Less than 30 minutes from the mainland, Rottnest has always been the ultimate day trip adventure, until it’s time to cut the fun short and head home on a late afternoon ferry. For summer 2021/2022, this has all changed, with the last ferries now departing as late as 9pm. Here are some tips and updates on how to make the most of your day out at Rotto.
Book your ferry tickets
The golden rule for an awesome day at Rottnest is to start early and finish late. If you end up tired and exhausted, as long as seats are available, it’s quite easy to change tickets and get an earlier ferry home.
Early morning ferries depart as early as 7am and at the time of writing this blog, Rottnest Express, Rottnest Fast Ferries and Sealink Rottnest Islands are running ferries that depart as late as 9pm, 7.30pm and 8pm respectively. There are three ferry companies and three departure points to choose from:
- Rottnest Express: departs from B Shed and Northport in Fremantle as well as Barrack Street Jetty at Elizabeth Quay
- Rottnest Fast Ferries: departs from Hillary’s Boat Harbour
- Sealink Rottnest Island: departs from B Shed in Fremantle
Forget Google, talk to the volunteers
Things change daily on Rottnest making the army of volunteers an invaluable source of daily updates plus an insight into the people, animals and history of the island. You can find volunteers when you get off the ferry and when walking around the island. The team at the Visitor Centre are also lovely and have a collection of useful maps and brochures.
Start your day with breakfast and a coffee. There is a number of options, starting with the Dome as well as the Bakery and Frankies in the Settlement area. For our money, the best coffee is at the Lane.
Bikes, e-bikes and trailers
To make the most of Rottnest, you need a bike. You can bring your own or book one through your ferry service or at the Pedal and Flipper, which is just a five-minute walk from the ferry.
We highly recommend a trailer, which can be used to cart everything from kids to snorkel gear and are surprisingly easy to pull around, unless there is a high wind, and then it’s like dragging a parachute. But think of the calorie burn!
For the fat and lazy, e-bikes are a bucket of fun and make it easy to get around, but they are also super popular so you need to book in advance.
Explore the underworld
Many of Rottnest’s charms are beneath the surface. With five marine sanctuaries and the benefits of the warm Leeuwin current, the island is a giant natural aquarium with the most incredible array of fish, corals, limestone caves and reefs to explore. Morning is a great time to snorkel before the wind picks up and the crowds arrive. Parker Point and Little Salmon Bay are popular snorkelling choices, and home to the Snorkel Trail, a series of underwater interpretative plaques that give more information about the island’s marine life. Check out one of the 13 wrecks that lay off the coast of this beautiful but hazardous island. Take a look at our guide to wreck snorkelling.
Head inland to Wadjemup Lighthouse and WWII Guns at Oliver’s Hill
If you’ve got the energy, another fun thing to do is to climb Wadjemup Lighthouse in the centre of the island for breathtaking coastal views, or visit Oliver’s Hill for a fascinating account of the role that Rottnest played in the strategic defence of the WA coast during WW II. Again, the trusty Rottnest volunteers do an amazing job of bringing these stories to life. Both are a beautiful one hour walk or a 30-minute bike ride away from the Settlement. Please note, the lighthouse is currently closed due to renovations, but you can still climb the hill or do a tour of the guns at Oliver’s Hill.
Visit the seal colony
Riding to the West End is a right of passage and a good way to work off the bakery calories. At a steady pace it’s a stunning 1.5 hour return trip. Once there, look across Fishhook Bay to see the giant osprey nest. Just 100m short of the West End and opposite the bus stop, take the short walk to the lookout and see the seal colony. Depending on the day, there can be as many as 100 seals frolicking just metres off-shore. It’s quite amazing.
There is so much entertainment on the island now including the movies, mini-golf, the golf course and bowls plus tons of tours. You need to book ahead for the tours as they tend to sell out. See our list of tours and attractions at the end of the blog.
Take a final swim
Dust off the post-lunch lethargy for a final swim at the beautiful Basin, with its rock pools and channels, or nip around the corner to Pinky’s Beach, framed by Bathurst Lighthouse. There is also a freshwater shower to rinse off the saltwater and spruce yourself up before dinner and a drink.
Lunch, dinner and drinks
When the mood takes you, enjoy drinks at Pinky’s Beachclub, next to the lighthouse, or the pub, which is still a firm favourite.
There are over 10 places to enjoy lunch and dinner. Stop in at Long Reach or head back to the Settlement and take your pick from the list at the bottom of this blog. Isola Bar e Cibo is the new restaurant near the jetty and worth a try.