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Penguin Island and The Pond, Rockingham, Perth, Australia

27th of October 2014

A boat trip on a windy Monday to explore Penguin Island. Or should that be called Crazy Amount of Squawking Seagulls with Bird Droppings Everywhere Island.

  • Location: Rockingham, Perth, Australia
  • Start or End: Best starting position is probably at the bus stop near the Safety Bay Post Office (terminus for three separate bus services from Rockingham Train Station).
  • Length: 5.8km (3.6mi)
  • Grade: Medium. Flat apart from some sections on Penguin Island. Many beach walks.

A long weekend! Not an official state sanctioned one and not even an enjoyable one really. I have urgent business to attend to which can only be performed on a weekday. So bye-bye one day of hard earned annual leave. Fortunately, I finish the necessary business much earlier than expected. Is a walk on the cards? Definitely. No use wasting annual leave by sitting at home watching daytime TV.

But where? It's already 1pm so I don't want to travel too far. Also, due to my limited time in the Rockingham area (I'm moving closer to Perth city next year) I really should try something around my present home. I have been meaning to explore Penguin Island, which is part of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park and close to my home, but I have always put it off as it's a tourist attraction and full of people on the weekends. I have experienced Penguin Island's popularity on a previous visit with my mother when she came to visit me. Because we visited over the Easter school holidays the place was absolutely packed and as I don't like crowds it was not the most enjoyable. But today is Monday so visitor numbers should be down I expect.

After quickly packing my bag with the essentials (food, water, camera, spare camera battery and sunscreen) I am out the door and walking towards Mersey Point, which is located at the south-western tip of Shoalwater. Mersey Point is the home of the ticket office and the jetty for the Penguin Island ferry. If the tide is right you can walk along the sandbar which connects Mersey Point to Penguin Island, but you do this at your own peril. In the past people have tried this treacherous sandbar walk, the tide has risen and they have drowned. Plenty of people do it, but you definitely want to know what you are doing and also be a good swimmer. I'll just pay the money for the boat ride, seems much more logical.

As I approach the shoreline of Shoalwater the windbreak produced by the seaside mansions and the suburban houses dissipates and I am greeted with a decent gust. Should I go offshore when it is so windy? I continue walking to Mersey Point with the occasional "Stuff it, it's too windy, I'm going home" and the associated half turn around. However, I held my determination to reach Mersey Point and only lost my hat once to the hand of the wind blowing across the Shoalwater coastline.

There is no line at the ticket office. This is a good sign. Hopefully I get my own private cruise across Shoalwater Bay and Penguin Island is deserted. After handing over my $15 for an all-day ticket I am told that the next boat will arrive in 20 minutes. With 20 minutes to burn I test out my camera on a couple of kiteboarders taking advantage of the gusty winds.

Soon enough the boat to Penguin Island arrives. And on time too.

My initial prediction of a private cruise to Penguin Island was definitely wrong. Even though it is a windy Monday the boat ended up being rather full. I didn't realise Penguin Island was so popular even on the weekdays. I did get a seat, but you don't really need one as the boat ride is only a few minutes in length.

As soon as step off the boat one thing becomes obvious ... seagulls ... heaps and heaps of nesting seagulls.

There are seagulls everywhere: some sitting on their nests squawking as I pass; babies (and ugly ones at that) left at home unattended; seagulls flying in the air; and more than the occasional dead seagull. This island shouldn't be called "Penguin Island" it should be called "Crazy Amount of Squawking Seagulls with Bird Droppings Everywhere Island". On the plus side, there aren't too many people around.

I start my Penguin Island adventure on the path which leads from the Penguin Island Jetty, past the Discovery Centre and towards the north of the island. The path is well serviced and raised above the dunes to protect the ecosystem and at the same time allow access to the nesting birds (which I don't think the seagulls like that much). The boardwalk also delivers brilliant views. Here are just a few examples (notice the amount of bird droppings on the railings).

The northern lookout is also a good spot to see nesting Terns.

The boardwalk terminates at the beach on the western coast of Penguin Island. Time to go off road and walk south along the beach to the next boardwalk. One of the most striking features of western beach has to be the weathered limestone cliffs (the wind is also striking my hat off).

The white sands of the beach end halfway down the island and rocky formations dominate.

Appropriately another boardwalk takes you from the beach and back into the dunes. And guess what? There are more seagull nests! And some angry seagulls at that.

The highest lookout on Penguin Island can be accessed from this southern most boardwalk.

Unfortunately for me someone is keeping the lookout all to themselves.

Selfish bloody Pelicans are hogging the prime position! Do the birds think they own the place or something? Anyway, missing out on the lookout is a little disappointing but perfectly understandable. I really wouldn't want a run in with an angry Pelican.

The southern boardwalk ends at a small cove near the Discovery Centre and the Penguin Island Jetty. So another beach walk it is. The south-east beach is less rocky and protected from the wind compared to the western side, but there is much more seaweed.

Seagulls, pelicans and terns. But where are the penguins? This is Penguin Island after all. Despite the name, it is actually difficult to spot one of the 1000 or so Little Penguins (called "Little" as they are the smallest species of penguin) which call Penguin Island home. The Little Penguins generally only come to the island at night after a long day of feeding in the waters of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park. When the Little Penguins do nest on the island during winter the island is closed for their protection. So don't expect to see wild Penguins on a trip to Penguin Island. You can see captive Little Penguins, which have been saved and rehabilitated, at the Discovery Centre though. However, you need to pay an additional $8 on the ferry ticket price and the feeding demonstrations occur only three times a day. I didn't time my visit right, I am cheap and I saw the show with my mum on a previous visit, so no Little Penguins for me today. The show is worth the extra $8 if you are ever over this way though.

I have completed a loop of Penguin Island and I think it is time to make my way back to the mainland. You could complete the Penguin Island Loop in easy 30 minutes, but I suggest taking your time and enjoying the scenery. I spent about an hour and a half looking around. Well worth the $15 to get here. Bye-bye Penguin Island and your flocks of squawking seagulls.

So what now? The day is still young but unfortunately it is still very windy. Those kiteboarders I saw before at Mersey Point have given me an idea. Think I might go visit The Pond around the corner at Safety Bay. On a windy day like today there are sure to be plenty of kiteboarders and windsurfers out. A mass of towering kites in the sky can be a real spectacle.

Walking east along Arcadia Drive I divert from the main path at the carpark and walk along the beach towards the sandbar that forms The Pond. It is definitely windy now. So windy that I need to ditch the hat as it keeps blowing off and rolling away from me at a rate of knots.

There are a few kiteboarders utilising the wind on the Warnbro Sound side of the sandbar, but many more within The Pond. I'm no water sports guru but I think The Pond is more popular as the waters are protected from the sandbar and the water is much shallower. There are plenty of people out today. Good to see someone is enjoying all this wind. It is amazing how high these guys get when they perform jumps. I'm surprised they don't just blow away.

What a great way to finish a walk. Sure it is windy but what a beautiful place. I sure will miss scenes like this when I leave for the big city. But on the plus side there will be new walking adventures in store. There are even more new walking adventures on the way .. Hong Kong here I come! Stay tuned.

Gallery

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