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Rottnest Island is an absolute paradise that is one of the best day trips from Perth. Located just off the shore of Perth, a trip to this idyllic gem is not to be missed when you’re in Western Australia.
One of the best things about planning a trip to Rottnest Island is that it’s one of the only places in the world where you see quokkas, which are arguably among the cutest animals on earth! They are adorable little marsupials who look like they’re smiling at you, and they’re super friendly because they have no natural predators.
The name Rottnest actually comes from a Dutch explorer, who mistook the quokkas for rats, and thus dubbed the island “rats nest island.” Nowadays, locals affectionately call the island “Rotto.”
In addition to its super cute wildlife, a day trip to Rottnest will give you access to 63 (yes, really!) beaches, 20 bays, several historic military sites, and lots of wonderful bars and restaurants.
It also has an interesting – and sometimes shocking – history, since it was a colonial settlement, an Aboriginal prison for almost 100 years, and also played an important role in Australia’s defense during WWII.
All in all, there are a ton of things to do on this amazing little island, so I’ve narrowed it down to the top 22.
Things to do on Rottnest Island
1. Take a selfie with a Quokka
Rottnest Island has the largest quokka population in the world, with around 10,000 of these smiling little guys running around the place. There’s a smaller population on nearby Bald Island and you can find a few isolated groups on the mainland, but Rottnest is undoubtedly the best place to see these adorable animals.
Quokkas are marsupials that look a bit like mini kangaroos – they even carry their babies around in their pouches!
They have no natural predators, so they’re naturally very friendly and curious, and will often come right up to you to say hello. You’re not allowed to touch these guys, but you can certainly take a selfie with them!
Even celebrities like Hugh Jackman, Margot Robbie, and Chris Hemsworth have all taken selfies with quokkas on Rottnest island – they’re THAT popular!
2. Go on a cruise
When you’re spending time on a beautiful island, you’ve got to take the time to enjoy it from the water. There are multiple cruises available to take around Rottnest Island to enjoy the stunning turquoise waters and views of the coastline.
This half-day luxury seafood cruise gives you the chance to get involved in the lobster-catching process before chowing down on your fresh catch. You’ll also enjoy delicious local seafood including blue swimmer crab cakes and Shark Bay tiger prawns alongside pairings of wines from Margaret River, one of Australia’s best wine regions. Plus, you’ll also have time to swim or relax on a giant float pillow! The entire experience can be booked here for $319 AUD.
For something adventurous and budget-friendly, this half-day sailing adventure tour is the perfect option. You’ll visit some of the best snorkel spots the island has to offer and get up close to the colorful coral and amazing tropical fish. You’ll also have the chance to go SUP-boarding and even be dragged behind the boat in a cargo net if you like! At $145 AUD, this tour is a pretty great deal.
Set sail at sunset with a glass of champagne in hand on this luxury sailing tour. You’ll have 360° views from both the indoor and outdoor decks, so you’ll be able to enjoy beautiful views of the sunset and even spot some dolphins if you’re cruising during the summer months. There’s also the chance to stop for a sunset swim, which is always a lovely experience, and there are shared appetizers on board in case you get peckish. This tour costs $95 AUD and lasts for about 90 minutes in total.
Related read: Taking a Sydney Harbor cruise is one of those must-do activities in Sydney!
3. Rottnest Island Aboriginal Tour
Rottnest Island holds a lot of significance in Aboriginal culture. It was originally inhabited by the Noongar people until around 7,000 years ago when sea levels rose and separated the island from the mainland.
It then became known as “Wadjemup”, which translates to “the place across the water where the spirits are” and played a central role in cultural stories.
In 1838, an Aboriginal prison for those who refused to relocate was established on Rottnest Island, and over 3,600 prisoners were held there over the course of a century.
Taking an Aboriginal cultural tour of Rottnest is a great way to learn more about the significance the island holds for the Noongar people. You can take a Wadjemup tour that includes a museum visit, a sand ceremony, and a Dreamtime story that will teach you some of the Noongar language and songs. Or there’s a walking tour that also takes you around the island to see sites of significance to the Noongar people.
4. Guided bus tour
Cycling is the most popular way to get around Rottnest Island, but it’s not for everyone. If you’d prefer to travel in the comfort of an air-conditioned bus, then this tour is the perfect option.
You’ll have the chance to take selfies with quokkas, visit WWII barracks, spy on seals at Cathedral rocks, and even go whale watching if you’re visiting during winter.
You’ll have guided commentary to give you the lowdown on both the natural and historical sites you’re visiting, and the whole tour only takes 2 hours, so there’s plenty of time for independent exploration afterward.
