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The Basin

Rottnest Island - The Basin in Winter

Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth City is home to plenty of idyllic swimming beaches. But one beach in particular that has been the popular favourite for as long as people have been living and holidaying on the island…

Beautiful clear green water at The Basin, Rottnest Island

Beautiful clear green water of The Basin

“The Basin” is the most perfect natural swimming pool you could possibly imagine.

Two or three steps from the beach across a shallow reef platform will find you standing at the edge of a large hole in the reef, very similar in size and depth to a man-made swimming pool.

The difference is, the Basin is full of crystal-clear, refreshing ocean water over soft white sand. Gentle waves wash over the reef and into the pool, seagulls hover overhead and schools of buffalo bream swim around your ankles.

Swimming in The Basin, a beautiful beach at Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth, Western Australia
The Basin and Monday Rock, Rottnest Island

A summer holiday on Rottnest is just not complete without a refreshing dip in The Basin’s cool, clear green water.

The Basin pool at Rottnest Island - a fantastic swimming spot

Swimming in The Basin

Take a few steps from the beach across the shallow reef, and you’ll be standing at the edge of The Basin, ready to jump in…

The Basin, Rottnest Island on a summer morning

Morning swims at The Basin are one of my favourite things about Rottnest Island in summer.

It really does feel like swimming in a huge basin of crystal clear, refreshing seawater.

In the right conditions (summertime, low tide, gentle breeze) The Basin is easily the best swimming beach at Rottnest – if not all of Western Australia! Check out the Top 10 Must-Visit Beaches in Western Australia page and you’ll see it there at number 6.

Close to the beach, the water in the basin is only knee to waste-deep. The soft, sandy seafloor slopes away gradually into water about 3 metres deep. One of the best things about swimming at The Basin is walking further out to the edge of the reef – which is neither sharp nor slippery – and diving straight into the deep water.

Winter swimming at The Basin, Rottnest

An afternoon swim in the middle of winter

Snorkelling

Within the main swimming area of The Basin there are plenty of fish to be seen – mostly buffalo bream, old wives and scalyfins. It’s a nice, non-threatening place for kids to learn snorkelling skills.

The Best Areas for Snorkelling:

Most of the Rottnest maps and tourist brochures suggest The Basin as one of the best snorkeling spots around the island, but I think this is a bit misleading. The main swimming areas closest to the beach where most people choose to snorkel are nowhere near the best snorkeling that Rottnest has to offer.

To get to the really good areas for snorkeling at The Basin, you’ll need to venture out into deeper water along the outer edge of the reef towards Longreach Bay. You’ll see lots of fish and even some coral, but it’s a long swim more suitable for experienced snorkellers.

The Best Snorkeling Reefs at The Basin, Rottnest

This photo shows the best reefs for snorkeling at The Basin. The rocky cove is also visible, to the right of the big limestone hill.

Another excellent option for snorkeling at The Basin is the reef pool of the rocky cove in between The Basin and Longreach (see the “Exploring” section below).

The eastern corner of Longreach Bay (and the reefs further out) also has great snorkeling, and is only a minute’s walk over a dune from The Basin beach.

Exploring The Basin’s Beaches and Rocks

The Basin has two beaches and two separate pools, separated by low limestone rocks on the beach and a platform reef that extends out from the shoreline.

The Basin Main Beach

A lone swimmer at The Basin on a cloudy winter's morning
The Basin
The Basin Beach at Rottnest Island, Western Australia

On the rocks above the beach, just to the right of the main reef pool.

The Quieter Eastern Beach

The Basin’s eastern beach is bigger and more spacious, and also less busy and popular. Even on hot summer days it feels quite peaceful and secluded.

The eastern beach of The Basin on a wintry day - Rottnest Island, Perth

The eastern beach of The Basin on a wintry day

The reef pool here is a lot smaller than the one off the main beach to the west, but it opens out into a deeper channel.

Swimming in the western side of The Basin - Rottnest Island, Western Australia

Swimming in the eastern Basin

The Big Hill

Walk up onto the limestone hill that overlooks the western end of The Basin for beautiful views of Longreach Bay, The Basin and Bathurst Point. This is a great vantage point for taking photos!

Views from the top of the big hill above The Basin

Views looking east from up on the big limestone hill

The Rocky Cove

On the other side of the big hill, between The Basin and Longreach Bay, there is a small, sheltered cove that has limestone rocks all the way down to the water’s edge.

The cove has a large reef pool, similar to The Basin, but rockier, weedier and generally more interesting for snorkelling.

Rocky cove next to The Basin

Here’s an Aerial View of The Basin:

Safety and Conditions at The Basin

Picking the Best Conditions for The Basin

The Basin is nicest when the water is calm, the wind light and from the south or south-east, and the tide low. Most summer mornings tick all of these boxes. When the seabreeze comes in later in the day, both the beaches are reasonably sheltered, but the water can get a little wavy.

