Back in the Jurassic, in the time when the dinosaurs of Gondwana roamed along the Western Australian shores, the foundation was laid down on the floor of the ocean for the subterranean caves that dive deep into the limestone beds found around Perth. This in part is the Swan Plain Karst, a broad shore of Limestone that has been carved and fashioned by the subterranean rivers that flow beneath our feet, and in land movement over the ages.
Around Rottingham, just south of Perth, this ridge reaches out into the Atlantic. The tip of this karst is that which makes up Rottnest Island. The ridge runs both north and south of Perth, to well below Mandura where it rejoins the mainland having made up the protected Islands of Shoalwater Bay. These islands are Garden Island where our national reserve Naval force is stationed, Penguin Island, and a few other islands where the limestone peeps out above the waters of the Atlantic. Mostly now they are a haven for wildlife and very much protected.
One of the only islands open to the public, on this limestone karst ridge aside from Rottnest, is Penguin Island and it is controlled by National Parks and Wildlife, protecting the fragile populations of the little penguin. Getting out to visit Penguin Island is an easy affair… you take the ferry from Rockingham and it is well worth the $16 return (tiered prices avail). Some have ventured out attempting to wade the sand bar as they did in colonial days, that joins the mainland to the island in the low tide, and some have died. Take my advice and take the ferry.
Penguin Island is a wonderful picnic spot, a place where you can visit the delightful Fairy Penguin, in the most northern colony in Australia, also known and the Little Penguin… they are the smallest of the penguins. There are no shops on the island, so it is necessary to take with you any drinks or food you might like to enjoy. There is a single public bubbler in the picnic area, and a great Discovery Centre on the island where you can watch the Littlest Penguins being tended and fed with feedings twice daily.
They are engaging little blighters, each with individual characters. The penguins of the Discovery Centre, unable to be returned to the wild for various reasons. They not only entertain but they help nurture and raise chicks from eggs and abandoned bub’s. It was entertaining to discover that there are two boy penguins in the captive colony in what is a natural bromance, who do a remarkable job of nesting abandoned eggs and rearing chicks. Sedge and Nemo have a great little bromance going on and their first chick, Pocket, holds the record for the most ‘stuffed’ chick ever raised in captivity… definitely something of Gods design.
You can also take a discovery cruise to Seal Island nearby where the rare Australian Lion Seals rest along the beach with the many birds who nest nearby. Osprey prey from the skies and breed on a nearby crag, as well other nesting shore birds and the unmissable pelicans. It is a delightful day, one full of history and discovery and being within reach of Perth, Penguin Island is a great place to plan a picnic and cruise the boardwalks along the island.
It is a great excursion and one I strongly recommend it you have the opportunity to explore around Perth.