Review of Rottnest Island – November 2014 – Kate
Rottnest Island (Rotto) is a little piece of paradise… the
beaches are unspoilt and it is so relaxing to ride around by bike
without the worry of cars. Rottnest has also just been named WA’s
top major tourist attraction at the 2014 WA Tourism Awards.
As the website says, ‘with a choice of over 63 secluded beaches
and 20 bays, you will be spoilt for choice’.
Rottnest is a wonderful place for a family holiday or day
trip. We have been several times over the years both before
children and with children and we really love it. Less than a
half hour ferry ride from Fremantle or a little longer from
Hillarys or Perth City, Rottnest is very close but seems a
million miles away. There are no cars allowed on Rottnest other
than service vehicles and a few little buses so most people cycle
around the island which is quite small and there are no end of
beautiful beaches. It is also home to the Quokka, a small cute
marsupial, after which the island is named.
Rottnest is a great place to go with children and there is
plenty to do. The beaches are mostly very calm and shallow which
is great for young kiddies. If you are going for the day, it is
worth getting as early a ferry as possible as the last ferries go
back in daylight. In summer ferries start at around 7am and the
last ferry back is around 6pm. Check details and availability on
the individual ferry websites as the times depend on which
location you are travelling to/from and the time of year. Ferries
sometimes need to be booked in advance at busy times.
It is really worth having a good look around the Rottnest
Island website in advance of your trip as you can download maps
of the island and get lots of information about all the different
things to do. The website is fantastic and contains pretty much
everything you need to know, including links to ferry services,
tours, accommodation booking, special events, what’s on,
attractions, bike hire, bus timetable, etc. Having said that, it
is certainly possible to just turn up and go with the flow
particularly at off-peak times.
When you arrive at Rottnest you
disembark at Thomson Bay, the Main Settlement. The first thing
you come across at the end of the jetty is the visitor’s centre
which is really worth a visit as you can pick up maps, bus
timetables and information about what is on. They can also
direct you to the bike hire shop, give general information about
any special events and they can also give you the details of any
tours that are on around the island (some are free).
A map of the main settlement can be found at
And a basic map of the whole island at
The visitors centre is also where you check in and pick up
keys for your accommodation, if staying on the island. You can
also make accommodation bookings in person. There is a little
café/kiosk to one side where you can get a snack and there are
also toilets at the back and some lockers.
A short walk from the ferry, behind the visitors
information centre is the main street and a short walk to the
left of the visitors centre is the cycle hire shop (Pedal and
Flipper) where you can hire a whole heap of things as well as
bikes. It is also possible to hire bikes as part of your ferry
package, or bring your own over for a handling fee of $15 per
If your children are confident on bikes you can spend a
lovely day cycling around the island stopping at different bays.
The island is a little hilly so for smaller children this can be
more of a challenge. You can also hire adult trikes or a kiddie
trailer, kiddie seats, etc. You can hire snorkel gear, stand up
paddle boards, surf board racks, etc If any of your party has a
disability there are also gophers, beach wheelchairs and
disability buggies. See the website for more details http://www.rottnestisland.com/about/pedal-flipper
You can buy a day ticket for the Island Explorer bus which
stops all around the island and allows you to get on and off as
much as you like. If you are staying for a while you can also buy
tickets for a few days or even an annual ticket. A day pass for a
family (2 adults, 2 children) is $50.
There is a free shuttle bus that goes between
Longreach/Georgie Bay – the airport – the barracks – the Main
Settlement. There is a trailer at the back of the bus in case you
have anything bulky like a pushchair, etc but you need to load
and unload it yourself. The shuttle bus is new and air
conditioned so very comfortable.
Things to Do
Apart from the island
itself which is really the main attraction, there are a number of
things to do during your visit.
There are a few shops:
A pharmacy which also sells t-shirts, hats,
A wellness centre (where you can get a
massage, hair cut, etc)
Indianic Surf - a shop selling rather nice
beach/summer clothes and swimwear for adults and children
The Rottnest General Store – a supermarket
selling a wide range of food and drinks including wine and beer.
