A Rottnest Island day trip is the one thing you shouldn’t skip in Perth. Here’s why you should visit, what to expect and how to make the most of your day on “Rotto”.

When I started planning a trip to Perth, I began the way I always do.

I asked my travel blogger friends for recommendations, insider info and the things I absolutely shouldn’t miss.

There was one thing they all said I had  to do: a day trip to Rottnest Island.

With only a few days to explore the city of Perth, I knew I’d only be able to see a handful of things. Being my first trip to Australia, the desire to get it right was even greater.

As a wildlife lover, though, it wasn’t too hard to choose which things to do in Perth. I knew I had to see kangaroos and koalas on this trip.

And I quickly learned about another marsupial endemic to Western Australia: the quokka.


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The quokkas of Rottnest Island

It would be impossible to talk about Rottnest Island – or Rotto, as the locals fondly refer to it – without talking about the island’s furry little inhabitants.

And if you haven’t seen a quokka before… prepare to start “aww”-ing! These little cuties almost have to be seen to be believed.

Are you ready?

Quokka with joey on Rottnest Island

Yep, that’s a real animal. And it’s called a quokka.

If you’re wondering what on Earth it is, quokkas are mini marsupials that look like they’re always smiling. In other words… super cute!

With springy back legs and pouches for their joeys (babies), they’re a little bit like cat-sized kangaroos – and they only live in Western Australia.

They’re found on a number of the islands off the state’s coast, but most famously on Rottnest Island.

Fun fact: Rottnest Island is actually named after its quokkas!

The name “Rotte nest” comes from Rattennest, the Dutch for “rat’s nest”, because a Dutch mariner mistook the quokkas for wild rats.

Rottnest Island beach

What to do on a Rottnest Island day trip

While the quokkas are undoubtedly the main attraction, there are plenty of other things to do on Rottnest Island. Many more than I expected, actually!

On the ferry to Rottnest Island, a video showed just how much this unique spot in Western Australia has to offer.

It was (obviously) a little cheesy, but I still found myself surprised by just how many other things there are to do on Rottnest.

From beach resorts and water sports, to golf, sky diving and endless tours, Rottnest Island is the kind of place you could spend an entire holiday.

Yet the island still has a rugged, untouched feel that’s makes for a magical day trip from the city. Even though there’s no shortage of events and activities, you won’t have to venture far to find peace and solitude.

There are endless spots to simply enjoy nature and you can go hours without seeing another person (if you wish!).

My friends had warned me that it’s difficult to do the entire island in one day, and there’s definitely true. Instead, if you only have one day on Rottnest Island, the best thing to do is choose one of two things to focus on.

Hiring a bike on Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island bike hire

By far the most popular way to see Rottnest Island is by bike. Hire a set of wheels and just enjoy soaking up the island’s soothing atmosphere. 

Aside from a few small hills, the roads are relatively flat and make for a relaxing ride.

We hired bikes and spent the whole day cycling without a plan. You could cycle the entire island in a day if you wish, but there are plenty of points you’ll probably want to stop at.

They include white sand beaches, stretching views and – of course – plenty of quokkas who want to say hello.

The best way to see Rottnest Island is to grab your bike, have a bit of a plan and then see where the day takes you. 

READ NEXT: How (and why!) to take a day trip to Penguin Island from Perth.

Other ways to see Rottnest Island

If you don’t fancy cycling, or aren’t able to, you can still get around the island! You can take in the views by bus, train or coach, hopping off at designated points around the island.

There are also plenty of paved roads and trails if you prefer to simply walk.

Guided walks are available, but you’re free to roam if you wish – and could easily explore the eastern side of the island by foot.

If you want to see Rottnest Island from a different angle, it’s also possible to take a glass bottom kayaking tour.

With transparent bottoms that let you enjoy the sea without needing to get it into it, it’s a unique experience that will let you explore Rottnest Island above and below the water.

Cycling around Rottnest Island

Other things to do on Rottnest Island

If you only have one day on Rottnest Island, you definitely won’t be able to do it all.

