Rottnest Island was discovered in 1696 by Willem de Vlamingh, a Dutch explorer, who named the island Rats' Nest due to the many large rats that he found on the island. Visitors to the island don't need to worry about these 'rats' as they are one of the islands friendly attractions, otherwise known as Quokkas which are a small wallaby.
Although Rottnest Island started out as a prison and also hosted a large military stronghold during World War II, it soon became a perfect escape from the busy city life in Perth and is a wonderful place to visit.
You can find out more about the history of the island at the interesting Rottnest Island Museum, or by following one of the Rottnest Voluntary Guide Tours around various historical sites. You can also visit the Oliver Hill Gun Emplacement which is a site from World War II, which you can get to by train from Thomson Bay.
There are plenty of other things to do on Rottnest Island, and a number of activities to get involved in. Cycling is popular on the island and is a great way to get around and see everything. Also popular are fishing, snorkelling and diving. There is some beautiful coral around the island which you can see from various points, as well as a number of shipwrecks. If you are planning on going snorkelling it is a good idea to hire a boat.
If you would prefer to relax amongst the beauty of Rottnest Island, there are a couple of tours which you can join still allowing you to see the island. There is a tour bus from the visitor centre in Thomson Bay, as well as a underwater boat cruise around the island by the Underwater Explorer. The Bayseeker also travels around the island, stopping at many of the bays and beaches along the way. Alternatively you can just relax on one of the many beaches, or admire the fabulous views from Vlamingh Lookout, or picnic around the salt lakes with the many Quokkas.
There are a number of places to stay around Thomson Bay, as well as several good restaurants and cafes. You can get to the island from both Fremantle and Perth by boat. A flight is also available from Perth.
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