The ultimate guide for the best Rottnest Island day trip (2024 Updated)

The ultimate guide for the best Rottnest Island day trip (2024 Updated)

Post updated January 2024

I’m a frequent visitor to Rottnest Island and I simply think that Rottnest is the best day trip from Perth. Although the ferry price can be a sting to the wallet for any budget-conscious travellers, a Rottnest Island day trip is worth it,  especially if you plan it right.

How to get to Rottnest Island

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.

Ferry services to Rottnest

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.

Rottnest Ferry services:

Rottnest Ferry

Fremantle to Rottnest Island

Fremantle to Rottnest Island ferries leave from the B-Shed at Victoria Quay or Fremantle Northport and take about 30 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.

If you’re planning on leaving your car in Fremantle, the ferry terminal at Northport has cheaper parking than B-Shed.

Perth to Rottnest Island

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.

Hillarys to Rottnest Island

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. They’re also slightly more expensive than departing from Fremantle.

The cheapest way to get to Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island beach

Most Rottnest Island ferry companies advertise return fares for $49. This, however, excludes the $20 admission fee for the island. There are also additional fees for bicycles, extra luggage, extended stays and sports equipment.

In short, tickets to Rottnest without any special discounts are at least $79 without any extra luggage or bikes. The booking systems on the website are a cumbersome affair and you’ll need to select various options before you find out how much the final cost is.

To find cheap tickets to Rottnest Island, 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.

Some ferry service companies offer mid-week discounts and free travel for kids if you sign up to their club. I’ve also seen offers for free bike transport, discounts for afternoon departures and twilight specials.

See the special deals sections here:

 Rottnest Express

Rottnest Fast Ferries


You can also find discount coupons for ferry services to Rottnest in the Entertainment book, West Rewards and sometimes on Groupon. An additional tip is if you’re a RAC member, you may also find cheap tickets to Rottnest on the RAC website.

Rottnest Island Tours

There are several convenient tours to Perth to Rottnest. If you’re a visitor to Perth this is your best option as they can also include pick up from your accommodation. The added bonus is that you can pre-book and easily cancel if your plans change.

Rottnest Island Ferry and Bike Package

This includes the ferry trip and all day bike hire. Pick up from your accommodation can also be included.

See prices and availability here.

Ferry and Bus Tour

This includes the Ferry trip and a 1.45 hour bus tour to explore the island. Departure point is either from Perth or Fremantle with a selection of departure times.

See prices and availability here.

Air services to Rottnest

You can get to Rottnest by air. Flights are available with Rottnest Air Taxi Ozwest Aviation Swan River Seaplanes and Rotorvation if you prefer rotary aircraft.

How to get around Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island Day Trip

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 Island Explorer bus service is a hop on hop off service that does a circuit around the whole island. This is your only option of public transport on the 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 for the bus cost $30 for adults and $15 for children and concession cardholders.

It’s best to get bus tickets in advance during busy holiday times. The queue for tickets on the island can get very long. One option is to book the ferry and bus tour package.

Rottnest Island Restaurants and Shops

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. There are also food trucks serving coffee and snacks at The Basin and The West End. 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 Bike Hire

Rottnest Island day trip

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 Rottnest Island day trip.

You can either bring your own bike with you which costs about $20 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 package. You can collect your bike as soon as you get off the boat on Rottnest. Costs for bike rentals are usually $30 per day.

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. Details on Rottnest bike hire is here.

How much time do you need for Rottnest?

Geordie Bay Rottnest Island

If you’re planning a Rottnest Island 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 return to Perth.

Where to see Quokkas on Rottnest Island

The quokkas are a definite highlight for any day trip to Rottnest 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.

As outgoing and happy as they seem, please remember that they are wild animals. As such never feed or touch them.

When is the best time to visit Rottnest Island?

The Basin Rottnest Island

If you’re visiting for the first time, you’ll definitely want clear, blue skies, lots of sunshine and little wind. 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 day with the strong southerly wind, you can find sheltered beaches on the northern side that are protected from the wind.

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.

What to do on Rottnest Island

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 available 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.

Most first-time visitors to Rottnest Island gravitate to Thompson Bay. While this is a good first port of call, make sure that you venture of a bit further and see some prettier beaches. The most accessible from Thompson Bay are Pinky’s Beach and Basin.

Here are some ideas about things to do on Rottnest Island

  • Explore Rottnest’s 63 beaches and bays.  The best ones will depend on the time of day and weather conditions, especially the wind. Some favourites though include The Basin, Pinky Beach, Salmon Bay, Parakeet Bay and Armstrong Bay but the list goes on and on.
  • Take a quokka selfie. I haven’t succeeded in this yet but everyone from Roger Federer to Margot Robbie is doing it.
  • Go snorkelling. Rottnest has some of the best snorkelling spots in the state.  There are underwater snorkelling trails at Parker Point and Little Salmon Bay.
  • Have a drink at Hotel Rottnest Samphire or Pinky’s
  • See the seals at Cathedral Rock at the West End.
  • Hike the Wadjemup Bidi Trails. If you love hiking, explore the best of the island on this superb network of trails. Get the full trail details here.
  • Play golf. Rottnest Island has an 18-hole golf course and country club.
  • Kids activities vary during the school holiday season.
  • Go skydiving. See Rottnest from above with Skydive Geronimo. See how it’s done here.
  • Learn history. Rottnest has some interesting history that can be explored on a range of guided and self-guided tours.
  • Visit the lighthouse.
  • Catch the Rottnest Train. Trains leave from the quaint Settlement Train Station and go to Oliver Hill where you can view remnants of WWII.

