Thomson Bay

Thomson Bay, Melissa Krafchek

Population 300

Although only 11 kilometres long and 5 kilometres wide, Rottnest Island boasts crystal-clear waters for swimming, coral reefs for snorkelling and diving, and a range of beautiful sandy beaches and secluded coves. Thomson Bay, a protected north-easterly bay that faces the mainland, is Rottnest Island's largest and oldest settlement. As the site of the island's main jetty, it is the arrival and departure point for all ferries travelling to and from Perth, Fremantle and Hillarys. The visitor centre and accommodation office are at the end of the jetty.

Visitor Information

Rottnest Island Visitor Centre, at the end of the main jetty, Thomson Bay; (08) 9372 9730.

Nearby national parks

  • Yanchep National Park

    Just a 45-minute drive from Perth, Yanchep is one of Western Australia’s oldest national parks. Lying on a belt of coastal limestone,...more

  • John Forrest National Park

    Declared in 1900, John Forrest is the oldest national park in Western Australia. Lying at the northern edge of the Hills Forest in the...more

  • Walyunga National Park

    Set on the edge of the Darling Scarp just north of Perth, Walyunga National Park encompasses a section of the Swan River valley. It is here...more

Nearby towns

  • Rockingham

    Lying on the edge of Cockburn Sound just 47 kilometres south of Perth, the coastal city of Rockingham offers sheltered waters ideal for...more

  • Yanchep

    Only 58 kilometres north of Perth, Yanchep is a rapidly developing recreational area and popular tourist destination. It provides safe,...more

  • Mundaring

    Mundaring is virtually an outer suburb of Perth, being only 34 kilometres east. Nearby, the picturesque Mundaring Weir is the water source...more

In Town

Historic buildings Originally established in 1838 as a prison for Aboriginal people from the mainland, the Rottnest settlement has a number of convict-built buildings, including the Rottnest Island Museum, built in 1857 as a haystore and granary, which now features displays and photographs on the history of the island. The Salt Store, built in 1968 to hold the bagged salt collected from the island's salt lakes, is now an art gallery and exhibition centre. The octagonal 'Quod' (1864), which once served as a prison, is now part of the Rottnest Lodge and its prison cells have been transformed into hotel rooms. Vincent Way, overlooking Thomson Bay, is one of the oldest streetscapes in Australia. The original building of the Hotel Rottnest, built in 1864 as the summer residence for the governors of Western Australia, has now been revamped and joined by an alfresco beachside courtyard, bars and accommodation. Tours covering different aspects of Rottnest's history are run daily by the Rottnest Voluntary Guides; brochures on self-guide walk trails also available; contact visitors centre for details.

Bike hire: as the use of vehicles is prohibited on Rottnest, except by the authorities, cycling is the usual mode of transport for visitors. Bring your own on the ferry or rent one from Rottnest Island Bike Hire, just behind the Hotel Rottnest; open daily, hours vary seasonally; (08) 9292 5105. 

Bus services: there are two bus services, both of which depart from the settlement's main bus stop. A free shuttle runs between the main accommodation areas on the island. The Bayseeker is an all-day jump-on, jump-off service that does a regular circuit of the island. 

Shopping precinct: just a short walk from the main jetty is the settlement's small pedestrian mall of shops, including a general store, surf-wear shop, pharmacy, bakery and other food outlets. 

Family Fun Park: when you need a break from Rottnest's natural wonders, this fun park offers mini golf, trampolines, giant chess and a shed of arcade amusements. 

Rottnest Island Picture Hall: catch a movie in the island's original picture hall, complete with deck chairs. 

Water-based activities: Thomson Bay offers many water-based activities, from swimming at the sheltered beach to snorkelling and fishing; snorkelling equipment available for hire at Rottnest Island Bike Hire. 

Just 4 Fun Aqua Park: jump, slide and splash in this water-based adventure park of inflatable equipment, with a knee-deep area for toddlers, situated just north of the main jetty; 10.30am–5pm daily, Nov–Apr.


