For History Buffs
There are numerous heritage buildings, especially along the Thomson Bay foreshore, with WA's oldest and best preserved heritage precinct. The Salt Store, Pilot's Boatshed, and numerous accommodation cottages date from mid-19th century when the island was a prison.
The island became a major base during World War II, protecting the sea lane to Fremantle, and the Oliver Hill 9 1/4-inch guns are still in place. Guided 1-hour tours (gold coin fee) take visitors around them as well as the battery tunnels. You can make your own way there, or take a train. A small train, the Captain Hussey, departs from the station near the Visitor & Information Centre hourly from 11:20am to 1:30pm (the last trip is a train ride only -- no tour). The return train ride plus the gun tour costs A$26 for adults, A$15 children 4 to 12, and A$56 families. Lower prices apply if you take only the train ride.
Volunteer guides run several free 1-hour walking tours. One is a historical tour around Thomson Bay, including the governor's residence, chapel, octagonal prison, and the small museum (tel. 08/9372 9752; open daily 10:45am-3:30pm) Another heritage trail takes you to the memorial commemorating de Vlamingh, the Dutch explorer who named the island Rottenest ("Rat's Nest") in 1696 when he mistook quokkas for (very large) rats. There are also quokka walks, and the "Reefs, Wrecks, and Daring Sailors" tour, which includes a walk to Bathurst lighthouse.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.