Top activities for Rottnest in Winter

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I acknowledge the traditional owners of Wadjemup, the Whadjuk Noongar People, and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. I recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture.

PhotographyBobby Bense | Helen Janneson Bense

Location – Wadjemup/Rottnest Island – Western Australia

Outfits – Spell Utopia Skirt + Blouse | Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket (best jacket for riding to stay warm and dry yet not too hot)

How to get there – From Perth take the Sealink eco-friendly ferry from B shed in Fremantle

Where to stay – We usually book the RIA accomodation which is very modest, yet budget friendly, and it has everything you could need for a very comfortable stay.

What to doScenic flight | Sky Diving (Winter Deal) | Rent an E bike | Guided hike | Surfing | Snorkelling – Little Salmon bay, Parker Point | Watch sunset over Pinky’s Beach from Bathurst lighthouse or Oliver Hill | Cliff Jumping at Eagle Rock (with caution) | Visit the Wadjemup Museum, connect with the history and pay your respects to the traditional owners. The Breaching Whale sculpture you’ll see upon arrival at the end of the jetty has a wonderful visual and audio story to listen to.

What to pack for a day trip – A waterproof dry bag/backpack, waterproof jacket, reusable water bottle, snacks, towel, wetsuit, snorkel gear (or hire this from Pedal and Flipper), swimwear, underwater camera, reef safe sunscreen. We also bring a first aid kit. There is a nursing station on the island in the main settlement but it’s good to be prepared if you’re on the other side of the island and have a biking incident. Bring your own bike or hire a bike through the ferry company or Pedal and Flipper. It’s always handy if your bike has a basket or rack on the back to help you cart all your gear around. If you want to surf at Rottnest get yourself a surf bike rack and you can even bring along your board. If you are overpacked lockers are available at the Visitor centre or Pedal and Flipper for a small fee.

Which beaches you must see – The Basin | Little Parakeet Bay | Parker Point | Little Salmon Bay | Eagle bay – you’ll see these spots feature in lots of my photos.

Where to eat – The main restaurants are found within the town centre and along South Thomson bay. All within walking distance of the ferry. There is also a cafe in Geordie bay and food trucks at the Basin, Wadjemup lighthouse and West End, but check the time of year you’re traveling if they are open. The food trucks only offer basic food, coffee, tea but it could be a great respite after a long ride to have a warm drink. We love Hotel Rottnest for it’s laid back beach vibes and it has a decent selection of plant based foods and is open all year round. In summer, Lontara is a delicious, though pricy, dinner experience. The chef is a mastermind in the kitchen and can cater to all dietary needs. In town you have to try the bakery for fresh sourdough bread and acai bowls at The Lane cafe. They have a good selection of vegan and gluten free options too. In town you have the general store for all your food needs if you plan to cook while you’re on the island. My mum hack for food management and maintaining holiday vibes while feeding my family is packing premade food. Our family will cook a bunch of delicious meals before leaving and put them frozen in an esky for delivery to our accommodation with our luggage. This way when I’m there all I need to do is heat it up. I make the most of my holiday without having to worry about what to cook. It’s great in the winter months when you’re exhausted after a long day adventuring in the elements and just want to eat and enjoy the quiet, cosy space of your chalet and snuggle in bed.

This is my second winter experience at Rottnest and it won’t be my last. It’s such an underestimated holiday experience. The best part is the lack of crowds. Some days you can enjoy the island and beaches almost entirely to yourself. We visited over school holidays, which are also generally busier, and yet it felt like we were worlds away. Each morning as I watched the sunrise, I looked back at Perth, and felt so far removed from the city hustle, yet it’s only a 30 min ferry ride from Fremantle. There is a certain peaceful bliss that washes over you once you arrive on the island. You have to visit to experience it but take my word for it, you’ll want to book your next trip before you’ve even left.

We stayed with friends and family to celebrate Bobby’s 40th Birthday and I organised many surprises for him. It’s a great place to bring your tribe and connect for shared dinners, sunrise cuppas and everything in between. We celebrated on the day with a plant based long lunch at Hotel Rottnest. They catered beautifully for the occasion and we had one of the most joyous days with all our loved ones. It’s a great spot to stop for lunch especially if you’re traveling on a day trip and don’t have space to carry food. And then stop off for a cocktail/mocktail for golden hour before heading home on your ferry.

We experienced a mix of absolutely stunning sunny weather and some torrential downpour. We made the best of all it. Rain, hail or shine, we adventured in our wet weather gear and with the rain came the rainbows!

For the adventure lovers there is so much to do. I’ve compiled a list of my favourites activities with local tips here –

Rent an E bike from Pedal and Flipper (it’s right by Hotel Rottnest, a short walk from the jetty) and circumnavigate the island. Make sure to head to the West End and see if you can spot the long-nosed fur seals. This is a fun and easy way to see the whole island without feeling the burn in your calves for days from riding. Also ideal for photographers who have heavy gear to cart. I recommend renting a bike online in advance. From there you can rehire the bike for subsequent days if you are staying on the island. They provide you with a battery charger to charge overnight. The price per day is halved for subsequent days.

