The Penguins of Penguin Island, Rockingham
Living in Western Australia I would never have expected to see penguins or sea lions. Now I love a good nature documentary and always associated penguins with freezing cold artic temperatures at the North Pole in little igloos. I was however very wrong or maybe I was just being naïve! But on one sunny day during a random expedition down to Rockingham we discovered Shoalwater Marine Park and its Penguins!
Penguin Island is located 45 minutes South of Perth City and a 5 minute ferry ride away from the shore. This small little area is jam packed with a variety of activities that are hosted by Rockingham Wild Encounters. From swimming with wild dolphins, kite boarding, stand up paddle boarding, the sea lions and let’s not forget one of the main reasons we are there……..too see the Penguins. It may be a small island but it plays host to one of Western Australia’s Top Nature Trails. Along your short trek you will be able to climb to the highest point on the island and get one seriously epic 360 view of the ocean and Shoalwater Marine Park.
Word of advice…..do not try and scare the seagulls….they will not be happy! Believe me.
Penguin Feeding at the Discovery Center
If I could have taken one home I would have built him the coolest little place to live with slides and waterfalls in. These little ladies and fellas were the cutest little buggers I’ve seen! The Discovery Center is home to the smallest penguins in the world, the Eudyptula Minor or more commonly known as the Little Blue Penguins. These adorable little penguins can grow to an estimated 33-43cm in height and look like mini torpedoes.
Now at this point of the afternoon I was fully expecting to be able to stick my handles in buckets full of fish and feed the penguins. Unfortunately my expectations were quickly shot down, which is understandable. You do however get to observe one of the trained professionals at the Discovery Center do this. Believe me when I say that I tried and tried to persuade them to let me try! I even asked “What if I was a National Geographic Photographer?” and that question got shot down just as quickly as my initial expectations. However it was an absolute pleasure to watch them being fed and swimming around the pool they had. The lady in charge introduced each of the penguins and during the talk you began to see their own personalities shining through.
One funny fact she told us was that there were 2 males penguins who had found partnership with each other for the last 8+ years and had even managed to raise an egg together after one of the more traditional penguin couples decided they did not want their egg. Truly remarkable!
The Sea Lion Tour
For an extra $10 person you get to go on a 45 minute cruise to Sea Lion Island where you will see the mighty Australian Sea Lion. They can grow to around 2-2.5m in height and weigh up to an astonishing 300kg! During your tour you will also see some of the largest pelicans in the world with a wingspan of up to 2.6m. If you are as lucky as we were then you will get to see the Sea Lions playing in the water with each other and the Pelicans speed dating as the males attempt to court the females. A great experience not to be missed.
The staff members that took us on our tour were absolutely top notch. They were passionate about what they were doing and the Captain always made sure that the boat we were on would be facing the best vantage point to see the wild animals.
Getting to Penguin Island
If you are travelling down from Perth City then jump on the Mandurah Line and hop off at Rockingham Station. There you will need catch the 551 bus to penguin drive and then walk about 150 meters to Pengo’s Café, where if you are lucky you may see a Harley Davidson Crew on a pit-stop for fish and chips and coffee! Just next to Pengo’s is Rockingham Wild Encounters where you can book your tour and ferry ride across to the island.
We were not too lucky with the weather and tide but an alternative, and slightly more dangerous way too arrive at the island, is to walk to across the penguin island sandbar that goes directly from the shore to the island. I was also told by a local that you are able to paddle board over there which would have been an experience in itself! If you are going to walk it then just remember to do it during low tide and just generally stay safe.
This will be the first thing you see before even entering into Rockingham Wild Encounters next door. Unless you have brought a picnic with you this will be the only location as to where you can grab a bite to eat and stock up one some snacks. As it is the only food place the prices are slightly inflated, however the food that I saw delivered to the nearby tables did look pretty decent. My advice is to bring a small picnic and sit on the picnic tables near the discovery center and enjoy the view.
The tickets will be bought at Rockingham Wild Encounters which is located right next to Pengo’s Café. You can get the ferry over for $16 per adult or $25 if you want to view the penguin feeding. We wanted to do the 45 minute Sea Lion cruise as well which was for $39 was worth every penny. If you are looking to push the boat out a little bit further then you can jump on the 90 minute Adventure Cruise for $60. This option will allow you to see dolphins, sea lions, plenty of birds and of course the penguins. All of the options in my opinion are great value for money and offer a memorable experience.
So that’s a wrap folks! A great day out filled with a variety of cool little experiences along the way. I’d be interested in what you thought of the island and how you got over there? Did you brave the penguin island sandbar or, like us, jump on the ferry and float over?!