A Day Visit To Penguin Island Western Australia

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Last Updated on October 7, 2020 by Travels with Kids

Penguin Island Perth is like an insider secret for Western Australians – everyone in “the know’ visits!  We love this tiny island packed with wildlife punch.  Rockingham Penguin Island is a fun beachy day out for all the family.  We believe that it should be on every local’s, and visitors’ must-do list when in the Perth area.

Turquoise water and white beaches await on Penguin Island
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What Is Special About The Perth Penguin Island Penguins

That’s right; there are actually a lot of Penguins in Australia.  We’ve visited the Penguins on Phillip Island, and little penguins arrive at the famous pier at St Kilda in Melbourne at night.  So – just to be clear if you are looking for Penguin Island Melbourne (or Victoria) you should be Googling for the Penguin Parade on Philip Island.  Our review today is about Penguin Island Western Australia.

The Rockingham Penguins are the same species of penguins that you can see at Phillip Island.  They are Fairy Penguins or Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor).  As the name describes, they are small!  They are about 33cm tall, or the height of one standard ruler.  They are the smallest species of penguin in the world and seen at lots of places in Australia.

The Little Penguins leave their burrow each day and fish at sea.  Scientists believe that they can travel up to 20km looking for their meal.  They can also dive up to 73 meters, holding their breath for nearly 2 full minutes (113 seconds)!

The Little Penguins arrive home to their burrows each night, surfing in on the waves on “rafts” and then waddle across the beach up to their burrows.  This amazing natural occurrence has made Phillip Island’s Penguin Parade very famous.

Speaking of places that have made the Little Penguins famous, on Middle Island in Warrnambool Victoria, the local fox and dog population had decimated the population.  There, maremmas — large white dogs bred to protect flocks of sheep — were placed on the island to bond (and therefore protect) the penguins.  The story inspired the movie Oddball which you MUST watch if you are going to visit Penguin Island.

To be clear – there is no Penguin Parade at Penguin Island Western Australia.  However, there are plenty of other great things to do so please read on!

How Long Should I Spend At Penguin Island Western Australia

If you can, we highly recommend going slow and enjoying the beauty of Penguin Island for a full day.  There is plenty to keep everyone occupied.  If you can’t spend the whole day, then all the highlights can be touched on in a somewhat rushed 3-hour trip.

You could combine your visit to Penguin Island with a trip down south.  We have included a stop at Penguin Island on our recommended From Perth to Margaret River Road Trip.

A Day Visit To Penguin Island, Western Australia

How to Get To Penguin Island

This is a beautiful little island, often referred to as Rockingham Penguin Island is located in Shoalwater Bay near the coastal city of Rockingham.  Now that Perth has spread a long way south, Rockingham is part of the greater Perth metropolitan area and connected by a good freeway.  It takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour to drive from central Perth.

As Penguin Island is so close to Perth, we highly recommend it as one of the Best Perth Day Trips.

Once you have arrived at the Penguin Island ferry terminal, it is just a short ferry ride (about 5 minutes) to take you to Penguin Island Perth!

If you wish to use public transport to get to Penguin Island, you can take the train south from Perth on the Mandurah line.  Disembark at the Rockingham Penguin Island Station and get a connecting bus to the Penguin Island ferry terminal.

Penguin Island Ferry Information

If you are visiting on a normal day (not during school holidays or on a long weekend) then it is worth noting that ferries to the island depart on the hour, every hour (e.g., 10 am, 11 am, etc).   The first ferry runs at 9 am, the last one at 3 pm.

During busy times there are more ferries, but you don’t want to sit around waiting for an hour so it is worth planning your day around which ferry you intend to take.

There is also a sandbar that can be crossed between Penguin Island and the mainland.  The authorities firmly discourage people not to cross this sandbar and to take the boat instead.  There have been drownings and serious accidents with people who have chosen not to listen to the warnings.

If you have your own boat you can also take it to the island, but you cannot use the jetty which is privately owned.

A Day Visit To Penguin Island, Western Australia

Penguin Island Discovery Centre

The Penguin Island Discovery Centre is a great place to learn more about the Little Penguins.

Please be aware that on Penguin Island it is unlikely that you will see the Little Penguins in the wild.  They spend most of the time out in the ocean hunting during the day and only come back to shore at night.  The penguins you see at the Penguin Island Discovery Centre are those that have been injured and then rehabilitated but have no chance of being released back into the wild.

We’d totally encourage you to aim to arrive for the very interesting penguin feedings at 10.30 am, 12.30 pm & 2.30 pm which gives you lots to think about as you visit the island.   These are well worthwhile as you get to see the cute little rescued penguins up close.  These rescue penguins are real characters but still really shy and will only feed from their carers.  The extremely interesting and informative talks are a great introduction to Penguin Island as you learn a little bit about their life and why these particular penguins can’t be released to the wild.   Seriously, cuteness overload!

Other Animals On Penguin Island Perth

As soon as you get off the Penguin Island Ferry you can see the Little Penguins burrows all over the Island.  This colony has the highest conservation status of all penguin colonies in Australia.  In addition, you can see other breeding colonies in the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park like silver gulls, fairy terns, bridled terns, and Caspian terns.