The best part is, after your short introduction to the island with minimum effort, you’ll know exactly where you want to return to later! Oh, and don’t forget you’ll be taking an abundance of knowledge with you! Book your spot on the Bayseeker bus tour here.
5. Test your nerves and go skydiving
Skydiving is a must when you’re in Australia and there’s no better place to freefall than over the stunning landscapes of Rottnest Island.
Geronimo Skydiving is the only company in Western Australia that offers island skydiving. You can jump from heights of up to 15,000 feet which gives you 66 seconds of freefall before your parachute is deployed.
Prices range between $399-$549 AUD, depending on the height you choose, and photo and video packages are available for purchase afterward if you want footage of your experience to show your friends and family.
There are also packages available that include a ferry or scenic plane ride to the island.
6. Go snorkeling
Rottnest Island has plenty of vibrant marine life to explore beneath the surface, so it’s the perfect destination for snorkeling. Its waters are home to 135 varieties of tropical fish, as well as brightly colored coral beds, and even a few shipwrecks!
Some of the best snorkel spots on the island include Little Salmon Bay at the southernmost tip of the island, and the Basin, which is within walking distance of Thomson Bay, the main town. Parker Point is also excellent and even has a snorkeling trail where you can learn more about local marine life from the plaques which are dotted around the water.
You can bring your own snorkel gear to the island or rent it from Pedal and Flipper, a bike and snorkel rental company. It costs $20 AUD to hire an adult snorkel set for the day or $15 AUD for a child’s set.
If you’d prefer to take a snorkeling tour, this half-day tour offers you the chance to snorkel, kayak, and paddleboard in Rottnest’s beautiful waters, and you might even spot dolphins or sea lions. You’ll visit all of the island’s best snorkeling spots and enjoy complimentary snacks, coffee, and tea along the way. It costs $145 AUD and takes 2-3 hours, so booking this tour is great if you’re only spending a day on the island as you’ll still have time to check out its historical highlights and fit in a quokka selfie, too!
This 3-hour guided boat trip is another top choice, and you’ll be guided by a marine biologist who will share their knowledge on the marine life that you see. You’ll also have plenty of time to explore the wrecks and reefs beneath the surface, and there’s a maximum of 25 passengers per boat, so things don’t get too crowded. This tour is priced at $169 AUD and also includes snacks, tea, and coffee.
Related read: Another unforgettable experince is swimming with whale sharks in Exmouth!
7. Go on a segway tour
Segway tours are always a fun time, and they give you the best of both worlds in the sense that they allow you to cover a pretty big distance in a short amount of time, while still enjoying the outdoors.
This segway tour will help you tick off all of Rottnest’s top historical sites, including Kingstown Barracks, as well as take you off-road to explore beaches and bays. It’s a small group tour and you don’t need any previous segway experience – the staff will help you get to grips with your new ride and you’ll be rolling around the island in no time. It costs $132 AUD per person and tours depart in the morning or afternoon, so you can choose whatever fits your schedule.
If you’d prefer to have everything handled for you, this tour package includes the return ferry ride to Rottnest from Perth and a comprehensive segway tour once you arrive. Then, you’ll have the afternoon free to explore by yourself before you head back to the mainland in the evening. The tour costs $222 AUD per person and includes hotel pickup and drop-off if you need it.
8. Scenic flight
Gazing over Rottnest’s natural beauty from the window of a seaplane is an unforgettable experience. We have nothing against the ferry, but this is definitely a more exciting way to travel!
You’ll depart from Swan River and fly over Perth, Kings Park, and Fremantle on your way to Rottnest, taking in the stunning coastal scenery along the way. The flight itself only takes around 15 minutes, so it’s also a fast and convenient way to get there.
You can take a one-way scenic flight to Rottnest for $293 AUD and arrange your own way back on the ferry, or for $645 AUD you can book a full-day tour that includes return flights, a guided tour, lunch, and free time to explore in the afternoon. This is a pricey option but it’s an amazing way to see this beautiful island, so if there’s room in your budget we’d say it’s worth every cent.
9. Hop-on hop-off tour
If you want to take a bus tour of Rottnest Island but do it at your own pace, then the hop-on, hop-off bus is a great option. You can explore the places that interest you most while enjoying the scenery between stops.
Buses run every 30 minutes from 8:30 am until 3 pm, and you can book your tickets in advance online or through the Visitor Center at Thomson Bay.
There are 19 stops around the island, which include many of the best beaches and bays, and tickets cost $25 AUD per day.
