Granite Island is located off Victor Harbor on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, and is connected to the mainland by a causeway. The island is managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, with some of the northern shore leased for development. One of the popular attractions of Granite Island is the Little Penguin (or Fairy Penguin) colony, with guided tours to see the penguins commencing at dusk every night. To get to Granite Island you can walk across the Causeway (less than a kilometre), or travel in style on the Horse Drawn Tram from Victor Harbor. Granite Island is noted for its huge granite boulders, marked with patches of orange and green lichen. The island is of importance to the local Ramindjeri Aboriginal people and is known as Kaiki. European history dates back to 1802 when Captain Matthew Flinders discovered the area.
Granite Island is less than a kilometre from east to west, and about half a kilometre from north to south. The Kaiki Walk takes you round the perimeter of the island with signs along the way with information about the wildlife and history of the place. The walk is 1.5 km and takes approximately 40 minutes, with lookouts and seats along the way.
The main wildlife attraction on Granite Island is the colony of about seven hundred Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor).
The “Penguin, Marine & Environmental Centre” next to a granite cliff on the northern edge of Granite Island has a focus on public education and raising awareness on environmental issues. The Centre houses an interactive display about penguins and interpretation of penguin behaviour, and has man-made burrows where you can see wild penguins through special observation windows. Sick, orphaned and injured penguins from the local area are cared for and rehabilitated at the centre. In the grounds of the Centre is an outdoor saltwater aquarium with local fish. The Centre is open at weekends and public holidays and during school holidays from noon to 3pm.
From the Centre, guided Penguin Tours operate each evening at dusk when visitors are taken on a tour of the northern shore. You will be taken out in a small group to the penguin colony accompanied by a professionally trained guide who provides information on the penguins and explains their behaviour. You will see the penguins as they come out of the sea after a days fishing and waddle from the waters edge to their burrows. The penguin behaviour that you will see around the burrows varies with season. In January the last of the previous years chicks are growing up, and the moulting season begins continuing through February. At this time the birds look a bit scruffy as they lose their old feathers and the new feathers grow in. In May the penguins start nest building and egg laying starts around June. By August the first clutch of chicks is in the nests. You can see chick rearing right through to the end of the year with a second clutch in the burrows late in the year. Do not use white torches or camera flashes, as bright lights interfere with the penguins’ vision.
As tourist numbers continue to grow, a longer term plan for managing the penguin visits has been developed. Future initiatives include the construction of a boardwalk and viewing platforms, increasing habitat by addition of nesting boxes and planting more native plants suitable for penguin habitat.
Facilities on the island include a cafe, kiosk, souvenir shop, and public toilets. The Reef Cafe offers snacks, meals and drinks. The Kiosk is completely covered and enclosed and there is a lawn where you can eat outdoors. The Gift Shop stocks a large range of souvenirs and specializes in local and Australian made products with a sea theme. The Gift Shop is open at 10am every day and 45 minutes prior to the commencement of the evening guided penguin tours.
Penguin Tours are conducted seven days a week (excluding Christmas Day and New Years Eve). Start times vary with time of year. In summer, the tours are at 9pm and 10pm, while in winter they start at 6:00pm and 7:00pm (there is a range of start times between these extremes for other times of year, so check with the Penguin Centre for details).