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Explore Rottnest Island’s Historical Military Attractions  

Discover the historical landmarks that are an integral part of Western Australia's military legacy, including its pivotal role in WWI and WWII defence operations.
6 minutes

In the tranquil waters of Western Australia lies Wadjemup / Rottnest Island, a place where history tells of wartime vigilance and the island's crucial role in safeguarding the coast.

Beyond its stunning beaches and vibrant wildlife, Rottnest Island holds an important chapter in Western Australia's wartime narrative, a testament to resilience and vigilance in the face of global conflict. With the outbreak of war in 1939, the island was swiftly designated a prohibited area the following year, its once bustling shores falling quiet. Recreational pursuits yielded to the solemn duty of defence, as the island became a bastion against potential threats to Western Australia's security.

For five years, from the somber onset of 1940 to the dawn of peace in 1945, Wadjemup stood as a sentinel in the expanse of the Indian Ocean. Amidst the island's rugged terrain, two formidable gun batteries stood watch, manned around the clock by dedicated military and naval personnel, with cannons poised and ready to repel any attack in the waters heading towards the vital port of Fremantle.

Many landmarks and remnants of this significant legacy proudly stand today, inviting visitors to explore this rich history and discover a tangible connection to the island's wartime heritage.

Whether on guided tours or independent explorations, experience the intriguing stories enshrined within these enduring monuments for yourself.


Head west from the main settlement, pedaling between the scenic salt lakes, to make your way towards the centre of the island. Here you will find Oliver Hill Battery, a significant heritage icon.

Constructed in 1937, the battery of two 11-metre 9.2-inch naval guns remains the only intact emplacement of its kind left in Australia. Remarkably, the guns stationed here could fire an armour-piercing shell up to 28 km away, Fremantle’s safety from enemy attacks.

As you explore the battery, pause to take in the incredible surroundings and panoramic views of the entire southern side of the island. It is the perfect spot to bring a picnic lunch with supplies from the settlement, such as a selection of fresh provisions from the General Store. Relax on one of the shaded benches that provide stunning views of the winding cycle paths, lush green bushland and salt lakes beyond the hill. On a clear day you can even spot Perth city skyline in the distance.

To get a closer look at the guns, climb up the stairs and you’ll also see a spectacular sight across the island from the higher vantage point, with Wadjemup Lighthouse in the distance.

You can then delve deeper into the history of Oliver Hill by joining a guided tour underground, led by the Rottnest Voluntary Guides. Explore the maze of tunnels and interpretive space that once housed the engine room and ammunition supply for the guns.

How to get there: Oliver Hill is located in the centre of the island and is 4 km away from the main settlement. If you’re cycling, it will take you approximately 15 minutes (depending on how fast you pedal). Alternatively, if you’re a keen hiker you can make a stop at Oliver Hill on your way along the Wardan Nara Bidi and Ngank Yira Bidi trails. Or, climb aboard the Captain Hussey historical train which uses the original infrastructure built to transport equipment, building materials, and ammunition to the guns.


Just beyond the main settlement, you’ll find Bickley Battery, another naval gun emplacement that was installed in 1938 and strategically installed on the island as part of the integral coastal defence system for Western Australia during World War II.

Immerse yourself in the history of Bickley Battery as you follow in the footsteps of the soldiers who once manned it. Embark on one of three walking trails that form part of the Ngank Yira Bidi walking trail, each offering a unique perspective on the island's rich heritage and stunning natural surroundings.

For those seeking a guided experience, consider joining the Fortress Adventure Tour with Segway Tours WA where you can explore these historical sites while gliding along on a revolutionary set of wheels.

Situated just north of Bickley Point lies Kingstown Barracks, which was built during the late 1930s to house the military personnel who were stationed on the island to man the guns. Today, you can experience a piece of history firsthand by booking a stay at here through Stay Rottnest.

How to get there: Bickley Battery is easy to get to, just a short journey away from the main settlement. You can take the Quokka Coaches Island Explorer bus and hop off at Stop 2, jump on your bike and make the 7-minute ride, or stretch your legs on a relaxed 25-minute walk.


During September 1937, Rottnest Island was a permanent station for Australian troops, with personnel from the Army, Navy, Airforce, the Australian Women’s Army Service, and the Women’s Royal Australian Navy Service. In order to perform their vital duties, a series of buildings were constructed to support them at Wadjemup Hill.

It’s well worth a stop here for a ride through history. The area can be cycled through with short pauses to learn out more about the buildings that remain here.

A tip: Before you make your ascent to Wadjemup Hill, take a moment at the intersection of trails at the bottom on the hill. See if you can spot the community of quokkas that have made the cluster of tea trees here their home. Take in this precious moment with the unique wildlife before you make the climb to immerse yourself in history at the highest point of the island.

If you need to stop and refuel, rest in the deck chairs at Kalli’s on Rotto, which is perfectly to give you 360-degree views of the island while you recharge with your choice of drinks and snacks from the vintage caravan.

How to get there: Wadjemup Precinct is a 7.8 km cycle from the main settlement, taking you approximately 27-minutes depending on how fast you cycle. Alternatively, you can take the Quokka Coaches Island Explorer bus and hop off at stop 8.



Where to find these historic military sites