Penguin Island Day Trips: feeding penguins, wild dolphins swims & glass-bottom boat tours

Last Updated: 28 Oct 2020
Charlotte Brasington

Within the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park lies the magnificent Penguin Island, home to an abundance of wildlife, crystal clear waters, pristine beaches and, most importantly, the world’s smallest penguins. It takes just 5 minutes to cross over to the island, with ferries departing every hour between 9am and 3pm from the Rockingham Wild Encounters centre. From swimming with dolphins, cruising around on a luxury boat, exploring nature trails and enjoying a picnic, there are myriad possibilities for a fun family day out on Penguin Island.

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The Dolphin, Penguin and Sea Lion Cruise is a popular attraction that disembarks from Penguin Island several times a day. Venturing out on a glass bottom boat, the captain will take you around the island for one hour to see the beautiful coastlines and to engage in wildlife spotting. Expect to see rare sea lions, wild dolphins and a range of stunning birds nestling on the islands. Look down through the glass bottom and witness seagrass meadows, limestone reefs and an abundance of marine life sweeping beneath your feet. You’ll also get the chance to see fossils from ancient tuart forests! Adult tickets are $65, which includes entry to the island and the Discovery centre where island rangers showcase penguin feedings three times per day.

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Instead of admiring the stunning waters and marine life from above the surface, why not see it from underwater and jump in? Penguin Island’s Swim with Wild Dolphins cruise offers a full day experience; for 3 - 6 hours you will cruise on a luxury custom-built boat with the opportunity to go for a dip with the friendly dolphins. With expert guides on board the vessel, even beginners will feel at ease. They start everyone off with introductory snorkelling lessons, and will swim in the water with you the whole time. Everything is provided including snorkelling equipment, wet suits, light lunch, refreshments and complimentary photos. It is an unforgettable experience to swim in close proximity to these enchanting sea creatures.

For those wanting to stay and explore the island by foot, the timber boardwalks and coastal lookouts have been voted as one of ‘WA’s Top Nature Trails’. You’ll spot plenty of seabirds nesting near the boardwalks, with September and October being the perfect time to see new-born chicks!

As you explore the rock pools on the west side of the island, look out for humpback whales, which can often be seen from September to December. You could even bring your scuba gear and go for a dive – there are great diving spots to be found around the island.

With various spots to set up a picnic across the Island, grab some freshly made rolls and salads at the Pengo’s Café in Rockingham and bring it over for a midday feast. If you’re bringing children, there are child-friendly shallow beaches near the front of the island and a table outside the Discovery Centre with a range of shells and bones to entertain the kids.

However you choose to spend your day, you simply cannot leave Penguin Island without visiting the penguins. The easiest way to see penguins is at the Discovery centre, as most wild penguins are sea hunting throughout the day. Open daily from 10am-3:30pm, penguin feeding times occur at 10:30am, 12:30pm and 2:30pm every day by the Parks & Wildlife Services Rangers.

If you are itching to see a wild penguin, the best time to spot them is at the end of the summer months during their moulting period where they stay onshore for 6-8 weeks while their new feathers grow. Once your day at Penguin Island is complete, it’s easy to book a return ferry, no prior booking is needed. They depart hourly from 10:10am to the last ferry at 4pm.

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