I had never been to Rottnest Island before and for some weird reason, all I wanted to do while in Perth for a few days on business was to visit the island. I had heard vaguely about the Rottnest Island quokka and was keen to see one.
Where is Rottnest Island?
Rottnest Island is a small island (10km long and 4km wide) that’s a 25-minute ferry ride from Freemantle in Western Australia.
You can fly there but most people get to Rottnest Island by ferry.
There’s an entry fee to access the island and once there you can walk, bicycle, catch a local bus or take a tour.
Here’s a range of Rottnest Island tours to choose from.
We decided to bike it being told it was flat and easy riding but don’t believe what anyone tells you!
There is a reason why one of the bike hire companies has electric bikes for hire.
The island is home to amazing fauna, not only quokkas but king skinks, venomous snakes called dugites and lots of bird life including rock parrots, ospreys and wedge-tailed shearwaters.
What is a Rottnest Island quokka?
Most people have never heard of quokkas, let alone seen one.
What is a quokka, you ask?
Think of a small rat-like creature, give it a pouch and put it on steroids.
It might not sound pretty but quokkas are actually very cute.
Id go as far to say that I’m so taken by these little guys that I am in love with quokkas.
If I could get one of these little guys in my luggage, I would smuggle it home with me and allow it to sleep in my bedroom.
How did the quokka get its name?
The quokka is the only member of the genus Setonix, a small macropod weighing around three kilograms (seven pounds) and about the size of a domestic cat.
The Rottnest Island quokka was first sighted on the island in 1658 by a Dutchman, who also thought it was a kind of rat.
The Dutch named the island ‘Rotte nest’ meaning ‘rat nest’ but the aboriginals knew better and gave it the name quokka, not rat.
The quokka is a marsupial, like kangaroos and koalas, and as such it has a pouch for suckling its young.
What do quokkas eat?
Quokkas are usually nocturnal and spend most of the day sleeping or resting under shady bushes.
Quokkas eat grass, leaves, roots and seeds.
They need very little water and can survive for months without drinking from a water source.
It is said that human food can make them dehydrated and malnourished.
Where to see quokkas on Rottnest Island
I thought that my chances of seeing a quokka while on a day trip to Rottnest Island were quite slim.
I was wrong.
We hired bikes and cycled around the island.
Our first bike stop was at the Settlement, where there is a small mall with cafes, a Subway food chain, a general store and surf boutique.
The first clue was a curious sign on the general store door that quokkas weren’t allowed inside.
While pushing our bikes through the mall, we soon re-focused our eyes on the ground.
A quokka was grazing on some leaves next to a bike stand.
Full of excitement I crouched down to proceed to take hundreds of shots of this little guy thinking he was the only one I may see in my lifetime.
I was then disturbed by a man behind me who said: “don’t step backward ‘cos there’s one behind you!”
Sure enough, a smaller one had crept up behind me and was sniffing my pockets and my shoes!
I spun around and began filming him then we spotted another, and another, and another.
They were everywhere: under the tables, between the chair legs, on the grass, around the tree stumps.
We soon ran out of SD card memory and we hadn’t been anywhere on Rottnest Island yet!
It was a big hint to move on before I found myself compelled to stuff them all in our bike trailer to take home…
Rottnest Island day trip
Cycling around the whole of Rottnest Island that day, all I wanted was to then see a quokka in the wild.
We saw lots of poo (or ‘scat’ to the aficionados), but no quokkas.
We did come across two venomous ‘dugites’ (similar to brown snakes on the east coast of Australia) sunning themselves on the roadside.
We also fed a few very polite seagulls when we stopped in some of the gorgeous bays.
Two king skinks came out of some limestone rocks where we were sitting getting ready for a snorkel.
Not only were they unafraid of us, they even came right up to us to eat breadcrumbs out of our hands too!
It was apparent that they liked vegemite too.
Wild quokkas at Rottnest Island bus stop
Finally at Parker Point, one of the many lovely bays on the island, we spotted two wild quokkas waiting for a bus.
They hung around whilst everyone took turns in taking photos of them, for which they posed very nicely thank you, and then hopped back off into the nearby bush when we all left.
They probably got tired waiting for the bus to take them back to the Settlement mall!
It would seem that quokkas have become quite habituated to man.
Where man goes, so does quokka, daylight or not, they are there.
They hang around where ever we hang around, so’s to speak but having said that, we didn’t see many eating human food at all.
Most were happy grazing on leaves, or nuts lying on the ground and they seemed almost tame.
Most of the Rottnest Island quokkas seemed quite happy to let you go right up to them, stroke them or pole e a GoPro in their faces.
We did see the odd one resting under a shady tree and as Wikipedia would have you believe, quokkas curl up on themselves and appear to ‘face-plant’ into the ground.
It’s a strange position to be in but they seemed happy and at peace.
The fun thing about Rottnest Island is most quokkas were around the hustle and bustle of the cafes enjoying the company of big and little humans running around.
Who would have believed it?
Well, visit Rottnest Island and get Quokka’d!
Find out more about Western Australia here:
Rottnest Island ferry
There are three Rottnest Island ferry companies that provide transfers to Rottnest Island – Rottnest Express, Rottnest Fast Ferries and Sealink Rottnest Island.
It’s possible to get to Rottnest Island from Perth but the shortest ferry ride is from Fremantle.
Return ferry transfers cost from A$49 plus there’s an entrance fee to Rottnest Island, which is A$18.50 (adult) and A$7.00 (child).
Book your ferry to Rottnest Island here:
- Freemantle to Rottnest Island ferry takes 25 minutes
- Perth to Rottnest Island ferry takes 45 minutes from Hillary’s Boat Harbour
- Pertn to Rottnest Island ferry takes 90 minutes from Barrack Street Jetty
Rottnest Island bike hire
You can hire bikes on Rottnest Island for around A$30 a day or save by booking a Rottnest Island day tour package, which can include ferry transfers, bike hire and other tour options as well.