Penguin Island (Western Australia)

Penguin Island is a 12.5 ha (31 acres) island off the coast near Perth, approximately 660 m (722 yd) from Shoalwater. It is home to a colony of approximately 250 little penguins, the largest population of the birds in Western Australia.

Penguin Island
Penguin Island ferry.jpg
Penguin Island and ferry
Penguin Island is an island near Shoalwater,[Western Australia
LocationIndian Ocean
Coordinates32°18′19″S 115°41′28″E / 32.30528°S 115.69111°E / -32.30528; 115.69111Coordinates: 32°18′19″S 115°41′28″E / 32.30528°S 115.69111°E / -32.30528; 115.69111

The waters surrounding the island make up the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park.


Regular ferries[1] carry tourists to and from the island and other marine-park sights, the journey taking 5 minutes from Mersey point. The island can also be reached by private boat, kayaking, swimming, or walking across a tidal sandbar, which is often exposed above sea level at low tide for a large portion of its 700 m (766 yd) length, however at high tide, most of the sandbar is under varying depths of water. The Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW) advises against the sandbar walk as weather conditions can change quickly, making the crossing dangerous, which has resulted in several drownings.[2][3][4]


There is a picnic area with seating and water taps, and waterless composting toilets on the island. There is also a cafe called Pengo's.[5]

Litter bins are not provided on the island and all visitors are required to take away their own rubbish. This is to remove potential food sources for destructive animals such as black rats, which have previously led to a reduction in the penguin population. In 2013 a successful baiting program was conducted to eliminate a rat population that had become established on the island.[6]

Natural featuresEdit

While the island's little penguins are the island's main attraction, many other nesting and roosting seabirds can be seen including a 500-strong colony of pelicans.

Penguin Island's varied geographical features include cliffs, small sea caves, headlands, beaches, coves, notches and natural bridges. There are also numerous wave-cut platforms.

Significant areas of Penguin Island include North Rock, Pelican Bluff, North Beach, McKenzies Well, South Beach, Abalone Point, and Surfers Beach.

There are numerous lookouts, boardwalks and walkways throughout most of the island. Some areas are fenced off to the public to protect wildlife and lessen dune erosion.

Penguin Island Board Walk and Walk TrailEdit

The Penguin Island Walk Trail is a 1.5 km trail that loops around the island. The walking trail starts at the Penguin Island Discovery Center and includes several lookout points from where some of the terrestrial and marine animals can be observed.[7]

Little penguin colonyEdit

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the penguins of Penguin Island were victims of dog attacks[8] and shooting by holiday-makers.[9][10] An informal assessment of the Penguin Island colony was made by Vincent Serventy in 1946. After several visits, he estimated the colony to number approximately 500 pairs.[11] In the 1940s concern was expressed for the viability of the penguin colony on Penguin Island, due to combined threats of human landing parties with guns and dogs, occasional fires, and an abundance of rabbits which were denuding the island of its former vegetation and accelerating its erosion. Rabbits were believed to have been introduced to the island in the 1920s, and numbered approximately four to five thousand in the late 1940s.[12] By 1950, it had become an illegal act to take a dog to Penguin Island.[8]

Penguins were present on Penguin Island in the 1890s,[13] 1900s,[14][10] 1910s and 1920s.[15][16][17] Australian sea lions were also known to haul out on the island around this time.[18][13]

In the 21st century, spotting wild little penguins at the island is unusual as for most of the year, daylight hours are spent at sea chasing fish,[19] and visitors are strictly prohibited from being on the island except during specified daylight hours from mid-September to early June.

