Beaches and Bays
Come and see for yourself why Rottnest Island beaches were awarded top Australian beaches by Australia’s prestigious travel guide ‘Explore Australia 2007’, and voted the 'Top Destination to Experience in Australia 2014' in the Experience Oz poll.
Home to some of the finest beaches and bays in the world, visiting Rottnest Island will be an unforgettable holiday experience. With a choice of over 63 secluded beaches and 20 bays, you will be spoilt for choice.
Some of our most popular beaches and bays include:
- Cape Vlamingh
- Fish Hook Bay
- Geordie Bay
- Little Armstrong
- Little Parakeet
- Little Salmon Bay
- Parakeet Bay
- Parker Point
- Ricey Beach
- Salmon Bay
- Stark Bay
- Strickland Bay (Strickland Bay at Narrow Neck, east of Roland Smith Memorial, is currently CLOSED TO PUBLIC ACCESS - see map. Fairy terns are nesting at this location and are highly susceptible to human disturbance. They will abandon their nests when people approach.)
- The Basin
- West End
With so many unique bays and beaches, Rottnest Island is a perfect destination for any water sports from swimming to diving, fishing and surfing. Or if you prefer to just relax, there are plenty of amazing spots to just sit and enjoy your surroundings. Some of our most famous beaches include The Basin, Little Parakeet Bay, Little Salmon Bay and Geordie Bay.
The Basin, with its shallow clear waters, is only 10 minutes from the main settlement and an underwater snorkelling playground. But if you are in a hurry to get straight into the water after your ferry, head to the sheltered waters of Thomson Bay. Based in the main settlement, it is very popular with families and has a roped off area for swimming.
If you venture out into the reserve you can spend entire days exploring the endless unique bays and all that they have to offer. Whether you cycle around or just hop on the Island Explorer bus, you are bound to find your ideal beach on the Island.
Fishing on Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island is a very popular site for recreational fishing due to the abundance marine wildlife. The fish found in Rottnest waters can be classified into three categories: reef dwellers, seagrass inhabitants and migratory species.
The abundant seagrass meadows around Rottnest serve as a nursery for juveniles of many fish species, such as the Cobbler and Long-headed Flathead. Migratory fish species found around Rottnest include Australian Herring, Tailor, School Whiting, Skipjack Trevally ("Skippy") and Sea Garfish. Fishing gear can be hired or bought at Rottnest Island Bike & Hire and the General Store in Thomson Bay.
To maintain a sustainable supply of fish for the future, all recreational fishing must adhere to the Department of Fisheries regulations with regards to Licenses and bag limits apply on Rottnest Island. For information and guidelines visit the Fish WA website.
Spear fishing is prohibited within specific boundaries of Rottnest Island. If you are carrying spear guns or gidgees on board your vessel and are within the boundary they should be dismantled, unloaded and stowed safely on-board the vessel. Spear guns and gidgees are not permitted on the Island. Penalties apply. Net fishing is also prohibited in the Marine Reserve, so please check the Rottnest Island Sanctuary Zones page for details. Details of these restrictions can also be found on the Fish WA website.
Surfing at Rottnest Island
Rottnest Island has some of the best surfing conditions and most consistent breaks in Western Australia. Popular surf spots include:
- The Rotto Box
- Riceys Beach
- Stark Bay
- Strickland Bay
- The Basins Ledge
- The Fruit Bowl - between Catherine Bay and City of York Bay
- Chicken Reef - Salmon Bay
- Transits - Thomson Bay
Strickland Bay, Salmon Bay and Stark Bay are particularly popular breaks for surfers, bodyboarders and stand-up paddle boarders. In fact, Strickland Bay has been ranked in the top 50 breaks in the world. Rottnest also has various reef breaks on both sides of the Island including Radar Reef, Cathedral Rocks and Chicken Reef. Waves off Rottnest can often be two to three feet larger than those at Perth beaches. A guide to the Island's surf breaks is available for purchase from Rottnest Island Visitor Centre.
To ensure the future of the Island, we ask that surfers use designated pathways when accessing surf spots, to help protect fragile dune vegetation. Please also take care with food and rubbish, disposing of unwanted material in bins provided.
During the cooler months Rottnest becomes a popular spot for Surfing competition, attracting great events such as the HIF Pro AM #2 (Surfing WA), while Offshore Boardriders Club also hold local competitions. For Event details and more information, visit the events calendar in the What's On section.
Wave conditions can vary considerably depending on wind and swell, so check the latest weather forecast before heading over. Local waters forecast and latest swell can be found at the Bureau of Meteorology. Check out popular surfing website for recent surf photos, surfing conditions and information on where to surf according to wind direction and swell:
Diving at Rottnest Island
The diversity of fish, coral species and shipwrecks in the waters around Rottnest Island make it one of the most fascinating dive sites to be found in such close proximity to a capital city. For this reason, many dive operators based on the mainland conduct day trips and dives at Rottnest Island.
Please take care when diving around coral as it is easily damaged and takes many years to recover. Also please note that spearguns and handspears are not permitted in the Marine Reserve.
