It may be possible to circumnavigate Rottnest Island by bike in just a few hours but its tiny size belies a wonderland brimming with white-sand beaches, clear turquoise waters, secluded coves and fantastic dining. Oh, and there are quokkas, too – Rottnest’s cutest and most famous residents.
While there are several places to stay on the island (including Hotel Rottnest and the recently opened Samphire Rottnest), out-of-towners generally visit for a daytrip, arriving by ferry in the early morning and departing in the late afternoon or early evening (ferries to Rottnest leave from both Perth and Fremantle, with timetables changing depending on the time of year).
To help you make the most of a day in this little island paradise, we tapped the locals for the ultimate itinerary and their best insider tips.
Start here >>> take the SeaLink Ferry from Fremantle to Rottnest Island
“The holiday starts with us,” says Leycester Cory, marketing manager from SeaLink Rottnest Island ferries, which has regular services departing from the wharf at Fremantle (about 30 minutes’ drive south-west of Perth). “The ferry trip is only half an hour and there is always a chance to see whales in season – you’re on the ‘humpback highway’ – as well as dolphins and lots of seabirds.”
A frequent visitor to Rottnest with his family, Cory recommends visitors hop aboard the earliest ferry possible to make the most of their day on the island. “Rottnest is great all year round so choose your activity depending on the weather. The island is warmer in winter and cooler in summer than the mainland.”
Whichever season you choose to visit, you’ll need to think about how to get around – there are no cars on “Rotto”. Cory advises booking bike hire along with your SeaLink ferry ride: “That way, you can hop off the ferry and pick your bike up from Pedal & Flipper and be on your way.”
If the sea breeze from the ferry ride hasn’t helped you work up an appetite, perhaps the short pedal to Pinky’s Beach Club will do the trick. If not, try a dip in the clear water surrounding Pinky Beach.
“It’s perfectly acceptable to wander up to Pinky’s Beach Club in swimmers, fresh from the beach, with sandy bare feet,” says Cory. “I like to go when the pizza oven is fired up – the woodfired pizza is incredible. If you want to indulge in a boozy lunch, I recommend the Pinky’s Iced Tea [Pinky’s Spritz] – it’s like Rottnest’s version of a Long Island Iced Tea but made with pink gin.”
SeaLink ferry >>> Pinky’s Beach Club
On the shores of Pinky Beach, a picturesque lighthouse keeps watch over the glistening blue water and quokkas hop through the dunes (they’re naturally inquisitive so they’ll come to you for a selfie). Pinky’s Beach Club, part of the Discovery Rottnest Island eco resort, does a brisk trade in breakfast and brunch, served with a side of spectacular.
“Here, we’ve got views of Pinky Beach and Bathurst Lighthouse to accompany your brunch, and you can see north across the Indian Ocean and spot whales and dolphins,” says the resort’s general manager, Luke Unsworth.
“We have a focus on seafood – preferably locally caught – but our pizzas are famous, as is our pink menu that’s inspired by the epic sunsets we get here. I love the Pinky’s Burger – the bun is pink, made with beetroot juice for us by a bakery back in Perth.”
Unsworth says life on Rottnest is all about the water. “When I’m not working, I’m in the sea. You can have an excellent time out on Thomson Bay on a waterbike – they’re easy to use and if you do a tour, you can learn all about Rotto’s unique environment as you glide around. You’ll get some excellent views, too!”
Pinky’s Beach Club >>> Aquaplay
“We’re absolutely passionate about Rotto,” says Penny Macpherson-Price of Aquaplay. “The crystal-clear turquoise waters around the island are teeming with marine life and perfect for exploring. We wanted to share our love of the island with others and allow people of all ages to get out onto the water in safe, fun and accessible ways.
“Waterbikes are a combination of a boat and a bike. They’re incredibly easy to use, eco-friendly and a whole lot of fun. It’s just like riding a bike on water. Guests can explore North Thomson Bay by themselves or join us on a tour and explore the island’s hidden treasures.”
The waterbikes are suitable for ages eight and up and all levels of fitness. The tour takes riders on a gentle pedal from North Thomson Bay, past Bathurst Lighthouse and into Pinky Beach. “We’ll even provide you with a waterproof case for your phone so you can take snaps of the seals, dolphins and stingrays that are frequent visitors to the bay.”
Aquaplay >>> Lontara
Out of the water, Macpherson-Price is thrilled by Rotto’s newest restaurant, Lontara, at the Samphire Rottnest resort. “I love to head to Lontara for cocktails as the sun sets. If I’m lucky, cocktails turn into dinner. The menu is South-East Asian and the produce is the freshest from Western Australia.”
She says the best way to experience Lontara is to gather a group and order the Feed Me menu so that everyone gets a taste of the greatest hits. “It’s an incredible dining experience that still manages to be laid-back.”
Executive chef Quim Hernandez agrees. “Our philosophy is barefoot luxury,” he says. “The whole menu is designed for sharing and our dining room opens out to face the Indian Ocean.”
Lontara is inspired by the cuisine of South-East Asia and to devise the menu, Hernandez searched far and wide. “We gathered recipes from grandmothers and prestigious chefs alike to come up with a menu of our own using West Australian produce without compromising the flavours and authenticity.
“We start with some Rottnest Island scallops with caramelised minced duck, finger lime and nahm jim, followed by smoked ocean trout betel-leaf with pork skin, chilli relish and salmon roe. Then there’s the chilli-salt soft-shell crab tempura with soft egg and chilli lime dressing; the pork belly with quandong, native pepperberry caramel and sunrise lime nam pla prik; and the crispy whole fish with wild ginger, crispy Thai basil and pineapple.”
Before you waddle back to board that ferry to Freo (the final ferry departs at 7.45pm during the peak summer period from late December to the end of January), don’t forget dessert: pandan coconut panna cotta, passionfruit parfait or Vietnamese tiramisù. And, perhaps, just one last East 2 West cocktail (sloe gin, apricot brandy, yuzu, native currant and rosemary shrub) for the road. Bon voyage!
Stay: The Ritz-Carlton Perth
After a day of exploring the island, return to the comfort of The Ritz-Carlton Perth. There are 205 spacious rooms and suites with floor-to-ceiling windows framing water views and the CBD’s glowing lights. The location, in the heart of the Elizabeth Quay development on the Swan River, is an ideal base. But there’s no need to leave the hotel to experience the best of Perth’s dining scene: Hearth Restaurant sums it up nicely, while Songbird Bar & Lounge is the place to be for a pre-prandial drink as dusk descends.
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SEE ALSO: 20 Unmissable Things to Do in Perth
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