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The Top Things to do on Rottnest Island

A paradise just off the coast of Perth, Rottnest Island is an idyllic destination featuring secluded sandy bays, marine playgrounds for snorkelling and endless surfing opportunities. Well set up for both family visits and group trips, visitors may find themselves exploring interesting military architecture and Aboriginal historic sites in between animal experiences with the cuddly Quokka, playful dolphins and lovable seals. Those still keen to experience more of the island could visit the Wadjemup Lighthouse or enjoy a drink and a bite to eat at the popular Hotel Rottnest. The things to do in Rottnest Island far exceed the size of this tiny slice of paradise.

Top 10 Things to do in Rottnest Island

Author
Experience Oz Staff
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Western Australia’s Rottnest Island is a popular getaway for locals and tourists looking to escape life on the mainland and revel in an island paradise – all just offshore from capital Perth.

Voted #1 in our “Australia’s Top 10 Destinations” poll back in 2014, Rottnest provides crystal-clear turquoise waters, a unique eco-system filled with flora and fauna and a relaxed and an inviting atmosphere; there’s much to like here.

Travelling to Rottnest Island is enjoyable enough, but once you’re on the island itself there is a range of things to see and do in addition to simply relaxing.

Here’s our list of the ten must-see and do experiences and attractions on Rottnest Island.

1. Cycle Rottnest Island

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Location: Various Locations, WA

With almost no cars to be found on the island and very little motorised transport overall, by far the best and most enjoyable way to travel around Rottnest is via bicycle.

Hire a bike, clip up your helmet and get ready for a great day exploring Rottnest Island, with plenty of options to choose from; depending on how far you’re wanting to ride and what you want to see, there is guaranteed to be a trail to suit you.

Riders must be aware that they are to abide by road rules, especially when coming to railway crossings and all riders should stay well hydrated as there are no water facilities away from the Main Settlement at Thomson Bay.

Pedal and Flipper is a popular choice for bicycle hire on the island. With over 1,300 bikes on their books as well as speciality and safety equipment, they’ll be able to serve you with everything you need.

"Pedal and Flipper is a popular choice for bicycle hire on the island. With over 1,300 bikes on their books as well as speciality and safety equipment, they’ll be able to serve you with everything you need."

Located behind Hotel Rottnest they are open every day of the year and cater for kids of all ages. Be sure to grab a guide/map before heading out for the day just in case you wind up getting a little lost.

Below are six popular destinations and associated routes to follow each with varied distances and times:

Settlement to The Basin Distance: 1km Approx. time: 5 minutes The shortest ride from the Settlement will land you at The Basin, a popular snorkelling and swimming spot. With shallow waters and a fringing reef, families and those looking to enjoy the water without battling large waves or strong rips frequent The Basin.

Settlement to Geordie Bay Distance: 2km Approx. time: 10 minutes The next area reached via bike is Geordie Bay a popular hangout for those looking to browse the shops and enjoy a dip in the beautiful water.

Settlement to Parker Point Distance: 5km Approx. time: 20 minutes Travelling south from Thomson Bay you’ll come across Parker Point, a popular swimming and snorkelling location. You could spend ages just enjoying the beach, but remember there’s always more exploring to do!

Settlement to Salmon Bay Distance: 5km Approx. time: 20 minutes Salmon Bay is around the bend from Parker Point and is another great swimming and snorkelling hotspot. Those looking to surf are also catered for here with the waves building up enough swells to enjoy.

Settlement to Wadjemup Lighthouse Distance: 5km Approx. time: 20 minutes One of the island’s popular lighthouses, Wadjemup provides gorgeous views of the region with a great vantage point you won’t want to miss out on.

Settlement to West End/Cape Vlamingh Distance: 10km Approx. time: 50 minutes The western most point on the island, Cape Vlamingh provides awesome views of the surrounding bays and surrounding ocean. Here you will also find the West End Boardwalk, so jump off your bike and embark on a foot adventure.

