The favorite day trip for visitors to Perth or Fremantle is a ferry ride to Rottnest Island. Rottnest, or Rotto, is a little sandy island right off the coast of Fremantle in Western Australia. It’s a fantastic spot for a day trip to stretch out on a beautiful beach, and get up close and personal with the famous smiley marsupial, the Quokka.
Quokkas are only found on Rottnest Island, and they are famous for being friendly towards humans and for their little faces, which appear to be smiling all of the time. Albeit, many photos you see on social media and internet searches are doctored to exaggerate their smile, they truly are not afraid of people and seem to have a friendly demeanor in real life.
To get to Rottnest, buy a ferry ticket on the Rottnest Express from the port in Fremantle. There are multiple departures daily, and if you’re visiting during peak season, be sure to book your ticket ahead of time online. You can also rent a bike through the ferry company when you book your ticket, or pick one up once you arrive on the island. The ferry ride takes about an hour. If you’re prone to seasickness, sit on the outdoor part in the fresh air on the upper deck.
Once on the island – I highly recommend renting a bike so that you can cruise around the island with ease! You can see a lot of the island in just one day, but get there early to give yourself a full days worth of time. There are lots of paths and trails to take, and it’s not a huge island so even if you aren’t following the map, you won’t get too lost. Enjoy a day of exploring and cycling at whatever pace you like. There are quokkas everywhere – so just keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see them. You’ll definitely see their poop everywhere – don’t be fooled and sit on some “stones” that are actually little Quokka turds!
If you want to stay longer on Rottnest Island, there’s a variety of accommodation options, including camping and apartments you can rent with groups of friends. It’s a great getaway if you want more time to explore the island, enjoying the beaches and connecting with nature without having to travel far from a major city. We took our bikes all around, biking past remote areas with no one around and taking a break in the main center of Rottnest, where there’s a variety of restaurants and cafes as well as shops. While food is more expensive on Rottnest than on the mainland in Perth or Fremantle, it’s not outrageous. I’d say pack some snacks if you are only going to travel around the island for a day, but don’t stress about bringing heaps of food. If you have to buy some, it won’t break the bank.
Despite their cute and friendly demeanor you still should be wary around the Quokkas. Get close but I wouldn’t recommend petting them, and feeding them comes with hefty fines. It’s not worth it, you don’t need to coax them to you with food to get the perfect picture. Just be patient and let them check you out – most are curious anyway and will give you a good opportunity to snap the #QuokkaSelfie you want.
Once we had taken all the photos of the furry rodents, we continued to bike and explore the island. June is winter in Australia, so it was chilly and windy, but overall a very mild winter day in comparison to the bitter cold I’m used to in Minnesota. We had an amazing time biking around, the beaches on Rottnest are truly stunning, with pale aquamarine waters and white, soft sand. It’s an excellent place for a beach day if you’re visiting in the summer months.
In addition to the incredible things to see around on Rottnest Island, another popular activity for people to enjoy is skydiving over the island! While I didn’t do this during my stay, I’ve seen some photos of other people diving and it looks truly incredible. Something is very cool about seeing an entire island from an aerial view, flying over a picturesque place.
After a lovely day of biking around and exploring Rottnest, make sure you head back to the port to catch the ferry back to Fremantle. You choose the return time when you buy a ticket, but they let us change once we decided to head back early. If you’re spending any amount of time in Fremantle or Perth, I highly recommend a day trip excursion to Rottnest Island. It’s the perfect slice of nature not far from the cities.