"Rotto where Quokkas are king" Rottnest Island by sirgaw

Rottnest Island Travel Guide: 239 reviews and 577 photos

The locals call the island just off the coast from Freemantle "Rotto" and short for Rottnest. The Quokkas, they're the miniature kangaroos that are found everywhere on Rotto and have a cuteness factor of plus several hundred percent - unless you're a worker on the island and have to try and keep the little critters out of rubbish bins and in and around kitchens. Quokkas must be the garbage guts of the kangaroo world but they are also the top of the food chain on the island and therefore King of the environment.
It was a short 30 minute ferry crossing from Freemantle Warf to the main jetty at Rottnest. On the way across we had to slow down and allow an Australian Navy submarine from the nearby naval base right of way. Suppose you have to give way to a guy with a hull full of torpedos.

Arrived the jetty and then walked the couple of hundred metres to the famous Quokka Arms Hotel (see tip) where we had pre-booked accommodation - which is a must. After a quick un-pack then set about exploring the small settlement of Kingston located on picturesque Thompson Bay.

First stop was the bakery where we lined up with the other hungry visitors and served a delicious assortment of tasty food. Although quite expensive by comparison with the "mainland," none-the-less well prepared and presented. We found a shady tree and with one hand used for feeding, the other hand was for fending off the hungry swarm of ever-present flies.

We discovered the former Salt Store visitor centre and were told of the free tour of the settlement by volunteers - the tour had started some 5 minutes earlier and we galloped to join before it got too far. Really there was no need to rush as there was only 3 or 4 others doing the tour as well as 2 "shadow tour guides" leaning the ropes from the experienced guide. A very entertaining tour that wound its way around the heritage listed buildings, including the pilot station, and delved into the infamous past of the island when it was a almost exclusively for the West Australian aboriginals.

The one hour tour is conducted by the Rottnest Voluntary Guides Association (see link below) and is well worth doing - especially as the tour is free.

Dinner that night was at the bistro of the Quokka Arms Hotel - a cook yourself steak and all the salad/potatoes/bread you needed to stoke up the internal fires. While there we watched in amusement as a squadron of Quokkas stormed through the bistro looking for any dropped food. They seemed to have no fear of humans and just went about their job of scrounging.

The next morning and buffet breakfast was served in the hotel dining room. Brekkie was included in the daily terrif, so we had more than our share of toast and jam. The night crew of Quokkas had gone off to sleep, but were replaced by a pack of hungry birds who knew that humans defences were down and would swoop and steal whatever they could.

Like the birds, there is a "pecking order" on the few roads on the island. Top of the list is pedestrians, with bicycles forever challenging the order of things pedestrian. Last on the list is the few motorised vehicles (private cars are not allowed on Rotto) including a small fleet of ex Perth suburban buses that rattle the main road that loops around the island. For a small daily fee the island can be explored by hop on hop off bus - in reality it's a small island 11 kilometres long, and 4.5 kilometres at its widest point.

The island could never been termed a tropical getaway, but rather semi-arid with sparse vegetation somehow eking out an existence on the sandy soil - it is however home to thousands of Quokkas, which are about the size of a domestic cat. We travelled the main (and only) road to the drop off point to the former World War 2 observation post when Rottnest played an important part in the possible defence of the port of Freemantle. It is a stark building and we dreaded to think of how the troops stationed there must have felt isolated from the rest of society. From there on to an almost deserted cove where the water was almost turquoise in colour and apparently snorkelers paradise. Back onto the bus and a stop at the small settlement of Geordie Bay where there is a long line of accommodation villas overlooking a tranquil bay. We hired a 12 volt electrically powered boat and explored the bay while feeding an armada of small fish. A couple of dolphins playfully let us have a face full of water - thanks guys. We also saw a couple of large sting rays hunting for whatever they dine on.

We returned to the bus stop and while waiting could not help but notice the large wind powered turbine churning out the electric power for the island. A local explained that it is a fan to keep the Quokkas cool in summer, another tried to convince us the turbine was the start of the famous Freemantle Doctor - the cooling wind that blows across Perth during the scorching summer - yeah right.

Last night on the island we had dinner in one of the very few restaurants where we met even more Quokkas trying to dine in style. The staff of the restaurant spent most of the night trying to shoo them out and one staffer explained that he had done a crowd control course and his most dangerous job on the island was to f*** off Quokkas - one even had the nick name of Houdini as he could get in and out of everything.

The next morning our return to Freemantle by ferry, followed by the suburban train to Perth city and then the long 4 hour flight back to Melbourne and home.

Useful links


Rottnest Voluntary Guides Association Inc. (RVGA) http://www.rvga.asn.au/



  • Last visit to Rottnest Island: Mar 2006
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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  • unaS's Profile Photo
    Dec 14, 2009 at 11:01 PM

    "it is a fan to keep the Quokas cool in summer" LOL Definitely sounds like a place worth visiting. Thanks for the great descriptions! Really enjoyed reading this.


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