Rottnest Island was essentially named when a Dutch explorer came to the small island off the coast of Western Australia and saw an island overrun with Quokka, a small marsupial he mistook for rats. Therefore, Rats Nest Island was eventually shortened to Rottnest.
I ended up spending a full day on Rottnest, a 30 minute catamaran ride from Fremantle.
I grew up on the west coast and living on Texada Island and Powell River I have had my share of ferry rides, including some legendary rough ones that would make most people sea sick. I thought nothing of a 30 minute ferry ride and thought it was a bit funny that on the tourist brochures they spoke of a 10 minute flight you could take from Perth for those who couldn't handle the waves.
I hadn't thought about the fact that in Australia, when you leave a harbour, you are entering the open ocean. There are no large islands or gulfs to protect you on the boat. The ride over, in a bit of poor weather, was up there on my list of rough boat rides. Every time we caught a big wave and the boat came crashing back down to the sea with a thud I was surprised to see the boat was still intact. Very different than a ferry ride to Vancouver Island or Texada. Thankfully, the weather calmed down greatly for the ride back and it was a rather calm trip at the end of the day.
The island has a varied history, everything from a aboriginal prison, salt mine, world war two defense base, wildlife sanctuary and a boys reformatory.
I did a group walking tour to find some Quokka's and they are everywhere. They have mostly died out on the mainland but have survived here because there are no natural enemies, like dingos or domestic cats. Our guide said there are upwards of 10,000 Quokkas on the island and although you are not supposed to touch them, because they have salmonella, they are rather friendly and not too intimidated by humans. Kind of a weird animal and in the right circumstance, you can sort of see how they would be confused for giant rats.
Lots of stuff to see and do on the island and if I had planned it better I probably would have stayed there for the night - there is a hostel and a few hotels on the island - and stayed for a bit longer, but my stuff was in Fremantle and I had already paid for the accommodation there - so I grabbed the last ferry back in the early evening after checking out the town square, a few sites, and inadvertently feeding a seagull my lunch. Cheeky bastard flew in from nowhere and got a big chomp of my sausage.