Wadjemup Lighthouse The original lighthouse, built in 1849 by Aboriginal prisoners, was WA's first lighthouse. This was replaced in 1881 by a lighthouse with a rotating beam, which is still standing. The Rottnest Voluntary Guides run daily half-hour tours from 11am to 2.30pm; meet at the lighthouse.

Oliver Hill Take a scenic train ride up to Oliver Hill, where the evidence of Rottnest Island's military past, including a tunnel system, can be found. The gun battery was built in the 1930s to defend the WA coastline and Fremantle harbour. Find out more on one of the daily 'Guns and Tunnels' tours; contact visitor centre for details.

Beaches: Rottnest Island is home to over 60 beaches, the most popular of which is the Basin, only a short trip from Thomson Bay, and so named because the coral reef forms a basin-like swimming pool. 

Vlamingh's Lookout: this lookout boasts panoramic views of the island; on the way, stop at the old cemetery, the gravestones testifying to the hardships of the early settlers. 

Snorkelling and diving: with some 360 species of fish, over 20 species of coral, and 13 historic shipwrecks in its coastal waters, Rottnest is a perfect location for snorkelling and diving; a snorkel trail at Parker Pt features underwater interpretative plaques. 

Surfing and bodyboarding: Strickland Bay, Salmon Bay and Stark Bay are the island's best spots for waves. 

Birdwatching: its A-Class Reserve status and varied habitat – coastal, woodlands, heath, salt lakes and swamps – means Rottnest is home to a wide range of bird species; the osprey nest at Salmon Pt is estimated to be 70 years old. 

West End: the far western end of the island boasts a $300 000 boardwalk, the first stage of a 50 km Coastal Walk Trail under development; allow 1.5–2 hrs by bike to get there or take the bus on the Discovery Tour (contact visitor centre for details); 11 km W

Rottnest Island Marine Reserve: lying in the path of the warm Leeuwin ocean current, the waters around Rottnest support an unusually rich diversity of marine life, including coral reefs, tropical fish and migrating humpback whales, dolphins and sea lions. Day-long boat tours available or, if short on time, take the 90min Adventure Tour (Sept–June); Rottnest Express; 1300 467 688 or (08) 9432 8090.

Fishing spots near town

Perth 27 km

The Swan River produces many species, including bream, mulloway, herring, tailor, tarwhine, silver trevally, Samson fish and flathead. This is a year- round fishery for the much sought bream. In summer the bream run... Find out more

Eco-friendly activities around town

Diving around Perth 20 km

There are some shore dives in and around Fremantle and Perth, and plenty of great boat dives to Rottnest Island and further afield. Dolphin Dive Fremantle is an eco-accredited dive shop with a large boat, and will rent... Find out more

Kings Park and Botanic Garden 28 km

Arguably the most scenic botanic gardens in the country, Kings Park and Botanic Garden, with its hilltop location, offers great views over the city and beyond, and has plenty of space for picnicking, cycling and walking.... Find out more

Perth Zoo 30 km

You can certainly while away a few hours at this excellent zoo, which is involved in conservation and has a breeding program for native endangered species, including the western swamp tortoise, Shark Bay mouse and... Find out more

Sea-kayaking around Rockingham 36 km

Along the coast at Rockingham, less than 45 minutes drive south from Perth, you can kayak to the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park just offshore, which harbours a host of wildlife. There are Australian sea-lions on Seal... Find out more

Hiking the Bibbulmun Track 49 km

You do not need to dedicate six to eight weeks to walk the superb 965-kilometre Bibbulmun Track in order to enjoy it. There are plenty of places to get on and off the track, so you can stretch the legs for a few hours,... Find out more

Whitewater rafting – Dwellingup 93 km

Dwellingup Adventures has a one-day rafting trip on the Murray River suitable for novices and children from ten years and upwards. This operator also hire canoes, kayaks, rafts and mountain bikes and, for self-guided... Find out more

