Beaches That Will Take Your Breath Away On Rottnest Island, Western Australia

My recent trip to the Perth metropolitan area in Western Australia was nothing short of amazing. The city’s parks, beaches, bars, and restaurants were a joy to explore via the city’s good public transit system. The nearby town of Fremantle also offered a beautiful historic center and additional culinary delights. But perhaps my favorite part of the trip was the day I spent on Rottnest Island.

This mostly undeveloped island is only a half hour away from the city by ferry. However, the stunning landscapes and seemingly endless supply of world-class beaches make it an absolute must for anyone visiting the Perth area. It’s also a small island and thus the perfect day trip! In this post, I’ll entice you by sharing some of the most beautiful spots, followed by some tips including how to book the ferry and how to get around by bicycle. Let’s dive in!

Points of Interest

If you’re curious about any of the following areas on the island, click any link below to skip to that section.

  1. Pinky Beach & The Basin
  2. Little Salmon Bay
  3. Green Island
  4. Herschel Lake
  5. Lighthouses
  6. The Western Half
  7. Thomson Settlement
  8. Quokkas!

1. Pinky Beach & The Basin

The closest beach to the ferry terminal is also one of the island’s nicest. Pinky Beach has white sand and beautiful blue gradients in the water. Despite having a beach club on its shores, there was no one else around.

Pinky Beach is only about a five or ten minute bike ride from the ferry terminal. To learn more about getting around the island on bicycle, click here.

Directly west of Pinky Beach is The Basin, another lovely bay worth checking out if you have time.

2. Little Salmon Bay

Located on a small peninsula on Rottnest’s southern side, Little Salmon Bay (and the southeastern coast in general) offer some really stunning views.

3. Green Island

Green Island is basically just a small rock right off the shore, but the area around it (including Mary Cove) seemed to be a popular place to swim. There’s a restroom here with shower facilities.

Green Island as seen from the Wadjemup Lighthouse (more info on the lighthouse below).

4. Herschel Lake

Take a look at the map of Rottnest and you will see a bunch of lakes in the center of the island. These saltwater lakes are very shallow and remind me of salinas (man-made ponds used to collect ocean salt) that you might find in parts of the Caribbean. However, a tour guide told me that these lakes on Rottnest are not man-made. They’re interesting because the calm, glassy water stands in stark contrast to the sandy beaches and bright blue oceans that surround them.

View of the many shallow saltwater lakes on Rottnest Island from the Wadjemup Lighthouse (more info on the lighthouse below).

The most interesting landmark near the lakes is Digby Drive, which crosses right over the water, separating Herschel Lake from Government House Lake.

5. Lighthouses

Rottnest Island has two lighthousesBathurst Lighthouse near Pinky Beach, and Wadjemup Lighthouse located in the center of the island. While Bathurst is worth a quick look, Wadjemup offers tours that go up to the top.

Bathurst Lighthouse in the foreground and the Perth skyline in the background
Wadjemup Lighthouse, which is about twice the height of Bathurst Lighthouse

The tour of Wadjemup was run by volunteers who did a really great job of explaining the history of the island. The views from the top were also amazing and unobstructed. From up here, you can even see the Perth skyline in the distance if you really squint!

At the base of this lighthouse is the only place to get a snack in this part of the island, called Lexi’s on Rotto. This little shop is run out of a stylish copper-plated camper, but since it’s the only choice around, it’s a bit pricey. If you’re running low on water, restock here; the only other option is The Settlement (more on that below).

6. The Western Half

Rottnest Island’s western portion (further west than Wadjemup Lighthouse) has basically nothing man-made other than paved roads, dirt paths, and one (maybe two) public bathrooms. However, you should really check it out if you have time. This part of the island is much drier than the eastern half, so the landscape looks pretty different. There are almost no trees; only short shrubs that make the area feel much more like a desert. Here are some of the highlights of western Rottnest.

Rocky Bay Beach

This beach is located on a narrow isthmus connecting the two “halves” of Rottnest Island. It was one of my favorite beaches here because there are sand dunes nearby, which give it a vibe unlike the other beaches (which despite having white sand, are fairly rocky).

West End

This is your reward for biking all the way out to the end! Check out beautiful Fish Hook Bay, or watch the waves come crashing in. From this lookout, there’s an interesting rock formation where the waves blast through a small hole, creating firework-like explosions one or two times per minute. See the video below.

