I have been to Penguin Island over 30 times in the last 15 years.
I would recommend to walk to the island on the sandbar, that just an experience on it's own, you do need to be a strong and confident swimmer (things have gone wrong in the past...), or know a local.
The penguin number are lowering due to a lack of silver bait, so it's a good time to visit now (they say by 2050, all the penguins may be gone...).
It's one of the first things I did when I moved to Australia 15 years ago, I was SO impressed!!
The snorkelling is great (very easy for the side facing land, a bit more technical at the back of the island).
You can also fish (no spearing) and body board (I won't that recommend if you don't know a local, has it is over a reef).
There is ferries as well.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
September 25, 2012
Thanks for the great rating and review of Penguin Island. Always great to hear positive feedback from the locals :)
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Just a word of advice for others who are reading this review in regards to 'walking to the island'. Although there is a history of people wading across the sandbar, you should be aware that there are inherent risks involved with this. Every year our company rescues hundreds of people attempting to make the crossing. In Dec 2011, 2 brothers from an Indian family drowned after walking off the edge of the sandbar. This tragedy was widely covered in the media and prior to this we have had several close calls where our staff have had to perform CPR.
We are often asked by visitors if they can walk to Penguin Island, or, if it's safe to cross the sandbar? Risk management of the sandbar is the responsibility of the Department of Environment & Conservation (DEC), their advice is that crossing the sandbar is hazardous and recommend that visitors catch the ferry and our staff are obligated to reinforce this message. No other advice can be offered for liability reasons.
Unfortunately, there are several reviews on Trip Advisor which promote 'walking to the island' and are counter productive to the safety message that DEC promotes. These reviews are often written by locals who have adequate swimming skills and a good understanding of our local weather and ocean conditions and how they can affect the sandbar. Many visitors we rescue are interstate and international visitors who don't have the local knowledge or swimming skills required to safely cross the sandbar. If you are considering this, some factors you should think about include:
1. The depth of water over the sandbar varies according to tide and weather conditions which can change quickly. On average the depth is around waist deep and there are some sections which can be chest deep or more, so, although people describe 'walking' it is more accurate to describe it as 'wading'.
2. The length of the sandbar is 850 metres. It's a long way to swim if you get into trouble, especially when it's windy and rough.
3. Many visitors get into difficulty attempting the return crossing to the mainland. We get a regular sea breeze in summer which makes the water very choppy. In the afternoon when the sun is lower it also increases the glare which makes it very difficult to see where the edge of the sandbar is. Once they step off the edge into deep water, the sea breeze will push them further away from the sandbar which becomes a very dangerous situation for people with poor swimming skills.
4. Although many of the people we rescue are international visitors with poor swimming skills, we also rescue locals who remember crossing the sandbar as kids. The sandbar is a dynamic feature that is constantly moving and changing, so people who have crossed the sandbar before should not assume that it will be the same each day. We also rescue a lot of locals who attempt the crossing with children who have gotten into difficulty and don't have the necessary skills to recover.
We have provided this information in the interest of visitor safety. Penguin Island is a beautiful place for everyone to enjoy and everyone is welcome regardless of how you access the island, however, think carefully about your own swimming ability and the factors discussed above if you're considering crossing the sandbar. Please be safe and catch the ferry- we don't ever want to have a repeat of the tragedy of Dec 2011.
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.