Discovering the beauty of Rottnest Island


I created my Australia bucket list in April 2015, five months prior to beginning my adventure, and without much knowledge of the great country that is Australia. I had a few ideas of what I wanted to see thanks to the help of travel blogs, Lonely Planet guides, and Instagram, and from there, I created a top 10. I recently looked back at this list and, while there are several amazing additions I’d now like to add, I’ve been productively checking off the adventures on the list.

One of the activities gracing my top 10 is a trip to Rottnest Island, a car-free holiday destination off the coast of Western Australia. Rottnest has been on my radar since I first learned about a special little marsupial that lives solely on the island, the quokka. The quokka has become somewhat of an Australian celebrity, famous for taking adorable and hilarious selfies with the many tourists visiting the island. Between the quokka and images of the beautiful island landscape, I knew I had to see it for myself.

Rottnest Island is located 30km west of Perth and is accessible by ferry. I thankfully learned from my hostel staff that the best day to visit the island is Tuesday because ferry tickets are half price. So I was going up…on a Tuesday…with my $39 AUD return ferry ticket in hand. I opted to travel out of Fremantle rather than the city departure to save even more money. As a backpacker, I’m all about the deals. The ferry ride lasted approximately 40 minutes and drops you off right in the middle of the village.  My next task was to find a bike rental for the day; a challenging task to say the least.

Cheap Tuesdays are great because you can save 50% but this deal comes with a slight drawback; lots of other people have the same thought as you. I booked my ticket the morning of, calling the ticket office when they opened at 7:30AM to reserve a ferry seat. The early morning ferries were already booked and the ferry operator was out of bike rentals. I was advised to try the rental shop on the island but warned that it may be out of bikes by my 11AM arrival. I had to risk it.

Upon arrival to the rental shop, I found a long line of middle school aged students ahead of me. The shop was a bit chaotic with staff marching in all different directions, trying to assist and accommodate everyone. I waited in line for about 20 minutes before overhearing that the shop expected to be out of bikes after the school students moved through. Again, I decided to risk it by waiting it out. I knew they hadn’t done an official count and were making an estimation.

I waited again, another 20 minutes at least, while several people dropped out of line. Once the students passed through, the remaining customers were told there would be bikes after all (mostly extra large bikes!) and we just had to be patient. However, just as I was reaching the front of the line, two girls stepped in front of me and checked out the next two bikes. The staff stopped the line again after getting bikes for the two line-cutting girls and my heart sank. Again, I waited.

A few moments later, one of the staff members approached me asking if I was alone. “Yes, just me,” I replied. “I have a bike for you,” she said. The next thing I knew, she was rolling a normal sized bike my way and, $30 and a $50 deposit later, I was off. Whew! My patience had paid off! Rottnest is a car-free island and is deceivingly large. While there are hop-on/hop-off buses that cruise the island, the best way to get around is by bike and I had one! Hooray!

Empty beaches waiting to be discovered

I spent a few hours cruising along the paths, up and down hills, and stopping to admire the sights. I had a map which I consulted a few times but, overall, I didn’t really know where I was going, nor did I care. I stopped at several beaches, almost all being completely empty, and beautiful look-out points.

Windy day bike problems

I also found the quokka cuties, many of which were scavenging for food in small groups. They’re a friendly and curious bunch, equally as interested in you as you are in them. They move like kangaroos and have a tail like a rat but it’s their adorable smiling faces that is the most charming. It was fun to come across them all throughout the island.


Quokka cuties!

A friend of mine had mentioned a spot on the far western end of the island called Cathedral Rocks, home to a colony of seals. I decided to make my way out there but soon after ran out of water. Unfortunately, outside of the village, there aren’t any places to fill up your water (a fact that really should be amended, Rotto!), and I quickly became dehydrated. The day was heating up and the sun was beating down as I pedaled the island. I considered asking passersby for water but ultimately turned around and returned to town.

I found Geordie’s Cafe where I ordered lunch and gulped down water. A few quokka stopped by to see if I wanted to feed them and a seagull dive bombed my plate, grabbing a piece of ham out of my sandwich. Not my ideal lunch setting but I was too hungry and thirsty to be bothered by it. After lunch, I hopped back on my bike to continue cruising, stopping through the village stores to pick up some fruit, and making my way to a secluded stretch of sand to relax before my return ferry.


A lovely day filled with animal encounters, pristine beaches, and bike adventures. No trip to Perth would be complete without visiting Rottnest Island! #LoveMyRotto!

Published by Ali Gaffey

An American girl full of life and adventure!

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