Off Western Australia's coast, Kate Roff finds a wild but friendly island.

Rottnest Island's 63 beaches host gorgeous sealife to enthral snorkellers and some have the goods that surfers seek.

An hour's boat ride from mainland Western Australia, Rottnest Island is a very accessible paradise.

Here are some top ways to relax on "Rotto".

Admire the fauna


Rottnest was named by Dutch settlers for the unique marsupials, initially mistaken for rats, that roam it. The original name, Rotte Nest, meaning rats' nest, was later adapted to Rottnest. These "rats" are actually very friendly quokkas, which resemble little kangaroos. The island's home to an estimated 10,000 quokkas, each of which are about the size of a cat. Accustomed to tourists, they will happily hop into your tent.

Hit the beach

With 63 beaches, there are sheltered coves and well-known surf spots. Personal favourites are The Basin, with its sheltered reef, and Pinky Beach, with a picturesque view of the lighthouse. The island's marine reserve is a hive of activity with over 400 species of fish.

Have a cuppa

The island's tiny town has an iconic bakery (stop here for the biggest apple turnover you'll ever see) and at the new Lane cafe for iced coffees.

Get on yer bike

With no cars allowed, the tranquil island is full of bikes, which offer a great way to get around. A complete ride around the island is an adventurous way to spend the day and reach more remote beaches. Hire bikes on the island or bring your own across on the ferry.

Be a tourist

The island has been home to notorious convicts, Aboriginal prisoners, settlers, shipwrecks and military camps - so historical sites are easy to find. Volunteer guides lead great free tours, including History of the Settlement, Reefs, Wrecks and Daring Sailors, Quokka Walk and Salt Lakes Walk. Paid tours also operate, with a bus going around the island and fishing charters heading out regularly.


Rottnest Hotel is a bit of a hot spot in the evenings. It's been spruced up recently and embraces the view of the harbour with al fresco areas. Relaxing in its beach-side bar with a cold drink on a sun-kissed day is a beautiful way to take in the scenery.

Getting there: Air New Zealand flies daily from Auckland to Perth. Ferries run daily from Perth and Fremantle to Rottnest. We travelled with Rottnest Express.

Accommodation: Beds on Rottnest fill up fast, but there are many options: chalets, units, hotels and tent sites. A day trip is also a great way to see the island.

Further information: See