Australia is well-known for its unique wildlife, with kangaroos being the most iconic. But did you know there are also marsupials smaller than the common house cat? Quokkas are Rottnest Island’s most adorable resident. They look similar to a guinea pig, but a big larger. They are wildly popular for their seemingly constant smiling facial expressions, and while they live elsewhere in Australia as well, your best odds of seeing them are on Rottnest Island.
If you’ve made it out to Western Australia, chances are high you are spending at least a little bit of time in Perth, the state’s capital and largest city. Even if you are only in Perth a few days, Rottie (as the locals call it) is a worthwhile day trip out of the city.
Getting to Rottnest Island
Many companies run ferries from Perth or Fremantle. You can also add on snorkel gear and a bike rental. Expect to pay around $100.
Plan to spend the entire day, leaving Perth around 8am and returning around 5pm.
Though there are restaurants on Rottnest Island, I recommend packing a lunch so you can eat while you’re exploring!
What to Expect
Ferries departing from Perth will travel down the Swan River for about an hour, past Millionaire’s Row (featuring the waterfront homes of the rich), into the Indian Ocean. The island, whose name comes from the Dutch for “rat’s nest” due to all the quokkas (little marsupials) the voyagers found on it, is car-free, making it a perfect place to rent a bike and explore. There are countless beaches, lakes and scenic lookouts. We used Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to book our ferry tickets and bike rentals via Viator.
Tim and I both have the Chase Ultimate Rewards Sapphire Reserve Card. It has a larger annual fee ($450 per year), but it comes with $300 cash back on travel purchases and access to airport lounges around the world (which typically range from $20-50 per visit without a pass). If you apply and are approved, you can earn 50,000 bonus points. That is the equivalent of about nine round trip ferry tickets with bike rentals on Rottnest Island from Perth. Note: I will also receive a small commission in points if you apply and are approved. Learn more here.
When we arrived, we were surprised that even though there are no cars on Rottnest Island, there was a resort town with accommodation, restaurants, shops and bars. We had something closer to untouched Maria Island in Tasmania in mind, but instead it’s closer to a vacation island in Florida where everyone gets around on golf carts. This isn’t a criticism, necessarily, but just different from what we expected. This also means there are a lot of people on the island near the ferry dock and resort town- day-trippers and overnight visitors alike.
Once you bike away from that area, however, you see far fewer people. The roads are paved, with just enough hills for the ride just to count as your workout for the day.
You can see quokkas anywhere on Rottnest Island, and will most likely see them while you are biking around. If you want guaranteed sightings, stop into the visitor center when you arrive and inquire about their free ranger-led quokka walks.
Though you shouldn’t touch them or feed them (not even water, as too much could kill them), they may come right up to you as they are very friendly and used to people.
Instagram has made “quokka selfies” very popular. There’s no harm in posing with one so long as you keep appropriate distance and don’t touch them!
We opted for an abbreviated route around Rottnest Island that allows plenty of time for photo stops, relaxing on the beaches, and snorkeling.
We started our journey heading north towards Geordie Bay, stopping at Parakeet Bay as well. Rather than hugging the coast, we cut inland past the salt lakes and Wadjemup Lighthouse.
The salt lakes are very scenic, including Pink Lake. If you’re lucky, Pink Lake will look like its name.
We then rode around the loop by Parker Point and Little Salmon Bay, both considered great snorkeling sights. We didn’t rent snorkel gear since we didn’t really care to snorkel here, but the views from the coast were great!
One of the most interesting sights, was at Henrietta Rocks, where you can see a shipwreck (called The Shark) sitting in the shallow water right from shore! From there our loop brought us back near the ferry dock.
Depending on your ferry time, grab a snack or a drink at the strip of restaurants before your return journey to Perth.
Read More: Our Western Australia Road Trip