Home Australia Penguin Island – a day trip from Perth for wildlife lovers
Image of sandy beach and blue sea on Penguin Island near Perth Western Australia

Penguin Island – a day trip from Perth for wildlife lovers

by Kat

It’s a beautifully sunny winter’s day in Western Australia’s capital city so while everyone else no doubt decided to bustle on to the ferry to visit Rottnest I hopped over to a quieter somewhat hidden gem of Perth that is equally as gorgeous… Penguin Island

Image of lots of pelicans sitting on a rock on penguin island near perth western australia


Penguin Island is in the middle of a National Park.  How can this be?  Well this National Park is special because it’s a marine park.  Shoalwater Marine Park is a protected area which means that, although there’s no coral reef, there’s an abundance of sea grass leading to an abundance of fish leading to an abundance of much more exciting wildlife.  The area is home to wild dolphins, sea lions, pelicans, eagles and other birds of prey, and the star attraction – the little penguins.

Image of strip of land stretching out to sea with a sign saying "bird sanctuary no entry" in foreground


The little penguins (sometimes known as tiny, blue or fairy penguins) are the smallest breed in the world and are of the same type you’ll find waddling up the beach after dark in the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island and that live under the breakwater in Melbourne.  As is the case in both of those places it’s pretty hard to spot them in the wild in the daytime as they are usually out fishing so it’s unlikely you’ll spot them just walking around.

Image of two little penguins perched on a rock near a man-made pool

Considering the name of the island people are going to expect to see a penguin on their visit and to solve this problem the only building on the tiny island has been set up as a Discovery Centre where around 10 tiny penguins live.  You can wander in and watch them swimming around to their heart’s content at any time of the day but they also do several feeding sessions a day where you can learn more about the lives of the wild penguins on the island and the ones they have in the centre.  All of the ones in captivity are rescued penguins who are either there for a short while until they have recovered, or are there permanently if they wouldn’t be expected to survive in the wild.

10 amazing places to visit on Australia’s Coral Coast

The island has been adapted to allow for tourists with the penguins always in mind.  There are boardwalks on all of the grassy areas so you won’t accidentally step on any nests or baby birds, the ferry runs only in the daylight hours to avoid disturbing the penguins when they are leaving or returning to their burrows at dawn and dusk and the island is closed for their breeding season starting from 7th June until September.*

*During this time Rockingham Wildlife Encounters still offer a boat trip to see the wildlife in the area but you cannot actually set foot on the island

Image of sandy beach and clear blue water on Penguin Island Western Australia


Although the novelty of seeing the tiny penguins has not worn off I was actually more excited to see a sea lion as this was the first time I’d have spotted one in the wild.  When the island is open to the public you can buy a variety of tickets from Rockingham Wildlife Encounters on the mainland depending on what you want to see.  I purchased the sea lion cruise as part of my ticket because the sea lions were a huge part of why I wanted to visit and they don’t actually live on Penguin Island so taking the boat is the only way to get to see them.  It’s a good job because apparently they will eat the tiny penguins!

Image of stairs leading down to sandy beach

So I took the cruise and the boat pulled up alongside Seal Island (mysteriously named as there are no seals) and spotted a few huge sea lions having a sunbathe on the beach.  That was all well and good.

Cut to an hour of so later when I was wandering around Penguin Island and a couple came up to me as I was walking down to the beach and told me there was a sea lion around the corner behind the rocks.  A bit confused I wandered down there where there was one other girl standing who had literally stumbled across this sea lion (apparently it had given her quite a fright – they are HUGE).  We were probably about a metre away and I crept a little closer but was a bit apprehensive about getting too close because they do look like they could cause you some serious damage!

Image of brown sea lion sleeping on the beach

After watching it snore for a bit I headed back up the board walk chose a random person and passed on the sea lion secret.

Later when watching the penguin feeding one of the park rangers said that the sea lion had been there for a few days because it was recovering from a shark attack.  Sometimes when they’re ill they’ll leave the rest of the group to recuperate somewhere quieter (debatable if you ask me, with all the seagulls on PI) or because the rest of the group will banish them because they’re a target for more sharks while they’re still weak.  She did warn us not to get too close because one did once chase a tourist down the beach.  Despite their size I guess they run faster than you’d expect but the thought of a person being chased by a sea lion is unintentionally hilarious!

Image of peninsula and beach stretching out into blue ocean


Rockingham Wild Encounters is the only operator to Penguin Island.  Their office is located on the mainland at the end of Penguin Road.  From Perth it is easily accessible by public transport on the Mandurah train line.  Alight at Rockingham then take the 551, 552 or 553 bus and get off at the last stop.

If you have visited Penguin Island let me know in the comments as it seems like barely anyone has been or even knows about this amazing little spot in Western Australia? 

Penguin Island is perhaps Perth's best kept secret. A little gem of an island in Western Australia is makes for an amazing day trip for wildlife lovers!

You may also like

1 comment

Where to find the wildlife of Australia | Kat is Travelling 21/01/2017 - 14:14

[…] Penguin Island: Perth’s Best Kept Secret […]


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More