Golf courses around town

Cottesloe Golf Club 22 km

Cottesloe is internationally renowned for its superb beach, backing on to rows of towering Norfolk Island pines and wonderful terraced lawns, an idyllic spot to soak up views of the Indian Ocean. If you were expecting... Find out more

Lake Karrinyup Country Club 28 km

For more than five decades Lake Karrinyup was widely considered one of Australia’s classic courses. It first won national acclaim when it hosted the 1952 Australian Open, won by Norman von Nida. The Open... Find out more

The Western Australian Golf Club 32 km

The Western Australian Golf Club is a hidden gem, particularly to visitors from interstate or overseas. Set amid the rolling hills of suburban Yokine, and covering some of the highest points to be found north of... Find out more

Mt Lawley Golf Club 33 km

Perth was a booming town in the late 1920s, and as more and more people headed west from the eastern states, the demand for golf courses grew. Four of Perth’s finest layouts – Lake Karrinyup, Cottesloe,... Find out more

Joondalup Country Club & Resort 34 km

Few inland courses in Australia boast such visually sensational holes as you will encounter at Joondalup. This 27-hole layout, a 25-minute drive north of Perth’s CBD, is a unique golfing experience and the... Find out more

The Links Kennedy Bay 45 km

Kennedy Bay has a brief and chequered history. Since opening for play in 1998 this acclaimed links course has been forced to close twice because of financial circumstances involving different owners. The most recent... Find out more

Secret Harbour Golf Links 50 km

Towering sand dunes covered with thick coastal scrub were the sight that greeted Graham Marsh, former player turned course designer, when he took his first look at the proposed Secret Harbour Golf Links in the early... Find out more

The Vines Resort & Country Club (Lakes course) 51 km

Few courses in Australia let you walk in the footsteps of the game’s best players simply by booking a tee time and paying your green fee. The Vines, as the stage for such events as the Heineken Classic, Johnnie... Find out more

Araluen Golf Resort 54 km

Steep forest-covered hills above deep valleys are not the ideal landscape on which to create a golf course. But that did not stop the developers of Araluen Golf Resort – in the Roleystone Hills, 45 minutes... Find out more

Meadow Springs Golf & Country Club 59 km

Nearly eight years after American designer Robert Trent Jones Jnr oversaw the final stages of construction on his acclaimed Joondalup layout, he found himself back on the WA coast. This time it was to sign off on... Find out more

Cafes & restaurants around town


The island’s premier restaurant serves a seafood-inspired menu, including crayfish when it’s in season during summer. Situated in the Rottnest Lodge, which started out as a colonial barracks and prison over... Find out more

Rottnest Bakery

Indulging at the Rottnest Bakery has become a ritual for most visitors to the island. The smell of baked goods fills the air and it’s almost impossible to resist sampling some of their famous bread, pies and rows... Find out more

Nearby eco-friendly places to eat

The Sandcastle 22 km

The Sandcastle is an up-market option in South Fremantle, with beautiful food, much of which comes from sustainable resources, and organic wines and beers. As well as stocking organic vegetables, grains and meats, the... Find out more

Nearby breweries

Little Creatures Brewing 21 km

After dabbling in wine and working as a brewing consultant in the US, craftbeer pioneer Phil Sexton re-surfaced in the local beer scene, along with a couple of other former Matilda Bay Brewing heavyweights, with the... Find out more

Sail & Anchor Hotel 21 km

The Australian craft beer movement was kick-started at the Sail & Anchor Hotel in 1984 when the first house-brewed ale flowed there. Phil Sexton and his partners in the Matilda Bay Brewing Company were building the... Find out more

Gage Roads Brewing Company 25 km

Established in 2002 by former Sail & Anchor brewing team Peter Nolin and Bill Hoedemaker, Gage Roads Brewing started producing beer from the Palmyra site in mid-2005. The US-born pair was apparently frustrated that... Find out more

