Located only 30 minutes from the mainland, Rottnest Island is one of Western Australia's most popular tourist and holiday hotspots. Home to the beloved quokka, Rottnest Island (Rotto) has stunning landscapes and wildlife, a rich military and maritime history, and strong significance to the Whadjuk Noongar people of Western Australia.
There is always so much to see do on the island, so we’ve put together a guide to help you make the most of your time on Rotto.
Walking and segways and bikes… oh my!
One of the first things you’ll notice about Rottnest Island is that there are very few cars and they are kept for official use. That means that you have to make your way around the island by other methods.
You can easily get to the main tourist attractions by walking. The Basin to Kingstown Barracks is a distance of less than three kilometres by foot – and on the way you can visit fantastic photo spots such as the Bathurst Lighthouse, the Settlement and Hotel Rottnest. There are also many walking trails you can complete.
While you’re visiting Kingstown Barracks, you could book yourself in to a segway tour. There are two tours to choose from, both of which give participants a chance to explore the island’s breathtaking scenery and natural beauty on an eco-friendly and unique mode of transport.
The most common method of transportation is cycling - it is the best way for you to see as much of Rottnest Island as possible… and to get fit while doing it. All the main attractions are accessible by bicycle, and bike racks are located all around the island so you can tie up your bike while you enjoy the sights. You can either hire a bicycle on the island or before departure from the mainland, or you can take your own over when you catch the ferry.
Finally, there are buses available for guests to use when on the island, which is the perfect option for those who want to see more in less time. The Island Explorer Service provides a hop-on-hop-off experience, allowing you to get on or off the bus at any of the 19 bus stops around the island. If you are staying overnight on the island, you can also use the Shuttle Bus which takes guests to Geordie Bay, Longreach, Fays Bay and Kingstown Barracks.
Learn the local history
Now you know how to get around the island, it’s time to learn more about Rotto and its significant Aboriginal, maritime and military histories.
The free guided walking tours are the perfect place to start. The Rottnest Voluntary Guides Association offer a fascinating and educational range of free guided walking tours for all visitors to enjoy. From ‘Pioneers and Prisoners’ and ‘Reefs, Wrecks and Daring Sailors’ to the ‘Quokka Walk’ and ‘West End Wanderer Walk’, the Voluntary Guides are fantastic, and extremely knowledgeable about what makes Rotto so unique.
The place across the water…
You will hear the name Wadjemup regularly when you visit Rottnest Island. This is the Noongar name for the island, which means ‘place across the water where the spirits are’. Approximately 6,000-7,000 years ago, Wadjemup was connected to the mainland – it was an important meeting place and ceremonial site for the Whadjuk and Noongar people. The island became separated from the mainland when the sea levels rose following the last ice age, but the island still remained extremely significant to the Whadjuk.
Sadly, Rottnest Island became a prison and labour camp for Aboriginal people for nearly 100 years. Wadjemup continues to hold special significance to WA’s Aboriginal communities, due to its historical use as an Aboriginal prison and the Aboriginal prisoners that are buried there.
All guns blazing
Did you know that at the centre of the island are military remnants from World War II, including a 9.2 inch gun and maze of underground tunnels? If military history is of interest to you, we recommend visiting Oliver Hill. You can take a scenic train ride from the Settlement to Oliver Hill, and then do a tunnel tour to find out why guns were installed and how they operated.
Time to hit the water
With a choice of over 63 secluded beaches and 20 bays around the island, you will be spoilt for choice as to where to take a dip in the Indian Ocean, enjoy some snorkelling or fishing, or even catch a few waves. If you’re into scuba diving, the diversity of fish, coral species and shipwrecks in the waters around Rottnest Island make it a fascinating dive site.
If you’d like to stay above the water but still enjoy the magic of WA’s beautiful coast, you can participate in a glass bottom sea kayaking tour, or even get your adrenaline pumping with Eco Express Marine Tours.
Get your quokka selfie
Of course, getting the perfect quokka selfie for social media is a must-do for many visitors to the island. While quokkas are friendly creatures and will often hop up to you to say hello, we recommend keeping a respectable distance and using a selfie stick if possible. We also advise keeping to the roads and footpaths, so the native flora is preserved.
Quokkas are mainly nocturnal, so the best time to see large numbers out and about is late afternoon or early evening. The Settlement area has a high quokka population, so you will find no shortage of selfie companions there.
Lastly, please don’t feed the quokkas. Quokkas can only digest plants, and other types of food can result in illness.
But wait, there’s more!
Of course, there is still so much more to see on Rotto that we haven’t mentioned, such as:
- climbing to the top of Wadjemup Lighthouse;
- taking the Island Explorer bus around the island;
- visiting West End – the western-most point of land until you reach Africa;
- seeing the resident New Zealand Fur Seal colony at Cathedral Rocks; and,
- tandem skydiving from 15,000 feet (WA’s only island skydive experience).
Have we convinced you to visit WA’s island paradise? We hope to see you on the island for the Student Welcome Day on Wednesday 12 February 2020. Tickets on sale now.
Show us your #myrotto and #quokkaselfie pictures! Tag us on social media (@studyperth) and include our hashtag #livelearnlaunch.