Local Escapes

What To Do On Rottnest Island If You Want To Explore It Like Never Before

By Cassandra Charlick
5th Jan 2021

Almost every West Aussie has probably done Rotto. I mean really, have you even grown up in Perth if you haven’t spent at least one summer on the island car-free, care-free and clothing-free? (Bathers don’t count as clothing, FYI.) 

But now is a really precious time to visit. With COVID putting a halt on international crowds, bakery queues are cut in half and the beaches are significantly less populated. You could just work your way through all the classic things to do in Rottnest, but why not take the time to get out and explore the Island a bit deeper, try a new experience, and learn about the history of one of WA’s most beloved holiday spots.

Here's what to do on Rottnest Island if you want to explore it like never before.

Take A Rottnest Cruise And Dine On Fresh Caught Seafood

While we all wish we could zip over to the island on our own private yacht, let’s be honest: not many of us are fortuitous enough to have access to our own boat. If you are lucky enough to have a friend with a boat, then hold them close and don’t let them go. For the rest of us mere mortals, there is a way to shake of that land-lubber status (and no, we don’t just mean the 30-minute ferry ride there and back with a cabin full of kids). Rottnest Cruises have been offering trips out to the azure waters of Rotto for a number of years now, but it’s their newest cruise which has us uber excited. 

You might have caught a glimpse on socials of their Wild Seafood Experience, with guests pulling up their own Western Rock Lobster for a selfie before a seafood lunchtime spread from the onboard private chef. However, if you are one to walk the path less followed (or paddled), then get on board the new Sundowner Cruise. What more could you want? Golden sunset? Tick. Private chef serving up ocean fresh canapes with seafood and Asian inspired flavours? Tick. Free flowing premium Margaret River bubbles and wine? Tick. A few hours in a secluded Rotto bay where you can even try your hand at fishing for your supper? Tick. If you are successful with the rod, you’ll even have the chance for your catch to get cooked up on the spot for dinner before cruising back to Thompson Bay.

Rest Your Head At The Luxe New Hotel

While Rotto’s basic accommodation is beloved by many and part of the laidback charm of the island, there’s not been a really luxe accommodation option on the island until now. Finally, Samphire Rottnest have given us a reason to get our best island attire out. With 80 spacious and beachy rooms, the coastal vibe of the resort is proudly “barefoot luxury”. Right in the heart of Thompson Bay, if the beach is too far you can simply flop into the pool before swimming up to the Samphire Rottnest Beach Club for a refreshing vino from a well thought out wine list. With white sand and comfy lounges, even if you’ve only got a few days escape from home, it feels like a million miles away here. The Marri trees in the courtyard and the Aussie bird song is the only hint that this isn’t a Mediterranean island. From Wednesday to Sunday you can also catch superstar street food chef Will Meyrick at Lontara Restaurant.

Strap Your Boots On For A Rottnest Hike

While we all know about the bike routes around the island, did you know that there are actually a number of hikes you can take? While they have been about for many years, the trails are now clearly signposted and accessible to those other than locals ‘in the know’. The Wadjemup Bidi network consists of over 45 kilometres of trail network and takes in plenty of the island’s A-class nature reserve. Be sure to slap on some sun cream and stock up on water, as there isn’t a huge amount of shade on these trails—it is an island, after all. If you’d prefer to have a bit of expert guidance, then the team from the Hike Collective are now taking avid walkers through the trails, with a helping hand and lots of interesting tidbits along the way. There’s heaps to explore on foot including wetlands of national importance, beach hopping, bird watching and of course a stop for ice-cream.

Learn More About Rottnest Island’s History

If you are lucky enough to enjoy the beauty of Rottenest Island as a holiday destination, do the right thing and take responsibility for learning and understanding the significance of its rich history. Rottnest Island is known as Wadjemup (place across the water where the spirits are) to the Whadjuk Noongar people—the Traditional Owners of the island—who have a deep connection with the island which has been a part of their culture for thousands of years. 7000 years ago the island was still connected to the mainland, and it held importance as a meeting place and ceremonial site. British settlers arrived in 1826, and the island went through a dark period of history being used as an Aboriginal prison and labor camp from 1838. About 400 boys and men remain buried in unmarked graves on the island. Take a moment of silence and reflection when passing through the settlement at the signposted burial site. You can stop by the visitor centre on arrival for more in-depth information and extra guidance when exploring the history of the island.

Continue Your South West Edge Escape

After you’ve paddled and peddled around Rotto, check out the South West Edge for some expert ideas on where to head next. If you’ve got the time, why not enjoy the entire12-day road trip?

Need more travel inspo? Check out all the best places to visit in Australia.

Image credit: @jessicablaise

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