The highlight of any day trip from Melbourne to Phillip Island is the amazing nightly Penguin Parade at Summerland Beach.

On Phillip Island, just 2 hours drive from Melbourne, a very special sight can be witnessed every evening after sunset. This is when thousands of Little Penguins emerge from the ocean and waddle across the beach to their burrows in the sand dunes. 

Just under a 2 hour trip from Melbourne, the Penguin Parade provides facilities for visitors to watch this natural spectacle without disturbing the Little Penguins or their natural environment. It’s an exciting end to a fun-filled day tour that includes visits to the Brighton Beach bathing boxes and Moonlit Sanctuary, as well as scenic stops on Phillip Island.

Here’s our guide to visiting the Phillip Island Penguin Parade – with some tips for your visit as well as some facts about the Little Penguins 

Visiting Phillip Island 

A visit to Phillip Island today reveals the incredible nature and wildlife that was once a part of the lives of the Yalluk Bulluk clan. The Phillip Island Nature Parks organisation cares for over 1,805 hectares of beaches, bushland and wetland reserves. They focus on conservation and research to protect the wildlife and natural resources on the island.

Penguin Parade Visitor Centre 

To learn about these incredible penguins and even peer into one of their burrows,  you can visit the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre. The Visitor Centre is the first building you will enter when you arrive at the Phillip Island Penguin Parade. It has a large space dedicated to learning about the island’s most famous residents – the Little Penguins. 

You can find out what they eat, how deep they can dive and what other animals are stalking them in the ocean. It’s a great introduction to learn about the Little Penguins that you are about to witness arriving at the beach.

The Visitor Centre also has a shop with plenty of penguin and marine-life themed souvenirs. You can also grab dinner or a snack from the Little Penguin Cafe, Shearwater Restaurant or the Boardwalk Drinks Cart. 

Watching the penguins arrive at the beach

The Penguin Parade is your chance to witness thousands of Little Penguins waddling across the beach to the sand dunes. These amazing birds live on the land, but hunt for their food at sea. When they are hungry, they leave their burrows in the cover of darkness to swim in the ocean. After one or multiple days at sea, with full bellies, they return to land. To avoid predators, they will wait for sunset before leaving the ocean and waddling across the sand. 

For the Penguin Parade, there are seats facing the beach to watch this spectacle. Whether you have booked General Viewing, Penguins Plus or Underground Viewing – the best spot is close to the sand. 

Following the action into the sand dunes

Once you have seen plenty of penguins crossing the beach, it’s time to head for the sand dunes. Little Penguins make burrows in the sand dunes to nest in, as well as to stay warm and safe from predators. As you take the boardwalks back from the beach to the Visitor Centre, you will see the Little Penguins walking right beside you. 

Depending on the season, you may hear mating calls. Or even the excited cries of penguin chicks calling out to their parents who are bringing home dinner. Many people say this is the best bit – standing on the boardwalks watching in wonder as the Little Penguins waddle home. 

About the Little Penguins 

Not only are these the world’s smallest penguins, but they are incredibly hardworking – living their lives on land and at sea.

The Little Penguins have a blue or grey upper body and flippers, with a white underbelly. This colouring provides camouflage for them at sea – their predators can see only white from below and only blue from above. 

They secrete an oily liquid from their tails they then rub over their feathers in order to waterproof their feather. This helps them maintain a constant body temperature at sea. 

The Little Penguin spend much of its life at sea, hunting for food. The penguins can sleep at sea by dozing on the water surface. They can travel distances of over 1000 km in the first year of their life alone. They use their small wings as flippers to swim through the water at as fast as 6 kilometres per hour. To catch fish, they can dive up to 60 metres below the surface.

The Little Penguin will consume the equivalent of its body weight in food every day. At sea they feed on small fish, anchovies, pilchards, garfish and krill.

While they spend most of the day out at sea feeding, the Little Penguins come to shore to rest, mate and moult. They built burrows in the sand dunes but can also be found among rocks and caves. 

This species of penguin is only found in Australia and New Zealand. The largest colony is on Phillip Island which is what you will be seeing at the Penguin Parade!

Frequently Asked Questions:

Where is the Phillip Island Penguin Parade?

The Parade is at Summerlands Beach, on the southern coast of Phillip Island – just under two hours drive from Melbourne. 

What are the different tickets for the Phillip Island Penguin Parade?

You can choose from the following ticket options for the Penguin Parade:

  • General Viewing – Enjoy tiered seating in our general viewing grandstands overlooking the picturesque Summerlands Beach.
  • Penguins Plus – Get up close and personal with the Little Penguins from our extra special Penguins Plus grandstand.
  • Underground Viewing – Go underground and watch the Little Penguins waddle right past the window – some might even come up to the glass to say gidday!

What should we wear to Phillip Island?

Even in summer, the Penguin Parade can be a chilly location. Summerlands Beach is in the south side of Phillip Island and can be exposed to the cold southerly winds. It’s best to pack an extra layer (or two) for your visit. 

What will we do on the Phillip Island Day Tour?

Our Phillip Island Day Tour lets you experience the best of Victoria’s nature and wildlife – all in one day trip from Melbourne. Here are the highlights of the tour. 

  • A visit to the famous Brighton Beach boxes
  • A guided tour at the award-winning Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park
  • Meet and feed a wide range of Australian animals including koalas, wombats, dingoes, and many more
  • Visit Point Grant to view the Nobbies and Seal Rock
  • Stroll the coastal boardwalks to enjoy amazing panoramic views
  • See the penguins waddle up the Phillip Island Penguin Parade at sunset

So what are you waiting for? Come and join us on a Phillip Island Day Tour from Melbourne!


Written by: Leah Furey – Digital Content Coordinator