A comprehensive guide: what to do on Rottnest Island, tips, and how to get there

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Rottnest Island is an island off the coast of Perth, and is a popular place to visit for locals and tourists. It’s got beautiful beaches, some calm and flat, others with more waves. You can snorkel, fish, swim, cycle, and there’s plenty to explore. Below is a list of what to do on Rottnest Island, and important tips for your visit.

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Rottnest Island: things to do

what to do on rottnest island perth
Henrietta Rocks at Rottnest Island

The island is bigger than most people think, and it is vehicle-free aside from the tour bus. The best way to get around is by cycling (make sure to keep to the left and watch for the buses). We do not recommend walking, for various reasons (more on that below).

There’s always the option to take a tour bus but you will be inside a bus the whole time. At least with the bicycle you get fresh air, there’s no carbon emission, and you get some cardio workouts in. 

If you are exploring on your own, there are three ways to explore from the dock where you arrive. You either go along the coast by heading north and west, or south and west, or skip the coast and just go west to explore lakes or go golfing.

What to do on Rottnest Island in the south and west side

We actually started our day going south because we wanted to avoid the crowds. After renting our bicycles from Pedal and Flippers, we cycled past the settlement area and did our first stop at Patterson beach.

PS: we got lucky that we were able to find bikes still available, but I recommend booking ahead of time. This activity includes the roundtrip ferry to and from Rottnest Island, plus bike and helmet rentals.

rottnest island day trip

Patterson beach 

We stopped there for 2 seconds to have a look. It was windy and the sea did not look that inviting, despite its gorgeous turquoise colour.

Henrietta rocks

Another windy spot, Henrietta rocks has a beautiful turquoise water as well, but is a bit rocky and the sea is not that calm. You have to walk around and down some steps to reach it.

Parker Point

This was my second favourite spot on Rottnest Island (my favourite being Fay’s Bay). There are some steps to get to the beach, which was great for snorkelling. There was no large sandy area like Fay’s Bay or Pinky Beach, but Parker Point offers a different type of charm. 

Little Salmon Bay

This little beach is great for swimming, but it is a small area, was quite windy, and is right by the roadside. It was great for a quick stop. 

After Little Salmon Bay, most people head towards the middle of the island for the Wadjemup Lighthouse and lakes, but we were dehydrated by this point and needed to find water. So we turned around and headed back towards the settlement area for water and snacks.

What to do on Rottnest Island in the north and west side

If you choose to go to the north and west, you will encounter less wind but more crowds compared to the other options. 

Pinky Beach and lighthouse

pinky beach rottnest island
Pinky Beach

The main close point of interest is Pinky Beach. It has turquoise, calm water, and lots of places to lie down on the sand, even though you might see a lot of people and children there. It’s great for swimming, snorkelling, and sunbathing. There’s also a white lighthouse in its backdrop that you can explore for higher views. 

The Basin

Venture west to find The Basin. While it does not have a large sandy beach like Pinky Beach, it’s still beautiful, has clear and shallow water, and is great for snorkelling.

Longreach Bay

This area is right in front of a bunch of apartments, and the bay is full of boats, which deterred us from spending too much time there. However, the water looked very inviting. 

Local tip: don’t use google maps to navigate around this area. Maps will tell you to make a huge detour, but there is in fact a direct pathway towards the west side of the island.

Fay’s Bay

This was my favourite spot on Rottnest Island. While it is close to a block of apartments, these are located across the street, making Fay’s Bay quiet and calm. The water is calm and crystal clear, and is great for swimming. The white sand is soft and comfortable for sunbathing.

Geordie Bay

In this area, there’s the gorgeous Geordie Bay Jetty, plus a cute little cafe and art gallery to explore. 

Little Parakeet Bay

Perfect for snorkelling, Little Parakeet Bay’s lagoon is so turquoise and clear, you would think you’re on a tropical island. 

At this point, you could try to cycle around till you reach the western-most part of the island and arrive at Cape Vlamingh Viewing Platform. Then make your journey east to make a full tour of the island. 

