I’m very lucky to live near Rottnest Island – just a short ferry ride away from my hometown of Perth. I’m sure I’m lucky, because when my German husband first moved here he couldn’t believe we had this amazing place just off the coast. Of course Germans are usually busy flying somewhere to be able to get that kind of beach and relaxation experience. He said it was paradise!
Now, the problem with visitors to Perth and their visits to Rottnest is that many of them make a big mistake. They aren’t here for long enough to spend more than a day there. And while a day trip to Rottnest is lovely, it is really nothing compared to spending a few nights there.
Day trips to Rottnest Island
On a day trip to “Rotto”, as we like to call it, you’ll take the ferry across (you can go from Fremantle in the south of Perth or Hillarys in the north of Perth – or the long route starting in Perth, via Fremantle) and arrive in time for morning tea. From there you can either rent bikes or use the shuttle bus to see more of the island – which is mostly beaches (tough, hey?!). (You will probably also see a quokka – the local native animal – but you’ll see more in the evening if you stay overnight!)
There are also some historical tours run mostly by volunteers which are really fabulous – looking around the colonial-era buildings, up through the tunnels to the big gun emplacements from the second World War, seeing the salt lake, and more. These days there are quite a few good cafes and restaurants for lunch, then you can have another look at the beach and it’s time to head back to Perth on the ferry. It’s nice, but it’s relatively crowded, because so many people only go to Rottnest for the day.
Staying on Rottnest Island overnight or longer
I find myself telling prospective visitors this over and over again: Rotto is best enjoyed at a relaxed pace and that means you have to stay overnight. Stay several nights if you can, or even a week if you want to chill out properly. It’s a beautiful island during the day, with idyllic bays, great snorkelling and swimming, lovely pub and cafes and an absolute holiday feel, but after five when all the ferries have long since departed and only those staying overnight remain, that’s when Rotto becomes a proper paradise.
Have a look in the search box here for some Rottnest accommodation (to make it more than a day trip!).
Rotto is relaxing because it’s small, there are virtually no cars, no high-rise, and not too many places to go. It is MOST relaxing when there are fewer people there and that doesn’t happen until the afternoon ferries go. Since the main Rottnest Island activities are things like swimming and lying on the beach, cycling round the island, relaxing with a drink and a meal, and spending time with friends and family, then you’re forced to relax and a lot of us need that these days. So, if you’re planning a trip to Western Australia, I urge you to see Rottnest properly by spending at least a night there and preferably longer. Okay? Rant over!
My own experiences of Rottnest Island – day trips AND overnight!
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve visited Rotto in my lifetime, although it’s not as many as some local friends whose families spent at least a week of the school holidays there once or twice a year, every year. I have been on day trips there on the odd occasion – usually for an event like a fun run – but they don’t stand out as being anywhere near as fun!
I spent a week there on a school camp aged 13, and I think there were two broken arms amongst my classmates falling off bikes (oops!); I admit I went there as a new high school graduate for Schoolies Week and that was a crazy time! I even got to work there for a week, assisting a professor I worked with who had coordinated a bunch of international academics to come over and write a book together. And more recently when my sister-in-law and her husband from Switzerland visited Perth, we spent a few days there – mostly memorable due to the fact we watched President Obama be elected for the first time on the little TV inside our rented house, and for the (sadly) unseasonable late spring rain that prevented us from getting out much. We still all loved it though and it was brilliantly relaxing.
For the locals: what are your favourite experiences of Rottnest? And the non-locals: when are you coming?!