The easiest way to book Rottnest Island accommodation, some of Australia’s hardest-to-book accommodation, couldn’t be simpler. After extensive testing, I found the easiest way to book a Rottnest Island stay. It didn’t involve waiting in a virtual queue before 8.30am on the first of the month to book a holiday nine months in advance. I can easily book a beachside stay next week.
One of Australia’s most memorable places to stay is one of Australia’s most beautiful islands, Rottnest Island. A 25-minute cruise from Fremantle off the coast of Perth, Western Australia’s capital, breathtaking Rottnest Island is skirted by white sand beaches and clear turquoise waters, and is home to cute furry quokkas. We stayed two nights, but we wished it had been a week.
While a day trip to Rottnest Island is easily managed with a little planning – there’s a daily limit on visitors and cap on seats on the ferry from Fremantle – a holiday is harder to organise as Rottnest Island accommodation is some of Australia’s hardest-to-book accommodation. Perth locals, familiar with the system, book holidays nine months in advance.
Foreign and interstate travellers, deterred by the notoriously complicated process on the official government Rottnest accommodation site – which makes booking a rustic holiday cottage as challenging as getting a table at a Michelin-starred restaurant – often abandon their dreams of lazy days on the idyllic island. Don’t! A holiday on Rotto will be one of your most memorable.
After extensive testing, I found the easiest way to book Rottnest Island accommodation. Surprisingly, it’s probably the same way you book most of your accommodation, on online travel sites – and the best sites for booking Rottnest accommodation were travel sites such as Booking.com and Luxury Escapes, which specialises in luxury on a budget.
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Now let me tell you more about the Rottnest Island accommodation booking process and the easiest way to book Rottnest Island accommodation
Easiest Way to Book Rottnest Island Accommodation – Some of Australia’s Hardest-to-Book Accommodation
Rottnest Island is a very special place to stay a few days, although the last time we were there, we dreamt of settling in for a few weeks – of lazy days spent savouring sunrises and sunsets, swimming in the crystal clear waters, bicycling around the island, and feasting on freshly-caught seafood washed down with WA wines.
But when I mentioned the idea to a few locals, the response was: “in your dreams!” Our Rottnest trip had been booked by the Rottnest Island tourism authority, as we’d been working on stories and updating a travel guidebook. But booking a stay on the island could be challenging for ordinary holidaymakers, I was told.
Outside of the peak periods, such as school holidays and long weekends, it wasn’t impossible. As I advised in our Rottnest Island travel guide after our stay (link in the first paragraph, above), it was easier to secure accommodation during the cooler winter months and mid-week outside peak times.
But one of the challenges of booking lodgings was that unless you were a local who regularly holidayed on ‘Rotto’ and knew how the reservation system worked – and most interstate visitors and foreign tourists weren’t and didn’t – and you randomly hopped on the site, you’d probably find most accommodation filled or unavailable if you tried to book beyond nine months.
The biggest problem was that people who knew how the system worked would bulk book accommodation, and, operating like concert ticket scalpers, re-sell booked stays on other platforms for far higher prices. There were also hefty deposits required and significant cancellation fees.
Fortunately, some of those problems were resolved with new booking contracts that prevent re-sales – the person making the booking must be part of the group staying, and if bookings are no longer required they go back onto the reservations site – and deposits and cancellation fees were reduced.
A new Rottnest Island Authority accommodation site called Stay Rottnest was also launched in December 2022, however, the same reservations process is still in place: you’ll need to join a ‘virtual queuing system’ before 8.30am on each ‘Open Day’, on the first day of each month, when accommodation is released.
The next Open Day in April will release accommodation for December, one of the most coveted months alongside January, due to the long summer school holidays when the weather on the island is just glorious. If you want to prepare to wait in line for that then best to read the 9-page Booking Guide for “expert tips and tricks” to help you through the process first.