Billabong Brewing 27 km

Owner Alan Proctor started Billabong Brewing as Western Australia’s first brew-on-premise operation, where homebrewers come to make their own beer and bottle it, using professional equipment. In 2006 Proctor... Find out more

Swan Brewery 36 km

The Swan Brewery was established in 1857 by early Western Australian settler Frank Sherwood, who had emigrated from England with his family in 1842. Interestingly, he originally set up a school of classics and languages... Find out more

Elmar's In the Valley 48 km

Having established a successful smallgoods business, German-born couple Elmar and Anette Dieren branched out to establish this sizeable bar, restaurant and beer garden complex, which also includes a microbrewery. While... Find out more

Duckstein Brewery 48 km

Duckstein Brewery actually has two separate breweries and outlets located in both the Swan Valley and Margaret River wine regions. The original 60-litre microbrewery (or should that be microscopic brewery) is one of the... Find out more

Mash Brewing Company 48 km

The simply named Mash Brewing Company debuted in April 2006, adding to the significant cluster of craft breweries operating out of the Swan Valley. Inspired by the Little Creatures model, the brewery is positioned... Find out more

Feral Brewing Company 52 km

Based in the Swan Valley, Feral Brewing produces a range of sometimes challenging beers that are served on tap at their bar/restaurant (and a handful of other outlets), plus their flagship bottled product Feral White,... Find out more

Campsites around town

Allison camping area

On Rottnest Island at Thomson Bay, Allison camping area is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the beauty of this little patch of paradise just off the coast of Perth. Swimming, fishing, snorkelling and boating are... Find out more

Bibbulmun Track camping areas – Northern Section 49 km

The Bibbulmun Track traverses some of the south west's most scenic and beautiful areas for some 963 kilometres from the Perth suburb of Kalamunda to Albany. The northern section begins at Kalamunda Trackhead  with a... Find out more

Prickly Bark camping area 50 km

This small campsite in the bush is 17 km from Moitch camping area and 2.7 km west of the trackhead in Melaleuca Conservation Park. A gas/fuel stove is preferred and you need to bring your own water.... Find out more

Ridges camping area 53 km

This small campsite is 16 km from the Coastal Plain Walk trackhead at Ghost House Ruins and 19.9 km from Moitch camping area. You’ll need to bring a gas/fuel stove.... Find out more

Moitch camping area 53 km

This small campsite is 19.9 km from Ridges camping area and 17 km from Prickly Bark camping area. Bring your own water, and a gas/fuel stove is preferred.... Find out more

Hewetts Hill camping area 56 km

On the Bibbulmun Track, Hewetts Hill camping area is 10.3 km from Kalamunda and 10.6 km from Ball Creek camping area.... Find out more

Walyunga camping area 59 km

Walyunga camping area offers tent-based camping only, in a natural bush environment that is popular with bushwalkers and birdwatchers. To get here, head 17 km north of Midland via Walyunga Rd from the Great Northern Hwy.... Find out more

Munda Biddi Trail campsites – Mundaring to Collie 60 km

The Munda Biddi Trail is a long distance cycling trail that will eventually stretch from Mundaring, north east of Perth, to Albany on the south coast. Currently, it winds through forests and parks along bush tracks and... Find out more

Perth Hills National Parks Centre camping area 60 km

Visitors here will find a range of nature-based activities, including the many scenic walks available throughout the area. There is a short walk from the carpark to the campsites. Perth Hills National Parks Centre is on... Find out more

Caravan parks around town

Woodman Point Holiday Park 26 km

Large and popular, this tourist park has walking access to the beach and is just 7 km from Fremantle. The managers run nature walks around the local area year round. Bookings are required in peak periods.... Find out more

Karrinyup Waters Resort 28 km

Just 14 km north of Perth and close to the Mitchell Freeway, this park is just a short distance from the beach. With very good amenities and facilities that include a spa and solar-heated pool, this is a good base for... Find out more

