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Penguin Island

Home > Perth > Animals and Wildlife | Beaches | Day Trips | Places of Interest | School Holiday Activities
by Sharon Pegrum (subscribe)
Writing is my passion, I love to write for clients and guest blogs, as well as sharing our adventures here on Weekend Notes. I share my journey as I blend my own VA business and homeschooling with life in Toodyay here - www.blackcockatoobusiness.com
Published January 11th 2018
Tour on the glass bottom boat at Penguin Island
If you are looking for an eco-friendly, nature immersed family trip this summer then look no further than Penguin Island.

The island, managed by DPAW, is the only marine park in WA with public access so you are really getting a unique experience. And Rockingham Wild Encounters is the only cruise company licensed to operate within the wildlife sanctuary zone of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park.

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Providing a range of activities to suit everyone from the ferry ride over, Penguin and Sea Lion Cruise, Sea Kayak Tour, Dolphin, Penguin and Sea Lion Adventure Tour and kiteboarding lessons; there is an experience to suit every person and budget.

Penguin Island is an important conservation area for sea birds and marine life and you will certainly spot a diverse range of animals on the island.

Of course, living up to its name Penguin Island is home to 1200 little penguins, the smallest of the 17 varieties of penguin. It is also the largest breeding colony in WA and this colony has been given the highest conservation status of all penguin colonies in Australia. You will find the island is only open from 15 September - 1 June and closed the remainder of the year for nesting season.

A word of warning: it is not safe to cross via the sandbar to Penguin Island, the ferry is the only safe way across. Even after several deaths we still saw people attempting to cross the sandbar the day we visited and it's not worth the risk when you can take the wonderful ferry over and be assured of making it home at the end of the day.

Penguin Discovery Centre

Once you arrive on the island you can visit the Penguin Discovery Centre for one of the feeding times and hear an informative talk and see the penguins in action. In line with their policy on conservation this centre is home to 10 penguins who were injured or orphaned and were unable to be released back into the colony.

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Included the mischievous Kevin who spent his time squawking at onlookers while waiting for the penguin keeper to arrive. He also apparently tried to ruin the morning show but harassing all the other penguins and refusing to let them join in, needless to say we loved Kevin.

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The penguin discovery centre also has a male breeding pair which is not unusual in the wild except they rarely stay together when they realise they can't actually lay eggs. Sedge and Nemo have successfully hatched a thriving chick that was brought in as an orphaned egg.

It is wonderful to watch these seabirds swim elegantly through the water given their usual clumsy reputation.

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You will also find beautiful, scenic walks as well as sheltered swimming beaches and a grassy picnic area to explore.

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Penguin and Sea Lion Cruise

We went to Penguin Island to attend one of Rockingham Wild Encounters Penguin and Sea Lion Cruises in the glass bottom boat.

You can hop on the ferry and jump straight on the glass bottom boat or choose to explore the island first. The tour takes you through the neighbouring island and includes a very informative tour guide who really knows her stuff.

It was the perfect day when we went, I wonder if the animals all knew I was planning to write about them because they were all on their a game. Well, other than the sea lions who just wallowed on the beach.

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Australian Sea Lions are found on Seal Island located close to Penguin Island and you can forgive them for being a bit lazy. They head out to the continental shelf for 3-4 days to hunt, unable to sleep they return to the island where they crash for 24 hours. You will only find male Sea Lions here, the females are up near Jurien Bay and the 2 only meet to mate. These giant creatures have a jaw similar to a bear and can run up to 30km/ hour so we were pretty happy to watch them from the safe distance of the boat.

We were also blessed to have a mother and baby Indo-Pacific bottle nose dolphin sighting on our tour. These special animals were hunting in the sea grass for their lunch and upon finding a fish they swam right over to the boat and threw it up in the air as if to show how clever they were. These guys can spend up to 8 hours of the day searching for food and they love the sheltered bays of Penguin Island with its warm water and sea grass promising lots of fish.

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Further along our cruise we also spotted 2 ospreys both on their nest, one of which took flight and soared over us.

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Osprey taking flight from its nest


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This cruise was amazing, it is an experience that our family will remember forever and at just 45 mins long it is perfect for kids. The commentary is such a great bonus as there were plenty of things we learnt and lots we wouldn't have spotted if they hadn't been pointed out. Both the ferry and glass bottom boat are accessible for wheelchairs and prams so this is a great option for everyone.

When visiting Penguin Island there are a few things that will make your day perfect and help preserve this amazing space:

1. There are no shops on the island so make sure you bring your own food and supplies. There is a water fountain but I suggest bringing a reusable bottle and just filling up if you need to. For souvenirs you can visit the gift shop on the mainland and also head to Pengos for a bite to eat or a coffee.
2. Moulting time is a good time to see wild penguins (December - February) as they can't head out to feed when they are moulting so there are more on the island. Be aware though moulting penguins can get a bit crabby so keep a safe distance away.
3. Remember this is a conservation area and with habitat destruction being a major issue especially for penguins make sure you stay on the paths, don't feed the animals and take all your rubbish home.
4. Bring your swimmers, you are not going to want to miss out on the beaches.
5. It can get windy on the island so bring a light jacket if it's cold and for sunny weather a hat with a strap for kids is advisable. If you are going on a tour and you have a child who is more sensitive you may want to take some ear protection and prep them in advance as it can get bumpy and windy. It's totally worth it though!
6. Book a tour if you go, we really learnt so much about the inhabitants of the island from our tour and it was the highlight of our visit.

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You can find out more about Penguin Island and the tours run by Rockingham Wild Encounters here.
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Why? Explore Nature at its best in WA
Phone: ( 618) 9591 1333
Where: Arcadia Drive Shoalwater WA
Cost: From $12.50 - $990
Your Comment
Great Article. I also recommend the tour. For newbies to Perth and kids, this is very entertaining. ;)
by SocialHummingBird (score: 3|1161) 333 days ago
Looks like a great place to visit. Thank you.
by Annette Vandersluis (score: 2|764) 332 days ago
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