They also sell souvenirs, books, magazines, fishing equipment,
etc. The store also offers free delivery to your accommodation if
you are staying on the island at approximately 11am and 4pm each
And some places to eat:
The Rottnest Bakery – selling bread, various
cakes, snacks and other food to eat in or take away
Quokka Joe’s – a good quality café which
sells fresh juice and does lunch and breakfast, including gluten
The Lane – a coffee bar also selling fresh
juice and freshly made wraps
Along the beach there are a few more options:
Aristos Seafood Restaurant and pizza
And behind the main street:
The Lodge which has a restaurant and a pub
At Georgie Bay there is also:
Another smaller version of the general store
and bottle shop
Geordie’s – a great café/restaurant which
does coffee, fresh juice, breakfast, lunch and dinner some
There are a few playgrounds on the island:
Next to the bakery there is a large rope
There is a large playground right on the
beach front next to Aristos restaurant which has shade
Just beyond the Rottnest Hotel, near the
beach, if you are walking away from the visitor’s centre (I have
not been to this one but it is on the map)
There is a shaded playground at Georgie Bay
near the café and general store
In summer there is a water park called Just 4
Fun Aqua Park which is on the right as you get off the ferry. It
has a shallow area for little ones (under 7) and a deeper area
for older children.
There is a deckchair style Cinema some
nights, held in the cinema hall in the main settlement
Mini golf/family fun park – Shady mini golf
course, trampolines and arcade games.
Mini train ride up to the army guns on Oliver
Hill (there was an army presence at Rottnest island during the
There are various tours of the island both on
foot and by bus - some you pay for, some are free
Rottnest Museum – entry is a gold coin
Various boat trips for whale watching, island
Scenic flights by helicopter
Massage, fitness sessions, etc
Rottnest Island Country Club – this has
conference facilities, a bowling green and golf course
There are a couple of tennis courts on the
island and you can also hire racquets
Wildlife on the island: there are lots of
birds, lizards, snakes and of course Quokkas to look out for.
Underwater there are heaps of fish, crays, rays, crabs, etc and
also the odd shark or sea lion. You can also see whales during
the whale season.
The snorkelling is great all around the
island. A snorkel trail can be followed at Parker Point and there
are also plaques on location at Kingstown Reef.
The fishing is excellent although you have to
make sure you stick to areas which are not sanctuary zones and
you need a licence which can be obtained from the Department of
Fisheries. There are also heaps of crayfish if you have cray pots
or know how to dive for them. As with the mainland you need to
observe bag limits and have the relevant licence where
applicable. Spear guns are not allowed in the marine park.
The Salt Store – a mini one room
There are usually special activities put on
for children during school holidays some are free and some at a
Some of the walking tours are free – see
tourist information for details or the board outside the Salt
Store or the visitors centre
Getting to Rotto
Most people get to Rottnest by boat. Some use their own
private boats, but most get the ferry. You can also fly by air
taxi or helicopter. Full details are on the Rottnest Island
We usually go by ferry which for a family of 4 from Freo
costs $84 each way plus a $50 government fee which goes towards
the upkeep and conservation of the island (a total of around
$218). There are often discounts available and you can get a
discount of about 25% if you have the Entertainment Book. On this
trip we had a 30% discount from the Perth Royal Show so we paid.
$167 plus luggage, bikes and parking at the ferry
It is often possible to turn up and buy a ticket on the day
you travel but at busy times it is worth booking in advance as
ferries can get full. If you book more than 8 days in
advance of your travel date you will be mailed a set of
personalised luggage labels (2 free luggage labels per person).
If you book less than 7 days in advance you have to pay for
labels but they are only $2 each. For day trips luggage labels
are not usually necessary as you would usually pack light if
cycling around the island. There are also lockers at the visitors
information centre on the island.
Luggage that you ‘check in’ with the ferry company is
delivered to your accommodation for no extra cost which is
fantastic. However, it is left outside your accommodation and not
Because there are no cars on Rottnest most people either
hire bikes from the ferry companies or from the bike shop on the
island which has a huge range of bikes. If you prefer you can
take your own and it costs $15 per bike on the Ferry.
