My first day trip from Melbourne was an activity I had I vowed to do whilst in Melbourne: see the Penguins on Phillip Island! The Penguin Parade happens daily around sunset, and is magical, unique experience. Here’s my day trip from Melbourne to Phillip Island, visiting koalas on the way and seeing the Phillip Island Penguin Parade!
Depart Melbourne with Gray Line Day Tour
The wonderful tour provided by Gray Line meant departing the centre of the city early in the morning, and make our way south towards the island. It took a good 2 hours to get to Phillip Island but boy it’s so worth it! With the cheery stories told by the tour guide and with stunning scenery along the way the time just flew by.
Churchill Island Heritage Farm
Firstly we stopped off at Churchill Island Heritage Farm where we had a chance to try whip cracking, watch the sheepdog at work and see a ram being sheared. It was a great way to break up the journey, and certainly something I wouldn’t have thought to do myself but so glad I did – it’s a real glimpse into Australian farm life!
We spent a couple of hours enjoying the wildlife, views, talks from the farm staff and exploring the grounds. A great chance to stretch the legs and get a bit of fresh Australian air (made even better with some sunshine!).
Koala Conservation Centre
Next on the agenda was the David Forrest Koala Conservation Centre back on Phillip Island. This was a chance to be almost guaranteed to see koalas in their wild, natural habitat as the koalas are recorded and tracked but not confined in anyway. Luckily I saw about 7 of the 10 they know of in the park, which was amazing especially as the view from the raised boardwalk was much closer than had we been at ground level, as koalas are known for staying near the tops of trees where all the best leaves are!
The chance to see koalas in a protected but wild environment was incredible, and truly made me feel like I was in real Australia! I was even so fortunate as to see the more awake koalas, as their well-known sleepy personalities mean you mostly just see a ball of snoozing fluff – but not this time! After taking a good look around spotting the koalas, a small museum explaining the work of the centre and various facts and details about koalas made for an informative visit.
The third stop of the afternoon took us to the Nobbies, a peak point of the island which looks out onto Mornington Peninsula. The sun was blazing right into our eyes at this point, but what we could see were huge rocks the waves crashed against. It was very windy up there, so no seals for us to spot as there often are, but I did see quite a few very cute wallabies hopping about.
We spent around an hour here as a break for a bite to eat, or for some a visit to the Antarctic Journey exhibition. For me, I was happy walking along the boardwalks and soaking up the views and peaceful atmosphere as the sun began its descent for the day.
Finally we were off to the main attraction of the day at Summerland Beach, otherwise known as The Penguin Parade. This is the beach where the Little Penguins (previously known as Fairy Penguins, how cute!) come in from their long day swimming and foraging in the sea, back to their babies and nests in the burrows of the beach.
It was a long wait, we arrived at the beach around 7.45pm and the Penguins didn’t make their first appearance until just after 9pm, but it was plenty of time to grab a good spot and take in the beauty of the sunset. Photos aren’t allowed once the sun goes down as they discovered the flashes and glare were causing the Penguins to go blind, so it really is an experience you can only enjoy in person and from your memories. For me this only adds to the experience, as you really get a sense of seeing a natural and beautiful event right there in the moment and not through the lens of a camera. At long last we saw the first few make their moves towards their burrows. It was SO worth the wait, the adorable little guys waddling timidly up the beach then making a dash for it up the hill to feed the younger ones is truly remarkable, and to be so close to it all was amazing.
It’s completely unique to be entirely on their territory, you’re told to check under your car and you have to let them cross the roads as you leave as they take full right of way! I’d highly recommend it to anyone visiting Melbourne, it’s one of the only places in the world you can see these little guys in the wild!
Enjoying the wildlife and views of The Nobbies