10. Enjoy a fine dining experience at Isola Bar e Cibo
Isola Bar e Cibo is my favorite place to wine and dine on the island. It serves delicious Italian food made with fresh local ingredients, as well as tasty local seafood, and expertly crafted cocktails. The wine list also includes Western Australian and Italian wines, so you can sample the best of both worlds.
The setting is just as wonderful as the food, with its waterfront location and amazing ocean views. You’ll feel just like you’re dining on the Italian coast!
Isola is open from 11:30 am until late every day except Tuesday. Lunch hours are from 11:30 am – 2 pm and dinner is served between 5:30-8:30 pm, but you can always relax and enjoy a drink in between those times.
Related read: If wining and dining through Australia sounds amazing, don’t miss out on the best Margaret River wine tours!
11. Ride around the island
Cycling is the most popular way to get around Rottnest Island and enjoy its 24 kilometers (15 miles) of coastline. It’s pretty easy to ride around, but if you go all around the island your legs might be a bit tired by the end of the day!
There are hardly any cars on Rottnest Island, so cycling here really is an amazing experience, and it’s easier too since there’s no traffic to worry about. It’s so peaceful and quiet, not to mention eco-friendly!
It’s possible to bring your own bike with you on the ferry for around $15-$20 AUD, or you can rent one when you get to the island.
Pedal and Flipper is the most popular rental place, and a bike rental costs $30 AUD per day for adults, and then $15 AUD for each additional day. If you’re only renting for the afternoon, then adult bikes cost $16 AUD after 1 pm. A helmet and lock are included in the price.
You can also opt for extras like child trailers, baby seats, and surfboard racks for an additional fee (between $41-$51 AUD per day).
And if you’d prefer an electric bike to make things easier, you can rent one for $71 AUD per day, and $41 AUD each day thereafter.
To make things easier, you can also book a bike rental and ferry package in advance, which includes your bike and a same-day return boat ticket from Fremantle. This package is only $116 AUD and makes things nice and easy for your trip with no need to wait in line to rent your bike.
12. Go SUP
The calm waters around Rottnest Island are perfect for stand-up paddleboarding or SUP. It’s a great way to explore the island and get a core workout in while you’re at it!
Pedal and Flipper offers paddleboard rentals for $73 AUD per day, and then $24 AUD per day after that if you want to keep it for an extra day or two.
The best spots to SUP in Rottnest are the beaches around Thomson Bay, which is the main town. For one thing, you won’t have to worry about carrying your board too far on your bike across the island, and the waters are calm and naturally sheltered.
Pinky Beach, Ricey Beach, and Little Salmon Bay are three of the best options for paddleboarding. Plus, Pinky Beach is a great place to watch the sunset over Bathurst lighthouse.
13. Relax at a pristine beach
Rottnest is home to 63 gorgeous beaches, so relaxing on at least one of them is a must when you come to visit.
The Basin is one of my favorites. It’s a beautiful swimming hole just a short walk from Thomson Bay, so it’s the perfect place to take a dip and then relax on the sandy beach. It also has lifeguards, benches, showers, and toilets, so you can wash all the sand off before you leave the beach.
Little Parakeet Bay is another great spot to swim and snorkel, and its waters are super calm because they’re protected by the coral reef. This is a more wild beach with few facilities, but it’s still within easy reach of Geordie Bay. If you’re looking for a quiet and secluded spot, then definitely check this one out.
Geordie Bay has one of the largest beaches on the island. It’s a long stretch of white sand that looks out onto the deep blue horizon. There are also plenty of cafes and beach bars nearby, plus heated showers, which is definitely a bonus!
Related read: Check out more of WA’s beautiful beaches with a visit to Fremantle!
14. Sunset drinks at Pinky’s Rottnest Island
Named after the beautiful beach that it overlooks, Pinky’s Rottnest Island is one of the best places on the island to grab a cocktail and watch the sun go down. On weekends, you’ll often find live music from local bands and DJs here, or you can even come in the morning for a buffet breakfast while you gaze out at the ocean.
Personally, I find the food here to be just ok, but the drinks are great. They have some amazing signature cocktails, plus all the classics, and a pretty extensive selection of Australian wines and craft beers. All in all, Pinky’s is the perfect spot for a drink with a view!
Related read: Grabbing a drink at one of Perth’s best breweries is another of our favorite ways to relax on an Aussie vacation.
Rottnest Island is incredibly beautiful, so you’d better believe that it has some great hiking trails to explore. Most of the hikes here are easy to moderate and can be taken at a leisurely pace as you enjoy Rottnest’s amazing natural attractions and say hi to quokkas.
