Desperately Seeking Quokkas! Introducing Rottnest Island, Western Australia.

Who doesn’t love a big dose of cute?

And there is nothing cuter than a quokka…if you can find the little buggers, that is!

Roger Federer, you have a lot to answer for!

Roger Federer and his best mate, the quokka.
Roger Federer and his best mate, the quokka. Source:

You may remember a few years ago, a super-cute photo of a smiling quokka and a smiling Roger Federer almost broke the internet. This photo confirmed in my mind that one day, I really should see both in action.

With Covid19 closing our international borders, the chance of seeing Roger’s tennis brilliance was non-existent, but a trip to Western Australia was much more achievable – overzealous-Western-Australian-Premier permitting. And so, a trip to Rottnest Island was duly booked and I tried to tamp down my excitement of getting up close to these cheerful, cuddly creatures.

Rottnest Island is located approximately 24km off the coast of Fremantle, Western Australia. It was ‘discovered’ by the Dutch in 1696 and they named it Rottnest thinking that the whole island was infested with large rats. Little did they realise the endless cuteness they were missing and little did they know that the local Whadjuk Noongar people had, thousands of years previously, named the island Wadjemup, which means ‘place across the water where the spirits are‘.

Fremantle in the distance from Rottnest Island
Views of Fremantle from Rottnest Island

If you have your own boat (lucky you), you can take yourself off to Rottnest Island anytime you like. For the rest of us Commoners, one of the many ferry companies is the easiest and quickest way to get across to the island. You could easily tell apart locals vs visitors, as the locals arrived with their small wheelie carts loaded to the brink with snorkels, flippers, buckets, spades, umbrellas, picnic hampers and every other item required for a happy beach day. Some even wheeled their own pushbikes up to the ferry and, we were to learn later, that was a very smart move.

There is much more to Rottnest Island than just pushbikes and quokkas, and for some people, this is their long Summer holiday destination. All sorts of accommodation and beach houses, of various levels of luxury ,are available including an old WW2 military installation, Kingstown Barracks, that has been converted to more simple dormitory-style accommodation.

With only one day to spare to visit Rottnest Island and its famous quokkas, we decided to hire bicycles to explore the island and observe the quokkas in their natural environment. You can hire bikes as part of your ferry ticket and we enthusiastically collected our helmet, bike and lock as we stepped off our ferry onto the jetty.

Car free roads on Rottnest Island
Car-free roads on Rottnest Island

This is so exciting! We were off to see quokkas!

One of the many excellent things about Rottnest Island is that there are very few cars and the roads are blissfully empty. Only rangers and other maintenance staff are allowed cars to carry out their duties and, this distinct lack of vehicles, maximises your cycling enjoyment. We decided to ride clockwise around the very edge of the island to make the most of the water views and to cover as much of the island as possible.

Rottnest Island is a swimmer’s, snorkeler’s and surfer’s paradise. Words cannot describe the brilliant blue/green colours, the crystal clarity of the water, and the whitest of white sand. Damn, we are lucky to live in Australia!

As we puffed, panted and slogged up hills – don’t let anyone tell you Rottnest Island is flat – we distracted ourselves with the glorious views out over sheltered bays and coves, watching soaring ospreys AND keeping an eagle eye out for any quokkas hiding in the bushes.

Smart people on e-bikes whizzed passed us and I do admit to looking longingly at the shuttle bus as the day grew hotter and hotter, and I realised that the front brake of my bike was stuck ON! No wonder it was hard going.

Patient plein air painters were making the most of the landscape, set up at various lookouts and rest areas. At the same lookouts, volunteers guides were happy to share their passion for the Island and their extensive knowledge of its flora and fauna. Another good reason to get off the bike, catch your breath and chat awhile.

Again, smarter people than us broke up their visit with swims, snorkels and a glass of wine at the protected beaches. In many places, the beaches are quite shallow which is just perfect for children to paddle and romp. We didn’t have time for that, our priority was to see quokkas.

Parked bicycles on Rottnest Island

Tip: Before you leave the jetty area, pop into the Tourist Office and grab a copy of the Island map. It shows the best paths to take and it will tell you that it is only 22km to cycle a complete circle of the island. Don’t believe it! It is closer to 30km. I agree that is no huge distance, but add in heat, hills and an antiquated bicycle and it felt like 50km!

Cycling, cycling, cycling and still no quokkas. Damn you Roger Federer, you gave me the impression that the bloody island was covered in them.

In disgust, we gave up and turned our bikes homeward toward the settlement, having decided we would catch the early ferry back to the mainland. 50m from the jetty, what do we see? One lonely, moth-eaten quokka! At bloody last!

We instantly dumped our bikes on the side of the road, grabbed our cameras and took thousands of photos just so we could say we had seen a live quokka! Yes, just one lonely quokka.

Of course, later everyone would tell us that if you want to see a quokka, just go to the pub or bakery on the island as all the quokkas hang out there for snacks and treats! Now they tell us! We could have saved ourselves a whole lot of sweat and effort, and had a refreshing beer at the same time.

No, we would still have ridden around the island.

It truly is a small patch of Paradise and well-worth the visit…just don’t expect to see quokkas or Roger Federer!

Rottnest Island

When has the reality been different to your expectations?

The Basics

What: Bicycle hire costs an additional $30 pp when booked with your ferry ticket. The bikes do have gears, but some have seen better days and have had a hard life. Note: the bikes are only one size, so taller people may struggle to pedal comfortably.

Where: Most of the Island’s facilities are clustered around Main Jetty and Thomson Bay. Take all you need with you as you travel around the Island, including plenty of water, as there is little opportunity to eat or drink once you leave the settlement.

