Overview: Penguin Island is a truly unique place. Only 42 kilometres from the centre of Perth, it is home to a diverse array of wildlife and... more »
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Penguin Island is a truly unique place. Only 42 kilometres from the centre of Perth, it is home to a diverse array of wildlife and... more » boasts breathtaking marine and coastal scenery. It is home to the largest colony of little penguins on the west coast and probably Western Australia. The small 12.5 hectare island is less than 700 metres offshore from the growing regional centre of Rockingham.
The island and the surrounding waters of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park provide visitors with a variety of recreational opportunities. The unique natural resources have significant educational and interpretive potential and the island is a focus of scientific wildlife research. Penguin Island also has a fascinating history.
Penguin Island is one of the State’s premier ecologically sustainable nature-based tourism destinations. The island has something special for visitors of all ages, whether from the local or metropolitan area, interstate or overseas. less «
There is no charge to visit Penguin Island or the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park but there is a fee to visit the Penguin Discovery... more » Centre and it is highly recommended that you take the privately operated ferry to Penguin Island. You can purchase a combined ticket for the ferry and discovery centre or a ferry ticket only.
Ferry tours operate from Mersey Point from mid-September to early June and feature a cruise around the waters and islands of Shoalwater Bay, with an opportunity to view the sea lions lazing on Seal Island, and to stroll around Penguin Island’s network of boardwalks and walkways. The island is closed for the rest of the year to protect the penguins from human disturbance during their breeding season.
STAY SAFE: Weather conditions can change quickly, making crossing the sand bar very dangerous. Several people have drowned as a result. Please do not undertake this hazardous journey when you can keep your feet and belongings dry and take a safe, comfortable ferry ride to the island.
You will need to bring your food for the day with you as there are no food outlets on the island.
There are public boat ramps in Safety Bay. If you are visiting the island by private vessel, please set your anchor on sand off the beach at Penguin Island and leave the jetty clear for ferries and management vessels.
You are welcome to fish or catch crabs in most areas within the marine park (those outside sanctuary and scientific reference zones – see the map in ‘Getting there and getting around above’) but make sure you first check the latest size, season and bag limits with the Department of Fisheries (www.fish.wa.gov.au). Spearfishing (breath hold only) is permitted only in general use zones. Recreational boating, swimming, and windsurfing are also popular. The west side of Penguin Island provides good surfing. There is a gazetted water ski area within Warnbro Sound. less «
Penguin Island is only open during the day. Ferry tours operate from Mersey Point from mid-September to early June and leave for Penguin Island on the hour throughout the day. You can take a cruise around the waters and islands of Shoalwater Bay, with an opportunity to view the sea lions lazing on Seal Island, and stroll around Penguin Island.... More Mersey Point is less than 45 minutes drive from Perth.
Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) rangers are stationed on the island and at Mersey Point in Rockingham.Less
This is the departure point for Penguin Island. The ferry operates hourly from September to May. Ferry tickets can be purchased at the nearby visitor centre.
DPaW requests that visitors to the island travel by ferry as people have drowned attempting to cross the sandbar to Penguin Island. Strong rips and currents can occur in this area. Water... More depth and conditions vary and change rapidly. Please do not chance your safety on the sandbar when you can keep your feet and belongings dry and take a safe, comfortable ferry ride to the island.Less
A research and management centre on Penguin Island, built with funding from WMC Resources Ltd, provides accommodation and facilities for researchers to study the area's wildlife and landforms. It is an important regional base for marine, island and coastal research.
The Penguin Discovery Centre enables visitors to see little penguins at close range during the day. Penguin commentaries and feeding times are at 10.30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm during the island’s open season where visitors can discover the intriguing life of little penguins. The glass walls of the pool provide an unrestricted underwater view of... More these delightful birds and the centre has information panels and touch-tables to help you plan your day and learn more about the island’s inhabitants and history.
Guided interpretative walks – The Penguin Island Waddle –are conducted daily at 11.15am and 1.15pm during the island’s open season, departing from the discovery centre. These walks give visitors a rare insight into the island’s natural and cultural history and the Department of Parks and Wildlife guide will describe the special relationships the island’s plants and animals have within the area.
Most little penguins land on Penguin Island an hour or two after sunset. They assemble just offshore in small groups or ‘rafts’ before landing, drawn together by their barking calls. The scientific name of the little penguin means ‘little diver’ and they are adept in the water. The little penguin is the smallest of the world’s 17 penguin species. Adults stand about 40 centimetres tall and weigh about a kilogram, but birds in the Shoalwater area are larger than those elsewhere in Australia.Less
There is a shady, grassed picnic area just in front of the viewing and interpretation facility. Norfolk Island pines, Rottnest Island tea trees (Melaleuca lanceolata) and watered lawns were not part of the original flora.