Wardan Nara Bidi
The Wardan Nara Bidi trail is a 10-kilometer (6-mile) trail that should take you around half a day to complete.
It begins with a slow climb behind Parker Point, where you’ll enjoy beautiful views before you head onto Little Salmon Bay. You can stop here for a swim or snorkel before the trail takes you inland to Oliver Hill, where you can explore the island’s military past and even take a guided tour.
You’ll also visit the Wadjemup Lighthouse before you finish at Narrow Neck, an untouched beach where you can relax and cool off after your hike.
Gabbi Karniny Bidi
Meanwhile, the Gabbi Karniny Bidi trail is similar in length but takes you from Vlamingh Lookout to the island’s salt lakes, including the Pink Lake.
You’ll then continue onto the scenic Little Parakeet Bay and through Geordie Bay, where you can grab a drink or a bite to eat before you head to Longreach Bay, where the trail ends.
For a shorter trail, Karlinyah Bidi is 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) long and lasts for 2-3 hours, depending on how many stops you make on the way. It takes you along the coast where you can spot dolphins, NZ fur seals, and ospreys, depending on the time of year.
You start at Little Armstrong Bay and visit the Catherine and City of York Bay beaches, then head onto more rugged trails as you head to Ricey Beach. This trail also ends at Narrow Neck, one of the island’s quietest beaches.
Guided island hike
If you’d prefer to go on a guided hike, this half-day tour will take you on a 12-kilometer (7-mile) journey across the island, during which you’ll see shipwrecks, lighthouses, and some of the best beaches Rottnest has to offer. Along the way, your guide will share interesting stories and local secrets that will give you a deeper appreciation of the island. The entire experience can be booked online for $80 AUD per person.
There are a ton of fishing spots around Rottnest Island. The ocean around Rottnest is teeming with tailor, herring, bream, skippy, and flathead, to name but few.
If you want to fish, you can bring your own gear with you on the ferry or rent some locally at the Rottnest General Store and Geordie Bay General Store.
There are a few sanctuary zones on the island where fishing is prohibited, but it’s not difficult to find a place to cast your line. The jetties in Thomson Bay and Geordie Bay are great spots, but if you want to catch salmon, head to Fish Hook Bay.
Ricey Beach, on the north side of the island, is not just a scenic fishing spot – it also has shallow reef platforms that allow you to catch fish like tailor, salmon, and big skippy.
Meanwhile, the City of York Bay is a top spot to catch King George. Or if you’re looking for big fish, Radar Reef is a famous shore fishing spot where you can catch big yellowtail kingies, sambos, and jumbo tailor.
17. Cocktails by the water
No island visit would be complete without a cocktail (or two… or three) on the water, and Hotel Rottnest is one of my favorite places for a beachfront drink.
Whether you want slushie cocktails, sharing jugs, or a great selection of French, Italian, and Australian wines, you’ll definitely find your beverage of choice here – and be able to enjoy it with a great view. In fact, the bar literally touches the sand and the water is almost within arm’s reach. Better yet, if you stay at the Samphire Resort, you can actually sit in the sand.
This is the perfect place to unwind after an adventurous day of exploring Rottnest.
18. Wadjemup Lighthouse
Wadjemup Lighthouse is the highest point on the island and a great place to visit for amazing views of the entire length of Rottnest, and you can even spot the mainland waaaay in the distance (although it’s not much more than a speck on the horizon).
The original lighthouse was built between 1839-1849 by Aboriginal convicts, but it was reconstructed in 1896, so all that remains of the first lighthouse today is its limestone base. It also received a major facelift in 2022.
You do have to climb 155 steps to get these amazing views, but it’s definitely worth it once you make it to the stop. This is the best view you can get of the island without a skydive or a scenic flight.
19. Boutique shopping
As if its gorgeous natural attractions, cute quokkas, and chic bars weren’t enough, Rottnest Island is also home to some great boutique shopping where you can find all sorts of cute souvenirs for your friends and family (or just nice presents for yourself – I won’t judge!).
Island Gypsy sells locally made artisan goods and beach accessories from inside one of Rottnest’s oldest buildings, the Salt Store. From wave-themed picnic glasses to quokka earrings and silicone beach buckets, there are so many cute and sustainable items to buy here – hold onto your wallet!
There’s also the Indianic Boutique in Thomson Bay, which sells bathing suits and beach dresses, as well as handmade soaps and luxury candles.
20. Play golf
If you’re a fan of golf, then Rottnest is the perfect place to practice your swing. The 18-hole course here is beautiful, peaceful, and just a little challenging!