Take a scenic flight – this was our first time seeing the island from an aerial perspective and it was simply beautiful. You’ll take off from the Rottnest airport which isn’t too far from the main settlement. We went early in the morning as this was our only time frame available but I would suggest going more towards noon – 2pm as you’ll get better ocean views. Look out for whales while you’re up there. One of the many cool things about winter time at Rottnest. The flight I chose was 20 min and you do 2 laps, one higher, one lower. I felt like it was a little quick and would have loved more air time, but still worth the experience and it fit the budget for this trip.

Sky diving – For those wanting epic island views and a heart pumping experience, this is for you. Winter time also has some pretty awesome deals. My husband Bobby and daughter Jade jumped from 14000ft as part of a birthday gift surprise for Bobby. Our friends and family were driven to a local beach and we were all able to watch them jump out of the plane and land right on the beach in front of us. Bobby and Jade are already keen to do it again and my fears have been eased greatly that I’m also considering it myself for the first time ever, which is honestly so surprising to me. I swore I’d never! We will see I guess.

Snorkelling – I highly recommend you attempt winter snorkelling at Rottnest, even if you’re like me and don’t care for the cold. I thought for sure it would be freezing. And while it was cold, it wasn’t awful, in fact, it was so beautiful. I ended up snorkelling with a wetsuit on for 45 minutes and only came in because our group was ready to go. The bike riding and winter sun will warm you up quickly. Bring a beanie as it helps afterwards. I noticed much more underwater activity compared to summertime and the visibility was mostly crisp and clear. I’d recommend visiting Little Salmon bay, Parker Point, Salmon Bay and Mary Cove. Little Salmon bay and Parker Point have that beautiful pink cauliflower coral you may have seen in some of my Instagram reels. These spots have buoys to help guide you along your snorkel and it’s all quite close to the shore. If you’re new to snorkelling then consider joining a guided Snorkel tour as currents can get quite strong in winter. Always wear fins.

Surfing – Bring your board and set up your bike with a surfboard rack and off you go! Strickland bay and Mary Cove are great spots. We were inspired watching some of our friends riding around with their surfboards and enjoying the surf with pods of dolphins swimming with them and whales breaching in the background. Nothing short of a truly spectacular, wild experience.

Guided Hike – A great way to explore the lakes and beaches of Rottnest especially for your first visit. Did you know there is even a pink lake on Rottnest!

Cliff Jumping at Eagle Rock – firstly this is not recommended for the inexperienced. As you get closer to the West End there is is an unmarked turn off towards the right heading to Mable Cove. As you ride down the road, stop at the peak before you go downhill. On the lefthand side you’ll see a path down to the rocks with spectacular views. Be very cautious with both personal safety (snakes, loose rocks) and also to protect vegetation and stick to the path. If the swell is big it’s not wise to jump as you may have difficulty getting back up. Ensure you are a competent swimmer as currents can be strong and you may need to swim all the way back to the beach. It’s usually ideal in summer but on a calm winters day it’s invigorating. Even if you don’t jump it’s a beautiful spot to view the West End and Cathedral rocks, where the long nosed fur seals reside.

Wildlife encounters – Rottnest is full of beautiful biodiversity. Make sure to say hello to the friendly marsupial quokkas. Some will have babies in their pouch during this time. Please ensure you don’t feed them, touch them or leave food or rubbish behind. Watching the impacts is heartbreaking. Keep your eye out for Ospreys. We usually see them around Eagle bay and Mary Cove. We even saw one catching a fish on this trip and it was a magnificent sight. Winter also brings along migrating humpback whales. Keep an eye out for dolphins at Bathurst lighthouse. We saw them on multiple days at sunset looking out to the east feeding along the reef. One of our passions is caring for the environment, so each time we visit we ensure we do our best to leave it in better shape by doing a beach clean up. It doesn’t take much time and it’s a beautiful way to experience the beaches and do something important for our oceans and wildlife at the same time.

Photography – There are some incredible opportunities for photography across the island. I’d say get an E bike and scout it out. You will find so many gems! Our favourite spots are over looking The Basin towards Bathurst Lighthouse, Oliver Hill (sunset), Bathurst Lighthouse overlooking Pinky’s beach (sunset, though beautiful during the day too with all that turquoise water), Parker Point on the staircase. If you also walk along the beach towards the left you’ll come to a beautiful spot overlooking the most crystal clear blue waters of Porpoise Bay. Eagle rock at Eagle bay cliff jump has the most beautiful vista. If you have a telescopic lens you might capture some imagery of Ospreys and Seals.

If you do plan to stay on the island, make sure to enjoy the benefits of watching sunrise over the city. Something we West Aussies don’t see much of. North Thomson is a great spot for this. For an epic sunset spot head to Bathurst lighthouse where people gather for sunset views overlooking Pinky’s beach. Many will bring a little picnic to enjoy. If you fancy a challenging hill ride then head to Oliver Hill to watch sunset. It’s a steep climb which you can either push your bike up or walk if you can’t ride it. One of the benefits of having an e-bike is getting up this hill.

We are headed back again in Spring and super excited for the new experiences this season will bring. Please feel free to reach out if you are planning a trip and need any more tips or advice before going.

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

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