What you see is a photo of a quokka. A surprisingly cute animal who runs wild across Rottnest Island, off the coast of Perth.

After an overnight flight from Indonesia to Perth in mid December, I arrived at the Wickham Retreat Hostel at 7am. After picking the brain of the extremely helpful receptionist for a day trip that I could fit in the day, she suggested Rottnest Island and cycling round to find the quokkas. At the time, I had no idea what a quokka looked like, but she described it as a miniature kangaroo or a giant rat. Personally, I preferred the first description and set off in search of one for the day.


How did I get to Rottnest Island?

Rottnest 0 rottnest express

I made it to the Perth City ferry port at 08:40 only to find out I missed the early morning Rottnest Express ferry by 10 mins. That ferry, I was told, heads straight to Rottnest Island. Instead, I realised my fortune that the only ticket available on the 09:45 ferry was available and likewise (the only ticket) on the 16:15 return. The 09:45 ferry was actually a seat on Captain Cook’s tour boat to Fremantle port, where I would transfer to a Rottnest Express boat to take me onward to the island. Sounds complicated, but in summary it meant I was lucky to get myself to Rottnest Island by 13:00 for a day trip to return on the last boat off the island. That ticket was AUD $84. 

What’s there to do on Rottnest Island?

Rottnest 2 map hand

Rottnest Island is around an hour ferry ride off the west coast of Perth, measuring about 8km wide, by 4km high. Being so small, there are no cars on Rottnest and instead visitors and locals use bikes (and a train) to get around the island. Families living in Perth were able to transport their bikes on the ferry as cargo. Otherwise, you can hire a bike from Rottnest Express (prearranged) or get one on the island itself. I was told there are places to surf off the island too, although I didn’t see anyone on the day I went.

Rottnest 1 take your own bike

The island is great for a family day trip. Quiet beaches, big inflatables in the water (for kids) and enough in the way of cycle paths over the island to keep even the fittest occupied. 

What did I do on the island?

Rottnest 2 welcome

Once I got off the boat, I had three and a half hours to cycle round the island and find the quokkas. I picked up a 7 speed bike from the Rottnest Cycle Hire shop for AUD $16 (their afternoon rate) and tore off on the shorter of the two routes. A full day rate is AUD $25.

Rottnest 3 bike hire

Rottnest 3 bikes

Rottnest 4 my bike

As I rode round the island, I stopped off at the various beaches and lookout points along the way. The beaches are relatively empty, because of the low numbers of people on the island. 

Rottnest 5 beach

Rottnest 6 beach

Rottnest 7 beach

Rottnest 8 ships

The trees are something strange to see. There must be winds predominantly in one direction too – visible by the ways the bigger tree grow.

Rottnest 7 trees

After an hour and a half of cycling, I hadn’t seen a quokka yet. Instead, I’d seen a rather large lizard and some droppings. They had to be from a quokka. I knew I was getting close.

Rottnest 10 lizard

Rottnest 9 droppings

As I cycled to the Wadjemup lighthouse, I had a fairly long uphill stretch and thankfully a subsequent long downhill stretch. Going full pelt on the downhill stretch, I took a double take when I spotted a quokka and almost crashed my bike.

Rottnest 11 quokka distance

The quokka didn’t budge as I dropped my bike and walked over to it. It just stood there slowly blinking at me. I have to say, it was a pretty strange thing to see. Small, cute but very sluggish. It waddled over a little closer to see whether I had anything to eat. As with all the wildlife in Australia, you’re not meant to feed them and I didn’t have any food to give it.

Rottnest 11 quokka side

I stayed crouched down there for a good 10 mins as it just stared at me blinking. If I had any food, I would have definitely broken the rule and given it some. It was just too sweet. I said my goodbyes and rode off to see the lighthouse. I didn’t have any water left either, so I wouldn’t rule out hallucinating and imagining the quokka without the photo evidence.

Rottnest 11 lighthouse

Passed the lighthouse were the Oliver Hill guns (not so interesting) but another great view across the island.

Rottnest 12 gun bike view

From the Oliver Hill guns, the paths is a fairly flat journey with lakes either side of the road. Some of the beaches are closed off for wildlife preservation.

Rottnest 13 lakes either side

Rottnest 13 lakes

Rottnest 14 beach

After three hours of fierce cycling, I was pretty tired, hungary and thirsty. Thankfully, the few shops on the island included a subway, which was possibly the best subway I had ever had. 

Rottnest 15 subway