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If you’re looking for a fun day trip destination from Perth, Penguin Island is a rugged wilderness in the scenic Shoalwater Islands Marine Park that is well worth a visit. Situated only 700m off the coast of Rockingham, a 45-minute drive south of Perth, the island is easily reached by a five-minute ferry ride.

I chose to visit Shoalwater on the first day of my epic five-week Perth to Adelaide road trip and caught the ferry over to Penguin Island to explore. With beautiful beaches, a large colony of little penguins and plenty of nesting seabirds, Penguin Island has plenty of things to do for nature lovers.

To learn more about Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, including cruises, activities and self-guided walks, keep reading!

Shoalwater Tours

We chose to have a leisurely day exploring on foot. If you prefer an organised tour or a bit more adventure, check out these fun Shoalwater activities!

  • Rockingham Glass-Bottom Boat Cruise: This 1-hour scenic cruise on a glass-bottom boat explores the rugged Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, spotting wildlife both above and below the water. You’ll finish off by watching the penguin feeding on Penguin Island!
  • Wild Dolphin Swim & Luxury Cruise: Fulfill your dream of swimming with wild dolphins on this fantastic luxury cruise in Rockingham. Wetsuit, snorkelling equipment and a snorkelling lesson is included, as well as lunch.
  • Shoalwater Islands Snorkel & Seafood Cruise: This 3-hour sightseeing cruise passes three beautiful Shoalwater islands, stopping for a snorkelling experience along the way. All snorkelling equipment plus a seafood grazing platter is included.
  • Rockingham Tandem Skydive: View the stunning Shoalwater scenery from above on this adrenaline-fuelled tandem skydive in Rockingham!
Boardwalks in Shoalwater, Australia.
Penguin Island nature trails

How to Get to Penguin Island

Visitors are allowed on Penguin Island from 15th September to early June, unless the island is closed due to bad weather. If you want to make your own way there, you’ll need to catch the Penguin Island ferry (a five-minute journey) from Rockingham Wild Encounters at 153 Arcadia Dr, Shoalwater WA 6169. There’s a free car park onsite.

If you’re arriving by public transport, take the train to Rockingham Station and catch the 551, 552 or 553 bus from stands 9 or 10 to Penguin and Watts Rd. Plan your journey using the Transperth transport planner.

Wharf at Penguin Island, WA.
Woman on the boardwalk to the Penguin Island ferry, Western Australia.
Heading back to the mainland on the Penguin Island ferry

Penguin Island Beaches

If you’re looking for some beach time without the crowds, you’ve come to the right place. Take a rest from your explorations by laying your towel down on whichever deserted patch of sand takes your fancy.

Nice beach in Shoalwater, Western Australia.
Seagulls on Penguin Island near Perth.
A beach wouldn’t be a beach without a seagull or 500!

Penguin Island Wildlife

Penguin Island is home to a colony of 1,200 little penguins, the largest population in Western Australia!

Since the penguins are usually out at sea hunting for a nice bit of dinner during daylight hours, it’s unlikely you’ll spot them in the wild unless you have a good look underneath the boardwalks and at the back of the limestone caves.

To guarantee a penguin sighting, it’s best to attend the organised penguin feeding sessions at the Discovery Centre. The island and its surrounding crystal-clear water are also home to a whole host of other beautiful seabirds, as well as dolphins and sea lions. And just to warn you, there are a lot of seagulls. And I mean a lot!

Black and white sea bird, Western Australia.
Crested terns on Penguin Island, Rockingham.
Crested Terns just chillin’ by the sea

Shoalwater’s Rugged Beauty

There’s more to Penguin Island than beautiful beaches and wildlife: you’ll come across plenty of sea caves, craggy coves, rocky headlands and viewpoints on your adventure.

Craggy rocks in Western Australia.
Looking at the beach from a cave on Penguin Island, WA.
Green grass and ocean in Shoalwater.

Once you’re back on the mainland, enjoy a coffee or meal at Pengo’s Café or a picnic by the children’s playground!

To read about where we camped that night on my Perth to Adelaide road trip, check out my post on Yalgorup National Park! For another top day trip from Perth, I can highly recommend stunning Rottnest Island!

Enjoy a relaxed day trip from Perth at beautiful Penguin Island in Western Australia. Walk the nature trails, see little penguins, swim with dolphins, go on a wildlife cruise, kayak, snorkel and more.
Lisa Bull
Written by Lisa Bull

Lisa Bull, founder of Dreaming of Down Under, has been living in Australia as a British expat since 2015. After travelling to every state and territory in Australia and living in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney, Lisa knows from first-hand experience the best destinations to visit in Australia and the best budget travel tips. Her guides on this blog have been read by over 700k readers and helped thousands of people achieve their dream of living in or travelling Australia.