Universally known as a summer holiday destination, Wadjemup / Rottnest Island is often overlooked in the cooler months—when in fact, that’s when it truly comes alive.
Dense vegetation with the smell of earth after rain, dark blue waves sending spray up the cliffs, a sprawling, endless beach with no one else around… There’s a rich, sensory experience to be had for every type of visitor on Wadjemup in winter.
Winter is the time for adventure seekers, for invigorating the senses with adrenaline-filled outdoor activities.
Winter days on Wadjemup are usually a moderate 18 degrees—pleasantly cool hiking weather. And wandering the 45 kilometres of hiking trails that traverse the island is the best way to immerse yourself in the thriving natural environment.
Winter is the surfing season, the cool weather welcoming big, rolling swell and clear conditions. Wadjemup’s surf rivals the waves of Margaret River, except here you’re floating atop the open ocean, the indigo depths stretching out to the shores of Fremantle. Softer waves can be found at Mary Cove, which is just past Strickland Bay—the spot for challenging surf, the kind used for international surfing events.
Relaxation and exhilaration meet in cold water. Dipping into the shallow waters of a secluded beach like The Basin or Little Parakeet Bay is a step up from the usual cold-water swim, while the benefits remain: cleansing your skin, clearing the mind, and invigorating the senses.
Wadjemup has very few vehicles, so you can cycle the roads unhindered, taking in the sights on a leisurely ride. The cooler weather helps with prolonged stamina as well, making the 22-kilometre island loop—which takes 3-5 hours and journeys past a string of beaches, salt lakes, and rugged headlands—a possibility.
Wadjemup is a place for letting go of mainland stress, and in winter, the deep quiet and bountiful flora and fauna create plenty of opportunities to find peace.
As winter fades into milder days, you can catch the annual humpback whale migration. From August to December, make time to pause on your hikes and watch the waters around the island for a sighting of the magnificent creatures.
Peaceful decompression can be found on the quiet winter beaches, with the sea-scented breeze and cold sand underfoot, your path bordered by lush coastline and sandy cliffs.
Wadjemup is a haven for wildlife, both the obvious—quokkas on the land and tropical fish in the sea—and the more hidden. And with the rain and cooler temperatures, the island’s natural world wakes up, the birdlife coming into view. Massive nests housing ospreys on the coast, birds like the banded stilt in the wetlands, and red-capped robins, honeyeaters, and golden whistlers inhabiting the bushland.
The island is a collection of postcard-ready views, all the classics like sweeping beach vistas and rocky coastlines, but the intimate portraits as well—your kids playing in puddles, an osprey taking flight, wild waves on a stormy day. Photography can take you on a visual exploration of the island and the best place to start is at the viewing platform above the still, salt lakes.
Part of the magic of winter is finding a cosy place to watch wild weather or shelter from the cold. And when you visit Wadjemup, that could be the balcony of your cottage, a restaurant by the sea, or a heritage building filled with stories.
Sometimes a winter holiday is best spent curled up on your balcony, watching the early morning mist rise above the seascape, a hot cup of coffee in hand. Or it could be a glass of red wine, spreading warmth from the inside as you watch dark waves collide from your cosy shelter or relaxed meal.
A trip to Wadjemup isn’t just awe-filled experiences out in nature, as the settlement has plenty of restaurants and cafes for refuelling after a day outdoors. Indulge in pub classics elevated by local seafood at Hotel Rottnest or cosy up next to the crackling warmth of a firepit at Bayside Bar. And at Isola Bar e Cibo, watch the wild ocean from behind a wall of windows while dining on decadent Italian cuisine.
Wadjemup is a natural wonder, but it’s also a place heavy with history, and winter gives you the space to go on a journey of understanding. The Wadjemup Museum is where to start, where meaningful stories are grounded by mementos of the past. Follow this up with an Aboriginal cultural tour, to learn the significance of the island for the local Whadjuk Noongar people.
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