Top 10 Things to Do on Rottnest Island, WA inner banner

Top 10 Things to Do on Rottnest Island, WA

Sitting pretty off the coast from Perth, Rottnest Island is one of Western Australia's most popular natural attractions. Tick off these ten amazing things to do in this beach lovers' paradise.
Ten of the best things to do on Rottnest Island
Ten of the best things to do on Rottnest Island. Image: Tourism Western Australia

Top Oz Tours offers return transfers to Rottnest Island from Perth. You can book them here.

Long gone are the days when Rottnest Island — ‘Rotto’ to the locals — was a secret staycation spot just for Perthites.

On paper, this sparsely wooded and semi-arid island with no fresh water source, 19 kilometres from the Western Australian capital’s coastline, might not sound all that appealing. Think again. Its beaches are to die for, its waters are warm and inviting, and it attracts visitors from around the world with a magic not unlike that of the Greek Islands.

While is does get cool in the winter months, Rottnest is a year-round option for day trips and weekend getaways from the city. There are daily transfers and tour packages available from PerthFremantle, and Hillarys Boat Harbour on the Sunset Coast. Rottnest Express offers a fast and efficient ferry service from Perth and neighbouring Freo, with a choice of indoor and outdoor seating. The trip along the Swan River from Perth features guided commentary.

The island may be small, but it offers a huge amount to see and do. So, make the excellent Visitor Centre at the jetty your first port of call and plan your day wisely.

Here’s a checklist of our top ten things to do on Rottnest Island.

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Western Australia Tours, Activities & Attractions

1. Learn about the past

Rottnest’s traditional owners — the Whadjuk Noongar — believe that spirits pass over ‘Wadjemup’ on their journey to the afterlife. The island has had a chequered history since European settlement, and served as an Aboriginal prison for almost a century. Around ten percent of those incarcerated here never returned to their communities. Truth-telling is recognised as an important part of the healing process and the excellent Wadjemup Museum lays bare the facts. It’s open from 10am to 3pm daily and has recently undergone a significant upgrade. The beautifully  presented and poignant collection encompasses artefacts, photos, and manuscripts.

The island also offers informative free guided walks on a variety of themes. The Pioneers and Prisoners tour departs at 11am daily and is well worth doing.

2. Snap a quokka-selfie

It’s no exaggeration to say that one modestly sized marsupial has singlehandedly put Rottnest Island on the map. The worldwide quokka Instagram craze now sees selfie-stick-toting visitors by the boat load crawling around on all fours attempting to capture a selfie with what’s been dubbed ‘the world’s happiest animal’ by Tourism WA. Even the island’s name is linked to the quokka. Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh set foot on the island in 1696 and reported that it was teeming with giant rats. He christened it Rottnest (‘rat’s nest’ in Dutch), but of course, those rats were actually cute little quokkas.

Ten of the best things to do on Rottnest Island
Snap a quokka selfie on Rottnest Island. Image: Tourism Western Australia

Follow the island’s rules for taking a quokka selfie and remember that a $150 on-the-spot fine applies for feeding any of the island’s wildlife. You have been warned!

3. Cruise the humpback highway

Close to the coast of Rottnest Island is a well-travelled whale thoroughfare nicknamed the ‘humpback highway’. Book a seat on the Rottnest Express Adventure Boat Tour for a roller-coaster ride at sea in search of whales (seasonal), dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, sea birds, and tons of fun. This tour on the open ocean is definitely for thrill-seekers who don’t mind feeling the wind in their hair (along with plenty of salty sea spray).

Ten of the best things to do on Rottnest Island
Hit the Humpback Highway. Image: Tourism Western Australia

4. Eat donuts

Calling all sweet tooths! Each morning the bakers at the Rottnest Bakery get up bright and early to make hundreds of jam and custard-filled sugared donuts (sometimes Nutella ones too!). These crowd favs sell out quickly, so don’t leave it too late to obtain your sugar fix. If a slice of cake is more your thing, there are plenty of those as well — all made on-site by the pastry chef.

Ten of the best things to do on Rottnest Island
Ten of the best things to do on Rottnest Island: Eat donuts. Image: Jennifer Morton

5. Bike to bays and beaches

You’re going to want to work off those extra cals, right? Well, one of the favoured ways to reach any of the sixty-three beaches and twenty bays that hug Rottnest’s coastline is by bicycle. Bike hire is available from Pedal and Flipper, and while the island is relatively flat there are hills to tackle. If you’re not a seasoned cyclist or in reasonable shape, consider taking a powered bike tour with Paul’s Eco E-Bike.

Ten of the best things to do on Rottnest Island
Explore Rottnest Island by bike. Image: Tourism Western Australia

6. Do a bus tour

If exercise is not for you (fair enough; this is a holiday island after all), book a seat on Rottnest Express’ twice-daily Discover Bus Tour. It does a full lap of the island and includes a stop at its windswept western extremity. The bus is air conditioned, guided commentary is provided, and yes, you get to maintain a smug look while motoring past red faced riders who may have bitten off a bit more of Rotto than they can chew.

Watch our video of top things to do on Rottnest Island:

Top Things to Do on Rottnest Island, Western Australia | Plan Your Visit

Related | Watch our video of ten top things to do in Perth: to Top Oz Tours’ YouTube channel! In this video, we take you …

7. Find Nemo

From brightly coloured fish and coral, to mysterious reef caves and soulful shipwrecks, there’s plenty to see in the waters around Rottnest Island — home to about four hundred species of fish and other marine animals. Certified scuba divers can hire gear at Pedal and Flipper, while the rest of us must make do with a mask and snorkel. Popular snorkelling spots include Little Salmon Bay, Parker Point, and Porpoise Bay (but hey, strike out and find your own favourite). If you’re lucky, you may get to swim with a green sea turtle.

8. Jump from a plane

Seeing Rottnest from the air is next level, literally, especially when free-falling at two hundred kilometres-per-hour! Skydive Geronimo offers tandem skydives from altitudes of up to 15,000 feet. Be amazed at the spectacular colours of the Indian Ocean, before landing safely on one of the island’s beautiful beaches.

Ten of the best things to do on Rottnest Island
Ten of the best things to do on Rottnest Island. Image: Skydive Geronimo

9. Drink in the view

End your day on Rotto by relaxing with a beverage or bite to eat overlooking that impossibly blue/green ocean. Pinky’s Bar and Restaurant offers a prime possie, an extensive drinks list (everything from local wines and beers, to handcrafted cocktails and top-shelf bubbles), and an a la carte menu derived from the finest local produce. We warn you now, you may never want to leave!

Ten of the best things to do on Rottnest Island
Discovery Rottnest Island. Image: Tourism Western Australia

10. Go glamping

When one day on Rottnest just isn’t enough (and trust us, it never is), spend the night in a luxury tent at Discovery Rottnest Island. Located near Pinky’s Beach, this upscale campsite offers ‘glamping’ eco-tents. They’re ideal for nature lovers, who also love their creature comforts. A night or two here will make for a memorable island getaway.

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Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do on Rottnest Island? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Cover image: Rottnest Island Authority. Additional images: Bigstock

Jennifer Morton

About the writer

Jennifer Morton is a freelance writer and photographer. The Canadian expat has lived all over Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. She also spent six months working on a cruise ship in Europe. When Jennifer is not writing about travel, you may find her lounging on the beach, fishing with her son, sipping coffee at a cafe, reading a book, or zooming in on a beautiful scene.

Adam Ford

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours & Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.





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