Rottnest Express luggage information can be found at
You can park at the terminals at Hillarys and Fremantle and
we tend to go from Freo’s Northport terminal as you can park very
close to the ferry. However, it is important to check the ferry
times as they differ depending on the terminal you are going from
and Northport has limited departure times. So, if you are going
for the day you may prefer to use another terminal so that you
can go earlier and stay later. You pay for parking at Fremantle’s
terminals so it is important to factor this into the cost of your
trip. 6 days parking cost us over $70 at Northport on our most
recent trip. If you go from the main Freo terminal you can get to
the ferry by public transport so you don’t need to park at all.
The terminals also have cafes so you can get a drink or a
There is quite a range of accommodation on the island. From
camping at the campsite, dormitories, various standards of
self-contained accommodation and hotel accommodation at the
Rottnest Hotel and The Lodge. The majority of the accommodation
is around the main settlement but there are also options at
Longreach/Geordie Bay and also Kingstown Barracks. Details of the
accommodation types can be found on the website and bookings can
be made online or over the phone. Bookings must be paid for in
full at the time of booking.
Accommodation bookings for school holidays periods used to
be by way of a public ballot but now bookings open approximately
18 months in advance and it is a case of first in best dressed.
During peak times it is essential to book accommodation in
advance and Easter and Summer school holidays often sell out very
soon after booking opens so at times you will need to book 18
months in advance! This is also the case with Leavers weekend
which usually happens around the end of November. Most people
avoid visiting the island during Leavers weekend as it is very
busy and full of mostly school leavers!
However, outside school holidays and Leavers week you can
often get accommodation at short notice. If you want a particular
villa or an ocean view room you may need to book further in
To book the Hotel or The Lodge, you need to contact them
directly or book directly through their websites.
Our current favourite place to stay is at Longreach as it
is very beautiful and you can stay right on the beach. It is a
short bike ride or bus trip away from the main settlement so is a
If you are going for the day go as early as
you can and stay as late as possible to make the most of your
visit. Try to go on a day that is warm but not ridiculously hot,
especially if you are planning to cycle around the island
Make sure you factor in all costs when
budgeting for your holiday (ferry, parking, luggage, bike hire or
transport cost if taking your own bikes/bus ticket,
accommodation, eating out, food, any attractions, etc) as it can
all add up
Stay at least one or 2 nights if you can
seeing as the ferry costs a fair bit and is not much cheaper for
a day return. There is plenty to do and it is a very relaxing
place to stay
If staying overnight, try to book
accommodation over-looking the ocean as I think it makes a big
Check in is at 2pm but check out is at 9am at
the accommodation we stayed at in Longreach. Our luggage had to
be ready to be collected by 8am
Get your groceries delivered by the general
store if you are staying, it is great to get to your
accommodation to find your food already in the fridge including
beer and wine J
Quokkas are very easy to see, particularly if
you go to the main shopping area near the bakery or eat in a
restaurant. You will find them hopping around your feet in no
time! However, feeding and touching quokkas is
When eating outside watch out for seagulls.
They will not think twice about stealing any unattended food!
This goes for eating at restaurants and on your balcony too. I
also had a lizard once eat some fruit I forgot I had left in a
bag outside my accommodation.
There is also the resident peacock which can
often be seen wandering around the main settlement area
If you do not want to go far, The Basin is a
great place to visit. It is a short bike ride from the main
settlement and is great for snorkelling and has shade, an outdoor
shower and toilets. Without even going in the water we saw
lizards, a very colourful crab hiding in a rock cave and a sea
lion sunning itself at the end of the beach.
Carry plenty of water and snacks as there may
not be water available if you go outside the main
Bring your own shade if moving away from the
main settlement as there often isn’t any on the beaches and it
can get very hot
If you are planning to ride around the island
by bike, make sure your kiddies are comfortable going up and down
hills. Unfortunately, one of ours was not and this made for
extremely slow progress!
If you are not sure about riding around by
bike then the bus is a great option and very easy.
Watch out for snakes. Snakes on Rottnest
Island are dugites and are extremely venomous. However, they will
usually stay away from people as they are shy. They would only
usually bite if trodden on or harassed. I have only ever seen one
there once but only because someone pointed it out to me and it
was just slowly gliding past.
Bring a bike lock just to make sure your bike
doesn’t get ‘borrowed’ while you are away from it!
Keep a note of emergency contact numbers just
Relax and enjoy, it is a truly beautiful
island and we love it there!