Rottnest Island is a relatively unknown tourist destination (even to Australians). Just a short ferry from Perth and you’ll arrive at this beautiful island!
The island is only 45 minutes by ferry from Perth. If you’re visiting Perth – put this at the top of your list!
Getting around the island
There are no cars on the island (apart from service vehicles) so the only way to get around is to hire a bike, take an organised tour or the hop on hop off bus. I did the hop on hop off (called the island explorer bus). It runs on island time i.e. was regularly 10 – 15 minutes late.
The island is small and can be done in 1 day. I took the 7:30am ferry departing Rottnest at 4:30pm. This was sufficient time to see the best parts of the island with about 30 – 60 minutes spare (wish I’d stopped at Ricey bay).
Things to see and do
Little Salmon Bay & Salmon Bay
One of the first stops on the bus route this little bay is not to be missed. The white sands, clear turquoise water = <3
In this area is where I took one of my favorite photos from my visit:
Do not underestimate the distance between each bus stop – it’s slightly too far to walk (especially in the heat). After Salmon Bay head to Wadjemup Lighthouse on the bus.
There is a 360 degree view from the top of the lighthouse (you have to pay a small fee to go up it). Unlike most lighthouses the steps are in the centre not the perimeter and have rest stop platforms so you don’t get super dizzy walking up.
Cape Vlamingh / West End
Reminded me of Capri!
Where sea lions frolick
Not only is the island beautiful, it’s also home to adorable Quokkas!
Most quokkas are near the settlement (shops and accommodation that you’ll see first thing when you arrive on the island).
This is when super zoom on a camera comes in handy!
Tips for visiting Rottnest Island
- The best views of the island are from the lighthouse (paid) otherwise Vlamingh lookout and Oliver Hill
- I took the island explorer bus. Runs on island time i.e. was regularly 10 – 15 minutes late but is really the only option if you want to see everything in a day
- Distance between each bus stop was slightly too long to walk – you’d tire as there’s no shelter
- Food is very expensive on the island – bring your own food (I went to Baker’s Delight the day before)
- Pre-buy the bus ticket when you get your ferry ticket (buy both online)
- Water bubblers are near the settlement if you need to top up
- Bathrooms in some stops – use when available as it might be a while before you get to the next one
- Popular for school leavers so avoid visiting in November
- Gets hot so pack sunscreen but also gets cold so pack a jacket too
- Get the free map from the ferry people when you get on the boat. There’s also an information centre at the end of the jetty – first thing you’ll see after you get off the boat
- Do not touch or feed the Quokkas
Don’t forget to try Simmo’s ice cream!
How to get there:
It’s approx. 45 min boat ride so bring an e-reader or portable charger for your phone.
I used Rottnest Fast Ferry’s. One of my sisters’ lives in Perth so was free all day parking and easier to go from Hillary’s than Freemantle where most tourists staying in the city leave from (and which has paid parking).
How much time do you need?
You only need 1 day. It’s too expensive to stay overnight, there’s less than 5 food places, groceries are very expensive, it’s a hassle to get luggage across (as it has to come via the ferry) and don’t need more than a day anyway. You likely have limited time in Western Australia and it’s be better to spend it going to Margaret river or on another day trip to the Pinnacles.
You can hire a bike but you won’t be able to get around the island in a day.
This is the schedule I planned (I generally stuck to it)
- Board the first bus of the day from the Settlement
- Arrive 7:30
- First bus island tour departs at 8:30
- Arrive 8:45 – Little Salmon Bay (stop 6)
- Depart 9:15 for – Wadjemup Lighthouse (stop 8)
- Depart 10:50 for – Cathedral Rocks (seals – stop 11)
- Depart 12:05 for Georgie Bay (stop 19) Longreach Bay / The Basin / Pinky Beach / Bathurst Lighthouse (20 min walk from Longreach to Lighthouse)
- Depart 2:30 – Lakes Vlamingh Lookout
- 3:00 – Thomson Bay Settlement – ice cream!
- Head to the ferry at 4:00
- Depart on ferry 4:30
I could’ve added Ricey Bay to the list but I didn’t realise the Settlement would be so small (literally has like 5 shops).
If you have more time Oliver Hill has an old war gun, a lookout and there are some tunnels underneath the island as well.
Rottnest day trip packing list
- Water bottle
- Comfortable waking shoes (I like sketchers)
- Jumper – (can get very cold and windy)
Would I go again?
You only need to visit once. I visited at the end of September – the weather was great. Not too cold and not too hot (by Perth’s standards), it was a clear sunny day.
Want to know more about my trip planning process? Click here!
Planning a trip to Perth? The Pinnacles is another day trip option from Perth.
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