In winter, some days are safe and calm for swimming, but strong onshore winds and larger waves are more likely.

It’s not uncommon for large waves to break at The Basin in winter, especially during cold fronts and storms. When the Basin is rough and wavy, it becomes terrible for swimming, but remains perfect for walking along the beach and enjoingy the beautiful scenery (you might even see people surfing!).

A lone swimmer in The Basin, Rottnest Island

A lone swimmer braving the cold water in June

Staying Safe

As The Basin is a such a popular family swimming beach, it is generally thought of as being safe, sheltered and protected. But, this is only the case when the weather and ocean conditions are just right.

The Basin is exposed to wind and waves coming in from the north. Only a few scattered, thin bars of reef protect the swimming areas close to shore from the open ocean.

Luckily, the ocean along the north-eastern part of the island is generally pretty flat, as most of the winds and waves at Rottnest come in from the south and west. This is particularly true during summer, so on hot, sunny days when people most want to swim, The Basin tends to be very safe and calm.

Potential Hazards:

  • Big waves
  • Stingers (more of a nuisance than a real hazard)

Safest Areas to Swim:

The main Basin (western side) is almost always safe for swimming.

Sometimes when the summer afternoon seabreeze is strong (or at any time with large swells and/or northerly winds), waves will break on the outer edge and wash in across the reef pool, but these waves are rarely big enough to be dangerous and can actually be pretty fun and refreshing to swim in.

The waves could be scary for little kids, in which case you’d be better off going to one of the more protected beaches nearby, such as Pinkies, Longreach or Fays Bay.

The Eastern Basin stays nice and calm most summer mornings, but often has large waves breaking during the winter months, and on summer afternoons when the seabreeze is strong.

It’s best to avoid the eastern side completely when waves are breaking there. They tend to be a bit bigger and stronger than the ones that break over the western reefs, and rips are a possible hazard (I was once caught in a strong rip there when it wasn’t even that wavy).

Visiting The Basin

Sunset at The Basin, Rottnest

An August Sunset

Beach Facilities

Behind the western beach, 4 tall Norfolk Island pine trees shade the road and the bike racks. On the other side of the road you’ll find changerooms and toilets.

Above The Basin, Rottnest

The grassy terrace and the norfolk island pines

A small flight of stairs leads down to the beach from a flat grassy terrace built on the low limestone ledge. Next to the grassy area is an undercovered area with picnic benches.

Boating Information

For the safety and enjoyment of the people swimming, it’s strictly prohibited to bring a boat of any size into The Basin itself.

But you can anchor just outside the swimming area, so long as you stay behind the reef line and at least 100 meters from the shore.

Anchored outside The Basin, Rottnest Island

Looking back towards the beach from a boat anchored outside The Basin

Photo: Graeme Churchard on Flickr Link opens in a new tab/window.

On a sunny, flat day without much wind, this is a great way to spend the morning. The water off The Basin is the most beautiful clear turquoise colour over a sandy seafloor, with no seaweed for a long way out. Best of all, you can anchor right near where the best snorkelling is – the outer edge of the reef directly north of the high limestone bluff.

To get there, head out along the channel into Longreach Bay, but turn south when you can see you’re nearing The Basin. You’ll know for sure when you see the four Norfolk Island pines standing tall behind the beach. There are no leads or markers, but on a calm day any hazards should be easily spotted.

Boating Rottnest Island: Passing The Basin on the way to Geordie Bay

Passing The Basin on the way to Geordie Bay

Where is The Basin, and how do you get there?

Location of The Basin on Rottnest:

View The Basin in a larger map

Getting There from the Main Settlement in Thomson Bay

It is very easy to get to The Basin from the main settlement in Thompson Bay – one of the many reasons why it’s the most popular beach on the island.

It’s also a quick ride or pleasant beach walk from the Geordie/Longreach settlement.

From the main jetty in Thompson Bay, walk or ride up the path curving steeply uphill, then turn right and continue through the shopping area. Keep heading north past the park and you’ll see some signs with directions to various places, including The Basin. Two roads (Kings Way and Strue Road) lead to The Basin from the settlement, both take about the same amount of time.

Road to The Basin on Rottnest Island

The road that leads up to The Basin

If you happen to find yourself at the country club, you’ve taken the wrong turn and should retrace your steps back to Kings Way.

View The Basin in a larger map

Getting There from the Geordie/Longreach Settlement Area

From Longreach/Geordie Bay, walk the full length of Longreach Bay and up over the small dune at the very end, or ride along the road heading east from the Longreach Bay cottages.

View The Basin in a larger map

The Basin, Rottnest

A windy afternoon at The Basin

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