In addition to the birdlife, there are also bottlenose dolphins out in the Shoalwater Bay and Sea Lions.

Penguin Island Perth Walk Trails

There is a 2km walk around the island.  The walk takes approximately 1 hour and is a combination of boardwalk and beach.  We saw some prams heading off, but didn’t see whether they made it or not!

Other Things To Do On Penguin Island

With a gorgeous, sheltered beach and a gorgeous grassed picnic area, we would recommend taking your bathers, snorkel, and towel and settling in for the day.   There were loads of families enjoying the calm waters, and sand on the day we visited.  If you are going to have a picnic, make sure you pack your lunch because there is no food for sale on the island.

In addition to swimming and making sandcastles the snorkeling is apparently good on Penguin Island and there is kayak hire available.  It looks like you need to organize it before leaving the ‘mainland’.

A Day Visit To Penguin Island, Western Australia

What facilities Are On Penguin Island

  • There are environmentally friendly composting toilets on the island and also changing rooms.
  • There is no shop or café.  You need to bring everything for the day, including water.
  • Please take ALL your rubbish with you.  There are no bins on the island to stop the local animals scavenging.
  • Kayak hire needs to be organized before leaving the mainland.

Pengos Café is located at the Penguin Island Ferry terminal and is adjacent to the ticket sales.

It is open daily and is a great place to pick up a coffee, cake, or even fish and chips!   Pengos café is a great place to eat while you are waiting for your Penguin Island ferry.   Note that they are also dog friendly!

I should mention that Perth Wildlife Encounters has a great gift shop with some different penguin merchandise.  Yes, we went home with stuffed penguins that are still much loved to this day!

A Day Visit To Penguin Island, Western Australia
Sea Lions on our highly recommended cruise

Rockingham Penguin & Sea Lion Cruise – Wildlife Encounters

We were thrilled to take the penguin and sea lion cruise operated by Wildlife Encounters Rockingham.

While we loved Penguin Island, the highlight of the day was definitely Wildlife Encounters’ Penguin and Sea Lion cruise.   We got to see a lot of sea lions at close proximity and they even put on a show for us, cavorting in the water and sparring on the beach.  Opportunities to see animals in the wild, in their habitat, and unaffected by humans is a privilege and one that we believe should be encouraged (vs seeing animals in cages or zoos).  We were enormously thrilled by the Penguin and Sea Lion Cruise.  The cruise gave great views of the wildlife, and birds like the nesting Pelicans, Ospreys, and Cormorants.  There is a glass-bottom boat that offers great views of the seagrass meadows and limestone reefs.

The boat captain was very informative and we learned a lot during our Sea Lion Cruise.

Check here for more information.

What Is The Best Season To Visit Penguin Island Perth

IMPORTANT – Penguin Island Is Closed In Winter

Penguin Island is open daily from September 15 to early June (Western Australia Day Public Holiday), subject to weather.  When Penguin Island is closed due to bad weather, an ‘Island Alert’ is displayed on the welcome page of their website.

Penguin Island Weather reflects the weather in Perth and Rockingham areas.  In general, great months to visit are November through April when it is still warm and not too windy.  Remember in the height of summer the temperatures can soar up to 40 degrees Celsius and this will mean it is too hot to enjoy the Island.

Our boat for the Penguin and Sea Lion Cruise

Book A Penguin Island Tour

It can get very busy at the Penguin Island Ferry terminal prior to the departures, so save time and buy your tickets online with these tour options offered by Get Your Guide.  The purchase process is straightforward, and you can cancel without charge fees if you change your plans.  REMEMBER you need to go to the ticket office before boarding the ferry in order to validate your tickets.

Book your tickets here.

Bonus – Little Penguin Facts

These Penguins are known as Little Penguins or Fairy penguins and are the smallest of the 17 penguin species

Adults stand about 40 centimeters tall and weigh about a kilogram.

These flightless seabirds have adapted to the oceans, as their wings have evolved into flippers and you can see them ‘flying’ underwater.

Little Penguins are the only penguin species to nest on the mainland coast, and historically, little penguins were fairly common on the Australian mainland, but these days their colonies are generally restricted to offshore islands.

Penguin Island, which is surrounded by the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, has the biggest breeding colony in Western Australia, with an estimated 1200 little Fairy penguins and 500 to 700 breeding pairs

The end of the day at Penguin Island!

A Day Visit To Penguin Island Western Australia – The Verdict

We hope you enjoyed this Penguin Island review.  It covers everything you need to know about how to get to Penguin Island, tips for visiting, and more.  We hope that you have an enjoyable day enjoying this interesting

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A Day Visit To Penguin Island

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  • […] Alternatively, if you are looking for a unique island experience that can be visited from Perth and is significantly cheaper than Rottnest, consider Penguin Island, just out of Rockingham.  With a boat ride, beautiful beaches, abundant birdlife, and – penguins – our kids think it is a magnificent day out.  Our full review can be found here in our post Penguin Island Western Australia. […]