I visited Rottnest Island in July 2022 and although it was winter, I wasn’t disappointed by the jaw dropping beaches and relaxed nature of the island.
The sea is blue/green, the sand is white and the people friendly. What better reason to take a half hour ferry from Perth to visit Rottnest island, at any time of the year.
Below I have listed a breakdown of the top things to do on Rottnest Island and all the information you need to know.
I spent half a day on Rottnest Island and I managed to have lunch at an outdoor restaurant, wander through the visitors centre, pick up some snacks, visit some of the stunning beaches and see some quokkas!
I didn’t swim in the beaches but plenty of people were swimming as well as snorkelling and surfing.
Rottnest Island Weather
They say the best time to visit Rottnest autumn or spring, but when I visited, the weather on Rottnest island was mild for winter. As the Rottnest Island weather changes from day to day, it’s best to keep an eye on the weather forecast at this time, as it varies.
Getting To Rottnest Island
I caught the Sealink to Rottnest island from Perth, which at the time was the best price out of all the ferries, and easy to book ahead online.
The Sealink Rottnest Island list all the Rottnest Island ferry times on their website as well as pick up locations, prices and family offers.
There are other ferries to choose from including the Rottnest Express and Rottnest Fast Ferries.
Rottnest Island Beaches
Visiting the beaches on Rottnest is the star attraction and very easy. The options to see some or all of the beaches on Rottnest are hiring bikes, walking or getting on the hop on/hop off bus. I took the bus which was easy to jump off at any beach and jump back on when the bus passes every 45 mins.
There are 20 bays and 63 beaches on Rottnest and I chose to visit these below due to reviews I had read beforehand, the amount of time I had on the island (half a day) and the cooler weather conditions.
Here are some of my preferred beaches to visit on Rottnest Island!
Little Salmon Bay
Little Salmon Bay was the first beach I visited on the hop on/hop off bus. Even in wintertime it is such a pretty beach, with blue green water, white sand and lovely snorkeling conditions. The small cove is perfect to take a picnic and enjoy the scenery. Like all of the beaches, Little Salmon bay is bike riding distance from the main settlement area of Rottnest Island.
Geordie Bay is closer to the other end of the hop on/off bus, back towards the main settlement area. It’s a small hike down to a serene bay, best suited to families with small kids. The holiday unit accommodation nearby which overlooks Geordie Bay and Fays Bay is perfect for families and holiday renters. The water here is a stunning colour of blue with a large sandy beach. This bay is one of the popular ones on the island for a reason, yet safe and calm for kids and never too busy.
Fays Bay is a smaller, pretty beach, to the east of Geordie Bay. It’s a short hike down to the shore. A group of people were swimming who said the water temperature was mild, even in winter. The afternoon sky views later in the day leading up to sunset are lovely here and well worth the visit. This is another protected beach to enjoy before returning to the main settlement.
Other noteworthy beaches on Rottnest Island:
The Basin has a pretty pool for swimming and shaded areas to relax and take in the views. Ideal for families and beach cricket, yacht watching, snorkeling and swimming in the serene and clear water. The Basin is 10 minutes from the main settlement.
The small bay of Pinky Beach is considered one of the best on the island and takes its name from the delightful colour of the beach at sunset. Bathurst Lighthouse is at one end of the beach, which is busy during summer and there are protected spots from the heat for a swim. The warm bay water is transparent and perfect for snorkeling. This charming bay is serene with wonderful views.
Thomson Bay is where the ferries arrive at Rottnest and is another bay which is popular with families, comprising of a large stretch of sand and is the only bay on Rottnest with a sectioned off swimming area. Thomson bay is very close to the main settlement, where it is easy to grab food supplies and any information you require for Rottnest island.
There are plenty of accommodation options throughout the year to enjoy on Rottnest Island, including in North Thomson Bay where accommodation includes cabins, campgrounds, bungalows, heritage units and ocean view units.
All of these are very close to the stunning beaches of Rottnest Island.
Rottnest Island Snorkeling
Snorkelling on Rottnest Island is one of the favoured activities. Even when I was there in the middle of winter, keen snorkelers were discovering some of the calmer bays. There are over 400 types of fish to see in the crystal blue sea as well as a shipwreck.
There are paid Rottnest Island snorkeling tour options, or alternatively you have the choice of taking your gear to the calmer beaches and bays and jumping in on your own. There are plenty of information signs at most beaches to let you know the conditions of each area.
