The Phillip Island Penguin Parade: A unique experience
One of the top things to do on Phillip Island is the Penguin Parade. You will watch penguins returning home after a hard day fishing. It’s not a show: it’s a natural event in the little penguin’s life that occurs every day after sunset. Here is our complete guide on what to know and expect from the Phillip Island Penguin Parade. A small island off the coast of Melbourne, home to rich wildlife habitats, including the Koala Conservation Centre and the second-largest Australian fur seals colony.
You can visit Phillip Island as a short day trip from Melbourne by car or bus. Alternatively, you can join a guided day tour from Melbourne.
When Does It Take Place?
The Penguin Parade takes place in the Phillip Island Nature Park, 140km southeast of Melbourne. The short drive by car takes about 2 hours from Melbourne. You can also do it on a guided day tour to Phillip Island.
The history of the Penguin Parade
For over 80 years, people have been going to Phillip Island to watch the Little Penguins crossing the beach at Summerland Beach. The earlier visitors came over using the ferry carrying blankets, picnic baskets, and torch lights to sit on the beach and view the penguins coming ashore on their way to their “homes”, the tiny burrows built on the dunes.
Later, in the 40’ when the bridge was opened, more and more visitors witnessed this natural daily event. In the 60’ there was the first building of viewing stands to protect the penguins and the burrows from damage, which have been renewed over the years to allow more protection of the penguin habitat.
The Penguin Parade In Details
The Penguin Parade on Phillip Island takes place every day for 365 days a year, just after sunset. Throughout the year, you will experience the unique animals of Australia on Phillip Island. It’s an hour’s drive from Melbourne, making it a great day trip.
I experienced the Penguin Parade and its gorgeous setting. After visiting the Penguin Visitor Centre. I walked along the boardwalk that took to the viewing platforms. Just before sunset, the sunlight reflection on the beach was magnificent. It was hard not to take pictures of the beautiful beach, as no photographs filming before, during or after the penguin parade of the little penguins and surroundings is allowed.
Tips for watching the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island
As this wildlife event is pretty busy and mostly sold out every day, I recommend you get organized; here below are my tips for making the most of the penguin parade.
- Go to the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre at least 1,5 hours ahead of the penguin parade’s scheduled time, usually around 6.30 pm. The visitor centre is fascinating. You need at least 30-45 minutes to go through the Penguin World, the display area and learn about Little Penguins’ life and what the Phillip Island Nature Park is doing to protect them.
- There are different types of penguin parade tickets, from the primary ticket entrance to educational eco-tours to the upgraded Penguin Plus Ticket that entitles you to access the up-close viewing stands, along with a complimentary drink and a small gift.
- Photographs and Filming of the Little Penguins are strictly prohibited, so be prepared for that. You will not be allowed to take any photos of the penguins. Once you leave the Visitor Centre and access the penguin habitat, along the boardwalks to the viewing platforms, the beach and the whole area, you will not be allowed to use your camera.
- Try to spot the little penguins in their natural habitat
If you want to take photos, visit the Nobbies Centre, located 3 km from the Penguin Parade. This excellent ecotourism attraction with large screens and displays allows the zooming in on the Australian Fur Seals and walk along the raised boardwalks that take to Point Grand and the Blowhole. These are great places for taking pictures of the little penguins if you can spot them and see much of the breeding ground covered with penguin burrows.
- Get to the viewing stands at least 30 minutes before the Penguin Parade starts. This is because the sooner you get there, the better seat you will get. Some seats might be reserved for VIPs, though, the first row at the bottom close to the sand path where a close-up viewing of the penguins is possible. Choosing a good seat will mean viewing the penguins coming out of the water and crossing the beach. Standing up is not allowed, too, so either you get a good seat. Otherwise, standing on the rear viewing platforms may be a better option. Using binoculars can also be an excellent help for viewing penguins from afar.
It is a fantastic experience to see these little creatures coming out of the water in large groups waddling around and loudly calling out to other penguins. You may be lucky, or you may not. So don’t go there with high expectations. Go there with no expectations at all to avoid disappointment.
The ranger told us we were lucky to witness about 800 hundred little penguins coming ashore that evening. Rangers start counting them as soon as they come out of the water to monitor them.
The number of penguins changes every day and depending on the season, and it can be thousands or just a few hundred. During the penguin parade, you also learn about the ‘ cycle life little penguins’ cycle life and have the chance to ask questions.
Here below some facts about these cute little penguins.
Curios facts about the little Phillip Island Penguins
- On Phillip Island, there is a little penguin colony of 30thousands inhabitants.
- Penguins start their day before sunrise to go fishing, and they might spend only one day and swim for 15-20km up to 100km when they are not breeding or moulting.
- They eat 240gr of fish daily to keep their weight, allowing them to swim long distances and dive deep to find fish.
- Some penguins can dive to 60 metres in depth.
- At night penguins return to Phillip Island’s waters in small groups, up to 100 penguins called rafts. The rafts break up in smaller groups just after sunset and come ashore, every night taking the same path to reach their burrows.
- On the walk home, you will often see them stopping and resting along the path, they do this to check out their feathers, and sometimes they wait for other penguins before heading off to their homes.
- The little penguins are pretty noisy, especially during the penguin parade. They make the distinctively loud “Huk Huk” sound.
- The penguins are waddling instead of walking upright to save energy.
How to book your Penguin Parade Ticket
The best is to book in advance since this event is usually booked out weeks ahead. Here is the link to get your ticket reservation for the Little Penguins Parade on Phillip Island.
Check all guided tour options here below.
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First published in 2018, last updated in Jan 2023
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