What to pack for a day trip to 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:

  • Sun protection. Don’t forget to slip, slop, slap. I’ve seen many tourists on the return ferry looking like beetroots. Don’t be that person. See my sun safety tips here.
  • Food and water. Things cost more on Rottnest Island if you’re budget conscious bring a few snacks and a water bottle. Water refills and potable water fountains are located at several spots around the island.
  • Snorkelling gear. Rottnest has some incredibly accessible snorkelling spots. If you don’t have a snorkel and mask you can hire them from Pedal and Flippers.
  • Selfie stick – because no trip to Rotto is complete without a quokka selfie.
  • Beachwear in summer and an extra fleece of windcheater in winter. It does get breezy even in summer so bring a jumper.

Staying on Rottnest Island

Rottnest Accommodation

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 camp on Rottnest Island. See how it’s done here.

Have you been to Rottnest Island? Leave your tips and any questions in the comments below. 

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure for further information.




  1. Sarah says:

    Love this, so detailed! Inspiring me to make a trip over.

  2. Wendy says:

    Great post. I think we need to return soon.

  3. […] For practical tips on how to get the most out of your day trip to Rottnest, read on here. […]

  4. […] While it’s not the most luxurious option the campground offers a convenient and relatively affordable way to stay overnight on Rottnest Island. For more tips on Rottnest Island see my Rottnest Island Guide here.  […]

  5. […] Visit the official Rottnest Island page to plan your visit, or check out this guide to Rottnest by West Australian Explorer.  Several ferry operators run the daily route to the island – try Rottnest Express or […]

  6. Jenelle says:

    We were just over for a day trip yesterday. We go with the same group each year and always just head to the Basin to swim and have lunch, then back toward the ferry at the end of the day. I’d love to explore more- so far I’ve only ever been to those spots, so I’ve not seen much of the island.
    xx Jenelle |

  7. […] It’s a really beautiful place so do spend some time wandering around it – check out this post if you’re looking for the perfect itinerary for your Rottnest day trip. […]

  8. […] anyone travelling to the sunny west coast of Australia, a trip to Rottnest Island should be at the top of the Australia bucket list. This little island paradise is located 18 km off […]

  9. arv says:

    This island has such a happy and relaxed vibe. I have never heard of this place before and the best thing I would love to do will be cycle around the island and just relax on the beach

  10. Cindy says:

    So, you’re telling me that there’s an island with no cars, beautiful beaches and Roger Federer with a quokka?? Sign me up. Clearly, I’ve been off the grid as I haven’t heard of a the quokka selfie before (or even a quokka). Now I want one in the worst way. Thanks for filling me in!

  11. Thanks for the detailed guide! The quokkas are super cute and the beaches and the ocean look gorgeous! I’d love to visit Rottnest Island and perhaps camp there in the wilderness.

  12. Candy says:

    It’s pretty pricey to go here, but it seems like it’s definitely worth it. I like the fact that there are no automobiles and riding a bike is the way to get around the island. I love riding bicycles and would like to stay the night here as well 🙂

  13. Nic says:

    We didn’t get chance to visit Rottnest when we visited Perth but we only had a few days. We’re planning on returning to Perth for a longer trip and Rottnest is a priority for us, this info will be very helpful!

    • Nina B says:

      Great, hope you guys make it back to the west sometime soon. Rottnest is well worth the money spent in getting there, even better when you can spend a few days there.

  14. Rottnest Island seems to be an awesome place to visit, and I would definitely like to visit next time we travel to Australia. Biking around the island looks very cool! Never heard about quokkas before, what cute little fellows! That’s the beauty of Australia, lots of amazing wildlife at any corner!

  15. Yukti says:

    I never knew about Rottnest Island and it looks a worth day trip from Perth. The water looks crystal and sparkling blue. Great to know that this island has 63 beaches and many bays.

  16. Now that sounds like a wonderful escape, though I think I would want to try for an overnight. I can imagine the island in the early morning and evening hours, when many of the visitors are gone, is just special. And LOVE the Rottnest quokka selfie. 😉

  17. Lara Dunning says:

    That quokka is so cute! I would totally want to stay overnight and spend some time here. Thanks for all the great info and tips!

  18. […] Read more: The Ultimate Guide for the Best Rottnest Island Day Trip […]

  19. […] you’re visiting sunny Western Australia then you should put a visit to Rottnest Island at the very top of your list of things to do with families in Australia. This little island […]

  20. Thanks,
    We went to Rottnest Island with the kids and enjoyed the beaches with clear water, the picturesque places, the lovely Quokka and more.

  21. […] The ultimate guide on the best Rottnest Island Day Trip […]

  22. […] Rottnest Island is a great day trip from Perth. When skydiving on Rottnest Island, there are a number of ways to access the island and your skydiving location. […]

  23. […] just do a Rottnest Island day trip when you can stay overnight? With a little organisation camping on Rottnest Island the old […]

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