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
1. Pinky Beach & The Basin
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.
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
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.
The most interesting landmark near the lakes is Digby Drive, which crosses right over the water, separating Herschel Lake from Government House Lake.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!