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Your guide to spotting quokkas on Rottnest Island

A short journey across the Indian Ocean lands you amongst the world’s largest quokka population. This is your guide to experiencing this iconic marsupial in its natural habitat.
6 minutes

There’s something special about the population of quokkas, or kwoka in Noongar, who live on Wadjemup / Rottnest Island. Their story is literally written in the land. The name ‘Rottnest’ comes from 17th-century Dutch explorers who considered the animals to be large rats and bestowed the island, ‘Rat’s Nest’.

These small marsupials bring childlike joy to those who make the journey to see them in the wild. They are the sole reason many people visit the island. Protagonists in children’s books. Iconic emblems on holiday souvenirs. Their infamy is undeniable; however, the quokka is a vulnerable species, protected, adored, and respected. 

Rottnest Island is where you can be amongst the world’s largest quokka population. They are related to kangaroos and wallabies, and to see them in the heat of summer is one thing, but it’s quite another to witness these incredible creatures in the cooler months — just like kangaroos, little joey quokkas take their first hops into the world as protective mothers watch on. It’s unforgettable.


Quokka and joey
Quokka and joey

Playing your part in quokka conservation

Finding yourself close to a quokka is captivating, an experience that has the power to make you reach for your phone to capture the moment. And, as part of their world in that moment, you, like everyone who steps foot on the island, play a part in their wellbeing. 

As a vulnerable species, it’s vital that we protect the quokka so that they don’t become endangered; that comes down to four key guidelines:

  • Simply observe the quokkas as they go about their natural movements
    These marsupials are wild. They are not trained or confined in any way. This means that, when you travel to Wadjemup, you are moving through their environment. Not the other way around. So ensure you simply observe them from a respectable distance.
  • This means that you cannot touch them
    It’s important, for their safety and yours, that you don’t touch the quokkas. Touching quokkas can make them sick, spread disease, and even cause mothers to abandon their young if they carry an unfamiliar scent. Like any animal, they can be protective of themselves and their young so please keep your distance.
  • Let them forage for their own food
    As a vulnerable species, it is illegal to feed the quokka (or any animal on the island) as any food that they haven’t foraged for themselves can be harmful to their bodies. The only viable nutrition is the food on the island that they collect themselves.
  • Keep foot (and cycle) traffic on the paths
    The network of hiking and cycling paths around the island are there to protect the native flora and fauna. By keeping your movements to established paths, you are protecting the natural habitats of Wadjemup wildlife.  
Wadjemup is a Class A reserve, made up of six unique ecosystems, each one with the perfect conditions for thriving animal, bird, and sea life. The quokka population is a big part of that, but not the only part. When you commit to protecting the quokka, you are protecting the greater island wilderness.

Unique ecosystems
Unique ecosystems

Seeing a quokka in its natural environment

Many people come to Wadjemup in pursuit of a quokka sighting. And you won’t have to try too hard. They are found all across the island, sleeping, eating, and hopping around their natural habitats.

These five specific areas are ideal vantage points to witness quokkas in their natural state — stay quiet, give them plenty of space, and venture out early morning or late afternoon as quokkas are nocturnal animals and often spend their days sleeping.

Garden Lake

5-minute walk from the main bus stop

In a few minutes, you move from the high energy of the settlement and arrive in silence. Garden Lake is still. Surrounded by trees and ramped by a field of grass and samphire; you will see a family of quokkas sleeping under the trees or venturing out in the early morning and late afternoon. While there are plenty of incidental quokka sightings on the island, with its boardwalk that offers the perfect view at a respectful distance, Garden Lake is an ideal place to go for a purposeful quokka experience.


On your walk to The Basin

Where Gabbi Karniny Bidi meets Kingsway Road

When you walk the trail between the sports oval and the golf course, you will come in contact with a line of native tea trees just opposite Discovery Resorts - Rottnest Island (the eco-tent village). These tall gums and low-lying tea trees are knitted together to form the ideal woodland habitat for a thriving quokka population. Stand back and take in the marsupial group going about their natural movements.


On the Ngank Yira Bidi trail to Bickley Bay

As you walk the Ngank Yira Bidi to get to Bickley Bay (just south of Kingstown Barracks), you won’t be able to miss a collection of low scrub trees that freckle the path leading to the bay. There is a quokka population here that dwell in the shelter of the native fauna; sleeping, foraging, and making them home among the trees.

Just before the ascent to Wadjemup Lighthouse

Digby Drive

Positioned at the intersection of trails, cyclists and walkers arrive to make the same ascent as you are, at that moment, contemplating. In this intersection of paths and willpower, you will see a cluster of tea trees that is home to a community of quokkas. They live here at the base of Wadjemup Hill, offering the perfect respite. Pause. Take in this iconic wildlife moment before making the climb up to the highest point of the island.

As you cycle to Stark Bay

Bovell Way

Take your quokka tour west. As you cycle to Stark Bay, you will encounter tall fig trees and date palms leaning into one another and creating the perfect reserve for island marsupials. If you’re doing a full tour of the island by bike, you can travel the southern track back to the settlement, cycling past Parker Point (approximately six km from Stark Bay). Here, there’s a natural dip in the road where you’ll see a shrub forest of native tea trees; for those with a keen eye for spotting wildlife, you may get a glimpse of the quokka population here too.

There is no need to do anything to attract a quokka; their natural curiosity will bring them closer to you if they feel safe. If a quokka hops towards you, stay still and enjoy being in proximity to these unique marsupials. Remember not to touch or feed them — it’s also important to move back if they venture within two metres of you.



Welcoming new life in spring

During the cooler months on the island, the quokkas seem to take on a new personality. They are no longer in pursuit of shelter from the hot Australian sun, tourist crowds are thinned so they have more space to roam freely, and, most fascinatingly, they are welcoming new life.

From June, the mother’s pouches become heavier and by September, you could catch a glimpse of a baby quokka (known as a joey) taking its first hops into the world. When you witness these special moments, you take that feeling back to the mainland with you. It’s a feeling of awe and wonder that follows you home.


Quokka joey
Quokka joey