Phillip Island is located just off the Victorian coast south of the Mornington Peninsula. It is now connected to the mainland by a bridge across Western Port Bay. The Penguin Parade at Phillip Island is one of the best known wildlife attractions in Australia, and is managed by Phillip Island Nature Parks, a non profit organisation dedicated to nature conservation and sustainable ecotourism.
Each night at as the sun sets, the Little Penguins swim to the shore and waddle up the beach to their burrows in the sand dunes. Little Penguins are the smallest species of penguin in the world, and the only species resident on the Australian mainland. There are elevated boardwalks and viewing platforms allowing visitors to see the penguins without disturbing them or their burrows. The penguins are wild animals and numbers arriving each night varies. Photography and filming is not permitted at the Penguin Parade. Visitors should plan to arrive at the Penguin Parade at least an hour before sunset
The main “economy class” penguin viewing area is at Summerland Beach with tiered seating and 180 degree elevated viewing of the penguin parade. Visitors can also see the Little Penguins around their burrows from elevated boardwalks.
The Penguin Plus Viewing Platform gives visitors with a closer and less crowded view, in an areas where the penguin traffic is higher (approximately 50% of the penguins cross the beach in front of this stand). The platform is limited to 150 people with rangers on hand to provide commentary. The cost is nearly double the general admission price, though.
If you want to actually get down onto the beach with the penguins, there are group tours for up to ten people that take you to a beach to see the Little Penguins coming ashore and up the beach to their burrows. There is also a private viewing option, where a ranger will take you to an exclusive area on the beach where you can sit comfortably on a mat with binoculars to watch the penguins.
You can also watch the Penguin Parade from a tower called the Penguin Sky Box – this is like a little cabin with large windows, elevated above the ground. In the box, your group gets to watch the parade beside the ranger in charge who conducts the nightly penguin count. This option also allows you entry to the Penguin Plus platform. Unless it is freezing cold and/or pouring rain, you are probably better off watching from outside.
There is a ranger led behind the scenes tour before the penguins arrive which gives you an introduction to the Penguin Parade and how the rangers are protecting the penguins. You will also get some viewing tips to get the most out of the Penguin Parade. The tour departs daily 1.5 hours before the penguins arrive – bookings are required.
Little Penguins used to be called “Fairy Penguins”. According to Phillip Island Nature Park, the name ‘Little Penguin’ is used in preference to ‘Fairy Penguin’ because it is a more faithful translation of the scientific name Eudyptula minor.
While you are Phillip Island, take time to visit some of the other attractions. The Koala Conservation Centre is an attraction where you can walk through bush land and see koalas in their natural habitat from treetop boardwalks. The Nobbies Centre is a marine attraction where you can learn about marine life such as seals, dolphins and sharks using interactive displays and underwater cameras that let you to observe these marine animals.
Phillip Island is about 90 minutes from Melbourne. To get there from Melbourne, drive out on the South Eastern Arterial (M1) and turn off when you get to the South Gippsland Highway (the M420). Continue on to the Bass Highway (A420) and on to San Remo where you cross over the bridge to Philip Island. Just follow the signs from there.
The Visitor Centre is open every day from 10am and Christmas Day from 2pm.