Penguin Island is home to a wonderful array of wildlife living amongst breathtaking marine and coastal scenery. Western Australia's largest colony of little penguins live on the 12.5 hectare island which is less than 700 metres off-shore from Rockingham. It is also home to many seabirds, some seldom seen on the mainland, and 16 species use the island for courtship, nesting, feeding and roosting. Sea lions and bottlenose dolphins enjoy the surrounding waters which form the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park.
Little penguins breed in hollows under dense vegetation and in limestone caves. The island is one of the few breeding colonies along the coastline for the Australian pelican. Both birds build nests after rain, using sticks, grass, leaves, feathers and pebbles. As pelicans are extremely sensitive to disturbance, visitors are encouraged to stay on the boardwalks and trails.
The island has an interesting history an eccentric Canadian named Seaforth McKenzie lived there from 1914 until 1926, and he is responsible for hollowing out several of the island's caves. Some were furnished and given names such as The Palace and The Library. He loved having visitors and was crowned King of the Island at a special ceremony.
Capricorn Kayak Tours is owned by Hal Paine and Wendy Binks and operated with strong environmental ethics. Before heading off to explore the cove, reefs and beaches there is an introduction to the basics of kayaking. Then you're off to swim and snorkel amongst the beautifully diverse marine life.
Capricorn Kayak Tours' double sea kayaks are stable, comfortable, quiet and easy to paddle. No experience is needed and it is safe for non-swimmers to join in. Groups are small and fully guided.
At the Island Discovery Centre, visitors are able to see little penguins up close in an environment similar to their natural habitat. Those that live there have either been rejected by their mothers or nursed back to health after injury. Commentaries are at 10.30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm.
There are picnic areas with tables and toilets, lookouts, clean beaches and the beauty of the island itself. Access is limited to set walk trails and demarcated beaches only. Everything else is a bird sanctuary and access is strictly prohibited. Visitors should also be aware that limestone formations may be unstable due to weathering and wave action. Overhangs, caves, cliffs and weathered surfaces can collapse another good reason to stick to the walk trails and beaches.
Cavernous reefs provide excellent snorkelling and diving, and a variety of temperate and subtropical invertebrates, including sea stars, urchins and molluscs are sustained there.
The island is only open during the day. Ferry tours operate from Mersey Point from mid-September to early June and leave for Penguin Island on the hour throughout the day. You can take a cruise around the waters and islands of Shoalwater Bay, with an opportunity to view the sea lions lazing on Seal Island, and then stroll around Penguin Island.