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

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

Penguin Island Perth is a well-known tourist destination for its impressive 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.

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

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Penguin Island Location

Penguin Island is off the coast of Shoalwater Bay in Rockingham, a suburb 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 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 (this will be updated on their website homepage).

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.

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 May 2022 were A$25 per adult, A$23 concession,  A$23.00 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.

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 Wildlife Cruise – Glass Bottom Boat

We mainly use a mixture of Viator, GYG, and Klook for tours due to their low prices and free cancellation policy on most experiences.

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 see dolphins, Australian sea lions, birds of prey, and other birds.

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.

Penguin Island Sunset Cruise

On Fridays and Saturdays, you can join a two-and-a-half-hour sunset cruise around Rockingham, where dolphins may join you.

Price direct is A$99 per person.

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.

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 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. I went with my father-in-law years ago and enjoyed seeing the seals lazing around on Seal Island beach. The penguin talk was informative, and the rescue penguins were pretty cute. However, there’s not much to do if you don’t like the beach or water, so be prepared for that.

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.

It is a small island classified as an A-Class Reserve, there isn’t any shops or cafés. Therefore, you must bring food, drinks, and water with you. The toilet is a “drop” toilet that overseas visitors may not be used to.

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.

Read more reviews of Penguin Island on TripAdvisor.

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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17 thoughts on “Things to do on Penguin Island – Local’s exclusive insight”

  1. Penguin Island looks absolutely delightful. We really enjoy viewing wildlife (appreciating that we might not always get lucky with a viewing). It’s good to know that the island is closed to visitors for the penguin breeding season. We would love to go kayaking there and would also very much enjoy the glass bottomed boat trip.

    Reply
  2. I love Penguin Island. I’ve been a few times and I never get bored of cute penguins even if you do need eagle eyes to spot them under the boardwalks. ☺️

    Pengo’s Cafe is worth a visit too while you’re waiting for the boat!

    Reply
    • Walking across the sandbar is putting your life in danger!

      The penguins are wild but there are 10 penguins that live in the Discovery Centre that have been injured or orphaned as chicks and would not survive if released to the wild.

      Reply
  3. Forgive my blind ignorance Wendy. I never knew that Australia has penguins. I keep on seeing snakes and spiders and dingos in my head. Thanks to your post, I can nurse my ignorance and finally join you in your Penguin Island adventure.

    Reply
  4. I love seeing wildlife so Penguin Island is right up my alley! The kayaking and glass-bottom boat tours are a great way to get to know the area wildlife.

    Reply
  5. Awww! I didn’t know there were penguins in WA! I’ve seen the little penguins at St Kilda in Melbourne and they were soooooo cute, and such a surprise! Actually when I saw your post, I thought it must be around Phillip Island, but then realised it would be WA, obviously. Interesting post, definitely sounds like the discovery centre is worth a visit.

    Reply

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