The penguin parade is a very special experience at Phillip Island, about an hour southeast of Melbourne. Groups of Little Penguins, that’s their actual name, set out to sea at sunrise
and return to their habitats and baby nests on the coast at sunset. The groups stick together the entire day in the rough ocean so they don’t lose one another. The timing of the parade is predictable as their arrival is based on sunset times, you can call the office ahead and they will tell you a pretty accurate estimate. The penguins return in the cover of night because it’s the safest way to avoid predators.
The park conservation agency has built stadium seating to watch the penguins come in. There isn’t much lighting because they don’t want to scare or confuse the penguins. When the penguins begin to arrive, you start seeing little black heads pop out of the water. As they try to make their way to the shore, they have trouble because the tide keeps pulling them back in. Eventually we saw hundreds of penguins swim up to the shore and waddle up the hill. After you’ve gotten your fill of penguins swimming ashore, you can make your way up to the lit pathways to watch the penguins make their way to their nests. They seem to have some sort of logic to their journey as they typically travel in single file lines and send what appears to be a lookout to scope the area ahead. They then waddle their way through the grassy areas above the beach to home. On your way out, the park rangers ask you to look under your cars as some penguins make it all the way out to the parking lot.
Overall, it was a fantastic experience to remember. The entry fee is a little pricey but totally worth it if you love animals and seeing them in their natural habitat. Though it is hard to resist taking tons of photos, you really shouldn’t as the flash does make the penguins temporarily blind and they lose their way back home. Also, depending on the time of year you go, it can get chilly at night so don’t forget to bring a blanket!