The Ultimate Guide to Rottnest Island, Western Australia

Travel Blog | Lady and the Tramper

Rottnest, known be-lovingly to Aussies as ‘Rotto’ is located some 18 km from the coast of Perth. You will find it hard to believe that this untouched paradise can exist so close to a major city. Most of the roads on Rottnest do not permit any public vehicles on them, so how does one get around? Well, you can either walk, take the island explorer bus, or best yet, rent out a bicycle to explore the island and its full potential. Rottnest Island only covers an area of 19 km² with an elevation of just 46 m so a full loop can easily be performed in one day. However, with many snorkelling hot spots, you may want to spread out your exploration over a couple of days.

Rottnest Beaches, Perth, Western Australia

Rottnest is also home to the Quokka, a rodent-like marsupial with selfie skills to rival Kim Kardashian, You will find yourself hopping off your bike at every opportunity for a picture with the islands famous inhabitants, adding an extra 3 hours to your journey! It is said that Rottnest actually gets its name from these friendly little things. Dutch explorers who saw the Quokkas mistook them for rats and named the island ‘Rotte Nest’ (meaning ‘Rats Nest’).

How to get to Rottnest

Visitors to the island have a few options. You can take a ferry from Fremantle, Hillarys boat harbour and Perth’s Barrack Street Jetty on the Swan River. Fremantle is the best option as it is the closest to the island. However, you may want to factor in travel times to each ferry terminal.

Rottnest express operates ferries from Fremantle and the Swan River. Services from Hillarys Boat Harbour are operated by Rottnest Fast Ferries. I have provided the links to the timetables above as the times and which stops they make change daily.

B Shed Fremantle

Duration: 25 minutes

Ferry Price: $62 multi-day return

Northport Fremantle

Duration: 25 minutes

Ferry Price: $62 multi-day return

*note that some Northport services make a scheduled stop at B Shed.

Barrack Street Jetty

Duration: 90 minutes

Ferry Price: $82 multi-day return

*Note that all services make a scheduled stop at either Northport or B shed.

Hillarys Boat Harbour

Duration: 45 minutes

Ferry Price: $67.50 multi-day return

As Rottnest is a marine reserve, all visitors have to pay an admission fee to enter the island. Either $18 for a day visit or $23.50 for an overnight stay. Ferry companies usually add this on to the quoted prices above.

If you’re feeling tough, a unique way of getting to Rottnest is to take part in the annual February Rotto swim. This is a 20 km swim starting from Cottesloe beach and finishing on Rottnest Island. If you’re just after a quiet getaway then this may actually be the best time to avoid Rottnest as the race draws many spectators to the island. While we are at it, you may also want to stay clear during the ‘Schoolie’ leavers week which normally falls in November. Unless, of course, you want to be surrounded by screeching adolescents, in which case I believe you are a ‘Toolie’.

Accommodation in Rottnest

There is accommodation for everyone on Rottnest; from resorts, hotels, hostels to even camping. You will have plenty of choices and we have listed all of the island’s accommodation options below. This section is rather long and exhaustive; great if you’re looking to book or need information on EVERY SINGLE option, but if not you can jump down to next section by clicking here! Booking ahead of time is always recommended on Rottnest, especially in the high season. Of course, as always we chose to camp and highly recommend it; camping in Rottnest is charged by tent site, which holds up to 6 people and is $37 per night.

Basic/Affordable Options

There is a smattering of basic/more affordable accommodation choices in Rotto. There is a hostel, the Caroline Thompson Cabins, Governers Circle Cottages, Kingstown Barracks (ideal for large school groups) and North Heritage Bungalows.

Caroline Thompson Cabins

The Caroline Thompson Cabins can accommodate up to 6 people in one double and 2 bunk beds. All cabins have a communal kitchenette, sleeping and living area and a separate shower room and toilet. Prices here start from $71 midweek in low season to $144 on a weekend during the holidays. Prices are per cabin per night.

Governors Circle Cottages

For those who are in a large group and love to stay in a place with a bit of a back story, the Governors Circle Cottages were originally built for soldiers during WWII. There are 9, 13 and 18-bed options and starting at $352 ($299*) per night for the 9 bed to $658 ($559*) for the 18 bed.

*School and community groups are eligible for a group discount price marked in the brackets.

Kingstown Barracks

Another school and groups option is the Barracks; they have a variety of room sizes from 2 beds priced at $79 ($67*) to 18 bed priced at $605 ($514*) and are fitted with communal bathroom facilities.

*School and community groups are eligible for a group discount price marked in the brackets.

Hostel

The hostel on the island is located by the Kingstown barracks and offers dormitory beds for $52 and family rooms for $114 which sleeps 2 adults and 2 children.

North Heritage Bungalows

These 1920’s built self-contained accommodations have basic furnishings and a fully equipped kitchen area. The sides of these buildings are canvas, therefore we would only recommend them for summer use. Prices range from $82-midweek low season for a 4-bed bungalow to $189 for a 6-bed bungalow on a weekend during the holidays. Prices are per night.

Premium Options

Just as with the basic options, there is also a variety of luxury accommodation in Rottnest. Luxury is not usually something we fork out for when we are on the road; however, we have included the information as it may be useful for your stay.

Karma Resort

The Karma resort is a hotel and spa with comfortable basically styled rooms. The Premium Lakeside rooms have been recently renovated and feature chic and designer furnishings overlooking Governer’s Lake. Prices per night in this resort start at $264 per room per night.

