Penguin Parade is located 90mins drive away from Melbourne City, Victoria & about 20mins from the Bridge that links the mainland to Phillip Island. This sculpture “Millowl” by Adam Magennis is a cultural marker on Bunurong Country and the cultural ecology of Millowl (Phillip Island). The shell and rock rebate has 10 markers showing human interaction with the environment and the bits and pieces left of the country. A stark reminder to be careful of our footprints and the impact it has on the country’s ecology.
There are ample parking spaces near the Visitor Centre which opens a couple of hours before sunset when the penguins return around 4pm in winter and 6pm during the summer.
Penguin Parade has an impressive and wide range of facilities to match the needs of people of all abilities and sensory needs. Wide pathways for wheelchairs and prams, ramp access through the Visitor Centre along the Boardwalks and Sensory Bags equipped with noise-cancelling headphones, fidget tools and verbal cue cards that can be checked out for free by leaving an ID.
The beautiful Visitor Centre at Penguin Parade has an Exhibition Area and dining is available at the Shearwater Restaurant or you can get a drink from the Boardwalk Coffee Cart which both opens from 4pm till closing time.
The Shearwater Restaurant
The Brushtail Possum is the most widespread in Australia. They typically live in wooded areas and in the forest but have also adapted to urban areas very well. My cousin used to have this annoying possum rummaging on his rooftop causing a ruckus during the night and it was hard getting it to go away. The red furred possums are often mistaken for foxes at Phillip Island but they are really harmless to the penguins.
This cute little creature is the Eastern Barred Bandicoot, a nocturnal marsupial that was considered extinct in the wild of mainland Australia. A fox free environment has allowed for this vulnerable species to be translocate to Churchill Island, Summerland Peninsula & now French Island.
The eradication of Red Foxes on Phillip Island is a major conservation success story for the Nature Parks and local community as it allows ground nesting and other smaller nocturnal animals to thrive.
The start of the Boardwalk that leads up to Summerland Beach where we have tiered seating at the grandstands for general viewing of the returning fairy penguins.
A pair of Purple Swamphens ambling around; these wetland birds have a resplendent purple-blue neck, breast and belly. Their bright red and oversized bill with a frontal shield stands out, as do their beady red eyes. A cute characteristic of the swamphen when they walk is that they flick their tails up and down, revealing their white under tail. Although they look bulky, they take flight easily and are also proficient swimmers though they prefer to wander on the edges of the water among reeds and on floating vegetation.
These bulky Cape Barren Geese can weigh anything between 3 to 7kg. Their uniformly grey plumage with round spots is unique. The tail and flight feathers are black and the legs are pink with black feet. This bird is one of the rarest of the world’s geese and they feed by grazing thus they rarely swim. Another interesting characteristic of the Cape Barren Goose is their ability to drink salt or brackish water which allows them to remain on offshore islands all year round.
I saw quite a few Swamp Wallabies driving towards Penguin Parade on Phillip Island. These small macropod marsupials usually rest in sheltered areas of thick undergrowth or in forests and woodlands; during the day and are particularly active at dusk when they emerge to graze on grass. Note the wallaby’s light coloured Cheek stripe, with a dark brown to black coloured back and a light yellow to rufous orange tint on the chest. The tip of the super straight tail is often white.
This large waterbird breeds mainly in the southeast and southwest regions of Australia. The Black Swan is nomadic and their migration patterns within Australia is erratic and dependent on climatic conditions. Their plumage is mostly black with an outstanding red bill.
At the Grandstand along Sumerland Beach which is cold on this wintry evening and as you can see, everyone is nicely wrapped up. I had put on a thick coat plus a windbreaker and sat on a blanket to keep warm from the chilly wind.
That is the Lookout Post where the Nature Park ranger would spot the first penguins as they swim to shore and alert the spectators.
The Fairy Penguins would also swim together in a large group after dusk and walk along the shore to reach their nesting sites.This is definitely a strategy in dealing with carnivorous marsupials by travelling in a large group simultaneously.
See how beautiful this little creatures are! I assure you nature lovers that I had used no flash photography throughout and that the penguins were not subjected to any distress whatsoever.
Here comes a little fairy penguin just about to enter his box abode that is specially built to house them away from prying predators.
The Australian Fairy Penguin is a species indigenous to Australia and the Otago region of New Zealand. They grow to between 30-33cm tall weighing about 1.5kg. The head and upper parts are blue in colour with slate grey ear coverts fading to white underneath from the chin to the belly. Look at the little webbed pink feet with black soles. (Eudyptula novaehollandiae)
One excited Asian adult was heard describing to his young daughter that the penguins were ‘kissing”! Here we see the distinct bright blue feathers and the extended wings which have developed into flippers for swimming.
The dark grey-black beak is about 3-4cm long and the irises pale silvery, bluish grey or hazel in colour.The average lifespan of the Fairy Penguin is 6.5 years but they might live up to 25 years in captivity.
After all the braying…. and the mating dance is over, the Fairy Penguins go their separate ways!
As of 2014, the Fairy Penguin is not listed as a species of conservation concern, despite the ongoing declines of many colonies all over Australia due to the loss of suitable habitat, attacks by foxes and dogs and also the disturbance at nesting sites.
The largest colony of penguins in Victoria is located at Phillip Island where the nightly parade of penguins across Summerland Beach has been a major tourist attraction and recently a major conservation effort since the 1920s.
Phillip Island is home to an estimated 32,000 breeding adults and as of 2020, there is a smaller colony of about 1,400 breeding adults located at St. Kilda’s pier and breakwater.
It really is great fun welcoming the Fairy Penguins from Summerland Beach and following them along the Boardwalk to their nests scattered all over the shoreline. An activity that everyone in the family can and will enjoy together!