Swim, scuba and surf Rottnest Island

Swim, scuba and surf Rottnest Island

Wadjemup, the Noongar name for the Rottnest Island, means "place across the water". Rottenest, the Dutch name for the island, means "a nest of rats", which could include marsupial rats, leaver rats, water rats, and weekender rats.

Rottnest Island is a water baby's (and alliterator's) dream with oodles of spots for surfing, snorkelling, swimming and scuba diving in its bountiful, beautiful beaches and bays.

Getting there

Fly there in 15 minutes, ferry it there in 25, boat it there in 40, or swim there in four … hours (if your surname's Hackett). Rottnest Express departs the Barrack Street jetty in Perth at 8.45am on Friday morning for the hour's run to Rotto, and the only ferry back to Perth on Sunday is at 4pm. The return journey costs $65 plus $18 landing fee, a gift towards island maintenance and conservation projects.

Otherwise, find your way to C Shed in Freo where outbound ferries depart at 7.30am, 9.30am, 11.30am, 3.30pm, and 6pm. The boats back to C Shed on Sunday leave at 8.15am, 10.30am, 2pm, 4pm, and 4.30pm, with the return journey costing $50 plus landing fee. They also hire out bikes and snorkelling gear.

When you get there

The Visitor Centre in Thomson Bay is a one-stop shop with all the specifics about tours and times, so get the guff when you grab your keys. A free shuttle bus runs half hourly to/from Thomson Bay and Geordie Bay Store, as well as to/from the airport and Kingstown Barracks.

The Quokka Arms, now unimaginatively rebranded as Hotel Rottnest, must have the world's most fetching view for a beer garden — across the moat back to the skyscrapers of Perth. Raise a glass to what you've left behind, then grab a menu for some tucker.

Fed and watered you might now like to catch a flick at the Rottnest Picture Hall, or amuse yourselves and others on the putt-putt course at Brett Heady's Family Fun Park.

Saturday

As we all know, Rotto is a car-free zone, so your transport options are bike, bus or shanks' pony. The Bayseeker Bus costs $11 for a day of hopping on and off, an expedient way to trundle around the island, so get a ticket from the Visitor Centre and pack a picnic lunch!

Set to the soundtrack of ancient Dreaming stories, the Wadjemup Aboriginal Tour Bus sets off daily at 11.15pm and 1.45pm to sites around the island of significance both to Indigenous and European peoples. The 90-minute bus tour costs $45.

Of course the Basin will be as beautiful as ever and a morning swim or snorkel in its turquoise waters will set you up for the day. Around the corner you'll find the welcoming waters of Longreach Bay — another ideal spot for a swim or a snorkel. Down in Little Salmon Bay, there's a snorkel trail of 10 underwater plaques, so get your flippers on.

My Swiss diving instructor was delirious for Rottnest and would spend every free weekend of his Perth sojourn in his very own octopus' garden — the Marine Reserve, with its caverns and corals, sponges and shipwrecks, is a haven for hundreds of different species of fish.

Now for some food: Aristos is there flogging fish and chips at prices that will surprise you; the Dome's there, as it is everywhere; Quokka Joe's (phone (08) 9292 5777) spruiks its gourmet, organic and gluten free menu options; the Geordie Bay Café (phone (08) 9292 5251) serves up light meals; Red Rooster's never one to be left out; and Subway asks too many questions (just make me a sandwich!).

Sunday

They say you can't leave Rotto without at least one sortie to the bakery for a pie or cream bun, and now's your last chance.

Pack your comfy walking shoes and join a tour conducted by a voluntary guide. You can check out the Oliver Hill guns and tunnels, learn about the history of the settlement, tour the lighthouses, and visit the Vlamingh lookout and salt lakes.

Excuse the gender assumptions here, but ladies, you can go shopping at Indianic Boutique and view an art or photographic exhibition at the Salt Store Gallery while hubby throws a line in from the jetty.

What to bring home

A rejuvenated soul.

Where to stay

The Hostel in Kingstown Barracks has beds in family rooms and dormitories for $25 to $59 a night; BYO linen or hire it from the Visitor Centre, which is also where you check-in. Rottnest Lodge also offers budget accommodation along with its premium rooms.

You can either be bayside or courtside at Hotel Rottnest, with double and twin rooms starting at $250 a night.

Strewn about Thomson Bay, Geordie Bay, Fay's Bay and Longreach Bay are cottages, villas, units, bungalows and cabins with ranging from $61 to $384 a night and in configurations of four, six and eight beds, so take your pick. Don't forget to enter the ballot if you plan to go during the school holidays.

What to leave behind

Forget your city clobber; the dress code is strictly daggy casual.

What to splurge on

Sunshine, sand and salt air.

Got any other suggestions? Share your insight below.

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