Rottnest Island history
Visitors can experience Aboriginal, European, colonial, maritime, military, recreational and social heritage on Rottnest Island, which to a certain extent is reflective of the development of the State of Western Australia.
The history of Rottnest Island has created a rich and significant cultural heritage. First records of human occupation of Rottnest Island are from more than 6,500 years ago when the Island was still attached to the mainland, and Aboriginal people inhabited the area. Since its initial European exploration from the 17th Century and its settlement in 1829, Rottnest Island has been through a number of stages of development and has been used for a variety of purposes.
It is believed that Rottnest Island was separated from the mainland 7,000 years ago when the sea level rose, cutting the Island off from the land mass of Western Australia. View more
Ancient Aboriginal artefacts found on Rottnest Island date from over 6,500 years ago, indicating Aboriginal occupation of the area prior to the separation of the Island from the mainland of Western Australia. View more
Rottnest Island's waters contain a number of shipwrecks - a legacy of the uncharted navigational voyages that occurred during the early exploration of the southwest coast of Western Australia. View more
The first Europeans took up residence on Rottnest Island shortly after the first settlement of the Swan River Colony (which became Perth, the capital of Western Australia) was established in 1829. View more
Rottnest Island was a prison for Aboriginal men from mainland Western Australia between 1838 and 1904 – in that time Aboriginal labour was used to build many structures on the Island that still stand today. View more
Rottnest Island has been a tourist destination from the early 1900s when ferries carried tourists to Rottnest Island on Sundays - during these times visitors and prisoners were kept well apart. View more
Take a tour of one of Rottnest Island’s military land marks and learn about the role the Island played in Western Australia’s World War I and World War II history. View more
The historic Hotel Rottnest building (formerly the Quokka Arms Hotel) is highly valued by the community of Western Australia as an integral part of their holiday experience on Rottnest Island. View more
Museums and galleries
Visit the museums and galleries on Rottnest Island and soak up some of the local history and culture. View more