Fringed with rocky coves, white sandy beaches, and sun-soaked shores, Rottnest Island’s natural pleasures are numerous—whale-watching, snorkeling, hiking and wildlife spotting along the coast, and taking in the ocean sunsets. At less than an hour from Perth, Rottnest Island, or “Rotto,” makes for an idyllic retreat from the city.
The car-free shores of Rottnest Island lend themselves well to a guided island tour, and it’s possible to check off the highlights on a day trip from Perth. Pedal your way around the shores on a bike tour, stopping at attractions such as Wadjemup Lighthouse, Henrietta Rocks, Oliver Hill, and Cathedral Rocks; or set sail around the island on a snorkeling or whale-watching cruise.
Things to Know Before You Go
- There is no public transport on the island, and the only way to get around is by tour bus or rental bike.
- Cell phone coverage can vary throughout Rottnest Island, but free Wi-Fi hotspots are dotted around the island.
- Kayak, paddleboard, and bike hire is available at the Rottnest Island Visitor Centre.
- Most boat cruises, accommodation options, and ferries on the island are wheelchair accessible, but it’s best to confirm in advance.
How to Get There
Rottnest Island is located off the coast of Western Australia, 11 miles (18 kilometers) from Perth in the Indian Ocean. Ferries run from Hillarys Boat Harbour north of Perth (around a 45-minute journey), from Fremantle to the south (25 minutes), or from the Barrack Street Jetty in the city center (90 minutes). The closest airport is Perth, which offers regular flights to Sydney, Melbourne, and other Australian cities.
When to Get There
Blessed with a Mediterranean-style climate, Rottnest Island has sunshine and warm waters year-round. The most popular time to visit is during Australia’s summer (December-February), when tours, ferries, and accommodation can be more expensive and advance bookings are advised. Alternatively, a winter (June-November) visit can save money and avoid crowds; it’s also the best time to spot humpback whales on their annual migration.
Wildlife Watching on Rottnest Island
Look out for Rottnest’s famous quokkas on a guided wildlife-watching tour, spot humpback and southern right whales during their annual migration, or look out for wedge-tailed shearwaters and ospreys along the West End boardwalk. Other common sightings include New Zealand fur seals, white-striped freetail bats, marbled geckos, green turtles, and numerous exotic birds, including banded stilts, crested terns, and red-capped plovers.