If you’re heading over to Rottnest Island, you’ll want to check out all the best spots where you can see the island’s cheerful residents: the quokkas – known as the world’s happiest animal!
Located off the coast of Perth in Western Australia, Rottnest Island is home to around 10,000 adorable quokkas so there are plenty of them to see, you just need to know where to find them!
In this article, we’ll discover the best places on Rottnest Island to encounter these cheerful quokkas in their natural habitat.
What Is A Quokka?
Quokkas are from the same family as kangaroos, but they are a lot smaller – roughly the size of a cat!
They look like small wallabies, although – when Dutch explorers came to Rottnest Island in 1696, they actually mistook the quokkas for giant rats!
They then renamed Wadjemup Island (as it is known in the local Aboriginal language) to “Rat Nest Island”, which then over time became “Rottnest”.
The quokkas share many characteristics with kangaroos and wallabies, such as hopping around and, like other marsupials, the quokka mothers carry their young in a little pouch on their abdomen.
If you look in the picture below you can see the pouch and the tiny quokkas inside!
In addition, like kangaroos and wallabies, quokkas are herbivores so they eat grasses and leaves.
Quokkas are native to southwest Australia, but most of them are found only on Rottnest Island.
It’s very rare to see any on the Australian mainland as they face more threats there such as wild dogs (dingoes), foxes, domesticated cats and dogs, and road traffic.
They are a species vulnerable to extinction, but luckily on Rottnest Island they have no predators (they are the only mammals on Rottnest Island) and the island is free of traffic so they get to live in peace on the island!
Even though they are a primarily nocturnal species, the absence of predators means they are happy to come out and make an appearance on days when it’s not too hot!
Quokkas have a cute and friendly appearance, and it looks like they are always smiling, which is why they have earned the name of the happiest animal in the world!
They sure make for some great Instagram photos when you’re visiting Perth!
Top Tips To Spot Quokkas
Like kangaroos, quokkas aren’t fans of the heat, so if it’s a hot day you’ll find them under the shade – mainly in areas of dense vegetation such as under trees and bushes so they can eat leaves!
You’re also more likely to see them in the late afternoon or early morning when it’s not too hot.
For this reason, it’s a great idea to visit Rottnest Island in the cooler months, stay overnight on the island, or get the first and last ferries to and from the mainland if just coming for a day trip.
Remember that quokkas are a vulnerable species and they still need protecting, so always maintain a respectful distance (you can still get a quokkas selfie though!).
Whilst the quokkas aren’t scared of humans, it’s actually illegal to touch them! You can be fined $300 if you are seen touching one. It can make them ill – plus it can make you ill!
They are still wild animals, so often carry diseases such as salmonella. And never feed them any food, especially human food – it is really bad for them and can make them very sick!
It’s fine to let the quokkas come to you – they are very used to people and curious animals, so if you’re still and quiet they’ll often come and say hello!
If you want to maximise your chances of seeing quokkas, I definitely recommend renting a bicycle to get around the island.
Rottnest Island is 19km squared, so you won’t be able to cover a lot of ground if you’re walking around. The bus is an option, but it only stops at specific stops and at specific times.
Therefore bicycle is most definitely the most convenient way to get around as you can stop when you want, you get to explore all the nooks and crannies of the island, and you can spend as long as you want with the quokkas in each spot!
Where To See Quokkas On Rottnest Island:
Seeing a quokka is high on most people’s list when they visit Rottnest Island, and many people visit Rottnest Island for the quokkas alone!
As there are 10,000 quokkas on Rottnest Island, seeing one shouldn’t be too hard. Here are the best spots to spot quokkas:
Thomson Bay Settlement
Thomson Bay Settlement – the area where you’ll find all the food shops and restaurants near the jetty, is a great place to see quokkas.
The quokkas love to hang out around this area as it’s protected from the sun and they can find lots of food here!
If you come to The Settlement for food you’re bound to see some quokkas hopping around, so watch where you’re walking so you don’t accidentally step on one of their tails!
There are usually several quokkas next to the trees by the restaurants, as well as often near the jetty.
Rottnest Island Golf Club Entrance
My favourite hidden spot to see the quokkas is just before the entrance to the Rottnest Island Golf Club as not many people come here.
You’ll find a shaded area that is probably the best spot on the island to spot quokkas!
There are lots of trees and leaves here so the quokkas have plenty of food, plus there are fewer people around!
Bathurst Lighthouse and Pinky Beach
Not far from the Golf Club are Bathurst Lighthouse and Pinky Beach, both of which are known for quokkas. Enjoy a leisurely walk along the beach and look out for quokkas.
Then enjoy a nice drink at Pinkys outdoor bar and restaurant – there’s a lovely holiday feel here, you may even see a quokka coming to say hi like we did!
If you’re cycling to Wadjemup Lighthouse, look out for quokkas along the way! They often roam the paths near the lighthouse, making it a great spot for quokka sightings. Plus, the views are stunning!
Geordie Bay, one of the most picturesque beaches on the island, is also a quokka hotspot. Visitors can often find quokkas around the greenery that surrounds the bay. Sometimes you can even see quokkas on the sand here!
Parker Point and Henrietta Rocks
The areas around Parker Point and Henrietta Rocks are also good for quokka sightings.
Look out for them on the rocky area and by the shrubbery, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to get a photo of them with the ocean in the background!
How To Get A Quokka Selfie At Rottnest Island
The best way to get a quokka selfie is actually to crouch down behind the quokka or lay down on the floor next to them! Have fun – these little guys are great posers!
How To Get To Rottnest Island
There are three ferry companies that operate to Rottnest – Rottnest Express, Sealink and Rottnest Fast Ferries.
Rottnest Express departs from Fremantle B Shed, Northport and Barrack Street Jetty (Perth CBD). Sealink departs from Fremantle B Shed and Barrack Street Jetty.
Rottnest Fast Ferries departs from Hillarys Boat Harbour in the northern suburbs of Perth.
The cost of the ferry is roughly $80 per adult return (including the admission fee to Rottnest Island, which is $20 for adults).
Make sure to check the ferry times and departure points beforehand!
More Wild Animal Encounters Around Perth
If you’re looking for another encounter with wild native Australian animals in Perth, there’s a place less than 1km from Perth CBD where you can see wild kangaroos – Heirisson Island!
This is a lovely spot to go for some peace and quiet, and if you’re in the right spot at the right time, you may even be able to get photos of the kangaroos with the Perth skyline in the background!
Plus, there are many things you can do in Jurien Bay, so it’s a great place to visit for a few days for a break!
Lancelin Sand Dunes and The Pinnacles Desert are also nearby if you want to experience an environment that is very unique and other worldly!