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Witness some of Perth’s incredible wildlife from a different perspective. Here’s how to get to Penguin Island (and beyond).

Perth’s extensive coastline is home to a handful of islands, each with its own unique wildlife and landscapes. These islands host some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world, making them a must visit for nature lovers.

Along with Rottnest Island, Penguin Island is one of the most well-known of the islands near Perth. And, unsurprisingly, it’s the one that found it’s way to the top of my Perth bucket list.

With only three full days to explore Perth, it was hard to whittle down the options. Seriously, there’s a surprising amount to do in Perth!

But, in the end, Penguin Island won out because WILDLIFE! And it well and truly earned its place. Here’s how and why you should consider visiting Penguin Island on your trip to Perth.


RELATED READ: How to spend a day on Rottnest Island


 

What is Penguin Island?

As the name suggests, Penguin Island is home to lots of monochromatic cuties. The islands around this area aren’t the most imaginatively named but leave no guesses as to what you might find there.

Penguin Island is part of a cluster of islands off the the coast of Rockingham, a small town to the south west of Perth. Its neighbours include Bird Island, Seal Island and Shag Island – and I’m sure you can guess what you might find on each!

Penguin Island is so close to the mainland that you can see it easily from the shores, and may even be tempted to swim or walk across the sandbar.

 

 

 

A word of warning: There were people  attempting to cross the sandbar when we were there, but there were signs up saying swimming was forbidden. Even though it looks like an easy crossing, currents around the sandbar can be deadly.

As great as the Perth hospitals are (yep, I can vouch for those), avoid the risk and choose a safe way to get to Penguin Island.


Pelican on Penguin Island Perth


How to get to Penguin Island

If you’re staying in Perth, getting to Penguin Island is fairly easy! The jetty where the Penguin Island boats and ferries depart can be found at Rockingham Wildlife Encounters, which is marked on Google Maps: 

If you’re staying in Perth, there are two ways to get to Rockingham.

If you decide to hire a car, it’s an easy 45-60 minute drive south. Traffic is generally good, but it worth leaving a little extra time and using it to enjoy a drink before boarding if you arrive on time.

 

 

 

You can also take an Uber for around $80 AUD (about £43 or $55 USD).

If you prefer to take public transport, you’ll need to catch the Mandurah train line from Perth and alight at Rockingham – a 34-minute journey. From there, the 551, 552 and 553 buses all go to the jetty. The bus stop is called Penguin & Watts Road (easy to remember!) and the journey takes around 15 minutes.


Cormorants off the coast of Perth on Bird Island

Another famous local bird, the shag, inhabits the nearby Bird Island. You’d be forgiven for thinking they were penguins from a distance!


The Penguin Island ferry

All of the Penguin Island ferries are operated by Rockingham Wildlife Encounters. While they may have a monopoly on the short ferry passage, they offer a range of wildlife cruises to choose from.

  • If penguins are your goal, the cheapest way to see them is by buying a Penguin Island ferry ticket. This ticket grants you access to the ferry as well as entry to Penguin Island, where you can stay and enjoy the island and its waters. The last ferry leaves at 4PM, so there will plenty of time to snorkel, swim and watch the 20-minute penguin feeding before heading home.

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  • If you want to see the endangered Australian sea lions as well, you can book a 45-minute cruise that covers both islands. You won’t get as much time on Penguin Island, but you’ll get to see twice as many cute animals, so it could be a worthwhile trade-off. 

BUY TICKETS

 

  • If you have 90 minutes to spare, explore the entire area with this longer cruise that covers all of the islands. As well as visiting Penguin Island and passing by Seal Island, you’ll also see Bird Island, Shag Island and possibly enjoy a visit from the local dolphins! 

BUY TICKETS


Australian sea lions off the coast of Perth on Seal Island-2
A rare Australian sea lion snoozing on the sandy shores of Seal Island.

An alternative way to get to Penguin Island 

The Penguin Island ferry isn’t the only way to get to Penguin Island. If you’re feeling adventurous – or just want a bit of a workout – you can also book a sea kayak excursion to the island

The full day tour includes a guided excursion around the bay, visiting Penguin Island, Seal Island, Bird Island and more. You’ll be able to see the same amazing wildlife from a much closer perspective, as well as having plenty of time to swim, snorkel and hike. Lunch on the mainland is included and hotel pickup is available, saving you effort of getting to Rockingham yourself.

 

 

 

During the winter months, Penguin Island is only accessible by the Penguin Island ferry. To respect breeding season, visitor numbers are highly limited and the wildlife cruises (above) have exclusive access.

Throughout the rest of the year, though, you can kayak up to Penguin Island and explore at your leisure. It’s a great way to experience the waters of Shoalwater Bay, especially in the hot summer months.

CHECK YOUR DATES AND BOOK


Dolphins off the coast of Perth
The local dolphins love to greet visitors and see what they’re up to


What to expect on your Penguin Island tour

With such a diverse range of wildlife inhabiting the small Shoalwater Bay area, there are plenty of opportunities for sightings. Of course, as with any wildlife encounter, there’s no guarantee of any animal. But here are some of the local residents you might spot:

Little penguins

Yes, that’s their actual name (and not just a fitting adjective). The name “Little penguin” is apt because they’re the smallest of the 17 penguin breeds, and therefore score double cute points.

Little penguins are the only penguin breed you can find along the Australian coast. Penguin Island is home to the largest breeding colony, with around 1,200 in total. It’s also one of the northernmost places where these little cuties can be found.

Australian sea lions

Australian sea lions is the most endangered species of sea lion in the world. They’re only found in Western and Southern Australia, so seeing them is pretty special indeed.
 

 

 

Bottlenose dolphins

Is Perth home to some of the happiest animals in the world? Between the quokka and the bottlenose dolphins, I would think so.

The local dolphin population you might spot while visiting Penguin Island belong to the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin family. They’re an in-shore species, meaning they often swim around the bay area checking out what’s going on.

Pelicans 

There’s an incredible amount of bird life around the Penguin Island area, making it great for bird watching. Even non-twitchers can admire the local pod of Pelicans, which certainly aren’t small! The Australian pelicans found here are the largest species of pelican in the world and have a rather imposing presence.


Pelicans on Penguin Island Perth


Although it’s a little way out of the city, Penguin Island is a great day trip from Perth. Make sure you pack a camera, sunscreen, a jacket (it can get windy!) and plenty of water for the trip. 

I’d also recommend stopping in town to sample some of the local fish and chips if you can. It hurts me to say this as a Brit, but they really know how to do good fish and chips!


 

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