Penguin Island


GPS 32 18 S 115 41 E




Toilets available Tables and / or seats and / or shelters provided Pets prohibited Swimming allowed Fishing allowed (some sites may require a freshwater license.) Sight seeing area Walk trails Phone access nearby Ranger or caretaker on site or visits Unpowered water craft allowed




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This is one of the many small islands located just off the coast near Rockingham. It is a popular day trip with ferries running on the hour from 9am to 3pm.

The island is 12.5 ha in area and is just 600 metres off the mainland coast. There are reports that fig trees were planted on the island as early as 1901 but the first recorded resident was a Canadian named Seaforth McKenzie. He camped on Penguin and Garden Island from 1914 and settled permanently on Penguin Island in 1917.

McKenzie enlarged some of the caves on the island and brought visitors over from the mainland. In 1918 the island was declared a 'reserve for game' and McKenzie was granted an annual lease. This remained in place until 1935 when the island's administration was taken over by an appointed board.

During the Second World War a searchlight was placed on the island and after the end of hostilities the Rockingham Road Board took over administration. In 1949 the State Gardens Board took control and during the 1950s part of the island was again leased and some holiday huts were erected.

In 1957 administration fell to the National Parks Board and in 1966 the island was gazetted as an 'A class reserve'.

The leased part of the island passed through several hands and quite a lot of development was undertaken including bringing piped water and a phone line from the mainland. In 1987 CALM / DPaW took over the island and work was started to remove the old shacks and re-establish vegetation that had become degraded. In 1991 new toilets and a board walk were constructed and in 1993 the picnic area was expanded and a retaining wall built.

Finally in 1995 the island discovery centre was constructed.


Little Penguins

Little Penguin


Through all these changes Australia's largest colony of Little Penguins has existed on the island.

The Little Penguins are usually hidden away under rock ledges or in burrows but the discovery centre on the island allows visitors to get up close to these normally shy creatures.

The penguins are also called fairy or blue penguins locally. The penguins on this island have been given the highest conservation status of any of the 256 major colonies around Australia.

As the name may suggest, litte penguins are the smallest of all penguin species and grow to just 33cm tall. They are the only penguins to breed in Australia and always wait until dark before returning to land.

In the wild, little penguins usually only live for about 6 to 7 years but in captivity they have been known to live as long as 20 years.

The penguins are sexually mature at two years of age and share the process of raising chicks. The chicks leave the nest at just 8 weeks and spend about a year away from the island before returning. At the time of writing it is unsure where they go during the time away.

70% of chicks do not make it through their first year but the adults can raise two clutches (2 eggs at a time) during the year so their breeding rate manages to keep pace with any losses.

When hunting locally the birds can dive up to 20 metres and usually spend 20-30 seconds under water before surfacing again. In other areas with deeper water, they are known to dive up to 70 metres.

When catching food they can dive 150 times in an hour and this accounts for their scientific name Eudyptula which is Latin for 'good little diver'. Their diet usually consists of small fish such as pilcahrds, whitebait, garfish, sprats and anchovies.

The biggest threat to the survival of litte penguins is human beings. From declines in fish stocks to fishing nets, discarded fishing lines and strikes by boats, we account for a large percentage of peguin fatalities.

From December to January the penguins moult and cannot enter the water to feed until they grow new plumage.

A sand bar connects the island to the mainland and many people wade across. This is not advised as several people have been swept away by strong tides.




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