Quokka: 11 Facts About Australia's Cutest Animal

Quokka up close
Quokka up close | © S. Rohrlach / Flickr
Tom Smith

There’s not much Aussie wildlife that can match a quokka for cuteness, with its cheeky grin, friendly personality and resemblance to a mini-kangaroo. Learn 11 things you might not have known about Australia’s most adorable animal.

They live on Rottnest Island

There are a few tiny quokka communities dotted around the south-east of Western Australia, but the healthiest population exists on Rottnest Island, just a quick ferry trip from Perth or Fremantle. Around 10,000 of these furry little fellas inhabit ‘Rotto’, as the locals call it, as opposed to just 4,000 or so on the mainland.

Quokka on Rottnest Island

They gave ‘Rotto’ its name

When Dutch explorers first encountered the West Coast of Australia in the late 17th century, captain Willem de Vlamingh thought quokkas were giant rats, and labelled the island ‘Rotte nest’ after the Dutch words for ‘rat nest’. The name ‘quokka’ itself comes from an Indigenous word, ‘gwaga’, in the local Nyungar dialect.

They’re dubbed ‘the world’s happiest animal’

Quokkas aren’t just the cutest creature in Australia — they’ve also been labeled the happiest animal in the world. From New Zealand to the UK, CNN to National Geographic, the tag sits comfortably on the shoulders of such an adorable animal that loves to approach admirers — quokkas are believed to be so warm around humans because Rottnest has been separated from the mainland for 7,000 years.

Quokka selfie

They smile because they’re hot

Quokkas come across as extra friendly because of the cheeky grin that’s permanently on their faces, and it looks like they’re saying cheese when they pose for the camera. But all this smiling is actually an evolutionary feature that helps them pant and cool off — a big plus for furry residents of an island that’s bathed in sunshine 12 months a year.

They’re nocturnal

Another way quokkas avoid the heat is by sleeping in the shade during the day, then coming out to play at night. That means you should be particularly careful when cycling around car-free Rottnest at dusk… although clever quokkas are pretty adept at dodging visitors.

Quokka up close

They’re related to kangaroos

Quokkas don’t just look like miniature cat-sized kangaroos — they come from the same family as Australia’s national animal. Kangaroos and quokkas — as well as wallabies, wallaroos, pademelons and a few other species — belong to the macropod family, a group of herbivorous pouched marsupials native to the Australian continent.

You shouldn’t feed them

It’s difficult to resist the urge to flick a quokka a cheeky cracker or piece of bread when one bowls up to you during a picnic, but ‘human’ food can malnourish the little guys and fines of $300 apply. It’s also illegal to handle quokkas, and animal cruelty carries a heavy maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine and a five-year prison sentence.

Quokka posing for a photo

They’re an Instagram sensation

Check out the hashtag #quokkaselfie for thousands of the cutest Instagram uploads you’ll ever be lucky enough to see. Want to snap your own quokka selfie on Rottnest? Visit Thompson Bay or the main settlement around dusk. Remember to not touch them, and in fact, you don’t need to approach them at all — quokkas are so friendly that they’ll come up to you.

Roger Federer loves them

The Swiss tennis maestro posed for a #quokkaselfie of his own last December when he was in Perth for a recent tournament, and Federer isn’t the only celeb to Instagram their quokka encounter. Aussie Hollywood stars Margot Robbie and Hugh Jackman, model Tash Oakley, and actors Martin Clunes and Teri Hatcher have all fallen for the charms of Rotto’s famous inhabitants.


There’s an online classifieds named after them

Need to buy, swap or sell something in Western Australia? Then look no further than quokka.com.au, which is WA’s very own answer to CraigsList or Gumtree. For two decades these online classified have created a network of buyers and sellers in the Wild West… and what better name for the website than Australia’s cutest animal?

Easter chocolate quokkas

Rabbits are pests in Australia, so bunnies make way for native animals like bilbies around Easter. Since 2017, the Margaret River Chocolate Company has sold ‘Chokka the Quokka’ for $25 a pop, donating a portion of the profits towards the conservation of the animal on Rottnest Island.

- embed -
culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.