Love wildlife? You’ll feel right at home in Australia’s unspoiled treasure, Phillip Island. Located 90 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Melbourne, Phillip Island is home to the world’s tiniest penguins. Most famous for the penguin parades every evening at sunset, Phillip Island is a popular day trip destination from Melbourne.
A top spot to check out local wildlife, Phillip Island is well worth the trip from Melbourne!
Book Your Day Trip
There are great tour companies that offer day trips to Phillip Island. The trip starts around 11am from Melbourne, so you’ll definitely want to start your day near the tour meeting point. If you have a rental car you could surely visit Phillip Island on your own, but it’s also fun with a guide and a day’s worth of other activities. I opted to Phillip Island Day Tour from Melbourne: Penguin Parade Package under local service called Go West.
Check out the penguin parade timing arrival calendar for a good gauge if you are driving.
1st Stop: Brighton Beach Bathing Boxes
Grab your sunnies! Brighton Bathing Boxes located just 30 minutes away from Melbourne. The view of the bright and beautiful boxes is the most beautiful sight along Port Phillip Bay. Wander along the Brighton Beach and choose your favorite among the 82 iconic bathing boxes. Here’s the history – this trendy beach boxes were built over 100 years ago so the ladies could change into their swimwear in privacy.
Here’s a fun fact – Brighton Bathing Boxes is not only one of Melbourne’s most visited tourist spots, it is also attracting the wealthiest, where a bathing box will cost you a jaw dropping $250,000!
2nd Stop: Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park
Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park is located at the top of Mornington Peninsula, 50 minutes away from Melbourne. Did you know this sanctuary was built to breed critically endangered Australian fauna? Home to over 60 Australian species, this is the place to reconnect with nature.
I had a great time in Moonlit Sanctuary. There are kangaroos, wallabies and ducks roaming freely. There are also caged animals displayed such as parrots, cockatoos and pythons. At this sanctuary I’ve enjoyed hand feeding and patting the friendly kangaroos! You can buy a pack of feeds from the counter before you entered the park.
3rd Stop: The Nobbies Center
The Nobbies Center is the southwestern tip of the Phillip Island and is just 5 minutes away from the Penguin Parade! Step out of your tour vehicle and head down the boardwalk to get closer to the stunning cliff scenery, spectacular coastal views and thundering blowhole.
Just a kilometer from the Nobbies Center is Seal Rocks, home to Australia’s largest population of fur seals. Look out to sea towards the Seal Rocks or use the telescopes up top to grab a good look at the seals. Just keep in mind it can be quite windy, so hold on to your scarves!
Check out The Nobbies Center opening hour throughout the year if you are driving.
4th Stop: Penguin Parade on Summerland Beach
The Nobbies and Summerland Beach fall within the Phillip Island Nature Park, owned by the Victorian State Government, and is home to the world famous Penguin Parade. Spot for the small wooden boxes, these are the penguin’s burrows. If you look through the opening, you might be able to see little penguin resting inside. Do not walk out into the grass and keep your eyes open for wildlife – wild kangaroos, wallabies and cute marsupials are all common here.
Our last stop was Penguin Parade Visitor Centre, located at Summerland Beach. To see the stars of tonight show, the reason why we are here! They are the smallest penguin family and also called Little Penguin or Fairy Penguin.
As the sun is setting, it’s time to go through the Visitor Centre which host a cafe, indoor exhibit and gift shops, and head out to the viewing area. I couldn’t wait to see the famous penguin parade and was trying to save the best spot.
While waiting, I kept my eyes open to the stretching shoreline, looking for movement within the water. As the anticipation grew higher and the sun got lower, I heard the sound of Little Penguins! I got the first glimpse of a tiny bobbing head getting ready to march their way up on the beach. From that point on, I was blown away by its beauty! The Phillip Island penguin parade had begun.
With around 2000 penguins regularly crossing the beach, it took about one hour for all of them to make their way out of the water.
On the way back to the Visitor Centre, I got the chance to see the penguin up close as they made their way to their burrows. Around every corner, you’ll find the penguins followed the dim lights of the boardwalk. I stood awestruck at the mesmerizing beauty that stretches out before me, reluctantly heading back to our tour vehicle.
Tips for booking a Phillip Island Penguin Parade Tour
How to get there: You could surely rent a vehicle to get to Phillip Island, and you could explore more on your own. Alternatively, book a guided penguin parade tour from Melbourne, which usually include stops at Brighton Bathing Boxes and Moonlit Sanctuary. You can book via KKday website for this package.
Helpful tip: While daytime temperatures are usually 20 degrees something and sunny, the nights can drop below 10 degrees and windy, so you’ll want to pack a light jacket to stay warm.
Important rule: No photography is allowed during the penguin parade, as bright camera flashes could damage their eyes. While great photos are a priceless souvenir, there’s nothing like sitting back and just enjoying the show.
Penguin Parade General Viewing Review: The best seats are right at the bottom by the sand, at the sides. The penguins always take the same route back to their homes and most probably walk to the sides where it leads to their burrows.
Penguin Parade Penguin Plus Viewing Review: I prefer Penguin Plus viewing platform. My favourite spot is the highest level which have wider view overlooking the sunset while waiting for the first glimpse of penguins. Later on, penguin after penguin waddle out and when the night gets colder, crowd become lesser and you could move to the front row seats.
Penguin Parade Underground Viewing Review: The biggest advantage is comfort especially during winter, or when the weather turn worse or if you are afraid of cold. Inside the Underground Viewing room, you could see penguins walking pass right before your face, it is so close. You won’t get the chance to see them walking up from the ocean, but you could see them walking up from the TV screen with live footage. The biggest disadvantage could be full of children and if they are crying or screaming.
Nothing beats a night with Penguin Parade in Phillip Island under the stars!