OPEN DAYS & TIMES
Penguin Island is open daily September 15 to early June (Western Australia Day Public Holiday), subject to weather. When the island is closed due to bad weather, an ‘Island Alert’ is displayed on the Welcome page of our website. Please refresh the welcome page for the latest information.
Closed December 25th for Christmas and for the winter penguin nesting season (the day after the Western Australia Day Public Holiday to September 14).
During the winter closed season, our 60 minute Seal Island Wildlife Cruise still operates daily subject to weather.
Tickets & Gift Shop
8.30am- 4.30pm (when Penguin Island is open).
9.00am- 3.00pm (when Penguin Island is closed).
8.30am- 4.30pm (when Penguin Island is open).
9.00am- 3.00pm (when Penguin Island is closed).
Depart hourly*: 9am, 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm & 3pm.
Return hourly*: 10.10am, 11.10am, 12.10pm, 1.10pm, 2.10pm, 3.10pm & 4pm.
*Extra ferries are scheduled every 20 minutes or half hour during busy times as required.
Penguin Island Discovery Centre
Open daily 10am- 3.30pm.
Penguin Feedings: 10.30am, 12.30pm & 2.30pm.
Open Daily 8am- 4.30pm.
HOW TO GET HERE
- Allow 45 minutes to 1 hour to drive from Perth.
- There is free car parking onsite and overflow parking available at the Safety Bay Bowling Club a short walk away at 130 Gloucester Crescent, Safety Bay.
- Do not park on the road verge or the vacant block across the road from our car park. They are clearly signed with No Standing signs and rangers will issue parking infringements for anyone parked illegally.
- Do not leave valuables in your car and make sure any bags or luggage is hidden from view. Unfortunately like any coastal car parks in Australia, there is always a risk of thieves breaking into vehicles.
- Take the train south from Perth on the Mandurah line and disembark at the Rockingham Station.
- Catch bus 551, 552 or 553 from stands 9 or 10 outside the train station and get off on Penguin & Watts Road.
- Walk along Penguin Road towards the beach to our shop.
- To plan your journey visit http://www.transperth.wa.gov.au/
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to make a booking?
For the ferry and Penguin & Sea Lion Cruise (other than the 10.15am departing Shoalwater), tickets can only be purchased on the day from our gift shop. Allow at least 15 minutes on week days & 30 minutes on weekends & holidays to buy your tickets prior to your desired departure time. For groups of 10 or more, we recommend submitting our Group Booking Form or contact us.
Gift vouchers for the ferry and Penguin & Sea Lion Cruise can be purchased online but must be redeemed for tickets on the day at our front counter. During busy times we schedule extra ferries every 20 to 30 minutes and extra glass bottom boat cruises as required.
Bookings are recommended for the Dolphin, Penguin & Sea Lions Adventure Cruise, Swim with Wild Dolphins, Seal Island Wildlife Cruise, Sea Kayak Tour, Stand Up Paddle & Kite Boarding Lessons.
How much time should I allow for a visit?
If you just want to see the Penguin Feeding then you can do this and be back at the mainland in just over an hour, however we recommend you allow a minimum of 2 hours so you can at least explore a little bit. Many visitors choose to spend half or the full day here relaxing on the beach, swimming or just soaking up the relaxed island atmosphere.
What should I wear?
For Penguin Island, wear comfortable footwear. Most visitors wear thongs or sandals. Hats, sunscreen and a long sleeve or UV resistant shirt are recommended for sun protection. Bring swimmers and towels if you are planning water activities. A warm weather proof jacket is recommended even in summer as the afternoon sea breeze can be cold.
On the boats, it’s important that you are adequately dressed because it can be cold, even in summer. A warm weather proof jacket is essential. Gloves, scarves & beanies for the colder days are a good idea.
What should we bring?
There are no shops or cafes on Penguin Island. You’re welcome to bring your own food and drinks, or, purchase before you go from Pengos Cafe on the mainland. There is an excellent shaded picnic area and you’re welcome to bring eskies and picnic baskets on the ferry. There are no BBQ facilities and open flame or gas BBQ’s are prohibited on the island. Surfboards, fishing gear, snorkelling and dive gear are also welcome on the ferry.
Do we need to book our return ferry time?
Getting back to the mainland is easy, no prior booking is required. Return ferries depart hourly from Penguin Island at 10.10am, 11.10am, 12.10pm, 1.10pm, 2.10pm, 3.10pm & 4pm sharp, just walk down to the jetty a few minutes before hand and show your ticket to the skipper prior to boarding. On busy days we just keep running the ferry until everyone is off the island. Please note Penguin Island closes to the public at 4pm so please be waiting on the jetty by this time.