2. See NZ Fur Seal Colony

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Location: Cathedral Rocks, Rottnest Island

Get up close to watch the local New Zealand Fur Seal colony sun themselves and play in the water from the Cathedral Rocks viewing platform.

Located a safe enough distance away so as not to disturb the animals, this is a great way to enjoy a free animal encounter in the wild.

"New Zealand Fur Seals are obviously bred in New Zealand but are also found on the shores of South Australia at Cathedral Rocks."

The best time to catch a glimpse of the fur seals is in the summer time when they are at their busiest around the rocky shores.

You can get to the viewing platform at Cathedral Rocks, which is located on the western point of the island via bike, by walking or aboard the Island Explorer Bus.

3. Guided Quokka Walk

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Location: Main Settlement, Rottnest Island

Embark on a FREE guided walk to see some of the island’s most famous residents; quokkas. Favouring the middle to late afternoon, the quokkas come out in full swing to play on the island and mingle with the daily flush of visitors.

They can be seen on your own by just wandering around, however, this tour will give you an education and informative look at these adorable animals.

"If you’re visiting in the cooler months you might be lucky enough to see some young joeys poking their heads out of their mums’ pouch and then further along in spring, they’ll be out in full force bravely jumping around their paradise home."

If you’re visiting in the cooler months you might be lucky enough to see some young joeys poking their heads out of their mums’ pouch and then further along in spring, they’ll be out in full force bravely jumping around their paradise home.

The tours depart daily from the meeting post at 2:15 pm and only take 45 minutes to complete.

4. Skydiving Rottnest Island

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Location: Rottnest Island Airport Terminal, Brand Way, Rottnest Island

Skydiving ranks towards the top of many tourists and locals “bucket lists”, however doing so above the backdrop of gorgeous Rottnest Island is a whole new story.

The beautiful blue waters of the region that rival that of the Great Barrier Reef make for the perfect panorama over which to free fall into.

While in the air, you’ll also be able to put into perspective the size of the island; it can be quite surprising just how small it actually is.

This is one of WA’s prime skydiving locations, and Skydive Geronmino Rottnest Island will take you up to a chill-inducing 15,000 feet before you and your tandem instructor take the leap and jump out of an otherwise perfectly operating plane.

"This is one of WA’s prime skydiving locations, and it will take you up to a chill-inducing 15,000 feet before you and your tandem instructor take the leap and jump out of an otherwise perfectly operating plane."

The flight up to the top is very enjoyable and scenic (despite the nerves) and takes around 20 minutes to reach altitude.

Come time to jump (or be pushed depending on how eager you are) you’ll experience up to 66 seconds of free fall at a staggering speed of 200 km/h (124m/ph).

Then at 5000 ft, your chute will be deployed and you can calm the nerves with the beautiful sight of the island and its surrounds.

If a 15,000 ft jump seems a little too extreme for you, you’re also given the choice of a 14,000 or 10,000 ft jump with a shorter free fall time but just as much adrenaline, scenery and excitement.

5. Surfing at Strickland Bay

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Location: Strickland Bay, Rottnest Island

Having previously been ranked amongst the top 50 breaks in the world, Strickland Bay is an ideal surf spot for those looking to try or nail that iconic Western Australia surf.

Located on the south-west side of the island, Strickland is a popular surf spot for both locals and visitors alike.

Strickland Bay is one of eight great surf locations on the island including the likes of Salmon Bay, Stark Bay, The Basins Ledge and The Rotto Box, so if one isn’t breaking particularly well that day, there are plenty of alternatives to choose from.

"Rottnest Island is a popular hotspot for large-scale surfing competitions including the HIF Pro AM #2, so even if you aren’t a surfer yourself you can often head down to watch the pros and locals rip up a few waves."

Surfers are asked to stick to the designated paths when accessing the surf spots so that dune vegetation isn’t harmed.

Likewise, visitors are asked to ensure all rubbish is placed in the bins provided or taken with you so as not to pollute the beautiful area.

Rottnest Island is a popular hotspot for large-scale surfing competitions including the HIF Pro AM #2, so even if you aren’t a surfer yourself you can often head down to watch the pros and locals rip up a few waves.

