close up of penguins on penguin island perth wa

Things to do on Penguin Island 2023 Guide – Local’s exclusive insight

Penguin Island Perth is a tourist destination and home to a colony of little penguins (Eudyptula minor). The island is also home to around 30 species of birds, and Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea) live nearby on the aptly named Seal Island.

western australia expert disclosure

Visitors can enjoy walks along the beach, fishing, cruise tours and watch the penguins being fed at the Penguin Island Discovery Centre.

Our Pick
close up of a sea lion under water as seen on a wildlife snorkel and cruise from penguin island perth

Dolphin, Penguin & Sea Lion Cruise

Are you looking for a fun wildlife experience?

Join this 60 minute glass bottom boat cruise around the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park.

You’ll get up close and personal with the best of nature’s wildlife, from wild dolphins to Australian sea lions, pelican rookeries to birds of prey.

The cruise ends on Penguin Island to see the penguin feeding and then you can enjoy some island time before returning on the ferry at your own leisure.

So don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to see some amazing creatures in their natural habitat.

Book your cruise today and get ready for an unforgettable experience!

Penguin Island Season

The season runs from the middle of September until Western Australia Day (the first Monday of June). The island is then closed for the penguin breeding season.

It is also closed on Christmas Day and when there is bad weather or extreme heat (this will be updated on their website homepage).

🤩 To Book Tours Direct with the Tour Operators, click the links in the box below


Penguin Island Entrance Fee

The only safe way to Penguin Island is by ferry. You can buy return ferry tickets which include the entrance fee to the Discovery Centre on the island.

All pricing includes a A$10 Marine Park Levy. 

little penguin by the water
The Penguin Discovery Centre on Penguin Island by Tourism Western Australia

Penguin Island Ferry Tickets & Price

You can purchase just the ferry tickets or with admission to the Discovery Centre where the feedings take place.

Ferry Ticket Price

For just the return ferry, the prices in March 2023 were A$25 per adult, A$23 concession,  A$20.00 per child (aged 3 to 12 years) and A$80.00 for a Family Pass (2 adults & 2 children). Children under 3 years are free.

Ferry plus Discovery Centre was A$35 per adult, A$30 concession, A$25 per child (aged 3 to 12 years), and A$100 for a Family Pass (2 adults & 2 children).

Ferry Times

Depart hourly: From 9 am to 3 pm.

Return hourly: From 10.10 am to 4 pm.

You need to check in 30 minutes before your ferry departure time.

people waiting to board the penguin island ferry western australia

Penguin Island Sandbar

You may read that you can walk to Penguin Island across the sandbar, and some people do it. However, it is dangerous to do so, and people have tragically drowned walking across due to strong rips and currents. In addition, water conditions and depth change rapidly.

sand beach with calm ocean
Penguin Island beach

Penguin Island Winter Wildlife Cruise – Glass Bottom Boat

A 60-minute Penguin Island cruise operates when the island is closed for nesting, allowing you to still view wildlife but from a glass bottom boat. You may experience wild encounters with dolphins, Australian sea lions, birds of prey, and other birds.

Tour Length: 60 minutes

Departs:

  • 9:45am from Penguin Island
  • 11:15am from Penguin Island
  • 1:45pm from Penguin Island

Dates: Daily

Highlights:

  • Seeing rare Australian sea lions on the beach at Seal Island
  • Seeing wild dolphins at play (although sightings are regular, they are not guaranteed as our cruise is restricted to inside Shoalwater Bay)
  • Exploring the rugged islands and viewing nesting pelicans, cormorants and spotting other sea birds that live in the park
  • Drifting over seagrass meadows and limestone reefs spotting fish and other marine life through the glass bottom
  • Viewing the fossilized remnants of ancient tuart forests
3 australian sea lions on the beach near penguin island

Penguin Island Most Popular Tour

Penguin Island Dolphin, Sealion & Penguin Cruise – Glass Bottom Boat

On this tour, you will cruise the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park on a glass-bottom boat looking for dolphins. You will see Australian sea lions on the beach at Seal Island. This 60-minute tour also includes the Penguin Feeding Show.