Perth Vineyards Holiday Park 42 km

Situated in the grape-growing area of the Upper Swan River, about 14 km from the centre of Perth, this quality park has easy access to the main routes north and east. It has grassy and paved sites, some with good shade.... Find out more

Discovery Holiday Parks – Perth 43 km

This is a great park with excellent amenities, in the eastern suburbs 16 km from the centre of Perth. It also has a van-storage area. Access to the park is easy from all directions along main arterial routes. Bookings... Find out more

Banksia Tourist Park 46 km

This is an ideal location for those arriving in Perth from the north or the east wanting to stay on the outskirts. The park is in a semi-rural setting just a few minutes from Midland. The quality park is well laid out... Find out more

Guilderton Caravan Park 72 km

Located in a picturesque setting at the mouth of the Moore River, this popular beachside holiday park is on the water’s edge and has good camping and caravan sites. Amenities are basic and a small shop and cafe are... Find out more

Hotels, motels & B&Bs around town

Allison Camping Area

The Allison Camping Area is the only campsite on the island. It’s extremely popular, so early bookings by a ballot system are essential. Situated in Thomson Bay, the shady campsite is unpowered and includes... Find out more

Hotel Rottnest

Formerly the Quokka Arms, this Victorian building was originally the summer residence for the governors of Western Australia. Now it accommodates tourists and every room has ensuites. Downstairs is the island’s... Find out more

Kingstown Barracks

The Kingstown Barracks includes three types of accommodation: the Kingstown Barracks, Rottnest Island Hostel and the Governor’s Circle. The barracks have 17 dormitory rooms, some with ensuites and others with... Find out more

Rottnest Island Authority Holiday Units

The Rottnest Island Authority Holiday Units include a variety of cottages, villas, units, bungalows and cabins. Available by ballot system, the holiday units are usually booked well in advance, but there is usually some... Find out more

Rottnest Lodge

The Rottnest Lodge is the island’s premier hotel and includes several historical buildings, including the original barracks and a prison. No longer thought of as an Alcatraz, a more up-market clientele is attracted... Find out more

Rest areas around town

Gleneagle rest area 69 km

25km SE of Armadale (L) or 107km NW of Williams (R)

Secluded in a forest setting well off the highway.

North Dandelup park area 71 km

43km S of Armadale (L) or 15km N of Pinjarra (R)

Adjacent to the highway among a few trees. Toilets behind nearby hall.

Forsyths Mill rest area 71 km

11km E of Mundaring (R) or 27km W of Bakers Hill (L)

Secluded in a natural bush setting just off the highway.

Pinjarra park area 78 km

At Pinjarra

On the south side of town opposite the cemetery.

Sullivan Rock rest area 79 km

37km SE of Armadale (R) or 95km NW of Williams (L)

Just off the highway among trees.

Marrinup camping area 91 km

T/O at Pinjarra

At a clearing in the forest 24km south-east of Pinjarra via Pinjarra-Williams Rd and Grey Rd (unsealed).

Bakers Hill park area 91 km

At Bakers Hill  

Adjacent to the highway at the information bay on the west side of town.

Bindoon Hill rest area 95 km

10km N of Bindoon (L) or 41km S of New Norcia (L)

Just off the highway among a few trees. On both sides of the highway.

Bandicoot Brook rest area 96 km

21km S of Pinjarra (R) or 79km N of Bunbury (L)

Just off the highway among some trees.

Eadine Springs rest area 100 km

9km E of Bakers Hill (L) or 14km W of Northam (R)

Secluded picnic area among trees. Well off the highway.

Baden Powell camping area 100 km

T/O at Pinjarra to Dwellingup

In the forest of Lane Poole Reserve 10km south of Dwellingup via Nanga Rd. A new campsite is currently being built across the road from the existing one, which will stay open.

What's on around town

Rottnest Channel Swim: Feb.

Swim Thru Rottnest: Dec.

comments powered by Disqus