6. The Basin or Parker Point

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Location: Rottnest Island, WA

The waters surrounding the island are brimming with vibrant marine life and corals and therefore create the perfect underwater playground to explore.

Two popular snorkelling spots include The Basin on the northeast side and Parker Point at the southern tip.

The Basin is a popular spot for locals and tourists and with its crystal clear turquoise waters, it’s not hard to see why.

With a shallow reef platform home to an array of small marine life, even the deadly blue-ringed octopus, so take care, followed by a dropped off the hole in the reef, it replicates that of a man-made swimming pool.

Due to the fringing reef, there are little waves that break over top making for a comfortable and enjoyable experience as opposed to the wave battling and rip pulling open water experienced in other locations.

Snorkelling wise, you’ll be able to see schools of buffalo bream as they swim between the feet of beach dwellers and on top of the soft, white sand.

"The Basin is a popular spot for locals and tourists and with its crystal clear turquoise waters, it’s not hard to see why. With a shallow reef platform home to an array of small marine life, even the deadly blue-ringed octopus."

If you want to experience more marine life and are a confident swimmer you can venture out into deeper water off The Basin in the direction of the neighbouring Longreach Bay.

The Basin is an ideal destination for those with families or with people who aren’t incredibly confident swimmers, offering conditions to suit a range of abilities, the Basin is set to impress.

Additionally, if you venture to the left of The Basin and over the rocky hill you’ll come across The Rocky Cove.

A small, sheltered cove made up of limestone rocks and filled with an exciting snorkelling scene, this is a great option for those who are looking to venture out from but still stay near The Basin.

Another great snorkelling option, Parker Point offers visitors with a more structured snorkelling adventure.

With underwater plaques guiding you on an exciting snorkelling trail, you can learn about the flora and marine life in the area while also exploring it for yourself.

The loop runs for a total length of 200 metres and is considered quite an easy track to follow however depending on your swimming speed and how much time you’ve allocated to exploring Parker Point, you could take as little as an hour to as many as three hours to complete, it all depends on you!

7. Scenic Helicopter Flights

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Location: Jandakot Airport, 16 Eagle Dr, Jandakot WA

If leaping from a plane is too extreme for your sightseeing tastes (see below), you can still take to the skies with a more laid-back option; a scenic helicopter flight with Rotorvation.

Visitors can get the ultimate angle and enjoy a 40-minute flight above the island for sweeping views of Rottnest and its picturesque surrounds.

This awesome experience is ideal for special occasions and departs from the mainland at Jandakot Airport, which is around 20 km from Perth CBD.

The flight over to Rottnest takes around 20 minutes upon which you’ll land on the island and have up to three hours to explore it on your own.

While on Rottnest you can also enjoy a yummy lunch at one of the island’s excellent restaurants, all of which are walking distance from the landing pad.

"Visitors can get the ultimate angle and enjoy a 40-minute flight above the island for sweeping views of Rottnest and its picturesque surrounds."

Come to the conclusion of the three hours you’ll re-board the helicopter for the return 20-minute flight back to Jandakot Airport.

For flights to take off a minimum of two passengers are required, making this the ideal experience for couples looking to splurge with a scenic and memorable experience to and on Rottnest Island.

Swan River Seaplanes are another way to discover Rottnest Island from the air with a scenic journey from Swan River to Rottnest Island.

From a different perspective, view pristine beaches, bays and hear about the island’s history on a turbo-charged seaplane. Departing from Swan River the flight path will take you on a island circle before arriving at the island.

From here, passengers can enjoy a 2 hour tour Island Discovery tour with a morning tea and gourmet lunch before touring the Oliver Hill Military Settlement.

The air and land tour comprises the island highlights and there is even a chance that you may spot cute Quokkas throughout the day.

8. Wadejemup Walk Trail

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Location: Rottnest Island, WA

For those keen to explore on foot, this walking trail will put your feet to work, and then some. Stretching over 50 km around the island, you can chose to complete the entire trail, or instead stick to one of its three designated sub-sections.

