WHAT IT IS:
Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, located south of Perth, is a collection of islands and natural attractions just off the coast of Rockingham. Rich in wildlife, fishing opportunities, and ideal for watersports, it makes a perfect weekend day-trip.
HOW IT’S DONE:
- Rockingham is just 48 kilometers south of Perth, Western Australia. While it is easy to get there and back and enjoy the sights in one day, accommodation is available for those traveling from further afield.
- Boaters can launch small vessels from multiple beaches and a ramp off of Arcadia Drive.
- For the boat-less wanting to explore further than just the shores, a ferry commutes visitors from the mainland at Mersey Point, off Arcadia Drive, to Penguin Island. Rockingham Wild Encounters will get you up close to sea lions and habituated dolphins. Penguin and Seal Island Cruises offers glass bottomed boat excursions.
- It is possible to walk (at low tide) or swim to the island, however this is not encouraged due to strong currents, heavy marine traffic, and the potential for shark encounters.
- Fishing is popular in the area, however you will need a recreational fishing permit, available at the address below:
- Pengo’s Café at Mersey Point offers beachside meals and refreshments
16,200-acres make up this spectacular Western Australian marine park.
Penguin Island may just be the main attraction. It sits just 700 meters off the Rockingham shore and is home to a large host of marine avifauna, not least of all, a colony of Little Penguins, the smallest species of penguin and the only species that breeds on mainland Australia. While nearly impossible to see in the wild, there is a small family that are living the high-life at the Penguin Island Discovery Centre; in exchange for tolerating multiple daily visits from nosey humans, they receive regular feedings, nesting boxes, and a pretty sweet swimming pool. The residents are mostly rehabilitated, injured, or orphaned individuals. You can get to know them (for a small fee) at one of the daily penguin encounter talks at the Centre. You can read more about the island, including ferry and talk times, here: http://www.penguinisland.com.au/visitor-information.html#.VQvgXUunpCA
Though the namesake of the island might be the most popular attraction, it is also home to more than 30 avian species. It is an important nesting site for several and you stand a good chance of seeing adorable hatchlings or mating dances, depending on the time of year.
Seal Island, as the name implies, is home to some charismatic pinnipeds . Australian sea lions are a rare species, but, as you can see from the film, they aren’t so rare here. You can get up close… but be sure you let them approach you, and not the other way around.
Opportunities for watersports abound. Whether your passion is kayaking, sailing, jetskiing, SCUBA diving, free diving, or body boarding, you’ll find a place to do it in Shoalwater. Divers can enjoy both underwater rock formations that teem with marine life or even explore the wreck, highlighted in the film. Kayakers are in a great position to encounter habituated dolphins or sea lions. And, while the waves aren’t exactly epic, novice body boarders often utilize the western beach at Penguin Island for the activity.