How To Spend A Day Hiking On Wadjemup / Rottnest Island

Located only 19 kilometres from the coast of Fremantle, or a quick 30 minutes by ferry, Wadjemup / Rottnest Island is a nature lover’s escape and an invigorating environment for all things snorkelling, hiking, and cycling. While peak season is during the warmer months, easily explained by the destination’s endless summer allure, if you’re keen to beat the crowds, the picturesque island provides the perfect winter day trip! Think breathtaking coastlines all to yourself, hike trails deserving of discovery, exceptional culinary experiences with ocean views, and crisp morning air best enjoyed with a warm cuppa and a leisurely pedal around the island.

If you’re an adventurer looking to experience some of the world’s most remarkable wildlife, Rottnest Island is home to five unique ecosystems. These include coastal, scrub heath, wetland, woodland, and ocean, and are best explored on foot via the five unique hiking trails threaded throughout the island. While each trail provides a distinctive experience, they connect to form the 45-kilometre Wadjemup Bidi trail. Extending from one end of the island to the other, the trail meanders past the vast coastline, inland lakes, and significant history.

Rottnest Island Day Trip Itinerary

This day trip itinerary connects you with the best things to do on Wadjemup during the winter months. You’ll explore the island destination flanked by shipwrecks, coral reefs, idyllic sheltered coves, winter flora, and the curious quokkas.

7:30 am: All aboard

Rottnest Island ferry
Credit: Rottnest Island Authority

With a day to explore, set your alarm and hop on the first ferry you can. Choose between the three operators that run ferries to and from the island — Rottnest Express, Rottnest Fast Ferries, and SeaLink. Then pick the time and departure point that best suits you — Hillarys Boat Harbour, Perth City or Fremantle (Victoria Quay). Depending on where you’re departing from, the ferry travel times are between 30 and 90 minutes, with Fremantle being the shortest option. There’s also plenty of convenient all-day parking available near the ferry terminals.

Make sure to pack a reusable water bottle and a reusable cup for your morning coffee. As well as a hat, sunglasses, enclosed shoes, a jacket, and a raincoat so you’re covered for whatever weather the day brings.

8:00 am: Welcome sculpture and Visitor Centre

Rottnest Island welcome sculpture
Credit: Rottnest Island Authority

Once you arrive on the island, check out the spectacular welcome sculpture situated at the end of the main jetty. The nine-metre high sculpture, depicting a Noongar warrior and breaching whale, is the work of Western Australian artists Sharyn Egan and Jahne Rees, who crafted the installation with significant input from the Whadjuk Noongar community. Named Koora-Yeye-Boordawan-Kalyakoorl (Past-Present-Future-Forever), the sculpture was constructed from limestone, concrete, and aluminum, and tells a powerful story worth taking a moment to read.

The Rottnest Island Visitor Centre — which you’ll find beside the artwork — is your destination for everything you might need — maps, directions, souvenirs, and advice on tours, buses, and bike hire. As the cooler months are the ideal time to hike the Wadjemup Bidi, pick up a free island map and hiking trail maps.

8:30 am: Visit the main settlement and fuel up

The Lane Café, Rottnest
Credit: Rottnest Island Authority

Take the short walk from the jetty to the main settlement and stock up with food and drink to keep you fuelled for your hike. If classic Australian hot pies, freshly-made jam doughnuts, and toasties are your thing, head to island icon, the Rottnest Bakery. The Lane Café is a great place to grab a caffeinated brew, acai bowl, or one of the famed Cray Dogs (grilled crayfish sandwich). If you need to stock up on snacks and a packed lunch, the General Store is a good place to do it. Otherwise, a cheeky Subway and Simmo’s ice cream will also do the trick.

Make sure you’ve got plenty of water for your Rottnest Island day trip because there’s limited access to drinking water outside of the main settlement. Refill points can be found within the Thomson Bay settlement, Army Jetty, Kingstown Barracks, The Basin, Vlamingh Lookout, and Geordie Bay.

9:30 am: Bus out to the West End for Ngank Wen Bidi

Rottnest bus to the West End
Credit: Rottnest Island Authority

Rottnest Island has daily shuttle buses that can easily transport you to trails around the island. Walk to the main bus stop behind the Wadjemup Museum and take the Quokka Coaches Island Explorer Hop On/Hop Off Bus to the West End. It departs every 45 minutes and tickets can be purchased at the booth. The Quokka Hopper also offers a convenient on-demand private transfer vehicle between Thomson Bay and Geordie Bay for those wanting a more exclusive service. Jump on board and disembark at Narrow Neck (stop 13), and simply follow the trail markers to discover the rugged West End as you walk the Ngank Wen Bidi.