It’s a friendly, informal golf club and you can either rent clubs and carts from them directly, or arrange for their team to pick your equipment up from the ferry jetty if you’d prefer to bring your own.
Rottnest Golf Course is open from 8:30 am – 4.30 pm daily, and an 18-hole game costs $45 AUD for adults or $25 AUD for under-16s. It’s $15 AUD to hire clubs and $40 AUD per cart.
21. Rottnest Island Oliver Hill train and tunnel tour
For anyone interested in military history, this historic train and tunnel tour is a must. You’ll ride past historic landmarks on a trolley train while enjoying live commentary that brings the island’s past to life.
Plus, you’ll spend time exploring the Oliver Hill Guns and Tunnel Fortification, a gun emplacement with a maze of underground tunnels below. This tour is a great option if you want to learn all about the island’s role in defending Australia during World War II.
This affordable tour is only $34 AUD, so book your spot here to climb aboard the unique 64-seat trolley train for a journey into the past.
Related read: Kids (and adults!) will also love a ride on the steam engine-style train that runs along the Busselton Jetty. It’s one of our top activities to do in Busselton!
22. Visit the Wadjemup Museum
The Wadjemup Museum is the perfect place to take a break from all the physical activities on Rottnest and learn a little about the island. Not only can you dive into the history of Rottnest, but there is also some fantastic art on display.
The museum is completely free to visit although they do accept donations. It only takes 20 minutes to check out although I could have stayed much longer if I had the time. On top of that, the lovely volunteers are happy to answer any questions you may have about the museum or places to visit on Rottnest Island.
The Wadjemup Museum is open every day from 10 am to 3:30 pm.
Where to Stay on Rottnest Island
Luckily if you don’t want to leave Rottnest Island, there are some great places to stay! Then you’ll be close to all the action and within walking distance of so many beautiful beaches. I’ve divided up my top recommendations for a variety of price ranges.
Budget travelers – $
Rottnest has a variety of cabins, dorm room-style accommodations, and campgrounds to choose from. You can book any of these options through the Stay Rottnest website.
If you want to camp, there are tenting sites available for $40 AUD per night. It’s nothing fancy – no power, shared bathrooms, but you’ll have an amazing view of the stars!
If all you need is a bunk bed, Kingstown Hostel has you covered. You’ll be able to share a dorm with 6 beds for $58 AUD per person. But this hostel isn’t just for backpackers! There are private family rooms available with a king bed and a bunk bed for $88 AUD nightly.
Mid-range travelers – $$
If you have a bit more flexibility in your budget, Rottnest has some great accommodations that also won’t break the bank.
For a true glamping experience, Discovery Rottnest Island is an amazing choice. It’s right near Pinky Beach, the Bathurst lighthouse, and the Basin, so you’ve got some of the island’s best attractions right on your doorstep. Plus, there’s an outdoor pool, WiFi, and it’s right next to Pinky’s Bar.
The tents are SUPER comfortable and come with their own private bathrooms, so you feel more like you’re in a hotel than a campsite. These can book up quickly, so reserve your spot here now!
For families or couples looking for a larger space, head to Caroline Thomson Cabins. These cedar cabins are just outside of Thomsons Bay and sleep up to 6 people with a double bed and two sets of bunk beds. There are also private bathrooms and a small kitchenette. This is a great deal averaging around $100 AUD per night and can be booked online here.
Luxury travelers – $$$
If you’re looking for a more luxurious getaway, Samphire Rottnest is an incredible property located just 200 meters away from Thomson Bay beach. It’s right near one of my favorite restaurants, Isola, too!
The rooms are spacious, light-filled, and have a modern coastal feel. There’s also an outdoor pool, a restaurant, and a bar, all of which are decorated in a chic and elegant fashion. Best of all, the staff are incredibly helpful and attentive, which will make you feel right at home.
For larger groups or even more space, check out the Governor Circle properties. These cottages were originally built for soldiers during WWII near the Kingstown Barracks. Now, these charming cottages with original timber floors will feel like a little home away from home.
There are two and three-bedroom options available or even a HUGE cottage (house really) with six bedrooms! A two-bedroom cottage averages around $400 AUD per night and the six-bedroom property is $750 AUD. These cottages can be booked through the Stay Rottnest website.
Thanks for reading!
There you have it, our top things to do on Rottnest Island! This little island is a piece of paradise in Western Australia that will have you under its spell in no time. Make sure you say hi to the quokkas for me!
If you’re planning a trip here anytime soon, browse around our other guides to popular destinations in Australia. We have plenty of tips to make sure your time here is memorable and fun!
Penguin Island, Perth – Visiting the World’s Smallest Penguins
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