Refer to the marine life section of the site for more information about what you can expect to see on a dive in the Rottnest Island Marine Reserve.
Several private diving charters operate from the mainland but can also be arranged to pick-up and drop-off divers from Rottnest Island. Between September and April each year, Charter 1 offers a variety of dive packages aboard their 43ft Catamaran SV Capella (private charter only).
Rottnest Island Pedal & Flipper also now offer dive tank refills. For more details call 08 9292 5105.
Snorkelling at Rottnest Island
The marine environment surrounding Rottnest Island offers a stunning array of snorkelling destinations. Popular snorkelling spots include The Basin, Parakeet Bay, Parker Point, Little Salmon Bay and Little Armstrong Bay. A very useful publication on snorkelling at Rottnest Island is available from the visitor centre.
Snorkel sets can be hired from Rottnest Island Pedal & Flipper, located just behind Hotel Rottnest.
Rottnest Express also offer guided snorkelling tours off Rottnest Island. Explore natural underwater sculptures alongside hundreds of fish without the hassle and crowd of the beach.
Please take care when snorkelling around coral as it is easily damaged and may take many years to recover. Note that spearguns and handspears are not permitted in the Marine Reserve.
See the marine life section of the site for more information about what you can expect to see snorkelling in the Rottnest Island Marine Reserve.
Keen to explore Rottnest Island? Traverse the Island’s unique landscapes along the Wadjemup Bidi; a series of walk trails that will take you across spectacular coastal headlands, past stunning inland lakes and encounter both natural and man-made attractions along the way.
The Wadjemup Bidi is 45 kilometres of trails made up of 5 sections, each boasting culturally and environmentally significant landmarks to interpret and experience. "Bidi" in Noongar means "trail" or "track". The Whadjuk Noongar are the Traditional Owners of Rottnest Island.
The intricate network of trails aid to control and manage visitor impact, by connecting Rottnest Island's beautiful natural features to its cultural history in an environmentally sustainable manner.
The Wadjemup Bidi project aims to raise awareness of both the environmental and cultural values of Rottnest Island. The Rottnest Island Authority (RIA) is committed to ensuring the integrity of the Noongar language is maintained.
When walking the trail, bring along the Wadjemup Bidi fact sheets below for assistance. Please ensure you bring sufficient drinking water, keep to trails and beware of snakes in terrestrial areas. In the case of an emergency, dial 000 for assistance.
The 5 sections of the 45km Wadjemup Bidi are:
- Ngank Yira Bidi - Uncover Bickley Battery (9.4km/ one way approx. 3-4hrs): Completed in December 2013, this section traverses the south east corner of the Island - Thomson Bay to Oliver Hill. Approximately 9.4km in distance, you'll explore the remnants of Coastal Defence systems installed during WWII.
- Gabbi Karniny Bidi - Discover the Salt Lakes (9.7km/ loop approx. 3-4hrs): Starting from Thomson Bay Settlement and heading west out of Digby Drive, this section meanders through the lake systems including a magical stroll along the Lakes Boardwalk which provides the façade of “walking on water”.
- Wardan Nara Bidi - Relax on Salmon Bay (10km/ one way approx. 3-4hrs): Walk along the coast of Salmon Bay and then cross through to the middle of the Island to explore the WWII guns and tunnels. Take in panoramic views from Wadjemup Lighthouse and then continue west to the world class surf break at Strickland Bay. Learn a bit more about Rottnest Island's surfing history by watching a short documentary accessed by scanning the QR code located on the informative sign or inside the surfing hut at this location. The Wardan Nara Bidi was proudly supported by the Rottnest Foundation working in partnership with BHP Billiton.
- Karlinyah Bidi - Experience the Northern Beaches (5.9km/ one way approx. 2-3hrs): Beautiful long sandy beaches and calm swimming lagoons within the reef; there will be a favourite spot for everyone. Enjoy the excitement of rugged sections of trail, but be aware of seasonal access in high seas.The Karlinyah Bidi was proudly supported by the Rottnest Foundation working in partnership with BHP Billiton.
- Ngank Wen Bidi - Explore West End (7.6km/ loop approx. 3-4hrs): The western end of the Island is a marine wildlife haven! New Zealand fur seals can be seen from the viewing platform at Cathedral Rocks and the West End boardwalk is a great place to spot dolphins, and the seasonal migration of humpback whales! The loop circumnavigates the entire West End, guiding you along some of the most remote trail on the Island. The views from the south coast span back to the mainland and all the way to Garden Island. Along the north coast you will encounter bays that may well become your new favourite Rottnest bay! You will not be disappointed.
The Wadjemup Bidi project will greatly enhance the Rottnest Island experience and become a major environmental, cultural and tourism show piece for Western Australia.
Walk Trail Extras
Planning the walk? Bring along the trail section fact sheets.
Do you want to know more about each trail? Follow the link for in depth information on the Trails WA website.
You can rate the trails on Trails WA and share your photos on Instagram #wadjemupbidi
Leave no trace: Please help us to reduce our ecological footprint. Be considerate of the environment.
