The Little Penguins of Phillip Island

Back when I first met Brad & Mark in NYC last year, they regaled us American gals with tales of the famous Little Penguins of Phillip Island. We hung on every word… partially for the Aussie accent, but also because, hey, LITTLE PENGUINS! Once I arrived in Melbourne, I booked a the Penguin Parade trip with GoWest Tours, and prepped for what would be one of my favorite Aussie experiences.

Brad plays tourist in his own town

First stop – wine tasting at Bass River Winery in Gippsland. Lovely tour guide Sally told us about each wine as we sipped and swished, followed by some cheese tasting. Warning: don’t eat the blue vein cheese unless your ready for a kick in the tongue. Ick.

Next, we stopped in a tiny town for lunch, and Brad introduced me to chicken salt on chips. I’m quite sure it has something like crack in it, because I want more and I’m willing to do just about anything to get it. Afterward, we made our way onto Phillip Island and stopped at quirky Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate. Based on semi-traumatic childhood viewings of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, I wasn’t terribly interested in checking out the inner workings, but I’m glad I did. We nibbled scrumptious chocolate samples at every corner, which was obviously a big win, but there were also a few oddball exhibits that were worth a look, like the actual size replica of Michelangelo’s David, constructed totally from chocolate.

Dame Edna made of thousands of chocolate pieces

The next stop was the lovely Koala Conservation Center where we saw this Momma and Baby snuggling up in a eucalyptus tree. Though koalas are nocturnal, I managed to see lots of active ones during my time in Oz. So worth a look!

Snuggly as!

After dinner at an oceanside Italian restaurant, we drove to the Nobbies in hopes of spotting some seals. We came up empty on that front, but we were super lucky to see a Little Penguin hanging out under the boardwalk. It was a good thing we snapped a shot of him, because there are no photos allowed at the official Penguin Parade.

Phillip the Little Penguin (I don’t think he likes Valentine’s Day.) Click here to adopt your own Little Penguin.

Sunset at the Nobbies

Once the sun was almost at the horizon, Sally drove us to the VIP reserved area at Summerland Beach, where the Little Penguins arrive in rafts (not inflatable rafts – groups of penguins are called rafts!) and just plop from the waves onto the beach in the twilight. Every night, hundreds to more than 1,000 penguins march across the beach to their burrows in the dunes. As I mentioned, no pictures are allowed because thousands of flashbulbs would be incredibly unsettling for the penguins to deal with every night. It’s really hard for someone like me to refrain from documenting every moment, but for the safety of the penguins I had to oblige.

The gift shop penguin was the best I could do.

It was super chilly once the sun went down on the beach, so we bought a $20 blanket from the gift shop and settled in to watch the penguins arrive from their day fishing in the sea.
Around 9 p.m., the penguins slowly begin to arrive. They’re itty-bitty, only about as tall as your forearm, and they literally pop up out of the waves and begin waddling toward their colony in the hills beside the bleachers. Some screech, some stop and rest right in front of you and others just lie down and chill for a while before getting up to go find their chicks. Even though it was quite windy and cool on the water, Brad & I spent at least 90 minutes oohing and aahing over the little cutie pies. If you come to Melbourne, don’t even think about missing the Penguin Parade!

Special thanks to GoWest Tours for providing the amazing adventure!

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