“Go go go go!”
The best thing about being a parent, and especially a new parent, is seeing the joy and curiosity on your child’s face as they discover something new and interact with the world in a new way.
“Go! Go! Go! Biiiirrddd!” Jacob shouts, pointing at each little penguin as it waddles past the board walk.
We left Melbourne in the early afternoon, driving a leisurely 1 hour and 40 minutes through a countryside of rolling hills and grazing sheep to the bridge that connects the mainland with Philip Island.
Philip Island is only 140 km’s south east of Melbourne, but when you arrive you will feel a million miles away from the city. The island boasts a small town centre, but more than half of the island is devoted to raising livestock. Despite it’s sleepy agricultural economy, Philip Island is host to several events which drive the tourists bonkers. And one of those things is the nightly penguin parade.
There are 16 varieties of penguins in the world, and only one visits the shores of Australia. That penguin, is the Little Blue Penguin. The Little Blue Penguin is the world’s smallest penguin, weighing around 1 kilo when full grown. There used to be colonies of Little Blue Penguins all over Australia’s southern coast line, but now, due to habitat destruction, most of those colonies are now gone. However, the colony on Philip Island is now protected, and this is now the place in Australia where you are guaranteed to see Little Penguins.
The penguins arrive at around sunset every day, and therefore the Penguin Parade is also open every single day, even public holidays. Since the penguins arrive as it is getting dark, the arrival time will differ every day, so make sure you check the website and plan your trip accordingly. Also, the penguins are very, very, very popular. I highly recommend booking your tickets in advance.
Speaking of tickets, there are a couple options available. The most budget option is the general admission, which costs $23.80 per adult. This option gets you a spot on a viewing platform and also allows you access to some of the board walk in which the Little Penguins walk along as go travel to their burrows. Another option is the Penguin Plus ticket. This ticket is a bit more expensive, at $46 per adult. This ticket allows you a seat on a less crowded viewing platform which is much closer to a penguin freeway. There were even penguin traffic jams taking place to the viewing platform on the night we visited. Penguin Plus ticket holders even get a naturalist talk and free drink with their ticket.
For the real Penguin enthusiast, there are other tickets available, like the ranger guided tour, but really small children are not permitted on these tours, therefore we decided that Penguins Plus was right for us.
We settled into a spot on the viewing platform while our guide gave a talk all about penguins and took questions from the crowd. All eyes were on the beach. As it started getting darker and darker we wondered how on earth we would spot these tiny birds. Suddenly an excited wave rushed over the crowd. Within moments the beach went from empty, to filled with a group of several hundred birds waddling across the beach together. The penguins seemed to come in waves. The first to arrive at the beach would wait at the shore line until they amassed a large enough group and then they would make their way across the beach.
The Penguin Plus viewing platform is next to one of the main pathways into the scrub land where the penguins have their burrows. It was like a penguin freeway. After making their way across the beach, the penguins would get to this point, and most of them would stop for a rest, creating a penguin pile up right next to our platform.
This was great for us, but for little Jacob, at 20 months old he just still wasn’t close enough to the birds to really understand what he was seeing. After the majority of the penguins had made their way across the beach, we moved to the board walk area that is reserved especially for Penguin Plus ticket holders. Many of the penguins were only inches away from the board walk, allowing for a really up close and personal experience. It was here that Jacob really got excited.
The penguins didn’t seem to mind his loud baby voice as he eagerly shouted “Go! Go! Go! Bird! Bird! Go!” at each penguin as it waddled past. Then he spotted the next group of birds. “Wooooow! Bird! Bird!”
He stayed here, crouching down, with his head stuck between the two wires of the barrier chatting to the birds for a good half an hour.
About 2 thousand birds waddled up the beach that night. And as we headed up the board walk back to the interpretive centre, Jacob said “Bye” in his cute baby voice, to every one he saw.
You can visit the Penguin Parade on a day trip from Melbourne, but who wants to do that? We arrived on Philip Island in the mid afternoon and checked into our accommodation the Comfort Resort Kaloha Philip Island. Our room was large and airy and came equipped with a kitchenette. The hotel is fully family friendly with an on site pool and playground, but the best part is the quiet a secluded beach just beyond the properties back fence.
The beach behind the resort is clean and quiet. And at low tide the water is warm and shallow for several meters – perfect for the little ones to splash in.
We visited Philip Island as part of our Gippsland adventure tour with Choice Hotels. Stay tuned to hear more about our adventures and the fantastic locations we visited. Want to win your own Aussie Road Trip Adventure? Check out the Tom Williams Aussie Adventures competition for your chance to win.
Thank you to Phillip Island Nature Parks for the use of their penguin parade images.