Distance: 22km / 6-9 hours
Transport: bike and / or Island Explorer bus
This one-day itinerary will take you around Rottnest Island by bike or bus and allows for multiple stops along the way. You’ll experience some of the Island’s most incredible beaches, have the chance to snorkel or swim in Rottnest’s turquoise waters, take in the view from one of the two lighthouses on the Island and of course, grab yourself a #QuokkaSelfie!
With just one day to explore this island paradise, set your alarm early and hop on the first ferry you can. There are three operators running ferries to and from the island – Rottnest Express, Rottnest Fast Ferries and SeaLink – so find the departure point and timetable that suits you best. Be sure to book the latest return too so you can squeeze every drop out of your Rottnest Island adventure!
Depart Hillarys, Perth or Fremantle on the early ferry and head out onto the water. Your adventure starts right now, so make the most of the crossing, checking out the stretching coastline as you move away from the mainland. Keep your eyes peeled for marine life like dolphins, seals and even whales from August to late November. Before you know it, you’ll be docking at Rottnest Island, with a whole day to explore the coral reefs, salt lakes and smiling Quokkas ahead of you!
First things first, grab your bike from Pedal and Flipper and head to the Settlement. The Settlement is the heart of the island and it’s where you’ll find the restaurants, cafes, shops and bakery. If you’re not cycling, head to the Visitor Centre and ask about the timetable for the Island Explorer bus service so you know where you can hop and off throughout the day.
If you’re planning on having lunch at one of the beautiful bays and beaches around the Island, either get something from The General Store or grab a takeaway from one of the many cafés and pop it in your bag for later.
Rottnest Island is committed to conservation, so don’t forget your reusable water bottle. You can fill up at Thomson Bay and Geordie Bay.
If you want to have a relaxing start to your day and soak up those Island vibes for a bit before you head off on your adventure, get a takeaway coffee and sit on the shore looking over Thomson Bay. Now’s the time to relax and get happy – you’re on Rotto after all! Keep your eyes on the water as we often see Green turtles and friendly Stingrays in the shallows here thanks to the tropical Leeuwin Current.
Caffeinated and stocked up with food and water, it is time to go! If you’re taking the Island Explorer Bus, keep your eyes peeled out the window and when you spot a beach that takes your fancy, hop off! There are 19 stops around the Island showcasing some of our most popular beaches and attractions.
Head south towards the Kingstown Barracks – the first stop for today will be one of the Island’s incredible beaches. Choose between Parker Point, Little Salmon Bay and Salmon Bay – all perfect to admire the gorgeous view, take a walk on the sand or hop in the water for a swim.
Parker Point is a snorkeller’s paradise and even has its own marine snorkel trail, with interpretative signage under the water. There are so many amazing snorkel sites along the entire coastline of the Island, so if you want to don your mask and flippers, check out our article about the best snorkel spots.
After enjoying your first taste of Rottnest’s beaches, it’s time to hit the road and continue along the southern side of the Island. You’ll pass Green Island and Mary Cove. If you’re a keen snorkeller and want to hop into the water again, Mary Cove is a fantastic spot with heaps of corals around the reef which are home to schools of tropical fish.
You’ve probably built up an appetite by now, so take a break at one of these beauty spots to enjoy some food and a drink while you soak and the views and refuel.
Continuing your journey, you will now approach the western most part of the Island where you’ll notice the it starting to look a little more rugged and wild. There are viewing platforms at Cathedral Rocks and Cape Vlamingh where you can spot our resident marine life including New Zealand fur seals, Australian sea lions, Bottlenose dolphins and from August to November, migrating Humpback whales.
After this stop, it’s time to head to the Wadjemup Lighthouse in the centre of the Island. Wadjemup Lighthouse was constructed in 1896 and standing at approximately 38 metres, it is the fourth tallest lighthouse in Australia. There are three other buildings in the Wadjemup precinct – the Signal Station, the Battery Observation Post and the Women’s Royal Australian Navy Service House, all of which are linked by self-guided interpretive signage.
Admire the breathtaking views of sparkling water and Perth City in the distance – on a clear day you can make out the pine trees that line the coast at Cottesloe.
As you head back towards the Settlement, you can choose to either head towards Little Armstrong Bay and explore more beautiful bays, beaches and snorkelling spots, or head back via the inland road which takes you past some of the Island’s beautiful lakes and bushland.
If you choose the lakes route, look out for the Gabbi Karniny Bidi walk trail – you can do a small section of this 9.7km loop on your way back. Meandering through the lake systems, you can take a magical stroll along the Lakes Boardwalk and be guided by the interpretative signage along the way. These wetlands are a haven for birdlife too, so look out for Banded stilts, Crested terns and Red-capped plovers on Lake Herschel and Lake Baghdad.
If you prefer to continue along the coast, you’ll join the coastal road at Little Armstrong Bay. This gorgeous little bay is a bit of a hidden gem, so if you’re looking for a quieter spot to snorkel or sunbathe in solitude, head here. The surrounding marine sanctuary zone and rocky outcrops are home to some species of marine life that you won’t find anywhere else along the island’s coastline – think large schooling fish to a maze of reefs and seagrasses.
This part of the Island is a feast for the eyes, whether seen by bike or from the comfort of the Island Explorer hop on / hop off bus. Along this spectacular stretch you’ll pass Geordie Bay and Longreach Bay – both of which are stunningly beautiful, expansive beaches.
Geordie Bay is home to a General Store and Geordie’s Café and Art Gallery, so it’s a great place to stop for a cuppa.
On the final stretch of stunning coast, you’ll round the corner to see the Basin. With its shallow clear waters and protective reef, the Basin is an ideal spot for a final swim or snorkel. You’ll see Bathurst Lighthouse in the distance from the Basin, and that will be our final stop of the day.
Continue towards Pinky Beach and then walk up to Bathurst Lighthouse for some epic views over the ocean. Once you’ve taken a few Insta-worthy snaps and breathed in that fresh air, head back down the hill to the Settlement.
After your adventures around the island, it’s time for a celebratory drink and an early dinner! Nothing says dinner on Rottnest like classic fish and chips or some locally caught, perfectly prepared seafood. There are a number of licenced restaurants and pubs on the island offering locally crafted beer and renowned Western Australian wine.
Now’s a great time to get your Quokka selfie if you haven’t already! With more than 10,000 on the island, you’re bound to have seen some throughout the day, but the Settlement in the late afternoon is one of their favourite places to relax. Make sure you follow our top tips on how to get the best #QuokkaSelfie!
As the day draws to a close, there’s just enough time to catch an epic Rottnest Island sunset. The best place for a fantastic sunset view is right here in Thomson Bay, but if you’re up for another quick cycle or walk, head back to Pinky Beach to see the sky light up over iconic Bathurst Lighthouse.
An incredible end to a perfect day on Rottnest Island! Be sure to head back to the jetty 15 minutes before your ferry is due to depart and head back to the mainland. Sail back to the mainland relaxed and as happy as a Quokka!