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Perth and Western Australia provide 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.
Where is Penguin Island in Perth?
Shoalwater Bay is a mere 45-minute drive south of Perth. From there, it’s 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 Penguin Island 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.
It’s also possible to walk to Penguin Island from the beach at Shoalwater Bay. While many people do this, it’s not recommended due to changing tide and ocean conditions.
What to do on Penguin Island
Once on the island, 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. I should mention at this point, that the fairy penguins on Penguin Island are not roaming around as expected. You will need to go to the Discovery Centre where you can get up close.
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. There are also some excellent Penguin Island Tours available, including the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park Cruise and Penguin Island Tour. See here for more.
Penguin Island offers walking trails, shaded beaches, picnic areas, and other amenities, including a gift shop, Penguin Island 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.
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.
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 seabirds that nest on Penguin Island and the nearby islands. See here
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 the resident penguins and explore the natural beauty and other wildlife of the Shoalwater Islands.
Book a Penguin Island Tour
Save time and skip the queues by purchasing your tickets in advance with these tour options with Get your Guide. All tickets can be cancelled after purchase.
About the Author
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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