On a Budget? Don’t Buy Phillip Island Penguin Parade Tickets Until You’ve Read This!
Phillip Island Penguin Parade Tickets can be expensive for students, backpackers and those travelers on a budget. In this article I reveal where you can see little penguins, otherwise known as blue penguins or fairy penguins, without needing to go to the Phillip Island Wildlife Nature Park. Of course, if you’re looking for a march of the penguins style trip, then Phillip Island is still highly recommended.
Where Can Little Penguins be found in Melbourne?
Little penguins can be found at various places along the southern coast of Australia as well as, of course, Antarctica. One of the best places to see for tourists is the Phillip Island Nature Park, about 90 minutes to 2 hours drive from the Melbourne CBD. A Phillip Island tour can cost between $100 and $200 per person, depending on which tour group you choose and what features and benefits they offer. You could also drive there yourself and just pay the park entry fee (from $25.70 per person in 2017, plus add-ons). Even so, a family of four could end up spending $100-$800 for the day. If you’ve already been there, and your little ones might not care to sit for 1-2 hours waiting for penguins to appear, you may wish to opt for a less expensive and faster option.
Not far from the Melbourne CBD is St Kilda Beach, and St Kilda Pier, easily reachable with a low cost tram ride. At the end of St Kilda Pier, beyond the kiosk, there’s actually more! After the pier ends is a specially built breakwater made of rocks and a dirt track that is home to about 100 St Kilda penguins. So, not as many as the 32,000 penguins at Phillip Island, but a lot closer than a 2 hour drive.
How can I see the Little Penguins at the St Kilda Breakwater?
Grab the 96 tram from the CBD to tram stop 135 or 136 in Saint Kilda, and walk down to St Kilda Pier. It’s a bit of a hike and there aren’t any toilets so make sure you stop by the public toilets at the St Kilda Sea Baths before you get to the Pier, as it’s a long way back!
Walk along the pier past the St Kilda Pavilion historic kiosk (1904, rebuilt 2006) and around to the back, onto the dirt track. There is a wooden waiting area down some steps so make sure you wear warm clothes (autumn to spring) and comfortable shoes that don’t slip. Definitely don’t wear stilettos!
Be there about half an hour before sunset to find a place to stand to be able to see the penguin waves. It’ll get crowded pretty quickly, especially on a Saturday.
While sunset is when the penguins start arriving, there are waves of them coming in through the night, so don’t worry too much if you don’t get there the minute the sun disappears. (Though, on a clear day, the sunset at St Kilda is worth seeing.)
From the standing area, look to your left and out about 100 metres. If your eyesight is good you’ll see thin black lines along the waves begin to appear within half an hour of sunset, about ten to twenty metres apart. These lines are rows of swimming penguins, heading for their nests. When they reach the rocks area they begin to split off and find their way to their homes. You’ll see some bobbing in the water, you’ll see some triangular backwash from some of the faster ones, and before you know it, you’ll see dripping wet penguins hopping up onto the rocks. Some of them stand to dry off while others dive straight into the rocky homes.
While you’re watching, volunteers in yellow jackets will be using red torch lights to show you the areas where there are penguins so that you know where to look. (The little penguins’ coats blend in well with the rocks so they can be difficult to see.) Flash photography is strictly prohibited as the penguins eyes are very sensitive to bright light. If your camera is not good enough to take pictures in the dark, please don’t use it.
NB: The Phillip Island Penguin Area strictly forbids photos of any kind, due to people either forgetting to turn off their flash, or not being able to. Messages about this are broadcast in multiple languages throughout the parade, so you have no excuse! The St Kilda Breakwater area does not restrict photos but your camera must have the ability to take night photos. Strictly NO lights or flashes. Don’t hurt the penguin’s eyes!
You can walk around the platform and look at other St Kilda penguins, stand on the stairs to see the thin black lines coming across the water, and go up to the top area to get some great views of Melbourne city and St Kilda beach.
After searching online for ages looking for detailed information on the St Kilda penguins, I still could not make the association between the end of the pier and the breakwater, purely because, from the beach, you can’t see it if you’re standing on the pier. Also, Google maps seem to put the fairy penguin colony in the middle of the water away from the pier, further confusing the issue.
As a first time tourist to the area, I would have no idea there is anything beyond that long pier, as there is a great big kiosk at the end! This is the main reason that prompted this article. So, if you’re like me, trying to find information on the Melbourne penguins, I hope this article has been helpful for you.
And, if you’d like to add anything to help others find the St Kilda penguins, please leave a comment below.
Find out more from the official site St Kilda Protected Fairy Penguin Colony: http://stkildapenguins.com.au/skp/