Lying less than 20 kilometres from the mainland and set in the mesmerising waters of the Indian Ocean, Rottnest Island is a popular destination with holidaymakers who come to see the local flora and fauna, go for a swim, and laze under the sun on its white sandy beaches.
A small island of just 11 kilometres by 4.5 kilometres at its longest and widest points, it nonetheless has plenty to offer. You can get around the island by renting a bicycle of taking the shuttle bus from the ferry stop and see the key destinations dotted around. The main settlement is built around Thomas Bay, and the further you tread the quieter and more secluded the island becomes.
There are so many ideal spots to swim all around the island. If you’re a keen snorkeler you can delve into the water to see the coral and fish. You can also go shore diving or dive off a boat and see the nurse sharks and rays in the waters around the island. Surfers can also ride the waves at Strickland and Stark Bays. Or for a marginally drier experience, get on board a glass-bottom boat to see the coral at its finest.
Among the wildlife unique to the island are quokkas, small marsupials which the Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh discovered here back in the 17th century. Thinking they were rats, this is what led him to name the island 'Rottnest', or ‘Rat’s Nest’. The Aboriginals, However, who had lived here for the better part of 6,500 years before the Dutchman arrived, called the island 'Wadjemup'. You can find out more about all this and the island’s history and discovery by European settlers at the Rottnest Island Museum.
For a great view of the ocean you can climb up to the top of the Bathurst Lighthouse. Several ships have struck the island’s reefs over the years and sunk on the shore you can see plaques dedicated to them and signalling the wreckages.
You can reach Rottnest Island by boarding a pedestrian ferry from the docks in Fremantle, the jetty in central Perth or from Hillarys Boat Harbour. If you’re planning to stay over to explore more of the island, make sure you find somewhere to stay in advance.