While Rottnest Island is renowned for its endless summer allure, if you want to beat the crowds with a perfect fusion of relaxation and adventure, the island is the winter escape you didn’t know you needed!

The cooler months provide the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind, connect with loved ones and wrap yourself in the wonder of nature. Think breathtaking coastlines, exceptional culinary experiences that, and crisp morning air best enjoyed with a warm cup of coffee and a pedal around the island. 

From the soothing sound of waves on the shore, rain on the sea, whistling wind, birdsong and abundant wildlife, there’s something magical about winter on Wadjemup. And you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in heaven.

Located only 19 kilometres off the coast of Perth and 30 minutes by ferry from Fremantle, Wadjemup / Rottnest Island is ideal for a winter surf. The island is flanked by shipwrecks and coral reefs, home to the notorious quokka and dotted with idyllic sheltered coves and bays. So, whether you’re interested in adrenaline-pumping adventure or something a little lower key this winter, there’s a bounty of ways to while away the hours. 

Image Credit: Rottnest Island Authority
Image Credit: Rottnest Island Authority

Things To Do:

Hire a Bike
If you’re heading to Rottnest Island, bike hire is a must. It’s by far the best way to get around, explore untouched beaches and discover rich cultural heritage. Pedal & Flipper Hire is the island’s premier hire facility and one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere with more than 1,890 bikes. They offer a wide array of wheels including standard step-through, electric and cross-bar bikes, as well as options for children and babies. Once you’re all set, road, with a copy of the island guide, which provides you with a range of scenic loops to explore, so there’s no need to backtrack. Ride durations vary between 30 minutes to 5 hours, so there’s something for all tastes, abilities and preferences. 

Watch the Sunrise
Wadjemup is hands down one of the best sunrise joints going and is an absolute must if you’re staying on the island. Pinky Beach is the best vantage point and is one of the rare Perth destinations where you can watch the sunrise over the sea. While you’re at it, be sure to catch the sunset, because it’s just as magical.

Segway Tour
If you’re partial to adventure without the elbow grease, a guided Segway tour allows you to take the path less travelled. Think exploration of Rottnest’s most spectacular beaches, secluded bays and attractions. You’ll also dive into the island’s intriguing military history and visit the Bickley Battery gun emplacements and Jubilee lookout.

Lontara at Samphire Rottnest

Image Credit: Rottnest Island Authority
Lontara at Samphire Rottnest Image Credit: Rottnest Island Authority

Island Dining
When it comes to Wadjemup, dining and dreamy ocean views are synonymous. Winter is a wonderful time to take in the stunning scenes from the warmth of a restaurant and there are plenty of cosy venues to choose from.

  • Isola Bar E Cibo is an Italian beachside bar with a simple yet sophisticated menu built from local produce. Think fresh pasta dishes, fresh sliced meats and WA seafood cooked over a charcoal-fired grill. And dreamy vistas of the famed Thomson Bay. Add footnote *Isola is closed for renovations 7 to 23 August 2023*
  • Lontara is Samphire Rottnest’s signature restaurant and offers a share-style menu inspired by the flavours of Asia’s southeast archipelagos. If you’re a dumpling enthusiast, you’re in the right place.
  • Hotel Rottnest is your one stop shop for a casual beachside beer and a bite. The seasonally inspired menu is packed with hearty pub classics and crowd pleasers like the woodfired pizza, angus burger and fish and chips.
  • The Lane Café is famous for serving up the best cray dog in all of WA – grilled crayfish marinated in garlic and olive oil, topped with chipotle mayo and sandwiched inside a soft bakery bun. They have also perfected the art of smoothies and acai bowls if you want something fresh.
  • Rottnest Bakery is a Wadjemup icon. A trip to the island just isn’t complete without a parking up for a sausage roll or meat pie, washed down with a jam doughnut. 

During the winter months, you can expect empty beaches and uncrowded waves. You’re guaranteed a dance through the green room at Strickland Bay, where swells come from various directions, along different sections of the reef. Stark Bay and Chicken Reef are also breaks worth a gander. Surfboards can be transported over on the ferry and bikes, with a surfboard rack, are available for hire from Pedal & Flipper Hire.

Historical Buildings
Wadjemup is home to a collection of heritage buildings, best explored during rainy intermissions. Wadjemup Museum should be at the top of your hit list, followed by the Old Mill and Hay Store building. A short bus ride into the centre of the island will deliver you to the Wadjemup Lighthouse, which offers a 38-metre ascent where you can absorb a unique perspective of the Perth skyline. While the Wadjemup Hill precinct comprises of the Signal Station, Battery Observation Post and the Women’s Royal Australian Navy Service House, all linked by self-guided interpretive signage.