Tour Length: 60 minutes

Departs:

  • 10.15am from Shoalwater Jetty
  • 12.15pm from Shoalwater Jetty
  • Extra departures can be scheduled on busy days if required
  • Subject to weather conditions and minimum passenger numbers
  • *Please note: Check in is 30 minutes before your departure time

Dates: Daily

Inclusions:

  • 60-minute cruise around the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park
  • Return ferry transfers to and from Penguin Island
  • Penguin Feeding Show at 10:30am, 12:30pm and 2:30pm daily
  • Complementary photos from your cruise uploaded to Flickr
  • Beach wheelchairs are available upon request
close up of a sea lion as seen on a penguin island wildlife cruise

3 Island Snorkel, Wildlife & Seafood Cruise

This half day cruise will take you to some of the most spectacular snorkeling spots in Shoalwater Islands Marine Park and provide a unique opportunity to explore the local marine life above and below the water.

You’ll explore limestone reefs and rocky outcrops, possibly swim with sealions and wild bottlenose dolphins and meet the local marine bird life. To make it even better, you can enjoy a delicious grazing platter of seafood selections as you cruise around the islands.

Tour Length: 4 hours

Departs: 8:00 am

Dates: Daily

Inclusions:

  • Half day snorkeling tour throughout the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park including Penguin Island, Seal Island and Bird Island
  • Complementary photos from your cruise
  • Gourmet style platters including local fresh seafood
  • Wetsuits and all snorkeling equipment included
  • Tour Guides who get you amongst the best wildlife opportunities on the day
close up of snorkellers swimming with a bottlenose dolphin

Penguin Island & Seal Island Kayak Tour

If you like to be on the water, this full day kayak tour is your thing. Your guide will provide a safety briefing and demonstration on the beach before setting off to the islands. Once on Penguin Island, you will have a guided walk and enjoy a healthy picnic brunch, freshly prepared by your guide.

During the warmer months, snorkelling on the sheltered in-shore reefs  is included.

This kayak tour is suitable for all levels, but you do require a decent amount of fitness and to be able to swim. The minimum age is eight years old (under 18’s must be accompanied by an adult), and a weight limit of 115 kg per person.

Book Tours


aerial view over penguin island with clear green water and boats in the ocean
Penguin Island by Tourism Western Australia

Things To Do on Penguin Island

Penguin Island Boardwalk Trail

The Penguin Island walk trail is a 1.5 km loop mainly on a boardwalk (there’s a section on the beach). Keep a lookout under the boardwalks – you may be lucky to see a little penguin!

Penguin Island Beach

The protected front sandy beaches on the island are great for relaxing, letting kids play, and swimming or snorkelling in the clear ocean.

Penguin Island Feeding Times

Feeding of the penguins takes place at the Discovery Centre at the following times:

  • 10.30 am
  • 12.30 pm
  • 2.30 pm
two little penguins waiting to be fed from a bucket
Penguins waiting to be fed

Fishing

You can line fish from the general use parts of the island, but bag limits and size regulations apply as normal.

Back Beach is good for tailor.

Penguin Island Kayak Hire

If you don’t want to take a kayak tour, you can hire a kayak from Penguin and Seal Island Kayak and SUP Hire. Rates as of May 2022 are A$50 for a day or A$25 an hour for a single kayak. Doubles are A$100 per day or A$40 per hour.

Penguin Island Natural Spa

The Natural Spa is a small hole in the reef that water fills, making it a cute natural spa for one. Look out for it as you explore the island.

Penguin Island Rock Pools

Head to the west side of the island to explore the rock pools.

Penguin Island Snorkelling

The shallow beaches make Penguin Island a great place to snorkel as there’s usually a variety of marine life amongst the seagrass and reef.

little penguins by the edge of pool

What to take to Penguin Island

As there aren’t any shops, make sure to bring the following items:

  • Drinking water
  • Food (take a bag for your rubbish as no bins are on the island)
  • Beach Towel & bathers if you want to swim
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat & Sunglasses
  • Camera and/or Go-Pro
  • Long-sleeve top for sun protection
  • Warm Jacket if you plan to stay for the afternoon (the sea breeze can be chilly)
  • Snorkel set/dive gear/fishing gear, if applicable

Map

Have a look at the Penguin Island map to get your bearings.

burrows under the rocks
Burrows for the nesting

Penguin Island Accommodation

You cannot stay on Penguin Island. However, Rockingham is close by with plenty of accommodation options. Here are a few ideas that are highly rated and have air-conditioning.

Quest Rockingham offers a range of studio, 1 bedroom, and 2 bedroom serviced apartments with kitchens equipped with a microwave, refrigerator, and stovetop. This apartment-style hotel features a swimming pool and gym. It’s located close to the beach and town.

Anchorage Guest House and Self-contained Accommodation is a boutique Bed & Breakfast close to the beach, cafes, wine bars and restaurants of Rockingham. Rooms cater for two people, but the two-bedroom apartment can sleep up to four. A free continental breakfast is provided with all guest house rooms.

