Skip to main content

Lakes & Salt Lakes

Venture into the centre of Wadjemup

While surrounded by water, the centre of Wadjemup / Rottnest Island is home to even more bodies of water. An array of 12 salt lakes occupy 10% of Wadjemup’s inland space, taking up more than 200 hectares.

Interestingly, while being surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the water in these salt lakes is four times saltier than that in the sea. 

Despite this, the island’s clever plant life has evolved to cope with these high salt levels. Plants like beaded samphire, coastal bonefruit, grey saltbush, and coastal pigface all exist close to the lakes’ edges. Be sure to stay on the marked trails, though, to make sure you don’t trample the delicate, thousand-year-old microbialites that grow on the shores.

It creates a unique wetland habitat, crisscrossed with walking trails, that’s ripe for quiet exploration and reflection.

The Gabbi Karniny Bidi section of the Wadjemup Bidi winds its way through the lake systems. A 9.5 km loop hike, it takes you up hills, through the patchwork Wadjemup bushland. The star of the trail is the lakes’ boardwalk section, installed over the salty surface to make it feel as though you’re walking—perhaps floating—on water.

Keen-eyed explorers might see

Pink salt lakes

Brilliant green and red samphire colonies

Migratory water birds

Stunning sunsets over the lakes

Where to find Wadjemup’s salt lakes

The salt lakes can be found all across the northeastern corner of the island. The first, Garden Lake, is located just a three-minute walk along Digby Drive from the main settlement.


Watch the salt pans come alive

Many of Rottnest Island’s salt lakes, including Lake Baghdad, Lake Vincent, Herschel Lake, Garden Lake, Government House Lake, and Serpentine Lake, are permanent wetland fixtures of the island. They feature water all year round—and even have their own surrounding beaches.

Other lakes such as Pink Lake, Lake Sirius, Lake Negri, and the twin Pearse Lakes, have a tendency to dry out over summer, leaving large swathes of white—or pink—salt pans. 

Standing in stark contrast to Wadjemup’s radiant blue summer skies, the real magic happens when the sun sets. As it starts to dip over the horizon, and the light begins to dim, the dry salt lake beds reflect back the burning sunset colours, creating a brilliant canvas for a unique Wadjemup experience.

The Hike Collective Lakes & Bays Tour
The Hike Collective Lakes & Bays Tour

Learn the Noongar names

Salt lake


Balyan boodja


Frequently asked questions

No, no swimming is allowed in the salt lakes. It wouldn’t be very pleasant, anyway, given how salty the water is. Instead, why not try one of the many beautiful beaches dotted around the island.

You can start the Gabbi Karniny Bidi from the main settlement. Step out from the Wadjemup Visitor Centre, head west out Digby Drive towards Vlamingh Lookout, and follow the yellow trail markers as you make the 9.5 km loop around the lakes.

While it’s very well signposted, The Hike Collective provides a Lakes & Bays Guided Hike, which takes intrepid visitors along the Gabbi Karniny Bidi. 

Head to the Visitor Centre to find out more about guided walking tours.