The Best Things To Do On Rottnest Island In Winter

By Claire Logan – who is always dreaming of her next meal and reckons a good martini solves most problems

a Rottnest Island bay

There’s something special about travelling during the cooler months. Being greeted by the crisp, energising air each morning, hiking through coastal and woodland trails hearing only the crunch of leaves beneath your feet, strolling along the beach without another soul in sight, and of course, winding down by the fire at night. It’s hard to beat that feeling. 

While we're all familiar with the charms of Wadjemup / Rottnest Island during the warmer months, there's more to discover under the stunning veil of the brisker seasons. With fewer crowds you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve got the entire place to yourself. 

Just a short ferry from the mainland, it’s easy to slip away to this cosy paradise for a cheeky midweek overnighter or even just for the day, and even easier to slip into holiday mode.

Here’s your guide to the best things to do on Rottnest Island during winter.

Connect With The Traditional Custodians Of The Land

Wadjemup, meaning ‘place across the water where the spirits are’ is the Whadjuk Noongar naming of Rottnest Island. Rottnest has a complex history with many stories to tell. The island was used as an Aboriginal prison from 1838-1904, and subsequent forced labour camp for Aboriginal prisoners until 1931. It’s the resting place of the spirits, as well as a memorial place of Aboriginal prisoners. If you haven't already, take time to understand the history on your next visit, reflect and pay respect to those that came before you.

You can see the island from the Aboriginal perspective with a Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours And Experiences walking tour. The one-hour experience begins with a traditional Aboriginal sand ceremony at the first settlement, a Dreamtime story, a traditional song and learning about the Noongar language. The ​​Wadjemup Museum is another great way to connect with the island's history and the Noongar people. 

Hit Up The Many Hiking Trails 

Walking Rottnest Island in Winter
Image credit: The Hike Collective | Supplied

From coastal sunrise strolls to wilderness hikes through the island’s heartland, one of the best ways to discover the other side of Rottnest is by foot. And while a little rain may dampen the journey, it's a helluva lot easier to make your trek when it's chilly than in the sweltering heat of summer.

Wadjemup Bidi is a 45km trail that is broken into several sections. Thanks to its spectacular scenery that comes alive as the temperature drops, the Gabbi Karniny Bidi section is the second part of the Wadjemup Bidi trail and one of the most popular. It’s a 9.7km journey one way that winds you past Lake Herschel, through the lake systems, across the ‘walk on water’ boardwalk and along the coastline up to Bathurst Lighthouse.

The Hike Collective offers several tours that cater for all difficulty levels, but their Lakes & Bays tour is a cool-weather favourite. The hike is over 12km, starting on the Gabbi Karniny Bidi and finishing back at the main Settlement. All in all, no matter where you go, you’ll be greeted by breathtaking landscapes at every turn. 

Chase Down A Good Coffee

It’s true that good coffee is crucial to any holiday and Rottnest can absolutely deliver rain, hail or shine. To fuel up for the day, pop into Lane Cafe for a steaming cup of coffee and brekky or cycle to Geordie’s Cafe and Art Gallery if you like a side of locally produced art while you warm up over a morning coffee.

Pick Up A Pair Of Wheels

For those chasing a little action on their mid-year holiday, Rottnest has well and truly got you covered. Jump on a bike and cruise around the island while soaking in the sights, or if you’re less into pedalling, Paul’s Eco E-Bike Tours are a great way to discover the island. Want to try something totally new? Test your balance and go off-road with a segway tour.

Treat Yourself To A Night Of Luxury At Samphire

Cosy fireplace at Samphire on Rottnest Island in winter
Image credit: Samphire | Supplied

Samphire Rottnest on Thomson Bay is the perfect home away from home where you can watch the rain clouds roll in from the comfort of your beachfront bedroom. Each room is kitted out with coastal chic decor, the most comfortable bed and those extra special touches you only get at a good hotel like in-room massages, amazing twin showers, a casting-ready tv for cosy nights in, room service and a very well-equipped mini bar stocked full of gourmet goodies. Throw on a fireside cab sav at the hotel's beach club or guest-only lounge and the best damn breakfast buffet, and we guarantee you'll be feeling well and truly blissed out after a stay here.