10:00 am: Self-guided walk on the Wadjemup Bidi

Wadjemup Bidi Trail
Credit: Rottnest Island Authority

You’ll visit some of the island’s most secluded beaches as the 7.8-kilometre Ngank Wen Bidi hike (roughly three to four hours) loops around from Narrow Neck to Cape Vlamingh and back. You’ll walk along the coastline of Marjorie Bay, where you can stop for a snack break and admire the natural lagoon brimming with sealife. Then explore the purpose-built platform at Cathedral Rocks which allows you to get a glimpse of the island’s dolphins and elusive long-nosed fur seals frolicking in the water. From the West End Boardwalk, you can access Cape Vlamingh, where you’ll spot osprey nests, so bring a pair of binoculars. Between late August and November, you may even witness the seasonal migration of humpback whales! 

If you’re craving barista-made coffee, toasties, and other winter warmers, look out for Lexi’s on Rotto — a restored vintage caravan on Digby Drive in the West End.

Guided walking tours

The Hike Collective tours on Rottnest Island
Credit: Rottnest Island Authority

If you’re not sure where to start, prefer the company of a group, or like the sound of expert commentary paired with your scenic walk, why not join a guided tour with The Hike Collective? Their knowledgeable guides will show you the best of the Wadjemup Bidi in an engaging and relaxed group setting. With multiple tours to choose from, including overnight retreats, it’s the ideal adventure for both hiking enthusiasts and beginners alike. 

Alternatively, you can join a free walking tour with the Rottnest Voluntary Guides. Whether you’re keen to learn more about the wildlife or discover the island’s history, you’re sure to find a tour and passionate guide to suit your tastes and interests.

2:30 pm: Mini golf, museum, lawn bowls, or Segway

Bike riding Rottnest Island
Credit: Rottnest Island Authority

Depending on how fast you walk and how many breaks you want to take to soak up the awe-inspiring landscapes, you might have time for another fun afternoon activity

Whether you’re down for a round of lawn bowls at the R.I.G.C Clubhouse or a competitive game of mini golf at Rottnest Movies & Mini Golf, the options are bountiful. If you’ve got more energy to burn, you could grab a bike from Pedal & Flipper Hire and cycle around the island. Or take exploration to a whole new level with a new perspective on a thrilling Segway Tour

For something a little more relaxed, head to Wadjemup Museum to learn about the island’s significant cultural history or observe the friendly quokkas in their natural habitat at Garden Lake. But make sure you keep your distance — at least two metres — and please don’t feed them or any wildlife on the island.

4:30 pm: Ferry home

Rottnest Island quokkas
Credit: Rottnest Island Authority

All good things must come to an end, so it’s time to make your way to the main jetty for departure back to Fremantle, Hillarys, or Perth City. Just be sure to arrive 15 minutes before your ferry, they don’t wait for stragglers!

Stay the night

Discovery Resorts Rottnest Island glamping tents
Credit: Alexandra Casey

​​​​If you want to turn your Rottnest Island day trip into an overnighter, the island is home to a wide range of accommodation options for all budgets and preferences. Whether you’re a keen camper, eco-tent glamper, or looking for cosy self-contained units or boutique beachfront offerings, there really is something for everyone.

Dinner if you’re staying overnight

Dinner at Lontara, Rottnest
Credit: Rottnest Island Authority

Whether you’re in the market for cheap and cheerful or sophisticated waterside dining, Rottnest Island boasts a variety of eat and drink options to keep you warm in winter, if you’re staying the night. Kick back and relax at the Rottnest Hotel with crowd-pleasing pub grub. Or, head to Isola Bar e Cibo for authentic Italian fare that will transport you straight to the Amalfi Coast. If you’re in the mood for dumplings, Lontara is synonymous with lip-smacking Southeast Asian flavours, and Pinky’s Rottnest Island has the best sunset views on the island.

Seasonal offers

Reading by the fire in Rottnest
Credit: Rottnest Island Authority

Wrap yourself in wonder this winter on Wadjemup / Rottnest Island and make the most of your day trip or overnight stay by taking advantage of the seasonal offers available via the Rottnest Island website. We’re talking discounted ferry transfers, tour packages, accommodation, dining experiences, and more. With budget-friendly deals on everything from thrilling adventures to serene escapes, equipment hire, and slow-paced experiences, you can create unforgettable memories for less. 

For more Perth Day Trip itineraries to help you discover the best of Perth, visit our Destination Perth Day Trips hub.

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