Is it safe to walk across the sandbar?
The management of the sandbar is the responsibility of the WA state government Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW). Their advice is ‘Do not walk or wade across the sandbar to Penguin Island. Strong rips and currents can occur, water depth and conditions change rapidly. People have drowned attempting this crossing. Use the ferry service at all times.’
Visitors often enquire about the sandbar as they may see people crossing or have read visitor reviews on social media such as Trip Advisor suggesting that crossing the sandbar is a cheap or fun way to visit Penguin Island. In the interest of visitor safety and for potential liability reasons, our crew will politely reinforce DPaW’s message that the only safe means of accessing Penguin Island is by ferry. This response is sometime perceived incorrectly as being deliberately unhelpful or an attempt to sell them a ferry ticket. Our primary interest is ensuring that everyone has a safe and enjoyable day so please don’t take offence.
What time is the Penguin Feeding at the Discovery Centre?
Penguin feedings are presented by a Department of Parks and Wildlife ranger at 10.30am, 12.30 & 2.30pm and last around 20 minutes, after which the rangers are available to answer any visitor questions. Visitors can also access the centre from 10am to 3pm.
Do we get to feed the little penguins?
Sorry, the penguin feeding can only be done by trained rangers. There are 10 little penguins that live in the Discovery Centre that have been injured or orphaned as chicks and would not survive if released to the wild. DPaW must adhere to strict animal ethics to ensure their wellbeing. The Discovery Centre is your best opportunity to see little penguins close up as most of the wild penguins spend their days at sea hunting and don’t return until just after sunset.
Where are all the wild penguins?!
Although there is more than 1200 little penguins that call Penguin Island home, they can be difficult to spot! Most daylight hours are spent at sea hunting and the penguins return to the island approx. 1 hour after sunset. Most will leave again before sunrise. On any given day some penguins will stay on the island, however, they stay hidden in their burrows or other secluded places.
Visitors should not expect to see little penguins waddling around in the open during daylight hours, however, most days if you look carefully enough, you should be able to spot some. Some good places to look are underneath the boardwalks, especially where the staircases lead down to the beaches. Also look carefully at the back of the limestone caves and secluded rocky outcrops on either end of the island. As you walk along the boardwalks you will notice some green nesting boxes. Please don’t touch these, but do have a look in the doorways as you may spot the penguins in there as the breeding season approaches in May. Also listen carefully as you explore the island, often you may hear a penguin before you see one. They have an amazing range of vocalizations that have been described as like dogs barking or donkeys braying!
The best time of year for spotting wild penguins is during the summer moulting period. The little penguins stay ashore for 6- 8 weeks while growing their new feathers. Please note, this is an extremely stressful time for the penguins and if you do spot some, enjoy the encounter but please observe the following:
- Give the penguins at least 3- 5 metres of space.
- Keep quiet & relaxed.
- Turn your flash off if taking photos as it can damage the penguin’s eyes.
In extreme hot weather, little penguins may come out of hiding and stand in the shallows to cool down. This is a sign of heat stress and should be reported to a ranger or the Discovery Centre so the penguin can be monitored. Please do not ‘assist’ the penguin into deeper water. During moulting they are not waterproof and can’t swim very well. Your kindness may unintentionally cause more stress to the penguin.
The easiest way to get close up look at the penguins is at one of the daily penguin feedings at the Discovery Centre hosted by Department of Environment & Conservation Rangers at 10.30am, 12.30pm & 2.30pm.
What else is there to do?
For the water lovers there’s swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, & fishing. You’re welcome to bring your gear across on the ferry with you or check out our good quality low cost range of snorkelling equipment available from our gift shop. The sheltered waters and chain of limestone reefs also presents the best sea kayaking and stand up paddle boarding opportunities in Perth.
For nature & wildlife lovers, explore the network of timber boardwalks & coastal lookouts which boasts some of the best coastal scenery in Perth and has been voted one of ‘WA’s Top Nature Trails’. The island is a haven for sea birds many of which choose to nest right next to the boardwalks presenting fantastic viewing opportunities to see new born chicks (especially in September & October). Other wildlife highlights on Penguin Island include viewing the pelican rookeries (all year), spotting humpback whales cruising down the west side of the island from the southern lookout (September to December), the return of the Bridal Terns which migrate to Borneo every year (late October/ early November), spotting the friendly King Skinks (all year) and beach combing and exploring the rock pools on the west side of the island (all year).
