Day trip to Penguin Island

penguin island blog titlePerth and Western Australia provides easy access to a number of great outdoor adventures, day trips and getaways. Whether you are just visiting WA on holiday or you live in the Perth area, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to steal away for the day to Penguin Island.

Getting to Penguin Island

Shoalwater Bay is a mere 45-minute drive South of Perth. From there, a 5-minute ferry will take you to Penguin Island—home to a host of wildlife, including the world’s smallest penguins!
If you prefer public transit, you can take a bus or train to Rockingham Station-Shoalwater. To get to the ferry terminal, you can take advantage of a shuttle offered by some of the day tours, such as the kayaking tour, or make your own way there.

Ferries to Penguin Island only take five minutes and leave on the hour, from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Ferries returning to the mainland depart at ten minutes past the hour, so arrive a few minutes early to board.

Penguin Island
Image: Tourism Western Australia

What to do on the island

Your options are limitless! You can walk around the island, meet the ten well-loved resident penguins at the Discovery Centre and, for an additional fee, even feed them at one of the three daily scheduled feedings.

If you have more time to spend in this pristine setting, you are sure to find many different ways to enjoy nature. You can swim, snorkel, or surf in the crystal-clear waters of Shoalwater Bay. Or you can enjoy a full-day kayaking tour around Penguin Island, which includes a guided walk around the island as well as a picnic breakfast and lunch.

Penguin Island offers walking trails, shaded beaches, picnic areas, and a multitude of other amenities, including a gift shop and cafe, restrooms and change rooms to make it both a family-friendly and environmentally-friendly getaway.

Whichever option you choose, we recommend that you allow a minimum of two hours to explore Penguin Island and view the penguins at its Discovery Centre.

Kayaking Penguin Island
Image: Trip Advisor

Sighting the penguins

During the winter months, about 1,000 pairs of penguins nest on Penguin Island. These shy creatures spend most of the day fishing for their next meal in the waters surrounding the island and return to the island at dark. Since it is not easy to spot them in the wild, the Discovery Centre provides the unique opportunity to see these inquisitive birds interact with the rangers. There are three feeding sessions each day at 10:30 AM, 12:30 PM and 2:30 PM. Due to their shy nature, the penguins will only feed from their carers, but visitors can watch them be fed and swim in their enclosure, as well as learn more about these cute little creatures.

Penguin on Penguin Island
Image: Tourism Western Australia

Other wildlife to see

The waters surrounding Penguin Island are home not only to the world’s smallest penguins but also to a variety of other wildlife, including wild dolphins, rare Australian sea lions, pelicans, ospreys, king skinks and over fifty other species of sea birds that nest on Penguin Island and the nearby islands.

What is the best time to visit Penguin Island?

Penguin Island is open daily from September 15 to early June, except for Christmas Day. From early June until mid-September, the island is closed for the nesting season. At that time, the only way to visit the island is by taking the Shoalwater Islands Marine Area cruise. On this cruise, expect to see wild dolphins, ospreys, pelicans and sea lions.

If you have never been to the island, we strongly recommend that you make your first visit between late September and early June. That way, you can meet our resident penguins and explore the natural beauty and other wildlife of the Shoalwater Islands.

To book your cruise or learn more about the ferry and penguin feeding schedule, please visit the Penguin Island website.

Emma Kent owns and operates Budget Apartments, self-contained accommodation for the family based in South Perth.

West Australian Explorer is the outdoor guide to WA. Subscribe to the newsletter for travel inspiration straight to your inbox.

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5 thoughts on “Day trip to Penguin Island

  1. Wow! How cool is that?? It sounds a little bit like Granite Island in South Australia right down to the rugged coastline and penguins!! Will look it up next time I’m in WA!

    1. Somehow penguins and Australia doesn’t sound quite right, but sounds like there’s a few other places around the country with fairy penguins. I’ll have to check out Granite Island next time I’m in SA.

  2. Well… There was no penguin on the island, except for the ones in the discovery centre. Which you can’t feed, but you can watch them being feed by the staff. There is no cafe nor gift shop on the island aswell. I am glad that you are saying that the best time to go there is during the opening time. Really helpful.

    1. Hi Julie, sorry if your trip to Penguin Island left you disappointed. I can understand that the name can give the misperception that the island is full of penguins, when in fact they can only be seen within the confines of the Discovery Centre. The little penguins on the island are the smallest species of penguins in the world, due to their shy nature they are very difficult to see in the wild, that is why they are only fed by the rangers. I suggested that you visit the island during opening times as it’s possible to get to the island on your own at any time, either on your own boat, paddling, swimming or even walking along the sand bank at low tide.

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