Hotel Rottnest

Hotel Rottnest is another premium option for over 18’s and features modern rooms; some of which look out over Thompson Bay. In the low season, courtyard view rooms start at $149 with bayside view rooms at $199. In the summer months, prices are around $290 for the courtyard and $340 for bayside per room per night.

Other Premium Accommodations

The Rottnest Island Authority also take bookings for a variety of other lodgings. There are the Timber Chalets, Standard Holiday Units, Heritage Cottages, Heritage View Cottages, Premium Accommodation, Premium View Accommodation, Ocean View Accommodation and Island Couple’s Retreat which is an ideal splurge for honeymooners; a beachfront one bedroom suite with beach style interior design, modern amenities (TV, Bose) and fully equipped kitchen. The Island Couple’s Retreat suites range in price from $314-midweek low season to $397 during the weekend in the holidays per night.

How to get around on Rottnest

Cycling around the island is by far the quickest way to see as much as you can in your time there. However, the bike rentals are not cheap. We decided on a beautiful Tandem because we would look super cool and it saved us a few dollars.

Riding a Tandem in Rottnest Island, Western Australia

Prices for bike hire in Rottnest are usually around $30 per day with the price dropping for the more days you hire. You can rent from the ferry operators but I suggest hiring from one of the rental shops on the island to spread the business. For those of you who want to take your own bike, that is certainly an option and costs $15 to be transported on the ferry. There are three bike route options you can choose to take on Rottnest Island; ride 1 is 4km, ride 2 is 10km and ride 3 is 22km. We recommend the 22km route if you want to see everything but don’t overdo it, you can always create your own route.

Anyone who does not wish to explore Rotto by bike, there is a hop on/hop off bus service available. You can purchase a day pass ($20), 3-day pass ($40) or a 5-day pass($60) so you can get on and off to any destination you want. If you are able-bodied, though, we strongly encourage you to take the bike. It can be tiring, but it is a different way to explore a unique place.

You can also enjoy the return train ride from the Settlement Railway Station to Oliver Hill on the Island’s 64-seat Captain Hussey train ($20 RTN).

Things to do/Places to see on Rottnest

Snorkelling

The main thing you need to remember to bring is your snorkel and flippers as you will not be short on places to snorkel on Rottnest. There is an abundance of snorkelling spots with warm and shallow waters full of marine life. We were taken aback by the clarity of the waters when we first arrived on Rottnest. There’s no doubt that Perth has some stunning beaches but the beaches of Rottnest and the surviving coral reefs were stunning. Here’s a list of some of the best snorkelling spots on Rottnest:

The Basin

Parakeet Bay

Parker Point

Little Salmon Bay

Little Armstrong Bay

Parakeet Bay, Rottnest Island Parker Point, Rottnest Island Little Salmon Bay, Rottnest Island Little Armstrong Bay, Snorkelling in Rottnest

Diving is also a popular pastime in Rottnest; however, most tours leave from the mainland. Tours can pick you up directly from Rottnest if you’re already there. Just arrange it directly with the tour company.

Beaches

It goes without saying that the beaches that are home to these snorkelling spots are also an attraction in themselves. You can spend an entire day either relaxing out of the water; sunbathing or you can even try paddle boarding ($70 per day to hire) and surfing ($40 per day to hire).

Salmon Bay, Rottnest Island

Wildlife on Rottnest

It isn’t all just about the marine life. Above the crystal clear waters, you can find many bird species, including nesting fairy terns and Ospreys. There are many spectacular Osprey nests along the coastline of Rottnest. How they withstand the rushing winds of the Indian Ocean is a wonder.

Osprey in its nest in Rottnest Island, Western Australia

Like the mainland, there are many species of reptiles including the highly toxic Dugite. Just keep a safe distance and you will be safe.

Snake on Rotto

Of course, I cannot forget the Quokka. These inquisitive creatures will be happy to pose for pictures and may even crack a smile! Very few predators on the island have meant that the Quokkas have not developed a tolerance to humans which allows you to get extremely close. You may even have to dodge a few stubborn ones who refuse to move off the roads. As tame as they are, just remember that Quokkas are still wild animals and as with all wildlife you should never feed or touch them.

Quokka on Rottnest Island

What to Bring on Your Rotto Adventure

This depends on how long you plan to stay in Rotto and what type of accommodation you want. If you plan on camping like we did, you will need to make sure you have everything you need to be self-sufficient

Day trips:

  • Lots of water
  • Sunscreen
  • Towel
  • Snorkelling Gear (you can also rent this on the island from $20 per day)
  • Swimwear
  • Comfy shoes (we recommend your hiking shoes or comfy trainers)
  • Cash/Credit Card for bike hire, food and shopping

Overnight/ Multiday Camp: (In addition to the above)

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Mat
  • Warm clothes for the evening or sleeping (it can get chilly on a night)
  • Change of clothes

There is a general store on the island which is great for stocking up on essentials while you’re there. The local bakery is also a must to try one of their delicious pies or desserts. If you’re lucky enough to catch the smell of the bread baking, you will be hooked. If you prefer to eat out there are cafes and restaurants on the island. Even a Dome and a Subway! If you’re on a budget and camping in one of the self-contained accommodation options, you may want to pack your own dinner and tea for the first night.

We loved our little two day trip to this idyllic getaway just off the coast of Perth. If you’re planning your trip to Rotto soon and have any questions let us know. Also, if you’ve already been and have any more recommendations we would love to hear them!

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Sally

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