Welcome to Rottnest: a guide to relaxing and unwinding on Perth’s own island paradise

Every city wishes it had its own offshore paradise like Rottnest Island. A 90-minute ferry ride from Perth, this pedestrian-friendly escape is famous the world over for its picture-perfect beaches, its beautiful scenery and, of course, its quokkas, the island’s native – and extremely photogenic – marsupials (see #quokkaselfie). Hire a bike or grab a timetable for the Island Explorer bus, pack walking shoes, bathers and sunscreen, and get ready for a lesson in natural beauty.

Swim at some of the world’s most beautiful beaches

You haven’t seen blue like Rottnest Island blue. In summer, the waters of the island’s myriad bays, beaches and coves – of which there are more than 80 – sparkle and shimmer with an intensity that goes beyond simply ‘turquoise’. Some of the local favourites for a dip include The Basin (great for snorkelling), Little Parakeet Bay and Salmon Bay.

Thomson Bay, right next to the island’s main settlement, includes a roped-off area for swimming. If you prefer to remain on dry land, the Cathedral Rocks viewing platform boasts great views of the resident New Zealand fur seal colony.

Rottnest Island
Photo: New Zealand Fur Seal near Cathedral Rocks, Rottnest Island

Explore the Wadjemup Bidi walking trails

The Wadjemup Bidi trails give visitors access to previously unseen parts of the island while celebrating Rottnest’s culture and history (the Whadjuk Noongar are the island’s traditional owners and the Noongar word ‘bidi’ means ‘trail’ or ‘track’).

Consisting of five separate trails – some are one-way, others are loops, and they each take about three hours to walk – this network of walking tracks takes you past many of the island’s highlights, including its northern beaches (Karlinyah Bidi), salt lakes (Gabbi Karniny Bidi) and the various remnants of World War II defence systems (Ngank Yari Bidi). Watch out for Quokkas along the trail.

Quokka on Rottnest Island
Photo: Quokka on Rottnest Island

Get a different perspective of the island

Although walking and biking were traditionally the only ways for visitors to see Rottnest, today’s travellers have the chance to experience it from a number of thrilling vantage points. The view from your own private chopper, provided by Rotorvation Helicopters, is hard to beat, while an all-day tour from Swan River Seaplanes will give you a similarly breathtaking perspective.

If you prefer to see things close-up, Rottnest Express’s high-powered Eco Express ferries travel around the island in just 90 minutes, with incredible views of the area’s fascinating marine life offered on tap. Between September and December, there’s a high chance you’ll see humpback and southern right whales returning south from their annual migration

Aerial view of Stand up Paddle-boarders in Thomson Bay, near Rottnest Island
Photo: Thomson Bay, Rottnest Island

Your (luxury) bed for the night

Situated behind the dunes of Pinky Beach, Discovery Rottnest Island offers a different kind of camping experience, blending seamlessly into its surrounds and celebrating the island’s natural beauty.

The island’s first eco-focused glamp-site promises en suite bathrooms and comfortable beds, on-site barbecues (the park can supply barbecue packs) and two excellent eateries, Pinky’s Beach Club and Thomsons Rottnest, which put out seasonal dishes using fresh, local ingredients.

In the morning, the ferry terminal is an easy, scenic 10-minute walk from your doorstep: just the right amount of time to start plotting a return visit.

Discovery Rottnest Island
Photo: Discovery Rottnest Island

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Feature An In Depth Perspective Everything you ever wanted to know about Quokkas

Stand anywhere along Perth’s turquoise coast, look west and you’ll see the shimmering silhouette of Rottnest Island on the horizon. Home to 20 bays, 63 secluded beaches and an endemic population of probably the friendliest marsupials in Australia, Perth’s car-free getaway has been put firmly on the map by a man with an uncanny ability to corral quokkas.

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