For families, Penguin Island has always been a favourite day trip destination. Apart from the ever popular penguin feeding, the safe, shallow beaches on the front of the island are an ideal natural playground for young children to swim, snorkel & fish. Outside the Discovery Centre there is also a touch table full of shells, bones and other fascinating ‘things from the sea’ to keep the kids amused. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy under the trees overlooking the spectacular marine park.
Can we take prams and/ or wheelchairs?
Prams, strollers & standard wheelchairs are welcome on our ferry & glass bottom boat. Our gangways make boarding these vessels easy and the network of timber boardwalks on the island provide good access to most points of interest. For passengers on the Dolphin, Penguin & Sea Lion Adventure Cruise, space is limited so prams, strollers & wheelchairs are stored on the ferry and then transferred to Penguin Island while you enjoy the cruise. Gloves are recommended for visitors who wish to push the wheels of their wheelchairs.
Can we take home shells and other treasures we find?
Definitely not! We ask people to respect DPaW’s ‘No Touch or Take Flora or Fauna Policy’ while visiting Penguin Island and the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park by:
- Not touching or feeding the wildlife
- Staying on the timber boardwalks and beaches when making your way around Penguin Island
- Leaving any shells, stones, bones, eggs or feathers where you find them (all parts of native fauna or flora, dead or alive, are protected under WA Wildlife legislation).
- Conducting any fishing as per the WA Department of Fisheries regulations.
Pengo's Café (Open daily 8am to 4.30pm)
Great coffee & cakes, gourmet burgers, awesome fish & chips & fresh salads are available from Pengo's Café next door to Rockingham Wild Encounters gift shop. It’s the ideal place for a quick bite to eat for breakfast or lunch, before or after your visit to Penguin Island. Enjoy a meal under the shade sails of our alfresco area or have a picnic on the grass next to the children’s playground. There is also a delicious range of freshly made rolls, wraps, salads as well as drinks and snacks to take away for a picnic on Penguin Island. Group catering and private functions are also available, for full details visit the Pengo's Cafe.
Inspired by the crystal blue waters and white sandy beaches of Shoalwater Bay, our ocean themed gift store stocks a range of home wares, gifts, souvenirs, clothes, children’s toys, jewellery and more.
Open daily 8.30am- 4.30pm (September 15 to early June when Penguin Island is open). 9.00am- 3.00pm (early June to September 14 when Penguin Island is closed).
For more information please visit the Island Gifts.
Penguin Island and the waters of Shoalwater Bay have always been regarded as a special place to visit by the people of Perth and have attracted some interesting characters over the years.
Penguin Island was probably first used by the Aboriginal people who have believed to have been in the area up to 12,000 years ago. A local aboriginal legend tells the story of Singing Rock located just to the north of Penguin Island. Apparently a local girl who ran off with her lover against tribal law was chased and caught. Her lover was speared to death while her punishment was to be imprisoned inside the rock. Legend has it that you can still hear the girl singing out to her lover today!
The first person to have lived on the Island was an eccentric New Zealander by the name of Seaforth McKenzie. He was described as a 'bearded man with gallant manners and a twinkling eye' and first squatted on the island in 1914. In 1918 McKenzie was granted an annual lease by the WA government and he set about establishing a holiday resort on the island. Several of the limestone caves on the eastern side of the island were hollowed out and crudely furnished for use as accommodation, a library and a small store where visitors could manage their own account as long as you left a fair amount of money or something of equal value. McKenzie also excavated a 'grand ballroom' known as the palace where he was crowned the 'King of Penguin Island' at a grand ceremony. He was a lover of literature and visitors were invited to his 'library cave' for lamp lit poetry readings. By all accounts visitors greatly admired and respected Seaforth McKenzie despite his eccentricities. McKenzie left the island in 1926 and returned home to his wife Sarah and six children in New Zealand after an absence of 45 years! Apparently he left home to go to work one day and failed to return- his explanation being that he had only just regained his memory of his family! Today the shifting sands of the island have changed much of McKenzie’s caves, but there are still some nails in the cave walls, his old well and some gnarled fig trees to remind us of the 'King of Penguin Island'
Over the years several private enterprises have leased parts of the island for budget style holiday shacks and carnival style entertainment. The lease for the island was bought out by the Department of Conservation and Land Management(now known as Department of Parks and Wildlife) in 1987 and is still currently managed by the Department as a Conservation Park. The shacks have been removed and in their place are the Penguin Experience Discovery Centre, the Western Mining Research and Management Centre and improved recreation facilities. The dedication of DPaW and the staff who manage the islands will ensure that the spectacular natural beauty and wildlife of Penguin Island and the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park will be preserved for generations to come.