City Highlight: Kayaking to Penguin Island

Penguin Island.

Morgan Pettersson gets away from the suburban streets of Perth and kayaks her way to Penguin Island.

Set amongst some of the beautiful Western Australian coastline, Penguin Island and Seal Island offer an escape for those wanting to venture out and get an island feel close to home.

Both islands form part of the Shoalwater Marine Park located 50 kilometres south of Perth, and are home to diverse native wildlife such as dolphins, little penguins, sea lions and a variety of underwater wildlife.
Penguin Island is a tourist mecca, with people visiting to witness the small and unique little penguins who call this island home all year round. Next-door, Seal Island is only inhabited by the local sea lion colony and not accessible to humans.
Having only ever been to Penguin Island once, I jumped at the chance to kayak there with a friend.
From the shore the islands seemed quite far, and as a novice kayaker I was sceptical as to whether or not I would simply get too tired half way across to carry on paddling.
Surprisingly it only took half an hour to kayak, with the wind favourably blowing in our direction.
As we exited the deep blue water of the channel and floated into the turquoise waters of the bay, and I felt a sense of relief that everything had gone smoothly.
Suddenly my friend pointed to my right and exclaimed “what is that?!”. Oh great I thought, a shark.
Through a series of deductions we came to the conclusion that it was not a shark, a penguin, nor a stingray; it was in fact a young grey sea lion having a merry old time rolling about in the shallows. He kept rolling and playing in the water, completely oblivious to our presence, as we ran to take our kayaks ashore and follow him as he lazily drifted along the shore.
Suddenly he looked up, alarmed that we were there. It was almost as if we had caught a glimpse of embarrassment on his face, before he turned and swam off to continue his frolicking in private.
After securing our kayaks we sat down to lunch under a tree; facing the water and watching the sea lion float up and down the shore.
Excepting the adeptly named ‘Pelican Rock’, which is covered in Pelicans, the island is free for you to explore along a series of paths and look out points. On the opposite side of the island you can fish and swim or body board in the gentle waves.
The first inhabitant of the island in the 20th century was an eccentric New Zealand man named Seaforth Mckenzie. He attempted to turn the island’s waterfront caves into a hotel, and you can still see nails in the walls of the some of the caves.
Today the only inhabitants of the island are the wide variety of local wildlife and over one thousand little penguins.
Too soon it was time to kayak back to shore, and unfortunately our journey was not so peaceful on the way back. The wind had not yet changed direction, so we were kayaking into the wind.
It took almost an hour to kayak back to shore, and this time I struggled, as my arms became sore and heavy.
After coming back to shore and watching my friend capsize her canoe in the shallows, I sat and gazed at the island I had just come from.
Still so rugged and wild, with suburbia across the road spilling out onto the beach, sea lions ruling the waves, and little penguins hiding in the dunes, it really is a must see destination for anyone visiting Perth.
*This article was originally published on the Australian Traveller magazine website here*

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