Daytrip From Perth: Rottnest Island

Take a weekender, or even just a day, to explore Rottnest Island, off the coast of Perth. White-sand beaches, historical monuments and tiny marsupials are some of the island’s big draws.

Only 18 kilometres from Fremantle, Rottnest Island is a logical holiday choice for many living in Perth. But it’s not just a local’s hangout. The range of accommodation options on the island - from camping to luxury - make it a good stay even for budget travellers touring Australia in a caravan.

Rottnest Island takes its name from the quokkas, cat-sized marsupials that live in very few other places. When Dutch explorers first visited the island in the 1600s, they were astounded by the quantity and strangeness of these rodent-like animals. Not having another name, they called them “rats” and the island a “rat’s nest.” In Dutch, that’s “rotte nest.” The name stuck.


You can’t bring your caravan with you to Rottnest, but it’s easy to leave it parked in Fremantle while you hop the 25-minute ferry ride to “Rotto.” If you’ve got a tent with you, leave the caravan overnight, and sleep on Rottnest in the campground at Thomson Bay. The site has basic conveniences, including a barbecue station, and spaces must be booked in advance.
Alternatively, if you want to stay overnight in a budget place but don’t have a tent, ask about the availability of the camping cabins.


Rottnest is small enough to explore on foot, but big enough to present a few options for your walks. The island has volunteers who offer free guided walking tours to visitors, or you can explore on your own. The guided tours are themed. For example, you can learn about the island’s history as a gaol and Aboriginal “open prison;” focus on the routines of historic sailors and learn about local shipwrecks; see old colonial buildings and natural landscapes; or seek out the quokka, the island’s iconic marsupial.
Quokkas are mostly nocturnal and aren’t afraid of humans. They might come quite close to you, but if they do, refrain from touching them. There’s a fine for handling quokkas.


If you’re opting for a day trip, however, cycling is a quicker way to explore the island. You can bring your own bicycles with you on the ferry, or hire one on the island. Children’s bikes with training wheels are available, as are tandem bicycles for a bit of teamwork building between couples.
And, for visitors who are limited in their mobility but still want to explore the island, the bike hire service also offers beach wheelchairs and electric scooters.


Western Australia has beautiful beaches in many locations, but Rottnest Island’s are among the best. The island’s many bays feature white stretches of sand for sunbathing, sandcastle building, and taking fantastic photos to impress your friends at home. Although the island gets many visitors every day, the number of beaches around the island means you can often find a spot to sunbathe all to yourself.

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

The island’s attractions are not only above water, however. The coral reefs around Rottnest are home to some 135 kinds of fish, and the island’s guides have prepared an underwater snorkeling trail for you to follow at Parker Point.
For experienced scuba divers, underwater caves and caverns beckon. Shore and boat dives can be arranged.


If you’ve come to Rottnest for the day, you might think about bringing a picnic along with you to enjoy on one of the beaches or trails. Or, you can take in a meal at one of the restaurants or cafes on the island. Many eateries are located in the Thomson Bay Mall.


If cycling, hiking and eating aren’t relaxing enough for you, you can also work on your swing at the Rottnest golf course. This nine-hole green is best between May and October. Or, if your golf game is not quite up to par, there’s also the mini-golf course to consider.

Abbi Martin

Abbi Martin is a sous-chef in Fremantle. She writes about food and fun in Perth and the surrounding areas. Rottnest Island is one of her favourite weekend trips with out-of-town visitors.