When: We visited in Autumn and it was hot, hot, hot. I suspect this would be a gem of a destination at anytime of year, just be prepared for some serious temperatures in Summer.

Why: If you get sick of the hard surfaces and urban landscapes of mainland Perth, head out to the wide open spaces of Rottnest Island and fill your lungs with salty air.

Rottnest Island
The best photo of quokkas on the whole island!

How: Hop on the train from Perth to Fremantle ($4.90pp one way) as there is limited parking at the wharf/ferry jetty in Fremantle. Most of the ferries leave from B Shed, diagonally across from Fremantle Train Station.

Who: It’s an old cliché, but Rottnest Island has something for everyone. It is rich in history, water sports, indigenous culture and apparently it has a fabulous bakery. Our waistline is grateful we missed the bakery and its resident calories.

Related Posts: If you don’t mind a boat ride, have a look at what we saw poking up the Franklin River in Tasmania.

Related Blogs: To learn more about the wildlife of Rottnest Island, check out Rottnest Wildlife Blog for everything with fins, feathers and fur.

Read About It: And now a book for the kids, Clancy the Quokka by Lili Wilkinson. Follow Clancy’s raids on picnics and birthday cakes, and perhaps avoiding tourists like me! Go straight to Book Depository.

#rottnestisalnd #travelinspo #westernaustralia #fremantle #shortwalks #cycling  #dayswalks #scubaandsnorkel #beachbreaks #indigenoushistory.

36 thoughts on “Desperately Seeking Quokkas! Introducing Rottnest Island, Western Australia.

  1. Rottnest is on my “to-do” list for sure! I guess if you were keen on more cycling, you could take your own bike? Or hire a slightly better one on the mainland to take across?


    1. From what I saw as we cycled around, taking your own bike is definitely the way to go. I think it cost an extra $15 to take onto the ferry. My other half is very tall and he struggled on the small framed bikes. Happy cycling!


  2. I have been dying to see the Quokkas!!!! So fun getting to live vicariously through you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am afraid my one measly quokka is not a good representation of Rottnest Island for you!


  3. The nearest I’m likely to get to either is that kid’s book 🙂 🙂 Nice dreaming though. See you around, Mel…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wishing you happy days and many non-blog strolls!


  4. Aw it looks amazing – thanks for the trip and I hope one day I can go on a Quokka hunt too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wishing you greater success as quokka spotting than us! Happy trails.


  5. Ah, how cute are they … that’s now both the quokkas and Roger 😉.
    It is such a beautiful island – those beaches are so inviting! With my current fitness level, it would probably be better to get one of those e-bikes … or having a beer at the pub and watch the quokkas from there!
    Oh well, you’ve seen that lonely quokka AND cycled around the island to show us how beautiful it is – not a day wasted I would say!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll meet you at the pub or bakery and we can catch the shuttle bus and travel in comfort! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds like a good deal to me 😄.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I may be slow on the uptake, but I have learned my lesson!

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Glad you got to see one quokka at least – they are super cute!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They do look like they are smiling. Maybe our quokka was happy that it had eluded us for so long! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks – not quite as exotic as your chiva buses, but just as fascinating.


  7. This is the cutest article I’ve read in a long time. Thanks for the experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Your feedback is much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve never heard of quokkas or Rottnest Island but now I want to go there to see one too! I’ll go to the bakery first and then the bike ride 🙂 Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a great piece to read if thinking about going to Rottnest Island
    I tripped across on a spare day during a tour (about 20 yrs ago). Memories of bike are similar to yours , lol.
    It was a time after heavy rains etc and the waters ‘to’ Rottnest was extremely!!!!!! Choppy .. I was a scared rabbit and sought out the spot on the ferry from which there was least ‘up & down’. I was told it was the centre section on bottom deck. I was so happy to get off.

    This rainy weather was also the reason I was given then., when (like you), I saw few quokkas. (Maybe 2) ?
    Maybe I should have visited the pub too 😀. They were probably there then too.

    I would visit again though. It is a beautiful island and if prepared (using your info)… one could really make the most of day.

    A good read !!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I laughed when I read your comment about the bikes! Maybe they were the same ones!? 🙂 and you made me feel slightly better when you said you only saw two quokkas. Maybe Roger Federer photo-shopped his quokkas?? And yes, definitely worth another visit. I will meet you at the pub! 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting, Mel


  10. Oh my goodness! Cute furry buddies, endless biking on car-less roads, and snorkeling pristine waters? What’s not to like! Sounds like paradise to me. Thank you for sharing – I absolutely love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep – it is the real deal. No wonder the locals love it so much. They recently have a massive surfing competition there too, but I am not sure where the waves came from. Maybe it was weather/tide dependent.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. They are cute, unlike rats. My family visited and saw quokkas. Knowing them they were probably in the pub!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. and being at the Pub, they got to see quokkas! Unlike us! What a smart family you have.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve never heard of a quokka until now, but I must see one! What animal family do they belong to, I wonder…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fun Fact #1: quokkas are part of the macropod family. Fun Fact #2: they are closely related to kangaroos. Who would have thought?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. 🙂 – not quite a bun, but close in cuteness!

          Liked by 1 person

  13. Ooooh, just incredible and amazing. A dream exotic paradise . Hope I get to see this one day. Pictures just jumping with excitement. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure. It really is a slice of Aussie paradise.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Yet another quirky Australian beast – glad to meet the quokka! You had a nice little adventure looking for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I would have liked less adventure and more quokkas! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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