One of the places in Western Australia that we most wanted to visit on our trip was the small island Rottnest Iceland outside of Perth. Here you will not only find some of the world's finest beaches, but also "the world's happiest animal" - quokkas.
We really waited until the last minute before booking our day trip to Rottnest Island. The month of June in Perth means winter, with the risk of windy days and rain. We therefore planned four days in Perth during the trip, so that we could choose to go to Rottnest on the day that would give us the best weather. Our second day in Perth the weather gods were on our side. 18-20 degrees, sunny and light winds. A perfect weather forecast for a day on Rottnest Island.
Rottnest Island – or Broken as it is also called – is a 19 km2 island outside Perth. Barren, windswept and made up of sand and limestone, the island offers dazzling white beaches and a crystal clear sea. It's no wonder Rotto is Perthians' favorite spot for a day at the beach. If I lived in Perth, I'd be on the catamaran over to the island every single weekend. But despite the world-class beaches, they are not the main draw for foreign visitors. With the entry of social media into our lives, the term "quokka selfie" was created. A selfie that EVERYONE seems to want to take. Including myself. But what exactly is one quokka? And what is one quokka selfie?
What is a quokka?
A quokka is a furry little marsupial that is related to the wallaby. Big as a cat, but looks a bit like a giant smiling rat. It is no wonder that the Dutch who first set foot on Rottnest Island named the island Rottnest after the Dutch word for "rat's nest".
Quokkas once existed in large parts of Western Australia, but the arrival of Europeans in Australia, bushfires and invasive species such as foxes and cats have wiped out most of the animals on the mainland. At Rotto, on the other hand, the little smiling animals still thrive. Here they have very few enemies and are therefore both fearless and friendly. As the animals are not only fearless but also curious, they are more than happy to jump up to your mobile. You get the ultimate picture if you take a picture of a quokka together with yourself - a so-called quokka selfie. Although of course we wanted to enjoy the island's beautiful nature, a quokka selfie was high on the wish list. Would we manage to meet any quokka? And would that quokka want to take a selfie with us?
By bike around Rotto
On Rottnest Island there are plenty of nice paved roads and no traffic. The only vehicles that drive around the island are the shuttle buses that slowly take visitors between the beaches. The island is therefore perfect for cycling. When you book the ferry tickets over to the island, there is also the option of renting bicycles conveniently enough. Our rental bikes were then delivered directly when we got off the boat. All you had to do was start pedaling!
The ferries dock at the center of the island i Thomson Bay. Here there are some cafes and restaurants, a super market, some simpler accommodation and a visitor centre. Around the rest of the island, service is very limited to only toilets and water fountains. We therefore chose to buy lunch sandwiches at Subway in Thomson Bay for our bike ride around the island. Although the island is not large, the 2,5 miles around the island take quite a long time to cycle. There are beautiful beaches and interesting places to stop everywhere, so it is important to prioritize your stops in order to make it back to the ferry.
It is very easy to cycle around the island. The island cannot be called hilly, although there are several tough and long slopes. It is practically impossible to cycle wrong, as there is only one way around the island. It is strongly recommended that you cycle clockwise, so that you can take advantage of the tailwind along large parts of the route.
Sights on the island - our favourites
Henrietta Rocks and the shipwreck "The Shark"
Over the years, Rottnest Island has become a resting place for many wrecked ships. Twelve ships have gone down at Henrietta Rocks alone. The causes of the tragedies have been many, ranging from drunk sailors to ships torn apart in storms. Right outside the beach today is still the wreck of the ship "The Shark", which sank here in 1929. It is not difficult to figure out where the wreck is, as part of the ship sticks out above the water's surface. On calm days you can snorkel at the wreck and discover a bygone era among corals, turtles and exotic fish.
Little Salmon Bay
In the summer, Little Salmon Bay is filled with sunbathers, but on this winter's day the beach was almost empty. An interesting observation that applies to all of Western Australia is that the beaches are incredibly clean. Here on the shores of Little Salmon Bay there was no sign of plastic or litter. The only thing we found on the beach was seaweed and shells. The sea is an alluring turquoise and I almost regret not bringing swimwear.
The absolute finest of the 63 beaches on the island is, in my eyes, Salmon Bay. The beach is protected from the waves by a reef and here large quantities of life-giving seaweed grow among the corals. Sea grass and coral together in combination provide perfect conditions for animal life. In fact, there are more than 40 times as many species of animals here at Salmon Bay, compared to some of the beaches on the island that have no seaweed. We stopped here and had lunch at one of the nice picnic spots above the beach.
The seabed at Green Island, just like Salmon Bay, has a mix of seaweed and coral, and young rock lobsters and sea turtles thrive here, among other things. The beach is close to the road and is a nice stop to take a break and watch birds and dig your toes into the warm sand.
By the way, did you know that an underwater seagrass forest can absorb carbon dioxide 40 times faster than a rain forest of the same size?
It is not difficult to understand that Catherine Bay is a favorite among boaters during the summer months. In the spring (September to December) you can look out for migrating humpback whales on the horizon, in the winter you can take a coffee break here and enjoy the peace and the views.
Little Armstrong Bay
Small with nagging good! Little Armstrong Bay is not only a beautiful little beach, but also one of the most popular places to snorkel. The reef protects against dangerous currents and even during the winter the sea here stays around 20 degrees. A real little gem!
But then quokkas?
Quokkas are everywhere on the island. They seem to thrive best in the shade of large trees, but you might just as well meet them in the sun on a beach. It's almost hard to not meet a quokka on the island. They are many and they are loving. Actually, they probably look for people to beg for food, but it is strictly forbidden to feed and pet the wild animals. Regardless, they are happy to come over and say hello and check on the situation. It happens that people get bitten by quokkas, but as long as you don't force yourself on them but let them take the initiative to meet, I would class the activity as risk-free. Compared to all the other animals in Australia, this is definitely not one of those animals that wants to kill you.
We encountered the cutest quokka on the side of the road on the north west side of the island, when we stopped a bit to tie a shoelace. The little quokka slowly came up and smelled a little on us, saw itself reflected in the mobile glass and then happily posed for a picture. However, it is easy to see that it is not easy to take a quokka selfie. But it deserves its own post here on the blog! :)
How to get to Rottnest Island?
We took a fast ferry from Fremantle along Rottnest Express. From Fremantle it only takes 30 minutes to Rotto and there are several ferry companies to choose from. We booked online in the morning of the day we were supposed to go, the tickets came directly in the mail. Return ferry, bike hire and conservation area entry cost approximately AUD 100 per adult.
We went out on the 09:30 ferry and home on the 16:30 ferry. In the 7 hours we had plenty of time to go biking around the island, eat lunch and stop at the places we wanted to see.
It is also possible to go by ferry from Perth, but it takes 1,5 hours one way, has a worse timetable and costs more. If you can get to Fremantle, that's the best option.
Do you want to read more?
You can find more information about Australia at my Australia page!
You can find more information about Rottnest Island here:
- General information about Rottnest Island on it official site.
- You can find all of Rottnest Island's sights on a map here.
- We took the ferry from Fremantle with Rottnest Express
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Have you been here? What did you think of the destination?
Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.