Rottnest Island is the West’s little slice of paradise – we just can’t get enough of it! After finding myself there a few times over the summer, I have compiled my ultimate guide to the island.
There is nowhere else in the world quite like Rottnest; and I am not just saying that out of home-town pride.
Even if we put the cute endemic species aside, there is no other island in the world like Rottnest. What other island lies in such close proximity to a major city? Drive just 25-minutes south of the Perth CBD and you get to Fremantle’s ‘B Shed’, the departure point for the Rottnest ferries. After just 30 minutes on the water, you will have arrived at Perth’s own little slice of paradise.
Tourists and locals can’t get enough of Rottnest. For an island that you can cycle around in a matter of hours, it really does have so much to offer. There are umpteen gorgeous bays to swim in, some great spots to get a feed and of course the cutest little animals to get a selfie with.
In the past few months, I have had the absolute pleasure of being on Rottnest no less than 5 times. Across those 5 trips, I have seen, done and eaten so many different things and I thought it remiss of me to not share the Rottnest experience with you.
So here you have it, my complete guide of all of the best places to eat, places to stay and things to do on Rottnest in one nice, neat little package.
How to get there
You aren’t short on options when it comes to getting to Rottnest. The easiest option is to jump aboard the Sealink or Rottnest Express from the B Shed in Fremantle. A return ticket for the same day costs somewhere around the $65.00 mark and includes your government admission fee to the island. One way tickets and extended return tickets (if you want to stay overnight or for a few days) are also available.
There are no cars allowed on Rottnest, so you have to park up at the B Shed before getting on the ferry. There is a long term carpark there too, so if you are going for more than a few hours, you know you have options. Again, there aren’t that many bays, so make sure you get in early if you want a spot!
If you are lucky enough to know mates with boats, moorings are also available on Rottnest. Having your own boat means there is a lot more freedom in how you get there, but there are still rules and charges you have to be aware of. The ride can get pretty rough too, so make sure you are attempting the crossing with an experienced boater.
What to do while you are there
For a small island, there really is so much to do on Rottnest. Whether you prefer being in the water, at the bar or getting active, there is something on Rottnest for everyone.
One of the first things you will notice when you hit Rottnest is the number of bikes. No cars are allowed on Rottnest (except the service vehicles), so biking is THE way to get around. You can take your own bike over on the ferry, hire one through the ferry companies, or pick one up when you get to Rottnest from Pedal and Flipper.
The best part about having a bicycle is cycling yourself from bay to bay throughout the day. If you come prepared, you can even strap a little cooler bag full of goodies on to the back and pop a portable speaker in the basket for extra fun.
After cycling, snorkelling is probably the next most popular activity on Rottnest. Pinky’s or The Basin are popular spots to stick your head under, but almost every bay has a little spot where you can go exploring underwater.
If you aren’t too confident in the water with just a pair of fins, SeaToys have just started hiring out their SeaBob underwater scooter in Rottnest. You can scoot about on top of and under the water without exerting much energy at all.
Get a Quokka Selfie
Hemsworth just broke the internet with his, but the quokka selfie has been one of the ‘must-do’ activities on Rottnest since well before Hemsworth made it across.
They are such friendly, curious little creatures that you just can’t help but want to squeeze. You aren’t allowed to touch of feed them, but don’t be shy; lay down on the ground with them if you want to get the shot!
Go on a Rottnest Cruise
The Rottnest Seafood Cruise is by far one of the best things I have done while over in Rottnest. It is 3-3.5hours of seafood heaven. I am not even joking. There is SO much seafood to feast on, all prepared fresh on board by a chef… and caught by you!
Before you drop anchor in one of Rottnest’s stunning bays for your crayfish lunch, you get to go out and pull up the crayfish pots yourself. It isn’t a walk in the park, but it is so exciting to see how many crays you can pull up in each pot. Once you have your catch, you are free to enjoy your drinks (there is unlimited free booze on board!), have a swim or just enjoy the sunshine while lunch is being prepared.
You are on island time – there isn’t much else you need to be doing other than relaxing, enjoying the sun, enjoying the water and having fun!
Where to Eat
Much to my dismay, there are some recognisable chain brands churning out their sub-par fare on pristine Rottnest Island. Of course, you can go and eat there if you so wish – who am I to stop you? – but if you are looking for a quality feed, I can’t go past these spots on the island.
