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Penguin Island

Home > Perth > Animals and Wildlife | Beaches | Day Trips | Escape the City | Places of Interest
by Ian Gill (subscribe)
I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published September 9th 2013
Perth's other popular island
Everyone knows about Perth's famous Rottnest Island, an icon of West Australian tourism. But what about Penguin Island?

Covering 12.5 hectares and less than a kilometer off-shore from Rockingham at the southern end of Cockburn Sound, Penguin Island has been a favourite day trip for many Perth families for years.

Western Australia Perth Rockingham Penguin Island Marine Reserve Bird Birds Sea Birds
A ferry operates between Rockingham and Penguin Island, less than 1 kilometre off-shore


Just a 5 minute ferry ride across Shoalwater Bay Penguin Island and the surrounding Marine Park are home to a range of wildlife including Dolphins, Sea Lions, Pelicans and a colony of Fairy Penguins, the 'little Penguin".

Between 1914 and 1926 Penguin Island was inhabited by an eccentric Kiwi, some say Canadian, named Seaforth McKenzie who left his house in New Zealand one morning to go to work and didn't come home. There is no clear answer as to how he found his way to Western Australia and the islands of Shoalwater Bay but it is known that he lived in the Limestone caves on eastern side of the island, loved poetry and was known as 'the King of Penguin Island'. He left in 1926 to return to his wife and 6 children back in New Zealand.

Western Australia Perth Rockingham Penguin Island Marine Reserve Bird Birds Sea Birds
Penguin Islands sheltered inlets are popular with boating enthusiasts and fishermen


Surrounded by crystal clear waters and Limestone reefs the island features a number of sandy, sheltered beaches along with great diving, snorkeling and fishing sites.

Western Australia Perth Rockingham Penguin Island Marine Reserve Bird Birds Sea Birds
Penguin Island is surrounded by crystal clear waters and Limestone reefs


Rockingham Wild Encounters operate a ferry too & from the island as well as a number of cruise options and activities including Sea kayaking and Kite Boarding lessons.

Ferry and glass-bottomed boat tickets need to be purchased on the mainland from the Wild Encounters Gift Shop. Ferries depart for Penguin Island on the hour from 9 Am to 3 PM and return from the island on the hour 10 minutes from 10.10 AM to 3.10 PM and, the last trip, at 4 PM.

Western Australia Perth Rockingham Penguin Island Marine Reserve Bird Birds Sea Birds
A walk on one of Penguin Island's beaches will often be rewarded with sightings of Dolphins, Seals and even Whales


During peak season additional services may be scheduled with departures every 20 or 30 minutes as required.

Penguin and Sea Lion cruises are conducted in a glass-bottomed boat and full or half–day Dolphin swim cruises are also available.

In 1987 the Department of Environment & Conservation built a Discovery Centre on the island, designed both as an educational facility and a sanctuary for injured Penguins or those unsuitable for release back into the wild. Penguin feeding sessions are held in the centre daily at 10.30 AM, 12.30 PM and 2.30 PM, conducted by Departmental Rangers who are available to answer visitor's questions.

A network of timber board-walks criss-cross the island and provide great opportunities to view the countless sea birds that nest in the vicinity and get up close, but not too close, to the islands Pelican rookery.

Western Australia Perth Rockingham Penguin Island Marine Reserve Bird Birds Sea Birds
Penguin Island's Pelican rookery is a mass of birds


Facilities on the island are deliberately minimal so you'll need to bring your own food and drink. There are no barbeques on the island and portable units are banned.

Western Australia Perth Rockingham Penguin Island Marine Reserve Bird Birds Sea Birds
Away from the beaches a network of board-walks makes moving around the island easy and safe


The down side to Penguin Island is the cost. At $14 for everyone aged over 3 years the basic ferry ticket seems a bit excessive for a 5 minute trip but that cost pales into insignificance when compared to the price of the activities.

A 45 minute glass-bottomed boat cruise will set you back $36.50 for adults or $27.50 for children and the 90 minute Dolphin, Penguin and Sea Lion cruise will cost $85 adults and $50 for children.
A swim with Dolphins experience costs $205 for all ages and a Sea Kayak Tour $169.

Western Australia Perth Rockingham Penguin Island Marine Reserve Bird Birds Sea Birds
The island is easily accessible by private boat


So, while Penguin Island is a great place to visit for a self-guided walk and a bit of bird watching it could prove to be a extremely expensive experience if you weren't very careful.

Western Australia Perth Rockingham Penguin Island Marine Reserve Bird Birds Sea Birds
A bird watching paradise - Penguin Island
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Why? Take a stroll in a natural coastal environment inhabited by countless birds and marine life
When: Closed June to September for Winter nesting. Other times open daily (Except Xmas Day) 8.30 AM to 4.30 PM
Phone: (08) 9591 1333
Where: Rockingham Wild Encounters
Cost: The ferry cost $14 for Adults, Concession and Children 3-12 years. All other activities are extra
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