Things to do · Destinations
June 18, 2019 Words: Earl Marcel

You Need to Know About Phillip Island Penguins

If you thought these amazing creatures only live in cold places, read on.

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On Victoria, Australia’s Phillip Island, you can observe an estimated 32,000 breeding pairs of little blue penguins in their natural habitat - doing their penguin thing. At the world-famous Penguin Parade on Phillip Island, which has been open to visitors since 1920, you’ll get to watch as this amazing community waddles back up onto Summerland beach around sunset after a strenuous 60-odd-mile hunting expedition. Phillip Island Wildlife Park is the only place in the world where you can see penguins in their natural setting at a commercial venue. It’s an experience you won’t forget.

Where Is Phillip Island Park?

Phillip Island Wildlife Park is located on the northern end of Phillip Island in Victoria, Australia, about a 90-minute drive from Melbourne. The island, only about 16 miles long and 5.6 miles wide, is a craggy paradise filled with wildlife, spectacular clifftop views and sparkling white beaches. It’s comprised of about 60 percent farmland, plus a smattering of quiet seaside towns and fishing hamlets. If you get a chance to leave the park, taste the local wine at Purple Hen Winery, or grab a post-penguin bite at the Cheeky Goose Cafe in Cowes.

Why Phillip Island Penguins are Special

Little penguins, the species on Phillip Island, are the smallest species of penguins in the world, measuring in at a strapping 13 inches tall. They’re also the only penguins in the world with blue and white feathers, which is why they’re sometimes called little blue penguins. And yeah, they’re ridiculously adorable. They live on the coastlines of New Zealand and Australia, where they’re sometimes referred to as “fairy penguins” (their Maori name is kororā); the Phillip Island colony is the largest in Victoria. Little penguins spend most of their day foraging at sea, hunting small fish and crustaceans, and they return to their colonies at dusk, where they hole up in burrows before departing again at sunrise.

Life is strenuous for the little penguins, who spend 80 percent of their lives at sea and are threatened by the usual suspects—marine pollution, climate change, oil spills, and other human impacts. The park’s dedication to conservation and research makes it all the more worth your time and support—it’s a not-for-profit organization, so your visit directly contributes to its work studying and protecting the local wildlife and ecosystem.

What Makes Phillip Island Park so Special?

Bird-watching, seal-watching, penguin-watching, whale watching—you name it, this is a nature lover’s dream. In addition to Summerland Beach, where the Penguin Parade takes place, the park includes the Koala Conservation Centre, where you can observe koalas in their natural habitat, and the visitor center, where you can learn about the penguins and the park’s conservation efforts. At the western end of the island, the Nobbies Centre offers a fascinating multimedia Antarctic Journey and clifftop boardwalks with spectacular views of the Nobbies rock formations. You’ll also catch a glimpse of Seal Rocks, host to Australia’s largest colony of fur seals.

There’s more! The park also includes the golden beach of Cape Woolamai, a popular surfing spot; world-famous wetlands with birdwatching galore (climb the Conservation Hill Observation Tower for the best views); and Churchill Island, a tiny island off the coast of Phillip Island that allows visitors to participate in traditional farming activities like sheep shearing and cow milking. But the Penguin Parade is really what tourists from around the world congregate to see.

How to Take a Phillip Island Tour

Seabourn offers a Penguin Parade tour where you can disembark at Summerland Beach for a tour of the visitor center and the Antarctic Journey before heading over at sunset to watch the parade. If you choose to strike out on your own, tickets—we recommend buying in advance. For an additional cost, you can gain an eye-level view of the penguins at the park’s underground viewing facility. Guided tours are also offered by the park, where a guided ranger tours you through the penguin colony. Whatever your plans are, be sure to wear layered warm clothes, and remember that photography is not allowed during the parade. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the penguins.

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