Some of the best bays to go snorkelling are Little Salmon Bay (my preferred bay on Rottnest), Parker Point, Henrietta Rocks, Mary Cove, Little Parakeet Bay and The Basin.
Rottnest Island Bars And Restaurants
I arrived at Rottnest close to lunch time, and while getting my bearings I stumbled on to Lontara, a restaurant/café/bar not far from the settlement (on the other side of Isola Bar), with an open area overlooking the beach. A relaxed yet modern lunch bar, I ate on the deck gazing at Thomson’s bay and a quokka even came up to the table next to me to entertain some kids.
The chairs were reclining, and the perfect style to enjoy the beach lifestyle while having some food.
Other notable restaurants and bars on Rottnest Island are Isola Bar e Cibo, Hotel Rottnest and Samphire Rottnest.
Rottnest Island Visitor Centre
Rottnest Island Visitor Centre is situated near the dock and in Thomson’s bay front of the main settlement on Rottnest. They have public toilets, lockers, lost property, souvenirs and importantly (for me) they have power to charge your phone! The visitors centre is a great resource for anyone needing additional information once they arrive on Rottnest island.
Rottnest Island Grocery Store
The settlement is also an easy way to see Quokkas wandering through the main area, which consists of ice cream shops and takeaway, and a great quality grocery store where you’re able to stock up on snacks and provisions for the day or days ahead.
Rottnest Island History
The bus driver on the hop on/off bus luckily was full of Rottnest Island historical facts and information such as the fun fact that Rottnest Island was named after the Dutch arrived and thought the Quokkas were large rats! This became Rottanest Island, meaning island of rats, which was later changed to Rottnest Island.
The older style buildings and sweet cottages on the island were commissioned by Perth’s Governor in the mid 1800s, and are still standing. Some are still accommodation options for holidayers.
The indigenous history of Rottnest Island/Wadjemup begins with the Whadjuk Noongar people.
The name Wadjemup stands for “place where the spirits are over the lake.”
Wadjemup was joined to the mainland 6,000–7,000 years ago, during the last ice age, and was a significant gathering place and ceremonial location at the period.
It was accessible by foot for the Whadjuk and other Nyoongar people. All the islands off the coast of Fremantle, including Wadjemup, Carnac Island (Ngooloomayup), and Garden Island, were created as a result of rising sea levels after the last ice age.
The Whadjuk people were present when these changes took place, and they preserved their observations of this important geological event as stories or histories.
Once Wadjemup wasn’t connected to the mainland there was no proof suggesting that Whadjuk people were still travelling to or living on the Island. Despite this, Wadjemup still remains extremely significant to the Whadjuk cultural beliefs of ‘life after death’.
The Island is thought to be a point of transition between the material world and the spiritual world, and it is believed that the departed person’s spirit visits Wadjemup on its way to the afterlife.
When the spirit is prepared to depart from the physical world, it moves to the island’s westernmost point. In light of the cultural context, Whadjuk people view the Island as a spiritual haven.
Indigenous people constantly received long prison sentences due to the loss of their land rights and the other terrible impacts colonisation had on the traditional community and land owners.
When the first ten Aboriginal convicts were transferred to Rottnest Island in August 1838, nearly a century of their confinement on the island started. Following a brief period of occupation by settlers and prisoners, the Colonial Secretary officially established the Island’s usage as a correctional facility for Aboriginal people in June 1839.
The Island was used as an Aboriginal prison until 1904 and then as a forced labour camp for inmates until 1931. On the Island, up to 4,000 Aboriginal men and boys were imprisoned, many of whom had travelled long distances in chains.
Today on the Island, there are currently 17 registered and protected Aboriginal heritage sites.
TRAVEL TIPS TO DISCOVER INDIGENOUS CULTURE IN AUSTRALIA
A Reconciliation Site
Due to the Indigenous prisoners that are buried on the island, Wadjemup has a particular significance to Aboriginal communities across the Western Australia.
There is a project currently underway to appropriately recognise the sites connected to the Aboriginal prison era, and determine a future use for them in consultation with the WA Aboriginal community.
Rottnest Island Tourism Statistics
Recent Rottnest Island tourism statistics state that visitor numbers to Western Australia’s premier holiday island, jumped by 7.1 per cent to a record 785,002 in 2018-19. An unprecedented number of visitors to Rottnest Island are expected to take their next holiday there in 2023.