The good news is there are still plenty of fun and unique experiences you can enjoy in just a short time. Here are some of the most popular:

Ride a segway: If you’ve never tried riding a segway before, now’s your chance! Rottnest Island has no traffic apart from the public bus, so it’s one of the safest – and coolest – places to give it a go.

Not only are segways super fun, but it’s a great way to see more than you ever could on foot.

Learn about Rotto’s history while getting off-road on either a 60-minute segway tour or an extended 90-minute tour, both of which come with everything you need a local guide.

Go snorkelling: Rottnest Island has over 63 beaches and the clear waters are full of marine life. The best way to see it is with a pair of flippers and a snorkel.

You can hire them from Pedal and Flipper (just behind Hotel Rottnest) or, if you want to make the most of your time on the island, simply book an all-in-one ferry, bike and snorkel package.

Enjoy a picnic: Rottnest Island may be one of the best places for a picnic in the world. With unlimited spots to choose from and views in all directions, pack your own lunch if you want to get out and explore.

You can bring food with you from the mainland or stop at the general store to pick up salads, dips and snacks as soon as you arrive.

Go skydiving: If you’re feeling brave, one of the coolest ways to see Rottnest Island is from above! You can book the skydive by itself or get it included with your return ferry tickets.

How to get to Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island is an easy day trip from Perth, with ferries leaving from two different ports. 

If you’re staying in Perth city, you can easily catch the ferry from Hillarys Boat Harbour.

Ferries depart several times a day and the crossing takes about 45 minutes. You can make your own way to the port or book an optional coach pick-up when you book your ferry tickets online.

There’s also another ferry that leaves from B-Shed in Fremantle. The journey is shorter (around 30 minutes) but you’ll need to get down to Fremantle, about a 25-minute drive south of Perth.

You can either hire a car and drive or book a tour that includes hotel pick-up

Or try something different…

The ferry is the easiest way to get to Rottnest Island, but it’s not the only way. If you feel like doing things differently, you can book a luxury catamaran trip that includes the trip across and a full day tour of the island.

As well as travelling in a little more luxury, you’ll get to see some of the island’s most beautiful bays, as well as having plenty of time to swim, snorkel and enjoy the water.

You can also travel to Rottnest Island by sky. The airport has a small runway which serves the limited number of seaplanes.

You can buy a full Rottnest Island package ticket that includes seaplane transfers, ground transport, tours and lunches right here.

Or, you can choose to take a helicopter transfer to the island, either one-way (with a return ferry ticket included) or as a round-trip fare.

The Settlement on Rottnest Island
The Settlement, the main area on Rottnest Island.

Planning your Rottnest day trip

If you only have a day to explore Rottnest Island, you want to make the most of it! Here are some things to keep in mind:

Book your ferry tickets in advance to guarantee a seat. The ferries only leave a few times a day, so you won’t want to waste time waiting around.

If you’re not sure what time to book, go or the earliest departure and latest return – you won’t have trouble filling the time!

Always carry water. Once you get out of the main Settlement area, there aren’t many places to buy food and drink. There are a few water fountains scattered around so – like always! – it’s best to carry a refillable water bottle.

After too many trials and leaks, I now use and recommend Hydro Flask.

Pack the sunscreen. Even in winter, it can get hot in this part of Western Australia. Rottnest Island is pretty open and there can be large stretches without shade, so make sure you have adequate sun protection.

Pack sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and something to cover your arms.

Make sure you have travel insurance. More importantly, make sure you have travel insurance that covers whatever activities you might do while you’re there.

I use World Nomads for a number of reasons, but especially because they cover lots of activities that other insurers won’t. Click here to get an instant quote for your trip (and beyond!).

Don’t forget your camera! Since quokkas only live in this part of the world, you won’t want to forget your camera.

Nothing says “Rottnest Island” like a funny quokka selfie and it’s pretty much a must do. There’s even a board with quokka selfie tips when you arrive!

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first time guide to Rottnest Island

Alajode UK travel blog and vlog by a female digital nomad
Jodie Marie Dewberry

Jodie has been travelling the world full time since 2017, sharing the most unique places in the world along with tips for living as a digital nomad. She is a passionate wildlife photographer and has worked with a number of prominent travel brands, including airlines, tourism boards, hotels and tour operators.

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