Encounters with Quokkas on Rottnest Island



Just off the Western Australian coast lies an island named after one of its rather cute inhabitants. Rottnest comes from the Dutch for rat nest, as the small, kangaroo-like quokkas were mistaken for giant rats by sailors in 1696. Nowadays the island is a popular holiday destination for locals being  just a 25 minute ferry ride from the city of Fremantle. I recently hopped aboard to spend a day exploring the affectionately nicknamed Rotto.

Cycling around Rottnest

Cycling around Rottnest

After a windy ferry journey we pulled into the island’s main settlement, Thomson Bay, to be greeted by row upon row of shabby and basic-looking accommodation, families milling around and bikes, lots of bikes. Cycling is the best way to explore Rottnest, as there are very few cars on the island so I made a beeline for the signposted rental shop. Within 10 minutes I was peddling along the tarmacked roads, regretting not being fitter as I struggled slightly up the small hills that kept appearing. The beautiful sea views as I passed numerous bays and even a small semi-submerged wreck definitely made up for all that effort.

Parker Point

Parker Point

On reaching Parker Point, a narrow strip of sandy beach bordering turquoise blue waters, I locked up my bike and headed down the steps built down the sheltering cliff face. Apart from a couple of boats moored in the bay and a few hungry seagulls, the beach was deserted, surprising considering it was a warm and sunny Sunday in early Autumn. Only a short swim out in the crystal clear waters found a reef bustling with fish.

Parker Point

Parker Point

Back on land I came across a dugite, a venomous snake native to Western Australia which I was careful to keep my distance from. In contrast my first encounter with a quokka was a little different. Spotting three quokkas in the shade of a tree I slowly made my way closer, careful not to scare them off. Next thing I know, one makes it way over to me, rearing up, sniffing at me for food. While Zach was distracted by the begging quokka another approached unseen and licked his foot causing a scream of surprise. These friendly little marsupials are certainly not shy around humans. While we only saw a handful of quokkas on our cycle around Rottnest Island back at the main settlement of Thomson Bay there must have been another 40 plus hanging around, searching for food, so you’re pretty much guaranteed your own encounter.

Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island

While a cycle around the island may only take a few hours to complete, a day definitely isn’t long enough to appreciate all the bays and beaches that make up the beautiful Rotto. I have a feeling I’ll be back on the ferry to explore more of Rottnest before too long.

I guess the quokkas weren't welcome at the local store...

I guess the quokkas weren’t welcome at the local store…

How to get there?

Rottnest Express run daily ferries from Perth and Fremantle, while Rottnest Fast Ferries depart further north from Hilarys Boat Harbour.

Bike Hire

Available from the ferry companies themselves or Pedal & Flipper at Thomson Bay.


Posted on May 3, 2014, in Australia, Oceania and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Wow, the island looks fantastic! And yet another unique animal to see in Australia, we have never heard of a quokka. Thanks.

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