Located just off the coast of Perth, Western Australia is the stunning Rottnest Island – a place that is a very popular place for both Perth locals and visitors to visit on a day trip from Perth, but with the significant cost associated, is it really worth visiting?
While Rottnest Island is certainly a beautiful place and has its attractions such as the unique native quokkas and stunning bays and beaches, it’s definitely not a cheap day out.
Despite being on many people’s Western Australia bucket list, there are several things to know before visiting Rottnest Island.
In this article, we will look at the pros and cons of visiting Rottnest Island, which will hopefully help you decide whether or not a visit to Rottnest Island is worth it for you!
Is Rottnest Island Worth Visiting: Cons of Visiting Rottnest Island
Prepare For The Expensive Rottnest Ferry Cost:
One thing many people don’t realise before they go to Rottnest Island is just how much money it will cost them to get there.
The ferry ride alone to Rottnest Island is pretty expensive – especially if you’re going at peak season, you’re on a budget or you’re paying for the whole family.
Rottnest Island is only 19km from Fremantle, with the ferry lasting around just 30 minutes, but it will cost you roughly $80 per adult return to get there (including the admission fee to Rottnest Island, which is $20 for adults).
Especially if you plan to visit Rottnest Island outside of the peak season, it can often pay off to look out for special offers on the different ferry websites (Sealink, Rottnest Express and Rottnest Fast Ferries).
Particularly during winter, Rottnest Island ferry offers can often pop up which can really help to reduce your costs.
Sometimes kids can travel free on the ferries with an accompanying paying adult, and sometimes there are offers to travel at a reduced price if visiting Rottnest Island on a weekday as opposed to on the weekend.
Sometimes during winter the ferry companies also offer 20% or so off the price of the ferry ticket if booked a few days in advance, so definitely check all three companies before you book!
None of the companies are particularly better than the other, so if you’re looking to save some money, just pick the one that has the best price when you want to visit!
Just take note of the departure point as the different companies have several different departure terminals – from Fremantle B-Shed and Northport, to Perth CBD to Hillarys Boat Harbour in Perth’s northern suburbs!
The Ferry From Perth To Rottnest Takes 3 Times Longer Than The Ferry From Fremantle!
If you take the ferry from Barrack Street Jetty at Elizabeth Quay in Perth’s CBD, it will take 90 minutes to reach Rottnest Island – as opposed to just 30 minutes from Fremantle!
The ferry from Perth will meander along the Swan River before stopping off at Fremantle to pick more people up, and then head to Rottnest Island. In addition to the ferry taking much longer, the price of the ticket from Perth will cost more.
Therefore it’s best to avoid this option if you’re short on time or money and take the ferry from Fremantle instead.
Fremantle is a great place and there are plenty of tourist sights to see in Fremantle before or after you visit Rottnest Island if you have the time!
If it’s tricky for you to get to Fremantle, another alternative is to take the ferry from Hillarys Boat Harbour – Rottnest Fast Ferries offers complimentary hotel transfers from Perth CBD to Hillarys before and after your ferry, which is quicker than taking the ferry from Perth.
That being said if you do have the time and don’t mind spending extra, it is a really nice and relaxing boat ride along the Swan River from Perth CBD to Fremantle!
You’ll go past some of Perth’s exclusive neighbourhoods, as well as the Blue Boat Shed – one of the most famous photo locations in Perth!
Limited Ferry Times To & From Rottnest Especially Outside Of Peak Season:
Despite there being three ferry companies that offer transfers to Rottnest Island, outside of peak season – especially during the winter months, the ferry schedules are pretty limited, particularly if you’re just coming on a day trip.
The last ferry back from Rottnest to the mainland is at 4.30 pm in winter and 6.15 pm in summer, so this really limits your time on the island, especially if you don’t take the early morning ferry across to Rottnest. My tip is to
Double-check the Timetable, Departure Point and Ferry Company Beforehand!
There are three ferry companies that operate to Rottnest – Sealink, Rottnest Express and Rottnest Fast Ferries. Sealink departs from Fremantle B Shed and Barrack Street Jetty (Perth CBD).
Rottnest Express departs from Fremantle B Shed, Northport and Barrack Street Jetty. Rottnest Fast Ferries departs from Hillarys Boat Harbour in Perth’s northern suburbs.