Fish Hook Bay

Crocodile Rock

This rock formation looks like a crocodile (head on the left). Do you see it?

Cathedral Rocks

I was told during my lighthouse tour that a New Zealand Fur Seal colony lives on the Cathedral Rocks, but if they were there, it was too far away and bright to see any of them clearly. There’s some free binoculars to use on the lookout deck, but that still didn’t help. If you’ve seen the Fur Seals here, leave a comment below and let me know how it was!

7. Thomson Bay Settlement

Also called simply “The Settlement,” this area near the ferry terminal is basically the island’s only town. While some may call it quaint, I was a little annoyed that at 3:00 p.m., the few restaurants in the main square had all closed down and the only option for food was Rottnest Bakery. There’s grocery stores and souvenir shops, but that’s about it.

8. Quokkas!

These adorable marsupials are one of Rottnest Island’s biggest attractions. They’re not afraid of humans, so people tend to get really close. While they will allow you take a selfie with them, you aren’t supposed to really handle them, and definitely don’t give them “human” food.

Not surprisingly, the biggest concentration of them are in The Settlement, although you may spot a couple further west. Feel free to check them out up close, but just be respectful. Don’t be that tourist who goes viral for doing something stupid!

Tips

Navigating Rottnest Island is pretty straightforward, but here are a couple tips to guarantee a smooth day on this island paradise.

Rent a Bike

Cars are not allowed on Rottnest (except for government vehicles and buses), so your best bet for getting around is renting a bicycle. It’s gonna be a tough workout depending on how much exploring you do, so be ready! The ferry company I booked with offers a bike rental, which I recommend. More on ferries below…

Taking the Ferry

I took the Rottnest Express ferry from Fremantle which was overall a good experience. They also offer add-ons such as bike rentals and snorkeling equipment. The ferry ticket cost 70 AUD for a round-trip and the bike rental cost 30 AUD for one day.

Interior of the Rottnest Express ferry

My ferry departed from B Shed in Fremantle (located here) and all ferries dock at this point on Rottnest near The Settlement. Rottnest Express offers a couple of services per day, but I woke up at the crack of dawn to take the 7:30 a.m. departure and the 4:30 p.m. return (the first and last one of the day). Even with nearly eight hours on the island, I still didn’t see everything I would’ve liked, so I recommend you do the same (or even look into spending a night on the island if you are really keen on exploring every beach).

Docks in Fremantle

The ferry ride lasts about 30 minutes from Fremantle. There’s also services from downtown Perth. To see more options, check out the Rottnest Express website.

Be Prepared (Especially on the Western Half)

Although the western half of Rottnest Island is beautiful and definitely worth the effort to check out, be aware that there’s almost nothing over here except roads, wilderness and beaches. I think there is one public restroom near the Cathedral Rocks, but don’t quote me on that. Other than that, there’s no place to get water or food, so bring what you need.

The western half of the island is the definition of 'unspoiled,' but there's nowhere to get food or water if you need it.

Lexi’s on Rotto is your last chance to pick up a snack before heading further west, and since this little trailer is basically the only option outside of The Settlement, you’ll pay a premium even for a bottle of water or a sandwich. If you really want to be prepared, pack a big water bottle before you get on the ferry.

Weather

As you can probably tell, a trip to Rottnest Island will basically be spent almost entirely outdoors. It would be pretty unfortunate to take the ferry over to Rottnest only to have it rain the entire day. Therefore, I recommend waiting until you’re able to check the weather forecast a few days in advance before booking tickets. Although I visited Perth during the winter (presumably the off-season), I had no trouble booking the day before. I’m sure weekdays are also less likely to be fully booked than weekends.

Are You Ready to Visit Perth and Rottnest?

Congratulations: you’re now ready for the perfect day trip to the beautiful island that is Rottnest! However, the greater Perth area has even more to offer than this incredible nature reserve. Be sure to check out my post on how to get around the city without a car and my other post featuring quaint and historical Fremantle [coming soon].

Have any questions? Have you been to Rottnest Island before? Leave a comment below, and thanks for visiting!

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This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. When I do coastal trips (like where I am writing this right now in Paphos, Cyprus next to a beach), I love to find the peaceful, beautiful beaches. Western Australia (which I haven’t touched yet) looks amazing to check out and on the list I think first off has to be Pinky beach. But I am also a sucker for lighthouse photography and love the lighthouse here.

