Rottnest Island – Quokka central

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Love me, love my quokka!

Rottnest Island – home of the happiest animal on the planet!

It doesn’t sound like a particularly scenic destination – called “Rotte nest” (meaning “rat nest”) because in the 17th century a Dutch sea captain mistook the quokkas for giant rats – but Rottnest Island  is in fact a very beautiful small island indeed.

Charming coastline

Rottnest Island, known as Wadjemup to the local Noongar people, and ‘Rotto’ to the local Ozzies, is 11 miles west of Fremantle and covers a mere 7.3 square miles. It has its own Island Authority and no cars are allowed on the island (other than a few services vehicles and tourist buses.) It’s pushbikes all the way on Rotto.

Southern cyclists

There are daily ferry services from Perth and Fremantle to the island and, while the crossing isn’t very long, things can get rather frisky due to the windy conditions here. This can make you feel a bit queasy and it doesn’t really help when the broadly smiling crew member comes around offering sick bags to passengers. Just fix your eyes on the horizon and concentrate on the rainbows that appear in the spray and you’ll be there in a jiffy. At least that’s what I did, as I’ve never been the best sailor.

The Rotto express!

Ferry cross the Indian Ocean

This low lying island is a protected nature reserve and home to the world famous quokkas, a vulnerable native Australian species. The quokkas only exist in small pockets elsewhere and Rottnest island is home to the last large population of them anywhere on earth.

This small furry marsupial about the size of a cat, hangs about in the bushes all over the island. You are most likely to spot them however hanging about at the side of the road. Finding them is easy as they have very little fear of humans and seem to be naturally friendly and curious animals.

We came across several little parties of them, some with mums and baby micro quokkas, which are unfeasibly cute. They hopped over to say hello, explore our bikes and try to sniff out food in our rucksacks. You’re aren’t supposed to feed them at all and I was admonished by the local wardens for giving a small piece of apple to one – even though it was a Western Australian apple.

Do NOT feed the quokkas!

Don’t feed the Quokkas!

The quokkas have brown and grey rabbit like fur, and quite short fur covered tails. They also have the cutest little ears and round black teddy bear eyes and possess the quite astonishing ability to smile (even some humans seem to struggle with this) and so selfies with smiling quokkas have become an internet sensation.

This apparent ability to smile at us, has given them the reputation of being ‘the happiest animals on the planet.’ Of course I couldn’t resist rolling around under the spiky bush in the quokka poo with my selfie stick to achieve the perfect snap. I got bitten by horse flies which are quite nasty for my pains.

Munching marsupial

The history of Rottnest Island

Rottnest island separated from the mainland about 7,000 years ago and is home to a number of bird species including the osprey. We actually saw one sitting on its nest atop a pile of sticks on a rock while we were there. The island is home to colonies of Australian sea lions and southern fur seals. It also rare endemic tree species, notably the Rottnest Island pine.

Human artifacts have been discovered here dating back at least 30,000 years but it was uninhabited when the Dutch sailors discovered this enchanting place. Other than the adorable quokkas, the island’s coastline is dotted with the most beautiful little coves and beaches.

Pure white sand fringes turquoise seas here. Rock pools make shallow reefs and bands of different depths of  water create patches of lighter greens and blues. They look beautiful from the clifftop road in the stunning sunshine. As pretty as anything you will see in the Caribbean, Rottnest island has a lot less people too!

Mysterious rock beach

Cycling on Rottnest Island

You can hire bikes or take your own on the ferry crossing, and there are about 11 miles of safe cycling all the way around the island. Cyclists ride up and down on quiet roads, to and from all these lovely little beaches. We stopped for a bit of a rest after some vigorous pedaling at one little beach, and there was literally no one else in sight. It really is like paradise and Robinson Crusoe would definitely have approved.
There are quite a few hills to tackle on Rotto so it’s does take a bit of effort to cycle all around it. I struggled a bit up the very steep hill to the Wadjemup lighthouse. It was worth it though, I do love a lighthouse.

Lovely lighthouse

Beaches on Rottnest include Ricey beach, Parakeet and Porpoise Bay, Crayfish and Fishook Bay. Of particular interest to me were Wilson Bay and Geordie Bay!


We do have some lovely beaches on our North East coast at home, but not quite like this one here…

Geordie Bay – why aye!

Rottnest Island – an Australian gem

The crystal clear waters, fine powder white sand, coral reefs and unique wildlife make this a very special place indeed. Access to Rottnest is carefully controlled. While there is some accommodation here, it is limited and quite expensive, so things have remained largely unspoiled. The old buildings from the 1800’s give the place a rather quaint air. The happy quokkas largely have the island to themselves after the last ferry has gone.
We rode back into Thomson Bay to catch our ferry home. I sampled a salted caramel ice cream courtesy of Simmos ices. There are so many flavours, it is indeed a delicious dilemma.


Prettier than any picture, and home to the uniquely adorable quokkas, Rottnest island is a hidden gem. This tiny island is a must see if you travel to this sunny, surprising side of the world.

Spectacular beaches on Rottnest Island
Check out what else there is to see and do in Fabulous Fremantle