Rottnest Island: Quokka Selfies and Bike Rides

16 Jan 2019

Waiting off the coast of Perth in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean is one of Western Australia’s best getaways, Rottnest Island.

This rugged and beautiful island is just a short ferry ride away from Perth, but it’s a world away from the busy streets of the state capital. Rottnest Island is surrounded by colourful coral reefs, dolphins and whales can be seen off the coast, and the quiet roads are perfect for cycling.

Rottnest Island is also home to Western Australia’s friendliest animal, the quokka. This highly unusual marsupial is something of a cross between a kangaroo and a hamster, and on Rottnest Island, they roam free, looking for selfies from tourists passing by.

From bike rides to quokka selfies, here are the best places to experience on Rottnest Island:

The Settlement

Rottnest Island is just a short 30-minute ferry ride away from Fremantle harbour, or a longer 90-minute ferry ride from central Perth, with boats leaving all through the week.

The Settlement is the island’s largest town, but you’ll quickly find that it’s quite small and rather charming, with a ramshackle harbour, beachfront restaurants and bars and some intriguing museums that tell the tale of Rottnest.

You’ll also find that The Settlement is overrun with quokkas, but that’s most definitely a great thing.

Quokkas on Rottnest Island

While most other Australian animals are seemingly out to get you, quokkas are the complete opposite of the mainland wildlife. Quokkas are the friendliest and furriest Australian creatures that you will find anywhere in the country.

When the Dutch first landed on Rottnest Island in the 17th century, they mistook these little critters for giant rats and gave the island the name ‘Rattennest’, the Rat’s Nest.

The name stuck, and so did the quokkas. While these cute animals were too friendly for the rest of Australia, on Rottnest they have no natural predators and live comfortable, carefree lives amongst the tourists.

Taking a selfie with a quokka

These furry marsupials have absolutely no fear of people and are more than willing to pose nonchalantly for a photograph or even for a selfie. Don’t get too close, however, as despite their friendly behaviour it is, in fact, illegal to actually touch or handle the quokkas, or to feed them. Doing so can get you in trouble, and get you a fine from the Rottnest Rangers.

You’ll find the Quokkas wandering around the whole island, approach them quietly, camera ready, and you’ll still be able to take a cracking selfie with these smiley animals without picking them up or disturbing them.

Bike rides on Rottnest

Rottnest is a car-free island, and the only way to get around is to take either the public bus or to hire or bring your own bicycle.

The best way to really experience Rottnest is by bike, and you can easily navigate the entire circumference of the island on a day trip, given that the island is only seven square miles in size.

It’s small, but there’s a lot to do, and you’ll find that every few hundred metres you will jumping off the bicycle for yet another quokka selfie.

White sand beaches

There’s a lot more to Rottnest Island than the furry little quokkas though, and if you ride around the main ring road you’ll soon find plenty of stops to make, particularly at the many incredible, white sand beaches.

Take the road north-west of The Settlement and you’ll soon ride into the Basin, one of the most accessible and popular beaches on the island.

Keep going to the west and you’ll discover Geordie Bay, a favourite for holiday home rentals and beachgoers. The spectacular bay has some pristine sand, and just up the road, you will find the equally spectacular Parakeet Bar, and even more pristine white sand.

Keep cycling and you have the quieter beaches on the far western shores, with endless beach bathing opportunities at Catherine Bay and the City of York Bay, just a mile or so down the road.

Pink Lake

Take a short detour inland from the northern coastal road and you’ll find yourself in peaceful surroundings, quokkas roaming free and birds flying through the trees. In the centre of Rottnest, you’ll soon stumble across the strange sight of Pink Lake.

There are many pink lakes across Western Australia, but few realise that there is one so close to Perth. The pink hues of the lake are best viewed in the early morning light when the water is at its most vibrant.

Wadjemup Lighthouse

As you slowly traverse the island, you’ll see on the horizon the dramatic sight of the Wadjemup Lighthouse. Standing tall above Rottnest, the lighthouse dates back to 1849 when it was built to help ships through the notoriously dangerous coral reefs and past the rugged and rocky coastline into Perth.

It’s a wonderful photo opportunity, and you can climb to the top for views out over the whole of Rottnest.

The West End

Cycle all the way around Rottnest to the far west and you will discover the most untouched coastline on the island. The West End stretches out into the Indian Ocean and when you are standing on the far edge of Rottnest at Cape Vlamingh there is nothing but crashing waves ahead for thousands of miles until the African continent.

The West End is a detour from the main road, but it’s worth it for the chance to see dolphins or whales out on the open ocean and to see a part of the island that has never been developed.

Snorkelling among colourful corals

Travel round to the south side of Rottnest and you will find some of the best snorkelling spots on the island. Although there are plenty of beaches and coral around Rottnest, the best snorkelling spot is found at Little Salmon Bay.

This wonderful beach leads out into shallow water that slowly deepens, providing the perfect bay for snorkelers of any ability to explore the colourful coral reefs in crystal clear water. Get here early for the best visibility and to see the marine life at its most active.


Explore Rottnest Island on our South West Highlights Journey. Chat to an Expert about booking this trip, or tailor making your very own Western Australia holiday


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Richard Collett

I'm Richard, The Travel Tramp, I'm an adventure traveller who can't stop getting off the beaten track. I write travel blogs with a dash of journalism and take photographs along the way!