Rottnest Island Day Trip Guide: What To See & Do In winter
I’m not going to lie. I visited Rottnest Island last week with only one agenda: To see quokkas.
And I saw countless of them. Everywhere.
They were frolicking under the trees, roaming fearlessly along the road and napping under the wooden benches. Now I feel silly for actually Googling this question, “Where can I find quokkas on Rottnest Island?”… Judge me all you want, Google is my best friend.
FYI, taking a selfie with a quokka is TOUGH. Is everyone else a quokka whisperer or what?!
Oh I saw a dead quokka too. Not the most pleasant sight. But I’ll get over it.
However, it is Rotto’s beautiful beaches that I can’t get over. They are by far one of the most stunning beaches I’d ever seen. Think snow-white sand and glistening turquoise waters. It was love at first sight. I came for the quokkas but I would deffo return for the beaches.
Unfortunately, the weather was gloomy and the cold was beyond unbearable. Visiting Rottnest Island during winter probably wasn’t the best idea, but the experience was pretty out of the world. There were hardly any other visitors and we felt like the island was booked out for us.
Getting to Rottnest Island
The most cost-efficient way to get to Rottnest Island would be via Rottnest Express Ferry. Bear in mind that ferries do not depart hourly and it is best to check Rottnest Express timetable here.
The one-way ferry journey typically takes about 45 minutes and departs from B Shed, Fremantle. Return tickets are priced at A$79 per adult. Present the e-ticket’s QR code (which will be sent to your email) for boarding. Note that seats are based on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Our journey to Rottnest Island was far from smooth sailing. The waves were rough and people were puking. But we enjoyed the adrenaline-packed ride. Having said that, do stock up on your motion sickness pills if you know that you have a tendency to throw up during bumpy rides.
Before you go: Most carparks in Fremantle only allow you to park your car for four hours or less, so getting a whole-day parking lot is must for those driving. There is a designated all-day parking area at Victoria Quay (located a stone’s throw away from Shed B). It costs about A$10 for an entire day of parking & you can purchase an online parking ticket from Wilsons Parking.
Getting Around Rottnest Island
Cycling is the best way is to get around Rottnest Island. You can rent a bike directly from Rottnest Express (A$30 per adult for the entire day) and collect it upon arriving Rottnest Island. The rental fee includes a helmet.
There are two alternative ways to get around Rottnest Island: Walk or take the Island Explorer Bus. But walking is too slow and the infrequency of the bus just makes exploring inconvenient. Plus you can see so much more at your own pace when you cycle around the island!
Rottnest Island is really small and it takes only 30+ minutes to cycle from one end to the other:
Before you go: Make sure you test out the gears to make sure your bike is in working condition. I stupidly cycled all day with a malfunctioning bike – not realising it was faulty until I was told!
Rottnest Island’s Attractions
Visiting Rottnest Island in winter had its perks – we seriously had every attraction to ourselves! The island has aplenty attractions, but due to time constraint (or worse, if you do not know how to cycle on two wheels), I’ll quickly highlight a few attractions that are easily accessible by foot.
- Bathurst Lighthouse: There are two lighthouses on Rottnest Island, namely Wadjemup Lighthouse and Bathurst Lighthouse. Bathurst Lighthouse is the smaller and newer of the two. It is only a 10-minute walk from Rottnest Island Visitor’s Centre. After checking out the lighthouse, you can access the gorgeous Pinky Beach from the adjoining boardwalk.
As per state law, wearing a helmet is enforced on Rottnest Island.
- The Basin: Also just a short 10-minute walk from Rottnest Island Visitor’s Centre, The Basin’s shallow waters make it a family-friendly snorkelling destination. It was too cold to swim in winter, but we can imagine it being a hot tourist spot during summertime.
- Geordie Bay: Holiday homes line the scenic Geordie Bay, but none of the units were occupied. All the shops were closed and not a single being was spotted. Yep, we arrived at a ghost town.
What to eat at Rottnest Island
The Main Settlement (where the visitor centre is located at) and Geordie Bay are currently the only two areas in Rottnest Island where you can find cafes and restaurants.
I assumed that Geordie’s Cafe would be open during winter but was terribly wrong. As a result, we had to cycle back to the Main Settlement area for lunch. And we were starving. Wrong move.
Before you go: Have some water and food in your backpack the moment you leave these areas. Otherwise you would have to cycle several kilometres back to eat… Which isn’t ideal.
How long should you stay in Rottnest Island
If you are only intending to meet quokkas and do some sightseeing, a day at Rottnest Island is enough. However, bear in mind that the last ferry departing Rottnest Island is at 16:25pm, which means you should get there as early as possible to maximise your limited time.
I hate to say this, but I actually failed to cycle around the entire island due to my poor planning. We first had to make a detour (as Geordie’s Cafe was closed) for lunch, then got trapped in Dôme Cafe due to the rain and also… Was cycling especially slow due to my malfunctioning bike.
Physical Map of Rottnest Island
Upon arrival, drop by the visitor centre and pick up a map of the island that looks like this:
Source: Way Too Much Coffee
While the map above looks pretty straightforward… Navigation honestly wasn’t that simple. We relied solely on the physical map and got lost multiple times. There are many diverging roads and more often than not, we chose the wrong path. To manage expectations, do give yourself 10 minutes’ leeway when navigating the cycling routes of Rottnest Island! It could get confusing.