Hotel Rottnest is an institution on the island. In fact, you can’t go to Rottnest without stopping in there. There are fabulous views, plenty of spots to sit in the sunshine (and in the shade if you need it) and more beers on tap than anywhere else on the island.
As far as the food goes, it is pretty standard pub grub, but the quality is there. Pizzas, steak with mash, broccolini and a red wine jus, fish and chips, burgers – it is a menu of comfort food done really well.
If I had to describe Thomsons in just 3 words, they would be – airy beachside cafe. It is a gorgeous spot to sit, sip on a glass of Chardonnay (their wine list is HUGE) and pick at a few dishes.
Just like the Rottnest Hotel, the Thomsons menu is very comfort food driven. With a huge focus on seafood, there are umpteen delicious, fresh dishes on the menu that make the most of the produce on and around the island. My personal favourite had to be the deliciously tender octopus!
Pinky’s Beach Club
Pinky’s Beach Club is the newest eatery on the island and oh my gosh, it is so darn good! It’s namesake beach is one of my favourite bays on the island. So, naturally, I am in love with the location of the Beach Club. Chef Karl Wulf has done a phenomenal job at changing the dining scene on the island, offering something other than your traditional pub meal.
His menu is super fresh, as local as can be and micro-seasonal. If peaches are at their prime, peaches it is; the menu reflects what produce is at it’s peak, so it changes up more often than a ‘seasonal’ one would. Wulf is MONA museum alumni, so you know there won’t be any pizzas and parmis here – think more along the lines of poke bowls, fresh fish dishes and heirloom tomato salads.
Have a Barbecue
If you don’t want to eat out your entire stay, there is a very well stocked general store and bottle shop in the little town centre that you can get your groceries from.
Not all accommodation options have kitchens in them, but there are barbecues dotted around the island that you can make use of. There is something so ‘Rottnest’ about biking down to the barbecues with some cold beers and your barbecue bits and bobs on the back.
Where to Stay
The accommodation options on Rottnest vary massively in quality and price – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The different levels of accommodation mean you can tailor the holiday you want to have – from budget to beachfront. One thing that is a constant is how hard it is to get accommodation in peak months. If you want to be on Rottnest during peak time, you need to book accommodation almost a year in advance!
Camping is the OG Rottnest experience. Back in the day, it was pretty much one of the only ways to stay on Rottnest. Now, there are plenty more options for you to choose from, but camping is definitely the most budget friendly (around $60/night per plot). If you are ok with carting your tent, an esky and all the other bits and bobs you need over on the ferry, then camping is a really good option for an authentic ‘island’ experience.
There isn’t too much to the individual sites, but there are shared ablution blocks where you can take a shower, and a barbecue block with power so you can cook up a storm.
Cabins and Chalets
The Caroline Thomson Cabins are the cheapest of all the cabins and chalets on the island. You still have to bring your bedding with you to make the beds in there, but you do have your own private bathroom (bring towels too!) and a camp kitchen of your own too. It is basically like camping, just with a solid roof and no need to use the shared barbecues or bathrooms.
There are umpteen other options on the island for chalets and cabins, with prices varying dependent on location and views. The cabins always fill up fast as they are popular with families, and to be honest, they are probably better for groups bigger than 2 anyway.
There are 3 hotels on the island, all very different in style. My pick of the lot is definitely the new Discovery Rottnest glamping ground. Not only is it brand spanking new, but it is by far the most affordable of all the hotel options.
Depending on what season you go over, you can get one of the glamping tents from around $120.00/night. Compared to the minimum charge at Karma and Hotel Rottnest, it is really quite affordable. The tents aren’t crazy luxe, they are more sleek and comfortable than they are ornate. They are also more affordable than the other hotels, a lot more modern, and come with more inclusions than the Caroline Thompson’s or the camp sites.
Each of the tents has a lush queen bed, simple kitchenette and a ridiculously big bathroom. They have everything you need for a comfortable stay, without going so overboard that you feel like you need to stay in your room to enjoy it. Although, if you book one of the deluxe rooms and snag the one with the uninterrupted beach view, you wouldn’t want to be leaving your deck at all!