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9 ways to experience the cooler side of Rottnest Island

This is your guide to experiencing the island when the weather cools down, but your adventurous spirit doesn’t.
5 minutes
Take in the views
Take in the views

There is something calming about watching a wild ocean. Wrapped up in soft blankets, safely positioned on your sheltered balcony, with routine sips of red wine sending warmth to exposed fingers and cheeks. The adventurous spirit of the winter traveller — the one who ventures beyond the mainland for a day or an extended trip — lays dormant for only brief intermissions.

When you step off the ferry at Thomson Bay and begin your winter island escape, you’ll notice how the land feels alive. Muted summer colours are replaced by vibrant green bush and purple-blue bays; the land is brimming with wildlife and the endless potential for connection.

Let these ideas help navigate your exploration of winter on Wadjemup, but don’t be afraid to craft your own personal experiences along the way. This is your journey… let curiosity be your guide.


1. Cycling

There are limited cars on Wadjemup, so cycling has become the chosen mode of transport. Stretches of quiet open road await your leisurely explorations, with a cooling winter breeze increasing stamina and allowing for longer journeys. On a clear day, you’ll be treated to mild temperatures, blue skies, sparkling ocean views, and flourishing native bushland as you circumnavigate the island. Rainy days bring rugged views of the landscape, epic ocean displays, and rides scented with freshly dampened vegetation.

2. Whale watching

Every winter the majestic whales make their migration along the Western Australian coastline, pausing at Wadjemup to rest in the bays. Sightings of these majestic creatures can begin as early as June, with migration season in full force from August to December, a trek out to the Cape Vlamingh or Cathedral Rocks viewing platforms offers more than the usual invigorating hike, as you could witness the passing of these epic creatures, their flipping bodies outlined against the horizon.



3. Hiking

The island is threaded with a network of hiking trails called the Wadjemup Bidi, 45 km split into five unique adventures. Take the chance provided by mild temperatures and fully immerse yourself in nature without the sun slowing you down. The Hike Collective offers guided tours of the Wadjemup Bidi and their Lakes & Bays hike takes you on a trek past pink-tinted salt lakes, historic landmarks, and windblown coastal headlands. Or you can set your own pace on a self-guided walk, whether that’s wandering mindfully through bushland and spotting every flower or testing your endurance with the full 45 km stretch.

4. Historic buildings

The heritage buildings of Wadjemup are places to spend rainy intermissions, where stories of the past are grounded by tangible pieces of history. Begin with Wadjemup Museum. As you step into the Old Mill and Hay Store building, you can feel the presence of a complex and meaningful history. Then the Wadjemup Lighthouse is located a short bus ride or cycle into the centre of the island, offering a 38-metre ascent to the top to take in a unique perspective of the Perth skyline, distorted by distance and the shimmering ocean in between. The Wadjemup Hill precinct also holds the Signal Station, Battery Observation Post, and the Women’s Royal Australian Navy Service House, which are all linked by self-guided interpretive signage.



5. Dining

Island dining is all about being as close to the ocean as possible, and in winter, this means a warm restaurant where you can take in the views while staying toasty. Wadjemup has plenty of cosy venues where you can watch the ocean murmur while indulging in decadent local dishes. There’s also take away spots for grabbing hiking trip sustenance and welcoming establishments for family lunches. When you’ve had a long day of wind-kissed adventures, there’ll be a spot that makes you sigh with relief.

6. Wildlife interactions

During the cooler months, native wildlife is often seen nesting, emerging for the first time, and even migrating through ocean waters. It’s as if this special time on the island has been purpose-designed for a memorable wildlife experience. Watch multiple bird species glide across the water, encounter bats fly silently overhead as you barbecue a feast, and witness mother quokkas carrying their babies in their pouches.

There’s a stillness that is hard to replicate at any other time. You feel it and the wildlife feels it too. When you choose to travel Wadjemup during the cooler months, the experiences are bountiful.



7. Surfing

An empty beach greets you for your first surf at Wadjemup. A pre-sunrise glow warming the surface of the ocean, disguising the refreshing waters beneath. At Strickland Bay, swells come from various directions and light up different sections of the reef — so there are good waves guaranteed. Other Wadjemup surf breaks include the West End, Stark Bay, and Chicken Reef. You can hire surfboard racks for your bike from Pedal & Flipper Hire and you can transport surfboards over on the ferry.

8. Snorkelling

The Leeuwin Current runs down the coast of Western Australia, wafting the tropical waters of the Kimberley region down to warm the bays of Wadjemup. These warm waters mean that on a sunny day you’ll find the conditions are perfect for a wetsuit-clad snorkel. Just find a sheltered area like Little Parakeet Bay or The Basin, where you can avoid wintery waves and spot sealife easily through the clarity of calm waters.

9. Diving

Slip into your wetsuit and descend through the crystal-clear water, where an abundance of tropical fish can be found. The island is a heralded diving site, with meadows of seagrass, corals blooming in shades of yellow, green, and pink, and schools of yellow-striped western footballer fish. The waters surrounding Wadjemup are also dotted with shipwrecks like Denton Holme, a vessel from the 1800s which sits at the edge of a cave system, its bow reaching towards the surface at low tide.