If a company seems cheaper than the others, it’s often because the price ticket doesn’t include the compulsory Rottnest Island admission fee in the price of the ticket, or you have to pay for parking.
Therefore, the price to get across to Rottnest Island is fairly similar amongst all the companies, give or take a little.
Bear in mind also that you will need to pay for parking in Fremantle and Perth CBD, which accounts for at least another $10 (you can’t bring cars across to Rottnest as the island is car-free!).
The only ferry departure point where parking is free is at Hillarys Boat Harbour.
The Cost Of Activities On Rottnest Island Adds Up!
In addition to the expensive ferry prices, the price of activities on Rottnest Island can add up.
You’ll only be able to see a tiny portion of the island otherwise, and you’ll really miss out on all that Rottnest has to offer!
You can book your activities together with your ferry ticket, or book it separately if you prefer.
You only need to book one activity to be able to see the island, and by far the most popular one is to rent a bicycle and explore the island independently as it provides you the freedom to stop off at the beaches and salt lakes as you wish – as well as stop off to say hi to any quokkas!
Hiring a bike on the island, however, adds up. It’s $30 per person, and if you want to hire an e-bike from the Pedal & Flipper store (which is located close to the ferry terminal on Rottnest Island) it costs $80.
If you have a moderate level of fitness, a regular bike is perfectly acceptable to get around the island.
Even if you want to bring your bike or paddleboard across to Rottnest Island to save on the cost of hiring one when you get there, it will still cost you $20 to put it on the ferry!
From Pedal & Flipper, you can also hire snorkelling gear, or you can save money and bring your own!
Especially during the summer months, the waters around Rottnest Island are a fantastic place to snorkel – there are so many different species of fish here!
If you want to stay dry but you don’t want to cycle around Rottnest, the Rottnest Island Explorer hop-on hop-off bus is a convenient way to see the island at your own pace.
It will drop you off at all the major sightseeing points on the island and runs every 30 minutes. The Rottnest Island Explorer costs $25 per person.
In addition, being an island means there are fewer options for food, and the upmarket beachfront bars and restaurants in Thomson Bay certainly aren’t cheap.
You will find some more reasonably priced places to eat lunch on Somerville Drive just behind the Rottnest Island Visitor Center, or you may even wish to bring some food with you from the mainland.
The luxury resorts on Rottnest Island are also quite costly if you plan to stay overnight.
The combined cost of transportation, entry fees, and additional expenses such as food and accommodation at Rottnest can easily add up, making it an expensive outing!
Peak Season = More Crowds!
During peak tourist season, especially the school holidays, Rottnest Island can get quite crowded. Not only is it a popular place for tourists to visit, but it’s a popular place for people living in Perth to enjoy – especially in the summer months.
This influx of visitors to Rottnest means the beaches are more crowded, the wait times for activities and attractions are longer, and the atmosphere is less peaceful than if you visit during the cooler off-peak months.
Honestly, after having visited Rottnest Island several times, I feel the best time to visit is outside of the peak season. During the hot summer months, it’s too hot to comfortably cycle around, and there are crowds everywhere!
Rottnest Island Enjoyment Is Pretty Weather Dependency
As basically all the activities at Rottnest Island are outdoors, enjoying Rottnest to the fullest depends a lot on good weather!
If it’s too windy or rainy (or even too hot!), it might limit your options for outdoor activities and beach enjoyment, so try to book it for a day when you know the weather is good!
If you plan to cycle around the island, you may want to visit outside of the hot summer months, when it isn’t too hot, and is more pleasant to cycle around.
Also, try to go to Rottnest Island on a day when the wind is down – we took the ferry across one time and the sea was so rough half of the boat nearly vomited from seasickness!
Limited Accommodation On Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island is a great place to have a staycation and stay over a few nights if one day on Rottnest Island simply isn’t enough!
However, you might find that accommodation options on Rottnest are limited, pricey, and can fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons.
Definitely try to book accommodation on Rottnest Island in advance (Samphire Rottnest is stunning) so it doesn’t all book out!
The History Of The Island As A Prison Camp Has Been Concealed:
Rottnest Island (Wadjemup) has a complex history, and a pretty painful colonial past that the Rottnest Island Authority previously tried to conceal.