Glamp Under The Stars

For those looking to immerse themselves in nature, Discovery Rottnest Island’s glamping eco tents are for you. Each afternoon throw a blanket over your shoulders and watch the sunset from the dunes behind Pinky Beach before heading back to your tent to fall asleep beneath the stars. It's pure magic.

Live Out Your Euro Dreams Over A Long Lunch

Isola pasta available at Rottnest Island in winter
Image credit: Isola | Supplied

So you're jealous of everyone prouncing around Sicily while braving the cold here in Perth? A trip to Samphire's Isola will make everyone think you've joined them. The beachfront beauty is giving immaculate Italian vibes year round, making it the perfect spot to settle in for a boozy long lunch this winter. Fire things up with a few spritzes and some gorgeous antipasti plates (the prawns are an absolute must) before cracking a bottle of wine and delving into rigatoni, taglierini and spaghetti cacio e pepe topped with local Manjimup truffle. Europe who? 

Journey To South East Asia For The Night

For a luxe, seaside dining experience with Asian flair, Samphire’s Lontara restaurant cannot be overlooked. The restaurant serves exquisite South East Asian dishes that'll fire up all your senses. Be sure to order the Moreton Bay bug dumplings and snow crab ma hor before sharing a warming feast of fragrant curries and rice. During winter the restaurant moves indoors, so you'll be toasty and warm all night. Although that shouldn't stop you from ordering a hot little mulled wine on arrival from the winter drinks list.

Go For A Bottomless Sunday Lunch

Lontara on Rottnest Island in winter
Image credit: Lontara | Supplied

Lontara also happens to do a damn good bottomless lunch every Sunday. For $130 you can soak up two hours of bottomless food and all the rose, prosecco, wine and beer you can manage. If you choose to jump on a ferry home afterwards, that's on you.

Slip Into A Wetsuit And Hit The Surf

With some of the best and most consistent surf breaks in Western Australia, Rottnest is a paradise for surfers and bodyboarders alike—and definitely worth stepping into a wetsuit for. In fact, Strickland Bay has been ranked in the top 50 breaks in the world with conditions at their best during the cooler months. 

See Rottnest’s Wildlife Wonders

Quoakka on Rottnest Island in Winter
Image credit: Tourism WA | Supplied

The colder months are when the island’s wildlife comes out to play and it’s the best time of year when you can witness a joey quokka. Plan your trip accordingly because August is the best time to see a mother quokka carrying her babies in her pouch.

As for marine life, Cathedral Rocks is the best place to spot long-nosed fur seals and dolphins and whales can be spotted on the west and south sides of the island during their annual migration north.

Get Yourself Some Rottnest Bakery Sourdough

Rottnest Bakery is just about as iconic as the island itself. The bread, and in particular the sourdough, has punters queuing out the door thanks to the distinct flavour created from wild yeast collected at the Rottnest Salt Lakes. The yeast can take up to a month to be ready, bubbling away and taking on more of the Rottnest flavour, which makes it unlike anything you’ll get back on the mainland. 

Tackle Your Fear Of Heights From The Sky

Skydiving at Rottnest Island in winter
Image credit: Geronimo Skydiving | Instagram

For a massive adrenaline rush, hop aboard a 20-minute flight over Rottnest Island before skydiving back down to the island with the crew from Geronimo. You’ll freefall at a thrilling 200km per hour before parachuting back down, all while soaking in breathtaking views of Rotto's turquoise waters and rugged coastline. If you still want to enjoy the views from above but without the freefall, then a joy flight is for you.

Escape The Rain On This Cosy Bus Ride

On days when the weather is just not playing nice, spend your morning soaking up the spectacular sights of Rotto in complete comfort aboard the Discover Rottnest Bus Tour. Departing twice daily, this cosy ride is a surefire way to ensure you hit all of the island's hotspots and meet some of the region's spectacular wildlife too, including the long-nose fur seal and humpback whales. Plus, with insightful commentary to engage you as you cruise, the 90-minute journey along the scenic winding roads of Wadjemup will leave you feeling like a total Rotto trivia pro. 

Not enough? Check out more things to do on Rottnest Island.

Main image credit: Claire Logan | Supplied

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