Reflections By Rockingham Apartments offer luxury accommodation close to Palm Beach, Rockingham. The one and two-bedroom apartments feature a balcony, fully equipped kitchen and full-size laundry.

Spinnakers by Rockingham Apartments have one, two and three-bedroom luxury apartments, all with ocean views. The accommodation is finished to a high standard and features top-quality appliances.

The Royal Dolphin Bed & Breakfast Safety Bay is on a quiet street, close to the Safety Bay waterfront. This adults-only property has rooms with individually controlled air-conditioning. Some rooms have their own attached bathroom and refrigerators, and tea/coffee making facilities. Breakfast, including fresh fruit, espresso coffee, fruit juice, yogurt, cereals and toast, is served in the dining room each morning.

Nautilus by Rockingham Apartments has one, two, and three-bedroom apartments with ocean views and a balcony. They feature a fully equipped kitchen with a dishwasher, a lounge, a flat-screen TV, a washing machine, and a bathroom.

Penguin Island Location

Penguin Island is off the coast of Shoalwater Bay in Rockingham, a suburb south of Perth, Western Australia. The island is part of the Shoalwater Marine Park.

boardwalk through native flora near white sand beach on penguin island
Penguin Island by Tourism Western Australia

How to get to Penguin Island

By Public Transport

Trains run from Perth to Rockingham (Mandurah line). From there, take the 551, 552 or 553 bus to Penguin & Watts Road.

Use the Transperth Journey Planner to plan your route.

By Car

From Perth, it’s about a 45 to 60-minute drive to the departure point of the Penguin Island ferry. There’s a free car park, but more parking is available at the Safety Bay Bowling Club is that one is full.

Tip: Do not park where signs advise no standing – rangers are vigilant, and you will get fined!

map showing directions from perth to penguin island
Perth to Penguin Island

Penguin Island History

The Shoalwater Islands and coast have been used by the Binjareb and Whadjuk Nyoongar people for up to 45,000 years.

Seaforth McKenzie was the first known habitant of Penguin Island from 1918 to 1926. He encouraged visitors to the island who slept on the beach or in the caves.

Several organisations used the island until it became an A-class reserve in 1966. A private company leased part of the land and rented out shacks for holidaymakers.

In 1987 the private lease was surrendered, and the island is now managed by Parks and Wildlife Services as a conservation park for visitor education and recreation.

Penguin Island Review – My Thoughts

Most locals have visited Penguin Island at some time and it’s a popular Perth attraction.

However, don’t go expecting to see wild penguins, as most will be off hunting in the ocean and don’t return until after sunset. Some stay on the island, but they hide in their burrows. Instead, you’ll be able to get close to the little penguins at the Discovery Centre.

This small island is classified as an A-Class Reserve, so there aren’t any shops or cafés. Therefore, you must bring food, drinks, and water with you.

If you like seeing wildlife, I’m sure you will enjoy a visit to the island. As with all wildlife experiences, guaranteed sightings of dolphins are not given. However, they are common around there and you stand a good chance of seeing them.

Try to time your visit between December and March when you can snorkel in the crystal clear water and enjoy the beaches.

little penguin swimming in a pool

FAQ

Can you stay on Penguin Island?

You cannot stay on Penguin Island, but there are plenty of accommodation options nearby in Rockingham.

Can you walk to Penguin Island?

Due to ever-changing conditions and rips, walking to Penguin Island on the sandbar is dangerous. Tragically, people have died trying to walk to Penguin Island.

What is the best time to go to Penguin Island?

The best time to visit Penguin Island is during summer to make use of the beautiful calm beaches. Mornings are better before the sea-breeze arrives.

Do you have to pay to go to Penguin Island?

There is a cost to visit the Discovery Centre, but Penguin Island is free. However, you need to pay for ferry tickets to get across to the island safely.

Are there snakes on Penguin Island?

There are signs around Penguin Island advising to be careful of snakes.

Can you snorkel at Penguin Island?

The best place to snorkel is between the coast and Penguin Island.

Are there sharks near Penguin Island?

There are sharks around Penguin Island, so be shark aware.

Can I kayak to Penguin Island?

You can kayak to Penguin Island on your own or with a tour group. Kayaks can be hired from the mainland.

Can you fish at Penguin Island?

You can line fish off the beaches at Penguin Island.

If you found this review of Penguin Island helpful, please consider booking through one of our links. It won’t cost you anything but will help towards the cost of running this site. Thank you.

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