Of all the great things I love about my home town of Perth, Australia, one of my favourite things of all is the beautiful paradise islands out to sea from the city – and the reefs and rocks that are so fantastic for diving and snorkeling.
Perth Islands – the Ultimate Escape from the City
Perth’s islands are all close to the hustle and bustle of the city and within easy day tripping distance by boat. But once you are there at one of these islands, snorkeling, swimming, fishing and relaxing on the beautiful beaches, you feel a whole world away from fast-paced city life.
Get Up Close to Native Australian Wildlife – Both Marine and Terrestrial!
One thing that makes islands off Perth worth visiting for travellers is that they are the best places in and around Perth to get right up close to some of the native Australian wildlife in its natural habitat – both on the islands themselves, and in the ocean surrounding the islands.
Here’s a list of just some of the creatures you can expect to see:
- Australian sea lions
- New Zealand fur seals
- A variety of different fish species (including tropical species at Rottnest Island that you don’t see at Perth’s beaches)
- Rottnest Island quokka
Four Different Perth Island Getaways
- Rottnest Island – visit on a day trip or stay overnight. Several ferry services a day.
- Penguin Island (and Seal Island next door) – visit on a day trip or as part of a kayaking or wild life tour. Very easy to get to with ferry services throughout the day.
- Carnac Island – hard to get to without your own boat, but some wild life tours visit Carnac Island.
- Garden Island – accessible only by private boat
Perth Islands Guide
1. Rottnest IslandBeautiful Rottnest, a beloved holiday spot for generations of Perth locals and the ultimate getaway from Perth, is a marine paradise of sandy sheltered coves and long beaches, crystal clear lagoons and fresh salty sea air.
Rottnest Island has Perth’s best surfing, the best shore-based snorkelling and dive sites and fantastic fishing.
It also has Perth’s most beautiful beaches and idyllic places to swim and relax by the sea. The entire island is a nature reserve, and wildlife thrives and prospers both on land and underwater.
Rottnest has no cars, so everyone gets around on bikes instead. This creates a unique relaxed holiday community where there is no traffic noise, kids are free to roam and play wherever they want and everyone gets plenty of exercise every day.
You can visit Rottnest just for the day, or stay overnight for up to one week. Accommodation on the island ranges from a campground and youth hostel, to cabins, cottages and a lodge. You can also stay overnight on your boat, anchored or moored in one of the bays around the island.
2. Penguin Island (and Seal Island)
Penguin Island is less than 1km off the coast at Safety Bay, a coastal suburb (formerly a separate town) south of Fremantle and Rockingham and about 45 minutes drive from Perth’s CBD.
The island is a nature reserve important for several bird species, in particular the Fairy Penguins for which the island is named. It’s also frequently visited by an Australian sea lion or two, though most of the sea lions live on neighbouring Seal Island.
Penguin Island is very small, only 12.5ha. You can easily explore the whole island on one daytrip. It’s surrounded by beautiful beaches – some calm and peaceful, others wavy, interesting limestone caves and rock formations, reefy areas that are good for snorkelling and a surf break that can be pretty decent in the right swell and weather conditions.
A boardwalk circles and criss-crosses Penguin island, and visitors are expected to stick to it. This helps to protect the fragile ecosystem, but makes the island feel a bit controlled and touristy at times.
Other options are the kayaking and boat tours that visit Penguin Island, or both Penguin and Seal Islands.
Seal Island Shoalwater Islands Marine Park
Penguin Island is part of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, which you can explore by boat or kayak if you have one. The marine park protects an area of limestone reef, rocks and island rich in marine life.
Access to Seal Island – which you can see just across the way from Penguin Island – is even more strictly controlled than Penguin Island. There is no ferry service to Seal Island but you can visit it on kayaking and wild life tours.
3. Carnac Island
Back when I used to have a boat one of my favourite things to do on a sunny Perth weekend was to head over to Carnac Island for the day. It is quite possibly the most beautiful, relaxing and unspoilt place in the whole of Perth.
Tiny Carnac Island is a true summer paradise. You can only visit it with your own boat or as part of a wildlife tour that leaves from Fremantle. This makes it all the more special because more often than not, you’ll have the whole island to yourself.
There is a beautiful spacious beach along the east side of the island with calm, clear water, which is the best place to anchor the boat and base yourself for the day. The best thing of all about this beach is that it’s home to a colony of Australian Sea Lions.
The rest of the island is rocky and reefy with some good snorkelling and fishing. The interior of the island is overrun by tiger snakes and many people avoid walking across the island for this reason – instead choosing to drive their boat around to the reefs on the other side.
4. Garden Island
Garden Island has some incredibly beautiful beaches – most of which are visited by very few people – and the snorkelling and fishing are excellent. It is long and thin, running roughly parallel to the coast of Cockburn Sound.
Access to much of Garden Island is restricted because the navy is based there. A causeway links the island to the mainland, but unless you’re with the navy, you need a boat to visit. The naval base takes up most of the south and eastern part of the island, so you can only moore in the northern and western bays.
These bays are beautiful and feel remote and peaceful.
Want to Explore the Islands off Perth?
The easy to get to ones:
Rottnest and Penguin Islands are both easy to get to, with ferry services running several times throughout the day.
Rottnest is the largest of Perth’s islands and the furthest off shore. It is also the only one with accommodation and shops built on the island, and is an all time favourite destination for family holidays.
Tiny Penguin Island, on the other hand, is a wildlife sanctuary that you can only visit as a day trip.
A bit more off the beaten track:
Garden and Carnac Islands are more of an adventure to get to. These two islands are only really accessible if you have your own boat – Garden Island because much of the island is taken up by a naval base, and Carnac Island because it is tiny and has no jetties, buildings or any development whatsoever.
Last Updated: 1st December, 2014.
First posted on 6th January, 2014 by Bonny.
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