However, realistically speaking, it’s not possible to cycle the whole island in 1 day. We stopped at Little Parakeet Bay and cycled back for two reasons: we were getting tired, and we were running out of time.

What to do on Rottnest Island: middle island zone

We did not venture to the middle part because we were focused on beaches, but there are lakes to explore, there’s the famous Wadjemup Lighthouse, and golf.

Everything you need to know before you go to Rottnest island

Is Rottnest Island worth it? 

rottnest island perth australia

Absolutely. Don’t let seasickness deter you (I almost did). Just have some ginger candy on hand and you’ll be alright. Also, the crew distributes sick bags just in case 🙂

How to get to Rottnest Island from Perth?

There are a few ferries such as Rottnest Express and Sealink that take you to Rottnest Island from the Fremantle neighbourhood, and it takes about 30-45 minutes. There is also the option of taking the ferry from Hillary Boat Harbour, and it takes slightly longer.

How many days should I spend on Rottnest Island?

Is one day on Rottnest Island enough? It depends on how much you want to explore. While a Rottnest island day trip is enough to explore a few main attractions, you will need at least 2 full days to explore the whole island. 

We spent a whole day there and we were happy with what we managed to do. However, if we had more time, we would have stayed on the island for a few days to explore more. 

What is there to do on Rottnest Island?

what to do on rottnest island

It’s great for swimming, fishing, hiking, cycling, and spotting quokkas. The island is hilly in some parts so get those leg muscles ready. If you’re hungry, there are quite a few restaurants to choose from as well, from casual to more high-end. 

There’s also an ice cream place, a shop selling mostly clothes and bathing suits, and a couple of general stores. There’s also mini golf and fun activities for kids, and a golf course. 

When should I go to Rottnest Island?

The best times to go are in the late spring and early autumn, when temperatures are still warm enough to enjoy the beach and swim, but the island is not too crowded.

Go early in the morning to avoid crowds (around 8am is best) and to have time to explore multiple parts of the island. 

How to rent a bike on Rottnest Island?

It’s best to rent a bike online prior to going. Usually, the ferries that take you there (for e.g. Rottnest Express) offer rental bikes options, or you can take your own onto the ferry. Otherwise you can rent from the Pedal & Flippers shop online, prior to your visit. Better yet, buy your roundtrip ferry tickets and get your bike and helmet rentals altogether here.

Local tip: if you booked your trip last minute and there are no more bicycles available online, just go to Pedal & Flippers once you arrive on Rottnest Island. They usually have a few bicycles available for last minute rentals. 

Rottnest Island quokkas: how easy is it to see them?

Quokkas are small marsupials about the size of a big rat or a small cat, and they are usually most active at night. However, the Rottnest Island quokkas do show up during the day and at dusk. We saw a few by the water fountain near the settlement area, as well as by the bakery.

Eco tip: do not feed them or try to pet them. They can feed themselves, and it’s not permitted to touch them as this can lead to sickness and diseases. In young animals, touching them can change their scent, leading to abandonment by their mothers.

How to stay hydrated on Rottnest Island?

It is absolutely important to stay hydrated, because cycling around can be strenuous and the sun is much stronger than we think. There are water stations around the settlement areas near the docks / jetty and airport, but once you’re out of this region it gets harder to find water stations, particularly if you’re going south.

How rough is the sea to Rottnest Island?

In the morning and afternoon, the sea is calmer and you barely feel any movement. In the evening around 6pm the sea can get rougher, and the crew on the ferries offer sick bags. Chewing ginger candy helped me feel better immediately.

Can I stay on Rottnest Island?

Yes there are plenty of accommodation options on Rottnest Island, from camping and glamping options to proper apartments and more comfortable offers. 

Final thoughts on a Rottnest Island day trip from Perth

It is absolutely worth it to visit Rottnest Island, whether you’re looking for quiet beach time, some snorkelling, cycling in fresh air, see quokkas, or go fishing. I recommend exploring by bicycles rather than the bus tour, and to spend at least a whole day there. 

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