Unique Wildlife Encounters
As an A Class Nature Reserve, Rottnest Island preserves and protects its natural beauty; spectacular flora, abundant marine life and wildlife and many unique species.
With a variety of nature based activities from free guided walking tours to dive charters, Rottnest offers plenty of opportunity to experience more nature. As well as these suggested nature based activities, you can read more about Rottnest Island's Flora and Fauna.
Quokka Walks - free guided walks!
Rottnest Island's famous marsupial, the Quokka, can be seen around the Island particularly in the mid to late afternoon. However, for a informative walking tour with an educational focus, this walk leads participants to the quokkas natural habitats and imparts some interesting facts about this iconic animal.
During the autumn and winter months (March to August) young joeys may be seen peaking from their mothers' pouch and come spring (September to November), bravely hopping around exploring their new world. View free guided walking tours.
West End Boardwalk
The West End Boardwalk was completed in February 2012. The West End is a popular site for visitors to Rottnest Island as it allows visitors to encounters a large amount of the Islands unique flora and Fauna. The boardwalk was constructed using sustainable materials including recycled plastics. The boardwalk’s footprint helps to reduce impacts on nesting shearwater birds whilst also providing a unique recreational experience. Interpretive signage and binoculars are also present for whale and bird watching, while lookouts were installed to enable visitors to get even closer to nature without destroying the unique coastal environment.
While walking the West End Boardwalk, keep an eye out for burrows in the sand. These are actually the nests of Wedge-tailed shearwaters commonly known as ‘muttonbirds’ and can be up to two meters deep.
Discover Osprey nests
See the osprey nests known to be over 70 years old at West End - Fish Hook Bay. Osprey’s mate for life and return to their nests, adding more to the stacks every year. This majestic raptor has a 1.5 meter wing span. Its scientific name Pandion cristatus, is derived from Pandion, a mythical king of Athens.
Around 35,000 migrating Humpback and Southern Right whales linger in the calm waters around the Island. In April each year they head north to feeding grounds while on their return trip during September to December, the whales and their newborn calf’s spend much of their time playing in the protected Rottnest waters gaining strength and learning all that young whale needs to know before returning to the colder southern waters. You can often see them from the Island itself, with the West End platform providing a prime viewing location.
Cathedral Rocks viewing platform
The New Cathedral Rocks viewing platform allows you to get closer to the resident New Zealand Fur Seals colony without disturbing them whilst they flip and play together in the bay and enjoy basking on the rocks. The Cathedral Rocks waters are closed to diving and boating (see water closures here). Ride to Cathedral Rocks by bike or jump on the Island Explorer bus. Find out how to interact with New Zealand Fur Seals.
Salt lakes occupy ten per cent of the area of Rottnest Island. Many of them - including Lake Baghdad, Lake Vincent, Herschel Lake, Garden Lake, Government House Lake and Serpentine Lake - are permanent and have surrounding beaches. Other lakes such as Pink Lake, Lake Sirius, Lake Negri and the twin Pearse Lakes may dry out in summer.
Exploring the lakes area, you can following educational interpretive signage to discover how the lakes were formed, what makes the lakes pink and why they are considered such a unique eco system. The Lakes Walk of the Wadjemup Walk Trail meanders through the lake systems including a magical stroll along the Lakes Boardwalk.
Vlamingh Lookout and Salt Lakes Walk - free guided walks!
Learn about the remarkable agriculture, industry and exports carried out by the early inhabitants of Rottnest. Walk past the Old Colonial Buildings of the Settlement on the way to the lookout. View the natural beauty of Rottnest and the salt lakes from this vantage point. View free guided walking tours.
Rottnest Island Daisies
Admire the fields of Rottnest Island Daisy flowering near Green Island during spring. Also known as the blue lace flower, this native is actually a member of the carrot family and has become a very popular ornamental garden plant.
Watching for wild birds
Look out for Banded Stilts, Crested Terns and Red-capped Plovers on the Lake Herschel and Lake Baghdad. Crested Terns have a shaggy black cap of feathers on their head which people say looks like Elvis Presley on a bad hair day. Find out more about birds on Rottnest Island.
Listen for the distinctive nightly calls of bats and frogs
The White-striped Freetail bat flying over the Settlement at night – recently discovered as the second mammal species living on the Island. Rottnest also has 3 species of frogs - the moaning frog (Burrowing frog), the motorbike frog (Western Green Tree frog) and squelching frog (Sandplain froglet). The Tree frog is quite restricted in its distribution, whilst the moaning frog and the froglet are usually associated with low-lying areas, freshwater swamps and seeps.
There are also plenty of geckos at night around the settlement to watch out for, including the Marbled gecko and Spiny Tailed gecko.
Snorkelling with 135 species of tropical fish Underwater
Protected by several marine sanctuary zones, Rottnest Island is home to 135 species of tropical fish as compared to the eleven species recorded off the metropolitan coastline. The tropical current often brings visitors to our waters such as the Green turtle. Watch for stingrays which often cruise the shallows of Thomson Bay.
You may also spot a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins feeding & surfing in Salmon Bay (north).