I’m a frequent visitor to Rottnest Island and I simply think it’s the best day trip from Perth. Although the ferry price can be a sting to the wallet for any budget-conscious travellers, Rottnest Island is worth a visiting, especially if you plan it right.
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Rottnest is located 18 km off the coast of Perth city. You can get there by private boat, ferry or air services. Some crazy people also swim there every year but that’s another story.
There are three different companies that have ferry services to Rottnest. These leave several times a day throughout the day from Fremantle, Perth and Hillarys.
Although there are frequent ferry services to Rotto it’s advisable to pre-book your ticket at least one day in advance to ensure that you get a spot on the boat.
Fremantle to Rottnest Island ferries leave from the B-Shed at Victoria Quay or Rous Heads in North Fremantle and take about 35 minutes to get to and from the island.
The B-Shed is located behind Fremantle Train Station and is the best option if you’re reliant on public transport.
From Perth, you can catch the ferry to Rottnest from Barrack Street Jetty. This is a more expensive option and will take about 90 minutes to get to Rottnest Island. There’s also a transit stop in Fremantle to pick up more passengers.
The advantage is that you get a lovely cruise of the beautiful Swan River and this is well worth the extra time (and money) if you’re a first time visitor to Perth.
Rottnest Ferries depart from Hillarys Boat Harbour and take approximately 45 minutes. This is a good option if you’re staying in Perth’s northern suburbs. However, ferries from Hillarys are less frequent and only travel two or three times per day.
Most ferry companies advertise return fares for $49. This, however, excludes the $18.50 admission fee for the island. There are also additional fees for extended stays, extra luggage, bicycles and other sports equipment.
To get the best Rottnest ferry deals, it’s worth checking the deals or special offers with each ferry company. They generally offer different perks under the deals or special offers section on their websites.
Most ferry service companies offer mid-week discounts and free travel for kids. I’ve also seen offers for free bike transport, discounts for afternoon departures and twilight specials.
See the special deals sections here:
If you want to make the booking process easy, grab your tickets here with Get your Guide. There are several options with good prices including bike and ferry combo as well as other tour options.
Some tours also include pick up from your accommodation, including many hotels and backpacker hostels around Perth. This means that you don’t have the hassle of having to get to the ferry terminal and it’s a stress-free way to get the most out of your Rottnest day trip. See Rottnest Island Tour options here.
The extra advantage is that you can easily cancel your tickets if the weather changes of you change your minds (Ferry companies allow you to reschedule too with some conditions). I find the booking system much quicker than the ferry booking systems.
If you’re travelling with kids, it’s best to book directly with the ferry company as kids travel free but you need to book direct.
There are no cars on the island and Rottnest is made for exploring on two wheels.
If you don’t want to cruise around on a bike, the Rottnest Explorer bus service is a hop on hop off service that does a circuit around the whole island.
The bus leaves every half hour from the main bus stop and stops at Rottnest’s best beaches and attractions including Wadjemup Lighthouse.
Tickets cost $20 for adults and $15 for children and concession cardholders. See the details here.
Shops, cafes and restaurants are located in the Main Settlement near the jetty. This is where you’ll find a well-stocked general store, selection of cafes, restaurants, bakery and a boutique.
The only other place with a shop and cafe is Geordie Bay. The rest of the island is pure nature and there are no options to buy water or food anywhere else.
If you’re venturing off on your bike, make sure that you have some supplies with you. There are a few water taps located around the island with drinking water but definitely take some with you.
Rottnest Island is car-free and most of the fun is had by cruising around on two wheels. My advice is if you know how to ride a bike, get a bike for your Rotto trip.
You can either bring your own bike with you which costs about $15 to take on the ferry. The main hassle is that you need to bring it to the ferry terminal. Once at the terminal, it’s a matter of simply dropping off the bike and it will be loaded and unloaded off the boat for you.
The second option is to hire a bike. Most ferry companies offer a ferry and bike combo. With Rottnest Express you can collect your bike as soon as you get off the boat on Rottnest. Costs for bike rentals are usually $30 per day. I have heard various reports about the quality of the hire bikes with some comments saying that the bikes are not in very good working order.
You can also get bicycle rental on Rottnest Island with Rottnest Island Pedal and Flipper. This is more time consuming because you need to walk to the hire place, fill out a form, choose your bike, grab a helmet etc, all before you can set off. The upside though, is that the bikes are in good working condition, they’re regularly serviced and you will have a good bike. Details on Rottnest bike hire is here.
If you’re going for a day trip it’s advisable to spend at least six hours on Rottnest Island. This will give you time to get your bearings, explore beaches or other attractions and have some downtime at a cafe or pub before you head back.
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The quokkas are a definite highlight for any trip to Rotto and it’s unlikely that you’ll leave without seeing this cute attraction.
The Rottnest quokkas are used to interacting with humans and turn up in all sorts of locations all around the island.
I’ve seen quokkas at the pub, trying to sneak into the supermarket and on the beach. I even came across a very chilled quokka peacefully snoozing under a table at the bakery during the height of the holiday season, completely unperturbed at the hustle and bustle around him.
The quokka selfie has become so famous that even the most respectable looking adults will lie on the floor of the pub to get the perfect quokka selfie. Bring the selfie stick and do like the Fed.
As outgoing and happy as they seem, please remember that they are wild animals. As such never feed or touch them. Find out some cool quokka facts here.
If you’re visiting for the first time, you’ll definitely want clear, blue skies and lots of sunshine. The beaches are spectacular and you’ll want to see them at their best.
That said, any time of the year is good. Summer is perfect for swimming and snorkelling. The cooler months are excellent for cycling, hiking and the chance to see the migrating whales.
The wind is another factor that you’ll want to consider. If it’s windy in Perth, you can be sure that it will be even windier on Rottnest Island.
Consider the wind direction when you start cycling. If it is a windy day, you can find sheltered beaches on the northern side that are protected from the wind. See what the wind is doing with this fantastic website.
Rottnest gets very busy during school holiday periods. However, I’ve never found this to be a problem and if you pre-book your ferry ticket it’s unlikely that you won’t get a spot on the day that you want to travel.
Once you arrive on Rottnest Island the crowds disperse and it’s still possible to have a little beach or bay all to yourself.
Most of the island’s activities centre around bicycles, spectacular beaches and natural attractions. However, there are plenty of other activities to be enjoyed on Rotto too.
If you’re visiting for the first time make the Visitor’s Centre your first port of call to get all the information about activities. The Visitor’s Centre is located at the foot of the jetty at Thomson Bay.
The exceptionally helpful heritage guides are also an excellent source of information and you’ll see their happy faces around the Main Settlement area wearing bright yellow shirts. Say hi and learn a few historical facts about Rottnest.
If you’re planning on a day trip to Rottnest Island you probably won’t want to pack too much gear – especially if you’ll be riding a bike all day. If you have got extra stuff, you can hire lockers near the Visitor’s Centre to stash your gear.
Here are some of the essential’s that you might want to pack:
Rottnest has a range of accommodation options. This includes self-contained holiday units, cabins, hotel rooms, the new Discovery Park glamping resort as well as a campground.
Accommodation can be booked via the Rottnest Island page here. Note, that it can be hard to secure accommodation for units, cabins and apartment, especially during peak seasons. Rotto is WA’s best-loved holiday spot and many people book 18 months in advance to get their holiday units.
Find some options for hotels and the excellent new glamping resort here.
An easy and affordable way to stay overnight on Rottnest, even during peak season is to take a tent and stay at the campground. See how it’s done here.
Have you been to Rottnest Island? Leave your tips and any questions in the comments below.