So Where Next Logo
Close this search box.

Spas, Swings And Quokka Grins: What Makes Karma Rottnest A Hidden Island Gem

Spas, Swings And Quokka Grins: What Makes Karma Rottnest A Hidden Island Gem

karma rottnest

See a different side to WA’s island playground at Karma Rottnest.

We may not be able to travel abroad (besides our Kiwi bubble), but we can chime that we are travelling overseas when it comes to touring our island playgrounds. Rottnest Island, or ‘Rotto’ (keeping in line with habitual Aussie abbreviations ending with ‘O’), takes the unofficial crown as WA’s favourite island escape with the bike-friendly utopia a short boat ride away from Perth.

Most arrivals visit on a day trip to see the island’s smiling mascots, only too nonchalant to pose for a famed quokka selfie. But with grinning quokkas, blissfully blue secluded beaches, and Tour De Rotto rides aside, there other good reasons why Rottnest is worth an extended stay. Oldie but a much-cherished goodie, Karma Rottnest proves itself as a sweet escape in lieu of the desired faraway island resort life – divine Bali-inspired massages and scenic golf swings included.

Karma Rottnest 

Spas, Swings And Quokka Grins: What Makes Karma Rottnest A Hidden Island Gem

I was almost borderline emotional when the bag tags went on my suitcase at B Shed Fremantle for my ferry departure to Rottnest Island. (Forgive me as it has been a red-hot minute since my last check-in.) Admittedly, I haven’t missed the arm wrestle of carrying luggage and thankfully, island porters took it to my ‘Rotto Rendezvous’, Karma Rottnest.

It is an understatement to say that no stay can compare to Karma Rottnest’s truly unique offering. I won’t shy away from history here as the rosy heritage hotel was formerly an Aboriginal prison and boys’ reformatory dating back to 1838. Since then, the site has operated as a hotel for over 100 years. (The former prison area ‘The Quod’ has recently been handed over back to local authorities for cultural reasons.)

Today, the accommodation is spread across buildings in the thick of town (less than a minute’s walk from the hotel reception to the shopping mall). It’s more retreat-style than a resort with Karma’s pleasantly rustic appearance and serene communal areas a sweet solace from the outside world of bicycle rings and island racers. With its pool, Govs Sports Bar and Riva Restaurant safely hidden within hotel grounds, it almost feels like a holiday on holiday.

The rooms

karma rottnest

When it comes to what sells Rottnest besides its too-cute residents, it’s usually the island’s patchwork of ocean blues that springs to mind. But boy, was my perspective flipped with a stay in one of Karma Rottnest’s premium lakeside rooms. 

The high-category rooms face Governor’s Lake (possibly an underrated side to Rottnest that many tend to forget about or not take the time to fully appreciate). The tiled-floor rooms are spacious, although nothing ultra modern; however, what the rooms lack in shiny furnishings is made up for its sublime views from its private verandah. It is simply magical to lap up this part of Rottnest with its towering windmill slowly churning away and adding an extra touch to the unexpected country-esque setting.

Speaking of added extras, I discovered my popularity with the quokka crowd as the not-so-shy furballs gate-crashed my room and decided to mull around by the foot of my king size bed. They were, of course, an adorable addition to the overnight Rottnest experience.

Riva Restaurant & Govs Sports Bar

karma rottnest

Ever had your face glow from reading an illuminated menu? Riva Restaurant takes poolside dining experiences up a notch with this novel approach to lighting the mood. Its Mediterranean-inspired menu captured Rottnest’s sense of place – balmy nights, relaxing ambience and laidback atmosphere – surrounded by historic limestone buildings.

The menu changes up with the seasons, and I was grateful that it was the season of impeccably cooked grilled scallops with sautéed specks of chorizo rested on a bed of cauliflower puree: both small pleasures in life and heaven in the mouth. I could not go past its chunky roasted Moroccan lamb cutlets piled on chargrilled zucchini strips for a very fulfiling main event. It may all sound lavish, but there are also burgers and wood-fired pizzas on the menu if looking for something a bit more wallet-friendly.

To partake in night time island revelry, head to Govs Sport’s Bar located in the resort’s main complex. Compared with Hotel Rottnest, it’s a bit more of an intimate yet raucous affair to catch live music or mix with other visitors.

Spas and Swings 

Spas, Swings And Quokka Grins: What Makes Karma Rottnest A Hidden Island Gem

I dug a bit deeper into the heart of Rottnest to discover I could nourish myself instead of exerting my energies actively exploring the island. After all, what’s an island holiday without blocking out the world with a lush spa retreatment?

Karma Resort offers this staple island indulgence at its wellness centre located in the central shopping mall. In another refreshing twist, massages are personalised according to what your mind, body, and soul long for in an oil – relax, de-stress, meditate, activate and mood booster – from Karma’s flagship apothecary bar. De-stress spoke to me, and for a long moment, I felt like I was back to old tricks in Bali with getting my scared Balinese massage ($170) with my chosen oil slowly lathered on, muscles nurtured, and tensions released. Ninety minutes later, and I walked out dazed and content – the true definition of feeling island Zen.

Another way to capture the magic of island time is to take a swing to the skies. Karma Golf is a scenic spot to place your tee along its nine-hole golf course and can be completed in a few hours. (If you want a full game, you can complete the course twice.) I am no pro golfer (barely any good on a mini-putt!), but the novelty of playing golf was heightened with the addition of cruising around on the green on a golf buggy surrounded by Rottnest’s unique flora and learning a new ball game. No hole in one, but it was a whole lot of fun to experience another side of Rottnest’s pleasure garden.

Stay and Play Golf

Gather your mates and tee off in Rottnest with this incredible offer at Karma Rottnest.


• Accommodation (shared) 

• Return ferries from Fremantle 

• 18 holes of golf (including a shared full cooked breakfast cart, club transfer from the Jetty)

One night: $240 per person

Two nights: $360 per person

Book now at Karma Rottnest. Offer ends August 31, 2021. Conditions apply.

Feature image: Karma Rottnest

Julia travelled as a guest of Karma Rottnest and all thoughts and opinions are of her own.

See more: Perth

Keep reading

Latest stories on So Where Next