rottnest. You can hire your bicycle from the mainland before you sail or once on the island. If you are looking for a more complete adventure, check out this snorkelling and bike tour.
If you are not on a bike or on a bus, you are on foot. We had seven hours on Rottnest, five of them on foot.
This may have been my choice when I was younger, but today, I prefer to land in a plane rather than jump from it. However, if this is your thing, ⇒ Reserve your skydive here.
Rottnest Island accommodation
Discovery Rottnest Island: While there are a few places to stay on the island, it was the eco-resort that caught my eye. Don’t let the word tent fool you, this is true “glamping” with comfortable beds, private bathrooms and showers, an outdoor pool, and even free wifi. We had a look into one, and they looked like the ideal choice for a place like Rottnest Island. ⇒ Reserve your Discovery Rottnest Island here
Where to eat on Rottnest Island?
While many people bring their own picnic, there are 17 places to eat and drink on the island, ranging from the General Store to sit-down restaurants. There are even gluten and dairy-free options on several menus like Dôme Restaurant and Subway; however, on Rottnest, I found extensive and delightful choices (both savoury and sweet) at The Lane.
More on Rottnest Island
- There are no private vehicles on the island.
- The island was once used as an Aboriginal prison.
- There are between 300-500 full-time residents on the island.
Read next: Australian Animals: Unique, Poisonous, or Adorable
Charge up your camera and add a day to your Western Australia schedule for Rottnest Island. Book the first ferry across and the last one back (or spend the night), and plan to either take a Bayseeker tour or hire a bicycle to see it all.
Save on your Australia trip with these resources
We usually start with aggregator companies as they do the work for us by providing a list of options, prices, and reviews. However, we also added a few personal NZ favourites:
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Hotels: we use Booking.com as they consistently return the best rates and their reviews are from actual guests. However, for self-contained lodging in Australia, we use VRBO
- Cars and Campervans: we use RentalCars to find the best deals and dealer ratings. Use Jucy for small campervans.
- Activity discounts: we always check Bookme.com for discounts of up to 70% on selected tours, activities, restaurants and more.
- Travel Insurance: we start at InsureMyTrip as they are the best option to compare plans and find the right coverage for you.
Before you book the rest of your trip: Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
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Have you taken a quokka selfie? Is Rottnest Island on your list of places to visit?
Disclaimer: We were guests of Sealink to aid in the writing of Albom Adventures. However, the opinions expressed here are strictly our own.
I’m not surprised these marsupials have been mistaken for giant rats though. They look so much like rats that even though I know they are not rats, I’d still be repulsed to touch one. Especially knowing they carry salmonella. Rottnest Island looks really beautiful and the cute quokkas seem to be the main attraction there. I bet is a fun place to visit and maybe even spend the night there. That eco-resort on the island looks really inviting.
Ah, those are cute! Especially the baby one, of course 🙂
Lisa | Handmade in Israel
Sounds like a fabulous day out! Such cute animals (I must admit, I was not familiar with them) and such beautiful beaches.
Gosh, this place looks gorgeous! I had no idea it existed – very nice. And never heard of a quokka, either! What a great day trip. I love that you embedded a map – very helpful.
The quokka are so adorable! I had not heard of them before. I think you should take all the selfies you want with them!
Quokkas are so cute! I totally get why people would want to take selfies with them.
I’ve read about these little creatures and they are really cute. I’d love to visit the island even if it were just to see them.
Quokka are new-to-me. How cute they are! Thanks for sharing them with us.
I’ve not heard of this little cutie before so thanks for the post. Enjoyed the photos very much. My kind of island.
I learn so much from these posts! I’d never heard of quokkas or Rottnest Island, but I’d love to see both. Thanks for your informative post (and beautiful photos).
In the photos I’ve seen of them they seem like sociable cute little creatures.
Quokka looks really cute but why does Australia have so many dangerous spiders and snakes? I hate spiders and snakes. See ya Rhonda.
I love Rottnest Island…growing up in Perth we often traveled over to the island. Fathers Day would be one of the time. My sister and her family also often went over at Christmas and stay for a few weeks. It certainly has changed over the years. Thank you for highlighting the island.
I had honestly never heard of Quokka before reading this today – they are so adorable! I would definitely have taken a selfie with them too. Rottnest looks like a lovely, peaceful place for a getaway – the quokka’s must make it all the more fun 🙂
I’ve never been to that part of the world, but I’ve heard soooooo much about Rottnest Island. It’s always so fun to see wildlife in its natural habitat so this would be high on my wish list when I get to travel down under!
It looks uncluttered. I like that. I would enjoy exploring this island.
Great photography as always and you’re post are most informative.
Have a fabulous day and week, Rhonda. ♥
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Cute little critters.
No private vehicles? Bet with all that walking and biking, everyone that lives there is thin.
Oh wow, how cute!
I ahve never even heard of the animals, so thank you so much for the education. I love learning new things 🙂
Seeing the quokkas is my dream, my next big travel goal. My friend went there a few years ago and her pictures are so good, as are yours. They are the happiest looking little animals. Love the practical tips you gave, very helpful for when I actually get there
Lyn @ aholeinmyshoe
Great post Rhonda, I was sure you’d enjoy your day there. It is time we headed over there ourselves and will take up your suggestion about the walking tour.
They are so cute!! I love that taking selfies with them is a thing hahaha. What a pretty island!
This is on my bucket list! They are so cute! I didn’t realize they had glamping there too, but now I want to go even more. Pinning this to have it for later.