Things to do on Rottnest Island on a Day Trip
A trip to Perth in Western Australia is not complete without a day trip to Rottnest Island. Rotto, as the locals call Rottnest, is known for the Quokka, its beaches, its eco-friendly environment and its car-free paradise.
Let me show you how to plan your trip to Rottnest, with the top things to do on Rottnest Island on a day-tour from Perth.
How to get to Rottnest Island
There are two main ways to get to Rottnest Island. Either from Fremantle, Perth southbound or from the northbound leaving from Hillarys Boat Harbor. On both ferries, you can take your bike, or you can hire one when you book your ticket, but if you don’t have one, there is also a bike rental service on the island.
- The Rottnest Express ferry is leaving from Fremantle (south of Perth) it takes about 25 minutes by train to get there. The 45 minutes Rottnest island ferry operates twice daily at 7.15 am or 9.30.am and returns at 4.25 pm. The return ticket costs 72,00 dollars, and it includes the government admission fee to the island. If you plan to stay overnight, the extended day ticket will save you money. Check on their website as they may have a price offer on some days.
- The Rottnest Fast Ferries are leaving from Hillarys Boat Harbour, north of Perth. There is a free pick up operated by the ferry company three times a day. It takes approx 45 minutes to cross over to Rottnest Island. There are three departures during the day. This is ideal if you love to spend time in the outdoors and want to visit the beautiful and tranquil northern Beaches of Perth. The return ticket is 68,00 dollars, but it doesn’t include the island fee. A complimentary hotel-pick is however offered from Perth.
If you want to stay overnight, on the island the accommodation is limited, there are only a couple of hotels, but plenty of rental holiday houses, apartments and campsites.
How to plan your Rottnest Island Day Trip
When shall you go on a day trip? And when is the best time of year to visit?
I recommend going a day trip on weekdays and avoid weekends when the locals family with kids and holiday-makers flock. The best time to visit Rottnest is in summer when you can enjoy sunbathing too, but late spring through summer months to early autumn will be good too. So to say, all months between November through March is a good time for visiting. Rottnest and Perth have excellent weather year-round, like most regions in South Western Australia. However, you should avoid hot and windy weather, as the heat coupled with the wind, will make your trip unbearable. A good sunny day with low or moderate wind is the ideal weather condition to experience all the attractions on a Rottnest Island day trip.
Bonus Tip: Check the wind forecast before booking your Rottnest ferry.
You should try to book your trip on a day with the moderate wind to make sure to have a smooth ferry ride. Also, strong wind conditions will make your explorations quite challenging, especially if you plan to go cycling around the island. Here is a useful link to the Rottnest wind forecast.
Best ways to explore Rottnest
Start your Rottnest Tour at the Rottnest Island Visitor Centre get a Map of the Island and book your tours there.
- By bike. Being Rottnest a car-free paradise, biking is the best way to get around. I got there on a windy day and could hardly cycle around because of the uphill roads.
- By foot. Next to the many walking trails, in town you can walk to the general stores and fashion shops, the museum, the Rottnest Hotel and the bike hire shop. The main areas like the Basin and Geordie Bay also have small shops.
- By Bus. There is a free shuttle bus that takes you around to the main points of Rottnest like Kingstown Barracks and Geordie Bay. The shuttle bus only covers a few areas of Rottnest though.
- By Coach If you want to see it all by bus, then go on a Discovery Bus Tour, you can book online or on the spot, at the visitor centre.
- By Boat, There are many boat tours, that you can do in addition. The 1-hour-cruise around the island is something I’d recommend on a calm day with no wind to see dolphins and wildlife.
What to do on Rottnest Island
From beach to beach by bike
The first thing to do is to hire a bike and cycle and around 25 km of coastline and stop at over 60 beaches and 23 bays. If you need to rent a bike, there is a bike hire service, with reasonable rates, just behind the Rottnest Hotel. They can also provide the equipment for cycling along with a fabulous bike map with all attractions for your discovery tour of the island. Pedal and Flipper is open daily from 8.30-5.30, prices vary from 16 to 30 dollars per person, for half or a full-day hire.
Make sure you check out Salmon Bay on the southbound of the island. Gordie Bay and Parakeet Bay on the northbound of the island are top places for relaxing, almost at the end of your bike ride tour.