Discover Aboriginal History & Cultural Experiences
Tens of thousands of years ago, the Noongar people occupied the land now known as Wadjemup, which means “place across the water where the spirits go”. So, it comes as no surprise that from ancient artefacts to military defence structures, rich culture and Aboriginal history is ingrained deep in this tiny island. The island was once used as a prison for Aboriginal men and boys. While many of their bodies still lay beneath the sand, the structures they built still stand today. 

Oliver Hill Guns and Tunnels

Image Credit: Rottnest Island Authority
Oliver Hill Guns and Tunnels Image Credit: Rottnest Island Authority
  • Wadjemup Museum: The Old Mill (where the prisoners who would grind wheat into flour) and Hay Store, now house the Wadjemup Museum which exhibits 40,000-year-old artefacts, immersive audio experiences and museum displays that weave through military, maritime and Aboriginal history.
  • Oliver Hill: is one of three Rottnest Island locations that showcase wartime history. Constructed in 1937 to defend Fremantle port from potential enemy attacks, the battery of two 11-metre 9.2-inch naval guns at Oliver Hill is a significant heritage icon and the only intact emplacement of its type remaining in Australia. The site was chosen to take advantage of panoramic views, as the guns were capable of firing an armour-piercing shell up to 28 kilometres away. While they were decommissioned in the 1960s, the guns and infrastructure still remain. 
  • Underground Tunnel Tour: take a guided underground tour to explore the tunnels that once housed the gun’s engine room and ammunition supply. These tours are run by volunteer guides, and conducted daily between 10am and 2pm. Tickets can be purchased at the Visitor Centre, through Quokka Coaches or upon arrival.
  • Wadjemup Lighthouse: was first constructed in 1849 to ensure the safety of sailors in the surrounding seas. 
  • Welcome Sculpture: a nine-metre-high sculpture created by two WA artists, depicting a Noongar warrior and breaching whale was unveiled at the close of 2021 to commemorate the island’s Indigenous heritage. Titled Koora-Yeye-Boordawan-Kalyakoorl, meaning Past-Present-Future-Forever, the sculpture was constructed in limestone, concrete and aluminium, and resides at the end of the main ferry jetty.

Hike the Wadjemup Bidi Trails
Threaded with a network of hiking trails termed the Wadjemup Bidi, Rottnest Island boasts 45 kilometres of tracks, split into five distinctive adventures with different things to see depending on the route you take (ocean views or unique landscapes). The mild off-season temperatures mean you can take advantage of the climate and completely immerse yourself in nature without the sun slowing you down. The Hike Collective offer guided tours of the Wadjemup Bidi and their Lakes & Bays hike takes you on a trek past pink-tinted salt lakes, historic landmarks and windblown coastal headlands. Or why not set your own pace on a self-guided walk, whether you’re intent on wandering mindfully through bushland or testing your endurance with the full 45-kilometre stretch.

Image Credit: Rottnet Island Authority
Image Credit: Rottnet Island Authority

Where To Stay:

Samphire Rottnest: Samphire Rottnest is the island’s ultimate luxe accommodation, offering dreamy ocean vistas of Thomson Bay and only a short walk from the main jetty. Their signature restaurant, Lontara, is fantastic and offers a menu inspired by the flavours of southeast Asia.

Discovery Rottnest: nestled behind the white sand dunes of the opalescent Pinky Beach, Discovery Rottnest Island comprises of 83 eco-tents ranging in price, comfort and size. The glamping resort is suited to those who appreciate proximity to nature, coupled with some creature comforts of a hotel. Whether you’re on a budget, booking for the whole family or looking for something a little more luxe, the resort caters to everyone.

Stay Rottnest Self-contained accommodation: from beachfront units to bungalows and heritage cottages to cabins, Wadjemup offers a range of self-contained accommodation for those seeking the privacy of their own space. These charming coastal bases are dotted around the island, with many boasting million-dollar views of Geordie and Longreach Bays, North and South Thomson and Bathurst. Stay Rottnest has accommodation options that are ideal for families, friends and bigger groups, desiring a home away from home experience. 

Come rain or come shine there are plenty of ways to enjoy Rottnest Island. Whether it’s stunning scenery you’re searching for, peaceful hiking tracks, meandering bike paths or epic surf, with less crowds and more available accommodation, take the time to slow down and immerse yourself in the wonder of Rottnest Island

Explore the range of seasonal offers and specials on everything from ferry tickets and tours to accommodation, dining experiences and more, and book your island winter experience at rottnestisland.com.

Article by Alexandra Casey

Alexandra Casey is a travel and lifestyle writer and photographer with a wild love for all things nature. She’s a sunset chaser, ocean lover and coconut water enthusiast with a passion for storytelling and exploring lands near and far. She can be found by the sea, dancing at gigs or with her nose in a book. She’s worked in the newspaper, magazine, television and digital media industries, contributing to publications including The West Australian, Sunday Times, ABC News, Signature Media, TimeOut and We Are Explorers.