There is a small sandy beach that is a relatively safe place for children to snorkel (under supervision). Seagrasses form meadows around our coasts and grow extensively in the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park. They are true flowering plants with flowers, fruits and seeds and they grow on bare sand. They provide shelter for many varieties of small... More sea creatures including the cobbler, a fish with venomous spines on its fins.Less
The Department of Parks and Wildlife has constructed boardwalks around the island to protect the fragile environment, natural vegetation and the nests of many birds, including little penguins. As you negotiate the boardwalks, you may well see a penguin in its burrow in nearby vegetation or beneath the boardwalk. The bird-sized paths you can see... More through the bushes are made by the penguins. Please avoid disturbing the birds and the vegetation and keep to the boardwalk. The little shearwater (also known as the muttonbird) and the white-faced storm petrel also nest in burrows on the island.
You can often see Kings skinks in this area. These large blackish to olive-brown reptiles are among the most visible animals of Penguin Island. If you hear a rustling noise in the undergrowth, check to see if it is caused by one of these handsome creatures. King’s skinks are covered with dark, shiny and quite fine scales. These animals have strong, thick bodies and relatively thickset legs, with long slender toes. They grow up to 40 centimetres.Less
The caves that fringe the beach have an interesting history but please admire them from a distance, as they are a rock fall risk area, and access to them is not permitted.
Seaforth McKenzie, a colourful local character lived on the island with an Aboriginal companion from about 1918 until 1929. He enlarged and used the island’s caves for many... More purposes and encouraged visitors to use them. One was a library, for instance; another was a store room. There was also a well, that was formed from the seepage of rainwater through the limestone crevices. McKenzie moved to Mersey Point in 1929.Less
Move up to the summit lookout on the northern path. From the lookout, you can clearly see Shag Rock, and then behind it Seal Island, which has a sandy beach used by Australian sea lions resting between their long fishing trips. Sealions found near Perth are all males. Most of them vacate the area once every 18 months to travel north to the... More breeding islands about 200 kilometres north of Perth.
Pay binoculars at this lookout enable you to see Rottnest island, pelican chicks at the right time of year (unable to be seen otherwise), close-ups of Seal Island and Point Peron and whales offshore during the migration season.Less
At the beach you can see the limestone rocks that form the core of Penguin Island. The limestone may have a hard crust or form hollow circular formations within the rocks called solution pipes. These features withstand erosion, while softer areas are weathered away to form caves or archways. If these formations collapse, rock slopes are formed.... More One theory about the formation of the solution pipes is that they may be the remains of large tuart trees that once grew when the island was part of the mainland. It is believed they became fossilised by the repeated dissolving and redepositing of limestone leaching from the sand that covered them.Less
After walking south along the beach you reach the southern walkway that takes you back to the eastern side of the island.
This is the highest point on the island. From this vantage point, you can clearly see that Penguin Island is part of a chain of islands that originally formed as a row of coastal sand dunes when sea levels were lower. The sea level was 130 metres lower 18,000 years ago. It was 10 metres lower 7,000 years ago but and rose to two metres above the... More present level 5,000 years ago. As a result, Western Australia’s coastline is constantly changing. At one time Penguin Island was part of the mainland and more recently it was virtually submerged. The lookout overlooks Warnbro Sound. Cape Becher south of Rockingham is the southernmost point of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park.Less
The bar of sand, or tombolo, that connects Penguin Island with the mainland was fully vegetated in 1837 when the area was first surveyed. Similar bars link Seal Island and Bird Island with the mainland. Point Peron was once an island but was captured by the mainland.
It is hazardous to attempt to cross to and from the mainland via this sandbar.... More Please stay safe and dry and wait for the ferry.Less
Descend to the beach and return to the jetty.
As you approach the spit, you will notice the sea birds standing there, mainly gulls and crested terns. Forty-eight species of birds have been described on the island. Pied oyster-catchers, roseate terns, Caspian terns, crested terns, fairy terns, little pied cormorants, buff-banded rails and singing ... Morehoneyeaters nest on the island. So, unfortunately, do feral pigeons. You may see some wading birds, such as ruddy turnstones, which may be migrants from as far afield as Siberia. Arctic and pomerine skuas (jaegers) can sometimes be seen over the sea, chasing gulls. These birds are larger than gulls and are magnificent fliers. They feed by chasing gulls, which having been disturbed and wishing to lighten themselves to get away, regurgitate the food they have just eaten. This is caught by the skuas and consumed with gusto.Less