Located just 700 metres off the coast of Rockingham outside of Perth, Penguin Island is a 12.5 hectare nature reserve.
It takes its name, and its reputation, from the many Little Penguins that live there.
Around Penguin Island is the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park.
It is a diverse natural area home to beautiful coastal environments.
A number of animal colonies including cormorants, pelicans, sea lions and dolphins live here.
Visitors can make the trip to Penguin Island via ferry, and spend the day enjoying the surrounds whilst learning about these interesting creatures.
Alternatively, join a tour from Perth and let a guide show you all the amazing wildlife and nature Penguin Island has to offer.
Things to see and do on Penguin Island
Penguin Island is home to a diverse range of wildlife.
It has the largest colony of Little Penguins on the Western Australian coast.
There are approximately 1000 pairs of Little Penguins on the island during winter, where they nest.
During the summer, when the marine park is open, the penguins are more widespread.
They can be seen occasionally fishing and swimming in the waters around the island.
However, there is more to see on Penguin Island than the penguin colony, and visitors can expect to see large numbers of both pelicans and cormorants around the island.
There is also a diverse range of marine animals like dolphins and Australian sea lions.
Sea birds can be seen at any location on the island, accessible via timber walkways, while marine animals are best spotted on one of the many cruises available to visitors.
Penguin Island Discovery Centre
The Penguin Island Discovery Centre is where visitors can see Little Penguins and learn more about them.
It is home to ten Little Penguins, who have been rescued and rehabilitated over the years.
Some were even born in captivity.
The centre isn’t just an educational facility, it is also a sanctuary where injured wild penguins can be rehabilitated by trained staff.
Designed to fit the penguins’ natural habitat, the centre is open daily from 10am to 3:30pm.
They run penguin feeding sessions three times a day (at 10:30am, 12:30pm and 2:30pm).
Penguin Island Activities
With the white sandy beaches and clear waters, there are plenty of activities available for visitors.
Go for a swim, snorkel to see colorful fish, or go deeper on a scuba diving tour.
Visitors are free to bring their own equipment, or rent from the ferry company.
There are also a number of guided activities, including glass bottom boat cruises, dolphin cruises, swimming with dolphins, sea kayaking and even kite boarding.
Alternatively, you can follow small boardwalks and walking trails around the island.
You don’t need to be a professional hiker to enjoy the easy walks available on Penguin Island.
- Eating and Drinking – Penguin Island does not have much in the way of visitor facilities, although there are drinking fountains and shaded picnic areas. There are no BBQ facilities, but food can be brought onto the island. Alternatively, consider visiting Pengos Cafe on the mainland.
- Penguin Interactions – When you see a penguin, remember that these animals are small and can experience stress, so stay at a reasonable distance from them, avoid making loud noises, and never use your camera’s flash. Also, never feed the penguins.
- Sandbar Crossing – Despite being just 700 metres from the Perth mainland, visitors should never consider trying to make the crossing to Penguin Island on foot at low tide. The distance certainly may look manageable, but a large number of drownings have occurred there in the last several years, due to heavy currents and tidal changes.
It is likely that Penguin Island was first used by Aboriginal people who are believed to have been in the area for as long as 12,000 years.
The first person to actually live on the island was a man named Seaforth McKenzie.
New Zealander by birth, McKenzie was an eccentric man who first squatted on the island in 1914. By 1918 he was granted an annual lease from the WA government to establish a holiday resort there.
The works he undertook for his resort included hollowing out limestone caves on the eastern side of Penguin Island, and furnishing them for use as accommodation, a library and a small store.
McKenzie also dug out a ‘grand ballroom’ he called the Palace, where he crowned himself the ‘King of Penguin Island’.
Then in 1926 McKenzie abruptly left the island to return to New Zealand.
He claimed that he had suddenly remembered that he had a wife and six children there. He had been missing for 45 years.
Although over the years several private companies have tried to establish budget holiday accommodation on the island, the lease was eventually bought by the Department of Conservation and Land Management in 1987.
They plan to preserve the natural beauty of the island and its wildlife for generations to come.
How to get to Penguin Island
Penguin Island is located around 45 minutes to 1 hour drive from Perth.
Free parking is available on site at the corner of Arcadia Drive & Penguin Road, Shoalwater.
Visitors can also take a train on the Mandurah Line.
Alight at Rockingham Station and connect to the 551 bus that travels towards Shoalwater.
From there, visitors can buy tickets for the Penguin Island ferry.
The ferry leaves hourly between 9am – 3pm, returning hourly between 10.10am – 4pm.
For a better experience, join an organised tour where a guide will escort you to the best spots for wildlife viewing on Penguin Island.