The little penguin population which breeds on Penguin Island is genetically distinct and in decline. In 2007 there were between 1600 and 2000 little penguins on Penguin Island during breeding months. By 2011, the number had dropped to about 1000, and by 2022 to about 250.[20] Penguins have been observed taking longer foraging trips leading to chick malnutrition and starvation. Prey depletion and climate change are considered to be major pressures on the breeding population. A proposal to construct a marina at Point Peron is also considered a future threat.[21]

Little penguins also breed on nearby Garden Island, 6.5 km (4.0 mi) to the north. The two colonies are considered as a single meta-population. In 2007, the meta-population was estimated to include a total of 2369 individuals.[22]

Rescued penguinsEdit

A number of rescued penguins are kept in a dedicated enclosure for visitors to the island to observe. A small population of rescued penguins are kept in a dedicated enclosure on the island (known as the Discovery Centre) which was built by the Department of Environment and Conservation in 1987. As well as being a sanctuary to care for injured wild penguins, it is also the home of the 10 resident penguins that have been badly injured, orphaned as chicks or born in captivity, and it is unlikely that they would survive in the wild. It has been designed to reflect the penguins natural sandy, coastal scrub environment and includes a saltwater pond with viewing panels to watch the little penguins swim. Penguin feedings are held three times daily by a park ranger.

Image galleryEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "PENGUIN ISLAND FERRY". Penguin Island. Perth Wildlife Encounters. Archived from the original on 27 February 2021. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  2. ^ "Enjoy a boat trip to Penguin Island – stay off the sandbar - Parks and Wildlife Service". Department of Parks and Wildlife (Western Australia). Government of Western Australia. 21 December 2016. Archived from the original on 30 April 2020. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  3. ^ "Two drown as sandbar warning is ignored". The Australian. 29 December 2010. Archived from the original on 15 May 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2021.
  4. ^ "Fatal decision: Dads chose to walk deadly Penguin Island sandbar". Perth Now. 19 February 2013. Archived from the original on 24 March 2013. Retrieved 10 August 2021.
  5. ^ "Pengo's Cafe". Penguin Island. Perth Wildlife Encounters. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  6. ^ "Boater alert – new rubbish guidelines for Penguin Island - Parks and Wildlife Service". Parks and Wildlife Service. Government of Western Australia. 14 November 2013. Archived from the original on 12 April 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  7. ^ "Day trip to Penguin Island in Perth – West Australian Explorer". West Australian Explorer. Archived from the original on 29 September 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  8. ^ a b Serventy, Vincent (14 December 1950). "Fairies of the islands". Western Mail. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  9. ^ Green, Wallace (21 February 1918). "Destruction of penguins". The West Australian. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  10. ^ a b "PORT POINTS". Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954). 19 April 1903. p. 2. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  11. ^ Serventy, Vincent (31 January 1946). "Haunt of Fairy Penguin". Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  12. ^ "Penguins Of Penguin Island". South Western Advertiser. 5 March 1948. p. 5. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  13. ^ a b "CHAPTER XIII.—(Continued)". Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 - 1901). 18 November 1898. p. 6. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  14. ^ "Record: Ornithology:O.25404 | Occurrence record | Atlas of Living Australia". Atlas of Living Australia. Australian Museum. 12 November 1905. Archived from the original on 11 August 2021. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  15. ^ "PENGUIN ISLAND". Western Mail. 23 October 1924. p. 29. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  16. ^ "PENGUIN ISLAND A Visitor's Comments". Sunday Times. 7 March 1926. pp. 12 S. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  17. ^ "DESTRUCTION OF PENGUINS. To the Editor". The West Australian. 7 March 1918. p. 6. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  18. ^ "Seal caught on Penguin Island". Western Mail. 11 May 1917. p. 28. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  19. ^ "Visitor info — Penguin Island: Where are all the wild penguins?!". Penguin Island. Perth Wildlife Encounters. Archived from the original on 11 March 2021. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  20. ^ Guardian Australia. The Guardian Retrieved 13 January 2022. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ Claire, Moodie (14 September 2014). "Saving the Penguins". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 1 October 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  22. ^ Cannell, Belinda (5 March 2012). "Grim reaper cuts swathes through the Little Penguins of Perth". The Conversation. Archived from the original on 22 August 2013. Retrieved 10 November 2014.

Further readingEdit

  • Crane, Kevin, Carolyn Thomson and Peter Dans. Discovering Penguin Island and the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park. Como, W.A. Dept. of Conservation and Land Management, 1995. ISBN 0-7309-6971-1

External linksEdit