YES there are penguins, YES they are tiny and adorable, and YES you get to watch them up close, in their natural habitat…but it’s for all these reasons that the Phillip Island penguin parade is a MAJOR tourist destination.
Phillip Island is about 90 mins from Melbourne, and funny enough we actually thought we would be one of the few groups there since there were so few cars on the road as we got close.
Boy were we wrong.
The reason there was no traffic on our way to Phillip Island was because the majority of tourists had arrived by BUS.
It doesn’t look so bad in these photos, but there are hundreds of people at Phillip Island Nature Park almost every night to watch the penguin parade. Also, these photos are of the Penguin Plus side, where we stood, not the general viewing side. We were on the deck (where tickets cost about $47 AUD each), which is what I would recommend on a warm evening. The underground penguin viewing, which you can also see in the above picture, is all behind glass. The underground would would be great on a cold, rainy day, but if it’s nice out, you’re paying more ($60 AUD per ticket) just to see penguins behind glass.
The cheapest ticket to see the penguins is for the general viewing area. It costs about $25 AUD.
That’s where the majority of the people were, in more of grandstand-style seating further down the beach (which you can just barely see on the left side of the picture below). It looks alright, although it seems you are higher up from where the penguins emerge from the ocean.
Then of course there are VIP tours and behind the scene tours. We didn’t do any of that so you will have to get more information on visitor website…but my recommendation would be to get a penguin plus ticket.
Now if I haven’t scared you away yet by talking about the hoards of tourists gathered shoulder to shoulder to see a bunch of little birds stumble up a beach…let’s remember that all these people come to Phillip Island for a very good reason.
Seeing the penguin parade is a totally magical and worthwhile experience. Once those little guys start clumsily tip-toeing out of the water, you forget about the people and remember exactly why you came. But you may also discover more than what you came for…
These wallabies were a total surprise. We discovered them while walking around the park, since when you buy a ticket to the penguin parade it suggests you arrive about an hour before sunset (when the penguins start appearing).
And not all the penguins are out in the ocean, some remain in their burrows, so before the parade begins you may be able to spot a few penguins in daylight.
Then, once it’s time to get into place to wait for the rest of the colony, you just sit and watch the sky change colour as the sun sets by the beach.
So now let’s get to the good stuff…the PENGUINS. One of the more difficult rules to follow is that there is absolutely NO photography allowed once the sun sets. According to the guides, the penguins have very sensitive eyes to light and so to ensure there are no flashes going off, they have forbidden photography altogether. However, the park does provide visitors with HD photos upon request, therefore, all the photos I’m using that appear to have been taken after dark were supplied to me by Phillip Island Nature Parks.
This is what you’ll see. Penguins coming out of the ocean, waddling right by you while making funny little chirping noises, making their way to their burrows. And this happens every night just after sunset. One of the guides told us they estimate about 3-thousand penguins are part of this colony on Phillip Island.
Now the lineups of people, the screaming kids, and the struggle to find a good viewing point amongst the crowds no longer matter. Once the penguins start coming onto land, they’re all over the place. You no longer have to stand in the area for which you bought a ticket, you can roam the pathways of the park and you will find penguins everywhere.