If you’re making it out to Western Australia, chances are high you are spending at least a little bit of time in Perth, the state’s capital and largest city. Even if you are only in Perth a few days, Rottnest Island, or Rotto (as the locals call it) is a worthwhile day trip out of the city. This guide will tell you everything you need to know when visiting Rottnest Island on a day trip from Perth, plus an ideal biking itinerary to follow on the island!
Here’s what you’ll find in this Rottnest Island day trip guide:
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Getting to Rottnest Island
Many companies run ferries from Perth or Fremantle, and you can also add on snorkel gear and a bike rental all from the ferry company. Expect to pay around $100 for the full package from Perth. Plan to spend the entire day, leaving Perth around 8 am and returning around 5 pm. Though there are restaurants on Rottnest Island, I recommend packing a lunch so you can eat while you’re exploring!
What to Expect on Rottnest Island
Ferries departing from Perth will travel down the Swan River for about an hour, past Millionaire’s Row (featuring the waterfront homes of the rich), into the Indian Ocean.
Rottnest Island, whose name comes from the Dutch for “rat’s nest” due to all the quokkas (little marsupials) the voyagers found on it, is car-free, making it a perfect place to rent a bike and explore.
There are countless beaches, lakes, and scenic lookouts.
We used Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to book our ferry tickets and bike rentals via Viator, but you can pay with a credit card as well.
When we arrived, we were surprised that even though there are no cars on Rottnest Island, there was a resort town with accommodation, restaurants, shops, and bars. We had something closer to untouched Maria Island in Tasmania in mind, but instead, it’s closer to a vacation island in Florida where everyone gets around on golf carts. This isn’t a criticism, necessarily, but just different from what we expected. This also means there are a lot of people on the island near the ferry dock and resort town. You will see plenty of day-trippers and overnight visitors alike.
Once you bike away from that area, however, you see far fewer people. The roads are paved, with just enough hills for the ride just to count as your workout for the day.
Spotting Quokkas on a Day Trip to Rottnest Island
Australia is well-known for its unique wildlife, with kangaroos being the most iconic. But did you know there are also marsupials smaller than the common house cat? Quokkas are Rottnest Island’s most adorable resident. They look similar to a guinea pig, but a bit larger. They are wildly popular for their seemingly constant smiling facial expressions, and while they live elsewhere in Australia as well, your best odds of seeing them are on Rottnest Island.
You can see quokkas anywhere on Rottnest Island, and will most likely see them while you are biking around. If you want guaranteed sightings, stop into the visitor center when you arrive and inquire about their free ranger-led quokka walks. Though you shouldn’t touch them or feed them (not even water, as too much could kill them), they may come right up to you as they are very friendly and used to people. Instagram has made “quokka selfies” very popular. There’s no harm in posing with one so long as you keep an appropriate distance and don’t touch them!
Suggested Biking Route on Rottnest Island
We opted for an abbreviated route around Rottnest Island that allows plenty of time for photo stops, relaxing on the beaches and snorkeling. We started our journey heading north towards Geordie Bay, stopping at Parakeet Bay as well. Rather than hugging the coast, we cut inland past the salt lakes and Wadjemup Lighthouse.
The salt lakes are very scenic, including Pink Lake. If you’re lucky, Pink Lake will look like its name. We then rode around the loop by Parker Point and Little Salmon Bay, both considered great snorkeling sights. We didn’t rent snorkel gear since we didn’t really care to snorkel here, but the views from the coast were great! One of the most interesting sights was at Henrietta Rocks, where you can see a shipwreck (called The Shark) sitting in the shallow water right from the shore!
From there, our loop brought us back near the ferry dock. Depending on your ferry time, grab a snack or a drink at the strip of restaurants before your return journey to Perth.
More Australia Travel Tips
If you want to get even more off the beaten path, I highly recommend visiting Tasmania. Day trips from Hobart to Port Arthur and Maria Island also fit perfectly in my comprehensive three-week Tasmania itinerary. Make sure you check it out and bookmark it for later!
Also, when you head to Cradle Mountain, consider doing the summit hike for a challenging but rewarding day!
If you plan on an in-depth exploration of Western Australia, make sure you check out (and bookmark!) my super-detailed Perth to Darwin road trip itinerary.
If you want to snorkel with manta rays or whale sharks (or both!) the Ningaloo Reef is the place to do it. My guide on snorkeling with whale sharks and manta rays has all the details.
If you’re heading all the way to the northern region of Western Australia, I highly recommend visiting Purnululu National Park and splurging on a scenic flight over the Bungle Bungle Range. My guide covers everything you need to know to make this bucket-list-worthy adventure happen!
Have a specific question about this Rottnest Island itinerary or anything Australia? Leave a comment below or contact me!