Your Free Perth Visitor Information Guide

Your Free Perth Visitor Information Guide

Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island is WA’s very own Island getaway, offering a casual atmosphere, stunning scenery and some of the world’s finest beaches and bays. Located just 19 kilometres off the coast of Fremantle, it’s a special place for locals and a popular destination for interstate and international visitors.

Known to local Aboriginal people as Wadjemup, which means ‘place of spirits’ in the Whadjuk language, the island is of significance to Aboriginal communities across the State. Artefacts pre-dating 6,500 years have been found at a number of sites on Rottnest Island, indicating previous Aboriginal occupation of this area prior to the separation of the Island from the mainland. 

The first Europeans took up residence on the island shortly after the settlement of the Swan River Colony in 1829. Almost a century of Aboriginal incarceration on Rottnest Island began in 1838 and the Colonial Secretary formalised the Island’s use as a penal establishment for Aboriginal people in June 1839. The island was used as an Aboriginal prison until 1904 (except for a short period of closure from 1849-1855), and subsequent forced labour camp for prisoners until 1931. Around 4,000 Aboriginal men and boys from all over the former colony were incarcerated on the Island and general public access to the Island during the prison era was restricted. You can learn all about the history of the island at the Wadjemup Museum.

Today Rottnest Island is a relaxed, car free island offering world class beaches and stunning bays, casual dining, walk trails, swimming, snorkeling, bike riding, and an abundance of natural wonders. Arrive by ferry or plane, (from two locations in Fremantle, from Perth and Hillarys Boat Harbour), choose from a number of day tours to explore the island either by bus, foot or segway, and dine on fresh seafood by the water’s edge with peacefully gorgeous coastal views.

Rottnest Island has 63 beaches and 20 blissful bays to explore. Visitors and locals alike spend lazy, warm days swimming, snorkeling or bike riding, and balmy evenings with a cold drink over a BBQ. Children play tirelessly, the sun shines endlessly and the relaxed, idyllic island is abuzz with good family friendly cheer.

Perhaps the most photographed animal in the world (due to the Quokka selfie craze!), the quokka is native to Rottnest Island and looks like a pint sized kangaroo. William de Vlamingh, who in 1696 was the first recorded European visitor to Rottnest, gave the Island its name Rotte nest’ (meaning rat’s nest) after the abundance of quokkas he saw, mistaking them for rats.

Quokkas roam freely around the island in their natural habitat and are very friendly little creatures; but remember that Quokkas are wild animals and endangered species, so make sure you follow these simple rules to help protect them – don’t feed, don’t touch, don’t harm. Feeding a quokka its unnatural diet can cause serious illness or be fatal. Please see below for a selection of things to see and do on Rottnest Island.