But there is an easier way…
Booking Rottnest Island Accommodation on Online Travel Sites
I’ve been dreaming (again) of a holiday on Rottnest Island with my mother and sister, when I can eventually get back to Australia this year. So first I meticulously checked the online travel sites for listings for Rottnest Island accommodation.
Then I checked two dates each month – a 3-night mid-week and a weekend stay – between now and February 2024 (even though January accommodation has supposedly not been released yet) – to identify availability throughout the year, even during the busiest summer months.
I found that Booking.com seemed to have the most Rottnest Island accommodation on the dates I checked – in everything from the highly desirable Rottnest Island Authority heritage cottages and bungalows to the stylish boutique hotel Samphire Rottnest and the Discovery Rottnest Island eco-glamping tents.
I could easily have booked a few nights next week and most weeks between now and next year. Winter mid-week rates were the best value, although some winter weekends weren’t that much more expensive. The highest rates by far are in December, as you’d expect, but there’s still accommodation available.
Not only that, but Luxury Escapes has a deal on its site right now with dates available between now and October 2023 in the super-comfy safari-style tents nestled on the sand dunes above beautiful Pinky’s Beach from A$599 / US$ 397 per tent, including all taxes and fees. Valued at A$ 977 that represents a savings of 39%.
The breezy glamping tents are stunning too, with kitchenettes, ensuite bathrooms, and shady decks with dining table and chairs. The basic package for a Superior Tent includes round-trip luggage transfer from the ferry, a welcome bottle of wine, daily breakfasts, and an A$50 dining credit.
There’s currently availability in the Superior and Deluxe Family Tents, and the pick of the lot, the Deluxe Oceanside Tent (pictured), which boasts breathtaking ocean views from the bed, and a Weber barbecue on the timber deck overlooking the beach.
So why would you go to all the trouble of waiting in a virtual queue on an Open Day?
Booking Rottnest Island Accommodation on the Stay Rottnest Site
Rottnest Island Authority manages a wide array of accommodation on Rottnest Island, which I covered in detail in our Rottnest Island Travel Guide, which we wrote during our stay on the island. Link at the top of this post.
Some of the most affordable accommodation includes camping sites and bunk beds in dormitories – popular with school camps and young groups of friends – and while it’s still possible to book a lot of that style of accommodation, it’s the next categories of lodgings that are some of the most desirable that are completely booked out.
These include heritage accommodation, such as the original sandstone lighthouse keeper’s cottage, WWII commanding officers cottages, 1920s timber bungalows, and modern beachside units, all with fully equipped kitchens and most with uninterrupted ocean views. They’re perfect for holidays with an extended family or groups of friends.
These more charming lodgings, in the most alluring locations are all but booked-out for most of the year – except for the coolest winter months – with only days here and there available, such as one Tuesday night in May, which, strangely, is followed by a Wednesday that’s indicated on the calendar as a no check-in/out day. Hmmm…
These are the kind of lodgings that Terence and I were dreaming of settling into for a week of doing very little at all. But except in the depths of winter, there’s no single week currently available.
So if this is the style of accommodation that you’re seeking, you’re planning a holiday for a group of friends or family and might need to book a couple of cottages or units together on specific dates, then this is a case of where you’d need to log on early in the morning on an Open Day and wait in the virtual queue to book.
If you’re a first-timer to Rottnest Island, you need to do your research and be prepared with details and dates for your most desired lodgings, as well as a list of back-up accommodation options. Travelling with family or a group of friends? You’ll need to know exactly how many beds you need for each configuration.
Read the 9-page Open Day booking guide for those tips and tricks and get on the site well before 8.30am (6am is recommended!) and make sure you have everything all worked out. It’s worth it just for the encounters with those adorable quokkas.
Images courtesy of Luxury Escapes.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you agree with us that online travel sites are the easiest way to book Rottnest Island accommodation, and if you prefer to use the official Rottnest Island accommodation booking site, we’d love to hear from you about that, too.