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Penguin Island and Shoalwater Islands Marine Park

Explore a stunning natural island just 700 metres offshore from Rockingham

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Moderate
Duration: Full day
Family Friendly

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 »

Tips:  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 »

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Points of Interest

1. Mersey Point, Safety Bay

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

2. Mersey Point Jetty

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

3. Western Mining Research and Management Centre

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.

4. Penguin Discovery Centre

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

5. Picnic area

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.

6. Beach

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

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

8. Caves

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

9. Lookout

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

10. Western beach

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

11. Southern walkway

After walking south along the beach you reach the southern walkway that takes you back to the eastern side of the island.

12. Southern Lookout

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

13. Tombolo

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

14. Southern beach

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 ... More