Walkers looking to conquer all or at least one of the trails must remember to bring a sufficient amount of water, comfortable shoes, and should keep to the designated trails – there’s an array of native wildlife to encounter here, including snakes in the cooler months as they like to sun themselves the open.

The Bickley Bay Walk Distance: 9.4km Approx. time: 2-4 hours Covering the south-east corner of the island from Thomson Bay to Oliver Hill, this 9.4-kilometre walk will take you around to explore Oliver Hill which is home to remnants of the Coastal Defence systems from WWII.

The Lakes Walk Distance: 9.2km Approx. time: 2-4 hours This walk begins at the Main Settlement at Thomson Bay and heads west via Digby Drive. This trail follows the Lakes Boardwalk, which provides gorgeous views of the surrounding area as well as the feel of walking on water.

Salmon Bay Walk Distance: 6.1km Approx. time: 1-3 hours The shortest of the three walks, the Salmon Bay Walk journeys from Salmon Bay towards Oliver Hill and further on to Wadjemup Lighthouse. Once reaching the lighthouse you can enjoy a tour to the top for amazing, sweeping views of the island.

9. Ride a Segway

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Location: Corner of Kingstown Road and Hospital Lane, Rottnest Island, WA

Segway tours are a fun and friendly way to navigate around Rottnest Island offering 60 or 90 minute experiences past incredible vistas and historical monuments.

The motorised two wheeled segways may look difficult to ride but with a quick lesson it won’t take you long before you are following the leader cruising around the island.

Armed with nimble, all terrain wheels, go where the tour buses can’t go and discover more ground on these electric segways. Each tour covers a mixture of both sealed and off road tracks adding a little bit of excitement to the tour.

Choose between two segway tours that will take you on an adventure through nature trails to scenic lookout points around the island.

"Armed with nimble, all terrain wheels, go where the tour buses can’t go and discover more ground on these electric segways. Each tour covers a mixture of both sealed and off road tracks adding a little bit of excitement to the tour."

The Settlement Explorer tour covers the best of Rottnest Island with a 60 minute journey through historical sites including Thomson Bay Settlement, Lomas Cottage, Pilot Boathouse and Bathurst Lighthouse.

Discover the European settlement that was used for farming, fishing and salt harvesting on Rottnest Island while travelling through native bush land.

An extended 90 minute Fortress Segway adventure tour will cruise to Kingstown Barracks, Bickley Battery, Paterson Beach and Henrietta Rocks.

The benefit of joining these segway tours are that you can reach hard to explore parts of the island putting an exciting twist on ordinary bus tours or bicycle tours along with commentary from a knowledgeable local.

10. Oliver Hill Train and Tunnel

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Location: Rottnest Island, WA

Near the centre of the island sits Oliver Hill; a site of World War II remnants including an impressive 9.2-inch gun.

An exciting way to explore the Hill is with the Oliver Hill Train Ride departing Settlement Railway Station in Thomson Bay.

The trail seats up to 64 passengers and will take you on a scenic journey along the southern side of the island.

The train boards at 1:20 pm for a 1:30 pm departure and guests are advised to either book their tickets in advance online, do so on the island at the main bus stop’s kiosk or Visitor Centre.

"As well as taking in the sights, you’ll also learn a significant amount of information about the guns’ history and its involvement in the war, including why there were installed and how they operated."

On the tour, you’ll be taken on a mini trip around the island to take in the beautiful sights of its south side as you travel to the restored WWII gun and its adjoining maze of underground tunnels that are still fully functioning and explorable.

As well as taking in the sights, you’ll also learn a significant amount of information about the guns’ history and its involvement in the war, including why there were installed and how they operated.

The tour runs for only an hour and is conducted from 11 am, 12 pm, 1 pm and 2 pm daily.

Alternatively, more energetic visitors can also make their own way to Oliver Hill on foot or bike. Lastly, the option exists to buy a ticket for the shuttle bus around the island, too.