When I was preparing for my daytrip to Rottnest Island, half an hour’s ferry ride from Fremantle, Perth’s southern neighbour, I’ll admit I was nervous. The entire purpose of my visit to the island was to find quokkas, that friendly, chilled-out, selfie-indulging marsupial no one’s heard of (google quokka selfie – you can thank me later). But I was worried these creatures would prove elusive.
Boy, did I worry for nothing.
I found not one, not five, but thirty-five quokkas in my seven hours on ‘Rotto’ (as the locals call it; Aussies really do abbreviate everything). That’s another one ticked off the Australian wildlife bucket list! And #quokkaselfie does not do justice to the sheer adorableness of these creatures:
The lack of fear in these animals is astonishing. Some were more wary than others, it’s true, but for the most part, they just did their own thing, allowing us mere mortals to get close for a photo op, some even hopping closer, some even let people pet them (although this I don’t approve of – they’re still wild animals after all, we should interfere as little as possible). These lovely animals are contented to take a curious sniff at the camera, then turn back to more important things, like munching on any random leaf they find (or bread crumbs, or barbeque sauce, or leftover meat pies – we humans are messy creatures).
Rottnest Island can be explored in a day, maybe not in depth but you’d at least see the highlights, especially if you get there early and get the last ferry home. There are no cars on the small island, only service vehicles and a few buses that carry tourists around the island. Many people like to cycle – you can bring your own bike or hire one there. I decided not to because I wanted to actually enjoy my day and not be a disgusting, sweaty mess all the time. Rottnest Island has a lot of hills, which most people don’t realise. The circuit around the island is about 22km, and you can hop on and off the bus at any of the stops you like. My first stop outside the main Settlement was the Wadjemup Lighthouse, the main one of two on the island. The short walk up the hill gives you amazing 360 degree views of the island (and more quokkas), plus you can take a guided tour up to the top of the lighthouse. While I was walking up the path I was keeping an eye under the trees to the side (thank you Mr. Bus Driver for the tip) and lo and behold, there was a mamma quokka with her little baby, quite possibly the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. These guys are like half-kangaroo/half-mouse hybrids. I may be a little obsessed now.
After the lighthouse, I walked down the road to the next bus stop, passing many a red-faced cyclist, some skinks (a type of reptile) and these awesome trees (they grow like this because of the strong winds).
At the western-most (and windiest) point of the island, you find the Cathedral Rocks, where a colony of NZ Fur Seals hang out, lazily floating in the shallows with one fin out of the water (this helps them regualte their body temperature). Just another short walk away is some stunning rugged coastline and an osprey stack – their nest, which is a huge, tall construction that’s really quite impressive. I was lucky in that when I was there, not only was the osprey in residence, but she was feeding her two (very large) chicks! Quite a sight.
There are many beaches and coves to explore; the best on the day will depend on the direction the wind is blowing, but there will always be somewhere sheltered to swim or snorkel. I chose to explore more of the island and not swim, but if I ever make it back to Rotto I’ll definitely be going in for a dip.
The second settlement is quite close to the first, and the walk along the coastline back to the ferry is really quite a nice one (plus there’s plenty of quokkas around this area). In general, Rottnest is a beautiful area, and it’s got quite a range of scenery for such a small island. The wind-battered west and south are rugged, rocky coastlines, while the north and east are more golden beaches and green green grass. I really enjoyed my day on Rotto, and I definitely would like to go back if I get the chance, even just to see those adorable little quokka faces again! This was definitely one of my best experiences in Australia.
Although next time I won’t be introducing Themba to them, as when I let one little guy meet him, he didn’t want to give him back!
Rottnest is 19km from Perth, with regular ferries connecting the two. Boats depart from both Perth and Fremantle and there are multiple companies to choose from. There are no cars on the island, so once you get there, you can walk around the island or hire a bike. Be warned though – the island is hillier than you expect, and in summer the temperatures can get really high, so be prepared for a long cycle!
There are free quided walking tours of the island, as well as 63 beaches to choose from for swim or snorkel. Climb the lighthouse for amazing views across the entire island and visit the various small museums and old buildings for a greater understanding of the history of the island.
When it comes to food, there are plenty of options – restaurants, cafes, a small supermarket and even a bakery.
While Rottnest is a great day trip from Perth, there is a lot of accommodation available, from the Rottnest Hotel to luxery apartments, hostel dorms, cabins and camp sites. Check out this page to see what’s there.
Have you ever been to Rottnest Island? Had you heard of the quokka before? Tell me below!
When a love of travel meets a passion for wildlife…
I’m a zoologist who explores the world while working for conservation organisations. I write about my experiences in the hope of inspiring others to follow their dreams and see the beauty of this earth – in a responsible and ethical way.