Tips: Pack plenty of water and your food as there are no shops along your way. And make sure you get back in time to catch the last ferry which is at 4.30 pm. Plan enough time, a few hours if not the entire day to see all beaches and bays. Distances are okay and doable for a round day trip of the island.
Go on a Free Guided Heritage Trails Tour
The heritage trail tour is an interesting thing to do on a day trip. They show you around Rottnest Island and tell you about its rich heritage. The island’s history goes back to the aboriginal occupation 65000 years ago to the colonial settlement in 1829. There are free guided walking tours starting from the visitor centre, make sure you do this as the first thing, usually, they start early in the morning.
Take a Rottnest Island Tour
If you don’t fancy biking uphills, the best thing to do is to go with Island Discovery Bus Tour, an excellent 90 minutes bus tour that circumnavigates the whole island with an informative commentary. The tour gives you an excellent overview of all areas so that you know what you want to explore later by yourself. I did this tour and can highly recommend it.
You will have time to visit inside the Wadjemup Lighthouse, learn about the heritage and take one of the many walking trails going to the western end of the island. You can read more about the history of the Wadjemup Lighthouse here.
Visit the Rottnest West End
The West End with Cape Vlamingh is the most beautiful area of Rottnest Island, with rugged coastline, stunning colour contrasts and breathtaking views of the ocean. If you are going with the discovery coach tour the West End will be one of the stops.
Soak in the beauty of Rottnest
On a day-tour, you tend to be on the touch and go mode. To get the feel of Rottnest, you need to switch from a fast pace to a slow pace, stop along your way at any bay and take in the beautiful environment. You will be mesmerised by the intense colours of the ocean. Rottnest Island beaches are amazing and I’d dare say, you will see some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia.
Take a swim at the beach
The island has got many pretty beaches, with The Basin being the most popular beach but also the busiest. The good thing about it is that you can swim at almost every beach on the island. Some beaches towards the western end are more for expert surfers, some are for a family with kids, like the Basin, and some are just as isolated as you can only dream of. Pinky Beach is my favourite beach for a swim and also Eagle beach in the West End.
Pit-stop at the Pink Lake
If you are cycling around the island, a pit-stop at Pink Lake is quite obvious. It’s one of the most visited attractions on Rottnest, but be prepared to be disappointed. In fact, its water turns pink, after a rainy day, and if you are not there in the right season, then it will look like an ordinary saltwater lake. The photo here below is on my last visit, the water wasn’t pink. But it was great to see and hear the native birdlife and admire the beautiful vegetation all around the lake.
Meet Rottnest quirky locals – the Quokkas
This is what Rottnest is known for, the quirky Quokka, a little marsupial of the size of a domestic cat. Rottnest was named after this native animal by the Dutch captain who thought Quokkas were giant rats. They are everywhere on the island and they will also show up around restaurants, looking for food.
Tip: Don’t feed them when visiting Rottnest; they get sick if you feed them with fruits or human food. Take pictures of a cute Quokka, but please no feeding.
Quokkas are the most significant natural attraction among the abundant wildlife on the island. But you can also see lots of birds and other animals like dolphins and marine life. There are dolphin watching tours and more wildlife encounters tours on the island.
Take a break from your Rottnest Bike Tour
After a long day out biking and touring the island, there is no better way to chill out than sitting down and enjoying a snack and a drink with an ocean view. At the Rottnest hotel, you can sit outside in the beautiful garden. You can also take a stroll through peaceful Thomson Bay, just nearby the boat jetty. This is the are where there are also chalets and accommodation to stay overnight on the island.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Rottnest Island
These are the top 10 of the many fun things to do on Rottnest Islands.
But there is much more you can do. You go also go a snorkelling cruise, a surfing tour, a reef and wrecks tour, segway tours are also something you can do if you don’t like walking or cycling, it’s easy and fast to get around and experience much of the island. A Dolphin watching tour is also a great thing if you like to see wildlife. I love Rottnest and have included it in my list of the top day trips from Perth.
Now over to you. Have you been to Rotto and have a special tour or activity that you would like to add to this list? Share it by leaving your comment here below.
Travel Tips for your Trip from Perth to Rottnest
If you are visiting Perth alone, here is a quick guide for the solo traveller with what to do alone in Perth as well as prepare your day trip from Perth to Rottnest Island.
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First published in 2015 – last updated in May 2020
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