Rottnest Island: Perth’s playground

By Fleur Bainger 17 December 2013
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Just 18km off the coast of Western Australia, Rottnest Island is a much-loved summer retreat for the residents of Perth.

TO MANY WEST AUSTRALIANS, Rottnest is like a second home. Rotto, as they call it, is only a 25-minute ferry ride from Fremantle (not including loading and disembarkation), so it takes no time before the skin is slopped with sunscreen, the hair is crusted with salt and the smiles are as wide as the island’s turquoise bays. 

The warmest months of the year are understandably the busiest – ferries are bloated with a mix of day trippers and holiday makers dragging eskies, wheeling bikes and pushing prams. For a more sedate trip, trip over on the shoulder seasons before school holidays, when the weather is still ideal, thanks to the Leeuwin Current flowing by and keeping the atmosphere and ocean an average of two degrees warmer than the nearby mainland. 

Rotto-lovers will tell you that a fleeting visit isn’t enough to soak up the Class-A nature reserve’s laid back vibe: stay for at least two nights to fall under its charm. Regulars also complain about the rising costs associated with tripping over to Rottnest. Lessen the credit card pinch by booking your ferry ticket at least a fortnight in advance to access discounts and bring whatever food and booze you can, as the locals do. 

Accommodation is similarly difficult to secure during peak periods, although the island’s three-decades-old ballot system has just been scratched, making it easier for interstate travellers to book online or on the phone. Bookings are taken 18 months in advance, showing the popularity of the speck on the horizon, only 19km from Perth. Once you’re there, you can adopt the Rotto uniform of bathers and a sarong. Thongs are optional. 

To read more about Rottnest Island, grab a copy of issue 118 (Jan/Feb) of Australian Geographic.