  2. These are really beautiful places that you introduce us to. I love quiet bays. Is it really as empty as your pictures? Lighthouses are great – I would love to spend the night in one and hear the sea all night long.

    1. It really was incredibly empty, which was amazing! I went during the off season (in winter) on a weekday, so I’m sure that made a difference. I heard from locals that the Perth area isn’t normally sunny like this during the winter, but I guess I lucked out!

  3. Oh my goodness…I know I’m supposed to be commenting about the beaches and I will get to that in a minute. But first, that is the most ADORABLE shot of a quokka and her baby I’ve ever seen. I love wildlife photography and this is amazing! I would go to just get this shot! Okay, now that I’m (somewhat) over that, I would say that my favorite beaches on the list are Pinky Beach, Little Salmon Beach and Rocky Bay Beach but I want to see them all!

    1. Thanks so much, Heather! The quokka selfies are adorable, especially since they look like they’re smiling if you can capture them from the front. But I was so enthralled by the mothers carrying the babies in their pouches that I just kept clicking away. I probably spent half an hour at least taking pictures of them; they’re too cute to walk away from!

  4. What a beautiful island! I was in Australia a few months back but couldn’t make it to Perth unfortunately but if I had, Rottnest would have been on my list of day trips to take, for sure. The Pinky Beach located near the ferry port would have been the first place I’d have visited and renting a bicycle to get there would have been my choice of transportation as well! All the beaches seem pretty spectacular, reminds me a little of Byron Bay.

  5. We have family in Perth and I don’t remember visiting any of these when we did go. I am due to visit in the next couple of years and will definitely revisit your page because the beaches look amazing. Do you get many cafes around or is it just pure untouched land/sea

    1. The food options on Rottnest Island are pretty limited, unfortunately. There are a couple of cafes near The Settlement, and there’s “Lexi’s on Rotto” in the center of the island, but that’s it.

  6. I’ve always seen amazing pictures of the beaches in Australia! These look so fantastic to visit and will be adding them to my list. I’m so in awe on how pristine the scenery is there. I never been to Australia but it’s so high on my travel bucketlist.

  7. Oh my goodness! The Quokkas are absolutely adorable. At first I thought they were kangaroos. I would visit Rottnest Island just to get an up-close glimpse of these adorable creatures. Of course I will respect their personal space and not feed them any human food 🙂

  8. I would love to visit every one of these beaches! My favorite part of this though were the Quokkas! I had never heard of them and now I just want to go see some in real life. They are so adorable!

  9. Some really great photos here of Rottnest Island. I’ve been to WA but not Rottnest Island. I need to go and check it out. I love your video of Fish Hook Bay by the way. Little Salmon Bay looks so inviting with the different shades of blue water. Just beautiful. The Quokkas are pretty cute. Did you know they can climb trees?

    1. Thanks so much! I didn’t know that the quokkas can climb trees! The way they move on the ground makes it look like they wouldn’t be able to, but it makes sense since they eat the leaves and would need a way to get them 🙂

  10. Pinky Beach gets my vote for the most beautiful and they have that cool lighthouse near it. 🙂 Wow, your photos are stunning! The marsupials are freaking adorable!! If I would get the desire to visit Australia my husband would be so happy. It has just never been on my radar but you do entice me with these awesome photos.

  11. As I have seen Sydney and Melbourne and I can really judge that Australia has some of the world’s best beaches, I can guess that there are many too in western part too. Rottnest Island in Western Australia looks perfect as the water is clear and have perfect blue shade. It is really interesting to go near the lakes at Digby Drive, as it crosses over the water, and then separating into two lakes. Thanks for sharing some unique place in Australia.

  12. Rottnest Island is gorgeous! I’ve never visited Australia but I’ve read so much about their amazing beaches. I’d love to holiday there. I think I’d be spending my time at the Basin at Pinky Beach. There’s just something about the Basin area that calls me. I’d definitely check out others too though. I’d love to take a bike around part of the island and visit the lighthouses.

  13. These all look so beautiful! I was trying to pick a favorite while going through the list, but they all look amazing. Is it weird that I think the giant cranes at the docks in Fremantle look like giraffes? I also love the idea of Rottnest only allowing bikes and government cars; great way to keep you moving while visiting!

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