The small grandstand facing empty beach is packed. There’s a nip in the air as the sun sets and a feeling of swelling expectation. Eyes strain into the deepening gloom as tension mounts. Suddenly, out to sea, a small black head pops out. Then another, and another and soon an entire group of little black heads emerges.
Finally, the first brave penguin waddles ashore, peers about nervously and is swiftly joined by many friends. The Little Penguins emerge and parade up the beach to their burrows in the dunes. These amazing, cute wild creatures travel for miles to get fish for their young. They’re tough survivors, standing at only 33cm tall.
“A must. And why not sponsor a cutie and save its life while you’re at it? A brilliant synergy of tourism and protection.” – Catriona Rowntree
Previously called Fairy Penguins, there’s something otherworldly about watching these unique Little Penguins go about their daily lives with busloads of spectators looking on in awe.
You can see Little Penguins pop out of the ocean from Coffs Harbour to Fremantle, but if you want to be sure of seeing the cute little ones, go to Phillip Island in southern Victoria or to Bicheno on the east coast of Tasmania. Both areas introduced tours to help protect the penguins from being disturbed by spectators during their nightly journeys. Bring a jacket and don’t use the flash on your camera.
Did you know?
A Little Penguin can stay at sea for weeks, diving up to 65m for fish. It dozes as it floats on the surface and can travel up to 100km a day, while its deep, rich, blue waterproof feathers keep its skin absolutely dry.
How to get there
Qantas and Virgin Blue have regular daily flights to Melbourne from most major cities in Australia.
From Melbourne, you can opt for the bus (V-Line bus or the Phillip Island Bus Service) or take the car.
By car, take the South Eastern Arterial (M1) to the Cranbourne exit, where you will turn into the South Gippsland Highway (M420). Then take the Bass Highway (A420) until you get to the Phillip Island Tourist Road (B420).
Best time to go
Anytime, but dress warmly – especially if you go between April and September.
Website of Phillip Island Nature Parks
Official complete tourism website for Phillip Island
Official Community Guide to Phillip Island with info on activities, accommodation etc.
** This is our original 100 Things to Do Before You Die. First published in 1996. There is an updated 100 Things To Do In Australia Before you die, published in 2011.