Australia’s largest number of Aboriginal deaths in a custody site occurred here on Wadjemup (the Aboriginal name for Rottnest Island) – in the building that was once a prison camp for Aboriginal boys and men aged between 8 and 80 years old.
They were convicted mainly for petty offences such as sheep-shearing or theft.
These prisoners undertook forced labour and played a significant role in constructing essential elements of the island such as the seawall, roads, cottages, the Quod (which later became their prison), the superintendent’s cottage, and the original Wadjemup lighthouse.
The Wadjemup Aboriginal burial ground holds the remains of almost 400 Aboriginal prisoners in unmarked graves who perished while in custody at Wadjemup between 1838 and 1931.
Countless visitors to Wadjemup have unwittingly camped on the burial ground, and others have vacationed within the 29-cell prison known as the Quod. Both sites, once popular tourist accommodations, are now off-limits to the public.
Is Rottnest Island Worth Visiting: Pros of Visiting Rottnest Island
Despite several cons, there are many pros to visiting Rottnest Island:
Rottnest Island Is Stunning!
Rottnest Island has some of the most stunning beaches in Western Australia.
With its crystal-clear turquoise waters contrasting against the white sand, plus a real variety of marine life to discover under the surface, Rottnest Island is truly a paradise for beach lovers and snorkellers.
Meet The Quokkas – The Friendly Natives Of Rottnest Island!
Rottnest Island has gained significant worldwide attention due to the adorable quokkas that are unique to the island.
The quokkas at Rottnest Island are adorable and always seem to be smiling, gaining them the nickname of the ‘happiest animal in the world’! Seeing the quokkas should be a priority on anyone’s trip to Rottnest Island!
You’ll see lots of these friendly marsupials around the main shopping precinct just behind Thomson Bay near the jetty.
However, if you’re hoping to see some quokkas without lots of other people around in a more natural environment, just on the grass by the entrance to the Golf Club is a good place to spot them!
This is the best spot to see the quokkas on Rottnest Island as it’s not very well known so it’s quiet – plus it’s quite shady, so you’ll usually see several quokkas here!
Lie down on the grass next to the quokkas and get a quokka selfie – it’s definitely a memorable experience! Just like kangaroos and rabbits, quokkas love eating and you’ll often see them munching on leaves constantly!
Quokkas are listed on the vulnerable list of endangered species, so don’t feed them or touch them – it could land you with a $300 on-the-spot fine!
There Are Plenty Of Outdoor Activities To Choose From At Rottnest Island!
From cycling around the island to snorkelling, kayaking, going on a segway, hop-on-hop-off bus, boat tour, helicopter tour or even skydiving over Rottnest, the island offers so many outdoor activities for you to choose from, whether you’re after an adrenaline-filled day or a relaxing day at the beach.
If you stay over on Rottnest Island for a few days you’ll have plenty of choices for activities, or if you’re visiting Rottnest for a second, third or fourth time you can try a different activity than before!
Rottnest Island is the Perfect Place to Unwind and Relax
The lack of cars and the slower pace of life on Rottnest Island is a really refreshing escape from city life. If you’re after a laid-back place to unwind, Rottnest Island is definitely the place!
So, Is Rottnest Island Worth Visiting Or Not?
In conclusion, whilst Rottnest Island is an expensive day out and there are many reasons that may seem like it is not worth visiting, it is truly a lovely place to visit, full of unique experiences.
If you’re keen to appreciate the natural beauty of the island, as well as its native Australian animals, Rottnest Island is definitely worth visiting if you can afford it, and makes for a great day trip from Perth, and a fabulous place to add to your Western Australia itinerary.
Especially if you are flexible with your itinerary, you plan your day beforehand and visit off-peak, you can save money on your trip to Rottnest Island, making it a more affordable option!
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Catrina is a Travel Writer, SEO Specialist and ex-Flight Attendant based in Sydney, Australia. She has visited 85 countries and lived in several – including Italy, Australia, United Arab Emirates and England. Her work has been featured in a variety of popular travel publications including Fodors, Escape, Australian Traveller and Bear Grylls, as well as several international aviation and travel companies. The majority of her work however features on her own website – 24hourslayover.com where she has written over 500 travel articles!