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Three years ago I spent about a month in Perth Australia. Reflecting on that time, I always remember my Rottnest Island day trip. I remember cycling around one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen, snorkeling in turquoise waters, and taking selfies with the friendly Quokkas!
I knew coming back to Perth this time that I just had to return to Rottnest Island!
About Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island is a small island that sits about 20 km from the coast of Perth in Western Australia. It is a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike boasting some of the best beaches in Australia and probably even the world (in my opinion.)
On Rottnest Island there is a small town made up of a visitor’s center, a couple of coffee shops and restaurants, a general store, as well as a bike rental place. However, by simply jumping on a bus or riding a bicycle you can enjoy one of the several remote and untouched beaches.
“Wait! What is this Quokka everyone talks about?!?”
I’m sure if you are planning a trip to Rottnest you already are excited about meeting this friendly little marsupial (same animal family as the kangaroo!) But if you don’t know, the Quokka is a rodent-like animal which lives exclusively on Rottnest Island. Due to the fact that they have no predators on the island, Quokkas are extremely friendly and famous for approaching visitors for a selfie! Beware though, these sneaky little guys will also try and steal your lunch when you’re not looking!
Plan Your Own Rottnest Island Day Trip
A Rottnest Island day trip is guaranteed to be a memorable experience. Although it is possible to stay on Rottnest overnight, it can get expensive very quickly especially over school holidays or on the weekends when prices are inflated. Also, there is no real need to stay more than one day since it is so easy to get to and from the island from Perth. Here is everything you need to know to plan your own Rottnest Island day trip.
Getting to Rottnest Island from Perth
Unless you own a boat, you will need to take a ferry to and from Rottnest. There are three different ferry companies to choose from: Sealink, Rottnest Fast Ferries, and Rottnest Express. Both times I have visited Rottnest Island I traveled with Rottnest Express and found them to be quite good. For more info keep reading below.
Departure Points – You first need to decide if you want to depart from Fremantle, Perth City or from Hilary’s. Departure points can change throughout the year so check each company website carefully when booking. (Links below.)
Price – Prices are usually comparable between the companies ranging from about $15-$30 per person each way. In order to get the cheapest price watch for mid-week deals or use coupons from the Entertainment book. Prices also fluctuate due to peak season (Dec to March) and school holidays.
Note: there is now an entrance fee to go to Rottnest Island of $15-25 per person depending on the date of visiting and length of visit. This price is paid when buying the ferry tickets.
Times – For booking tickets in advance you must select both departure and return times. This is somewhat annoying as you must guess what time you will be ready to leave the island. However, during peak season it is important to book the tickets in advance as popular time slots do completely sell out. However, if you aren’t going on the weekend or in peak time then just purchasing the ticket at the counter before departure will suffice.
Getting Around the Island
Once arrived at Rottnest Island on the ferry, you will now need to figure out how you are going to explore! It would be a shame to go all the way to Rottnest and spend the day in and around the main town area as the most beautiful beaches are a couple of kilometers away!
There are two main ways to get around the island: 1) By Bus, and 2) By Bike.
Travel by Bus
The “Island Explorer” bus is available to get around the island. The bus is a great option for those that are not able to ride a bicycle. The down side is that the bus only stops at certain bays and limits the amount of places you can explore. The current (Feb 2018) Island Explorer bus schedule is picture below. For the most up to date information on the bus check out this website.
Bicycling Around Rottnest
The best way to explore the entire island freely is on a bicycle! This is the most popular option. Rottnest Island is known for cyclists riding around the island essentially “beach hopping.” This is also the option I chose both times I visited Rottnest Island, and it was fantastic.
The island is setup well for cyclists with paved paths, bike stands everywhere, and only buses and special vehicles allowed to drive on the island who watch for cyclists consistently. The paths are all clearly marked and maps are available at the visitor’s center.
Price – A bicycle hire for 24 hrs goes for $30 on the island or with the ferry companies. All bikes come with a helmet and bike lock. You can bring your own bike but the ferries charge about the same price for transporting the bikes as renting them.
Where – On the island a place called “Pedal and Flipper” rents bikes and other gear such as snorkels. Alternatively, bikes can be rented through the ferry companies, however I would recommend using “Pedal and Flipper.” They have a ton of bikes to choose from, the option to rent a seat cushion (highly recommend doing this) for $3 extra, and will drive to you if there is any problems with the bike to replace it.
Other Tips – Plan your route according to your ability. The island is large at 22 kms of cycle trails all the way around. To ride to every beach and get off the bike in one day is simply not possible. Choose a few places to stop and enjoy the day! This last time I skipped the “West End” all together and took the short cut near Stark Bay.
Ride counter clockwise around the island! This way is much easier with consistent downhill riding and only a few steep uphill parts. It is better than riding clockwise (trust me, I rode clockwise the first time and counter-clockwise the second time, so much easier!)
Take lots of water. There is very limtied drinking water outside of the main town anywhere on the island.
Note: It is possible to take a tour on Rottnest Island, however I don’t necessarily recommend this for the day trip as it is so easy to enjoy Rottnest on your own and at your own pace. Tours are also expensive and limit the number of places you visit.
What to Bring on a Rottnest Island Day Trip
On the ferries you can only bring a small bag or backpack to stay with you. Any additional bags or eskies (coolers) must be checked. Checked baggage usually comes at a small additional fee. However if you plan on just riding the island on a bike exploring for one day, then you shouldn’t need more than a small bag.
These are the items I would recommend packing for a Rottnest Island day trip:
- Pack a small lunch. Food is available to purchase in the town, but chances are that you will be far away from the town come lunch time. A sandwich and some snacks will be needed energy after so much time cycling in the sun.
- Lots of water. A couple of liters per person at the very least although there are filling stations on the island so a 1 to 2 litre bottle would suffice.
- Sunscreen and a hat (obviously)
- A snorkel and fins. If you don’t have these they are available for rent at “Pedal and Flipper” for $15 a day.
- A small amount of rope. This will allow you to tie bags or items to the back of your bike where there is a small rack.
Places to Check Out
There are so many different bays and lookouts that after my two visits I still have not seen them all! Some points of interest though that are my favorite are the following:
Little Armstrong Bay – a cute little secluded bay on the north side of the island. Here there is some of the best snorkeling as well as calm swimming waters. When we were there we basically had the beach to ourselves!
Parker Point – this a great area for taking some pictures. There is a viewing deck as well as a beautiful place to swim. The beach is long and allows visitors to find shade under some of the rocks. This is also the place where you are most likely to find the friendly Quokkas!
Stark Bay – Super beautiful long bay with white sand! I loved the little walk to the lookout over the bay, it was so pretty!
Still Deciding to make that Rottnest Island Day Trip or Not?
Unfortunately Rottnest Island isn’t the cheapest of day trips in Perth. That being said, it is worth every penny. I have seen a lot of beaches all over the world, and Rottnest Island has some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. It is well kept, easy to get to, fun to ride around, and overall, an experience that is unique to Perth and anything similar is not found elsewhere in Australia.
I highly recommend booking that Rottnest Island day trip! It is easily one of my favorite things to do in Perth.