Rottnest Island was a Perth day trip must-do long before its adorable quokka residents sent it viral... and with a host of breathtaking beaches, it's easy to see why! But while most visitors opt to hire a bike and cycle Rotto, it's actually pretty walkable. Skyscanner Australia’s guide to Rottnest will have you exploring the best of the island on foot, with ample opportunity for quokka selfies along the way.
8.15 AM – Fremantle B Shed
Getting to a protected island with A-class nature reserve status sounds like it’d be quite the trek… but not when it comes to Rottnest! It’s just a 30 minute ride aboard the Rottnest Express -be sure to book your ride online to get the cheapest fares! The Rottnest Island ferry departs from B Shed in Fremantle. The area has all the urban, hip vibes of Melbourne, plus seriously good coffee – just in case you need something to jump start your day.
9.45 AM – Thomson Bay
The ferry will dock at Thomson Bay – this is where you can hire bikes, snorkel gear, book tours, the works! Since you’re tackling the island by foot and (full disclaimer) a free shuttle bus, bring a snorkel from home and you can skip all the hassle. Swing by the General Store to stock up on snacks, or make a beeline for the shuttle. Head to the bus stop and check the timetable – both the Island Explorer tour bus and the free shuttle depart from this stop, so make sure you’ve got the right one! Hopefully you won’t have long to wait but if so, friendly locals quokkas will keep you in good company.
This is a prime opportunity to bag a quokka selfie. With a cute button nose and perpetual dopey grin, you’d be hard pressed to find a more photogenic marsupial. But not all quokka selfies are made equal, and getting the furry fellas at their best angle may require some patience. Quokkas are relatively tame and have a weakness for snacks, so tempting them with food is an easy solution. Having said this, they’re considered endangered and it’s actually against the law to feed or even touch the cuddly creatures.
What you can do is approach one at Thomson Bay. Quokkas are easily found around this area and these ones tend to be more accustomed to the limelight. Speed is also your best bet, because these little guys can be a little ADHD. Don’t be afraid to crouch and get on the quokka’s level, and if you don’t have a selfie stick on hand, get someone else to snap a quick picture!
10.30 AM – Snorkelling at Parakeet Bay
The free shuttle loops around Geordie, Fay’s and Longreach Bay. So hop off at the furthest point, Geordie Bay, and take a 15 minute stroll west to Little Parakeet beach. The route winds over hills with great vantage points over the island, as well as the pink-tinged Lake Vincent. If you’re keen, walk a little further to get to the next cove along – Little Armstrong.
Parakeet Bay and Little Armstrong Bay are both ideal spots for snorkelling. Especially good for newbies, surrounding limestone reefs shelter the crystal clear waters from waves. The icy Indian Ocean will provide much needed respite after walking in the sun, while the vibrant and diverse marine life makes for quite the underwater adventure. With a maze of reefs and around 400 species of fish, including tropical ones not ordinarily found this far south of the equator, you could lose hours here. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a sting ray!
12.00 PM – Lunch at Geordie
After a morning of chasing large schools of fish, it’s likely you’ll need to stop for food. Head back toward Geordie Bay, where there’s a cafe slash art gallery adjacent to the General Store. Fuel up on fish n’ chips or salad in the shaded al fresco dining area before continuing to explore!
1.00 PM – Beach Hopping
Rottnest is home to 63 beaches and 20 bays. Now that’s a lot of beaches – more than you can cover in a day. Luckily, they’re all equally stunning – a mosaic of brilliant blues and bone white sand. A coastal walk from Geordie back to Thomson Bay should take you past some of the most idyllic sandy enclaves the island has to offer.
The first stop after Geordie is Fays Bay. Clear and calm waters await, if slightly seaweedy in places. At low tide the seagrass patches might feel weird to paddle over, but you’ll soon reach refreshing, deep water.
Next up, the aptly named Longreach Bay. Like all beaches on Rotto, it’s isolated from the main road by sand dunes and cliffs but boats do tend to moor in its aqua waters. The beach stretches on for ages though, so you’re guaranteed a secluded spot to sunbathe.
Continuing eastward, walk up Big Hill to get beautiful panoramas of the beaches along the north side of the island. Then, onto a classic Rottnest gem – The Basin. It’s probably one of the most iconic -(and most photographed) beach on the island. You’ll need to visit to see why, photos don’t do it justice! It’s one of nature’s marvels, a perfectly formed, natural swimming pool. A couple steps across the shallow reef platform encircling the shore will see you at the edge of a gaping hole in the reef. As deep as a man-made pool with gentle, crystal clear seawater, it makes for a delightful swim.
4.00 PM – Bathurst Lighthouse
You can visit two lighthouses while on Rottnest Island. The Wadjemup Lighthouse is still in operation and runs tours daily, but is situated at the centre of the island. Stick to the coastal route instead, and pay a visit to the Bathurst Lighthouse. While not open to visitors, it is located just off Pinky Beach – it’s garnered a bit of a reputation with Perth locals as a picturesque spot for swimming and sunset watching, amongst other things.
5.00 PM – Ice cream at Thomson Bay Mall
Head back to Thomson Bay and finish off a long day in the sun with a sugar hit. Simmos Ice Cream is an institution on the island, made from local produce, scoops of enthusiasm and a sprinkling of secret ingredients. If a sweet treat doesn’t appeal, check out the inflatable water park near the dock for one last splash.
6.00 PM – Return to Fremantle
Bid farewell to island paradise and board the Rottnest Express back to mainland Perth – there are plenty of beautiful beaches there too! Or, if you’re really smitten….
Rottnest offers a range of accommodation – hotel suites, ocean view chalets, rustic bungalows and several campsites for nature-lovers (or travellers on a budget). With the rest of the island to explore, plus shipwrecks, skydiving opportunities, a golf course, and a train ride through Rotto’s military past, there’s enough to do to fill several days! Not to mention the stunning sunsets you’ll get to enjoy once all the daytrippers have left.
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