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Penguin Parade a tourist trap?

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Penguin Parade a tourist trap?

I don't mind touristy places if the place is worth seeing but the more I read about the Penguin Parade with 3 tier seating and a skybox the more it scares me.

Most tours cover some kind of farm/ranch with kangaroos, emus and koalas. Is that just an add on?

Please let me know:

- is it worth the time and money?

- can you see anything from standard seats and how long is the entire "show"?

- anyone used Go West tours?

Thanks in advance

New York City, New...
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1. Re: Penguin Parade a tourist trap?

The official website is here:


I've never done one of the tours but it is quite a sight to see. I'd recommend it. I believe they built the viewing stands to help protect the penguins' habitat (when I went many years ago, one sat on the beach to watch the parade).

Dress warmly as it does get cold! I believe the 'parade' goes for close to an hour.

Melbourne, Australia
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2. Re: Penguin Parade a tourist trap?

Many tourists visit the Penguin Parade because it is so unique. There has to be some organisation to cope with the crowds and indeed preserve the Penguin habitat. Approx. 700 Penguins waddle out of the ocean at dusk and return to their burrows. It is a delightful experience and along with The Great Barrier Reef (lots of tourists and organisation there) the Great Ocean Road, Uluru, Sydney Harbour etc. it is one of the reasons to visit downunder. The Koala Sanctuary is also very good and allows you to get up close to the animals and observe them in their native habitat. phillipisland.net.au/koalas/koalacentre.html

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3. Re: Penguin Parade a tourist trap?

Hello boston tourist,

Is the 'Boston Tea Party' museum area a tourist trap? Aren't things like this akin to beauty, the interest being measured in the eye of the beholder? Most people love the penguin parade experience, but don't do anything you are uncertain of. There are plenty of other experiences to be had. I always think in a country new to me, that anything will be new and interesting to me, but occasionally that isn't the case, so that just gets put down to experience.

Melbourne, Australia
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4. Re: Penguin Parade a tourist trap?

Let me start by saying that I wouldn't class the Phillip Island Penguin Parade as a "show". The penguins aren't performing tricks like you would see at a place like Sea World, but merely returning from several days fishing in the ocean back to their burrows on land, under the cover of darkness to minimise threats from predators - humans included.

They start returning at dusk and continue to return all through the night. Most people will generally stay and watch for an hour or two.

The "parade" area is designed so as not to impede the penguins return to their burrows, and as such tourists are kept to raised walkways and seated together in areas to give the penguins easy access to the beach and their well worn tracks. There is extremely minimal interference from the rangers.

To answer your question regarding if you can see from the standard seats. The answer is definately yes and is a good option if you feel you don't want to spend the money to upgrade. You'll still see plenty of penguins and as you walk back from the beach up to the visitor centre you will be able to see penguins up very close as the walkways are very close to their burrows. Don't worry if when you get there, you can only get a spot at the back of the seating as usually people start to move back to the visitor centre after about half an hour. You can then move down to the front to see them up close. The penguins don't just make a mad dash up the beach only at dusk, they return all night and in fact, the smallest number cross the beach at dusk. So there is no chance of running out of penguins to see if you wait till the majority of crowds move away.

The other options they offer now though will give you a closer view in varying degrees depending on which option you choose. My personal fave is the Ultimate Penguin Tour which I did last year. My review on that tour is buried somewhere in these forums. In short, they take you away from the "parade" area in mini bus to a secluded beach with 10 other people (the parade area is only one spot the penguins live - the other places are closed off to general public just before dusk). You sit in the sand with a pair of supplied night vision glasses and the penguins waddle all around you - you can't touch them obviously. You wear a pair of headphones and the ranger who is with you whispers to let you know what the penguins are doing around you. That tour goes for about 2 and a half hours and I thouroughly recommend it.

If you take one of the orgainised bus tours from Melbourne then you may not be able to do this tour, as most of the bus tours will head back to Melbourne before this tour finishes. Consider hiring a car and doing the island in your own time and book into a hotel on the island for the night. In my opinion you'll actually see more of the island if you do it yourself as opposed to a bus tour.

Phillip Island is a beautiful part of the world and as such I think it's worth the time and money. If you like animals and nature then go. If you don't, then stay in Melbourne and go shopping.

Melbourne, Australia
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5. Re: Penguin Parade a tourist trap?

Excellent thoughts from Magellan.

We can also think about it this way:

These little guys are not found in your neck of the woods, full stop. They're unique to the Southern Hemisphere. Sure, you can see them at a Zoo but that's pretty depressing. I've seen plenty of animals in various Zoos but I wouldn't hesitate to go and see them in their natural habitat. As has been said, these penguins are not twirling batons and cart-wheeling. They're doing what they do and going about their everyday business.

I don't believe that the mere fact this event is organised and paid for means it's a tourist trap. That whole area of the Island outside of the actual "parade" is a penguin sanctuary and is closed of the the public at dusk to protect them. Sure, it's a commercial venture and there's plenty of money in it but that's not the be all and end all. Our State government is committed to re-vegetating the area and improving it's eco credentials. There's plans to compulsorily acquire the last few remaining beach shacks in the area and demolish them, making it a 100% human-free zone.

Sorry for the political rant but I've just come back from a short break at Phillip Island (tho I didn't go to the Parade) and it's still a beautiful part of Victoria. Large tracts of land untouched and lovely coastline. Definitely take the advice to stay overnight and see the rest of the island. There are walking tracks and fauna reserves which will get you up close to local wallabies and birdlife. French Island is another place to explore just off the Cowes pier.

BTW Here in sunny Victoria it doesn't get dark until 9 pm in Summer and therefore the penguins don't come in until late. You may chose to go outside the Summer/daylight savings months instead but it will be much colder. The beach concerned is a back beach/ocean beach; in this case it's "next stop Antarctica!" so it can get very blowy all year round but especially in the cooler months.


Melbourne, Australia
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6. Re: Penguin Parade a tourist trap?

Here's another link


Melbourne, Australia
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7. Re: Penguin Parade a tourist trap?

It isn't worth the time or money. There are fairy penguins at the zoo which is worth the time and money.

The trip will take all evening, is a 2 hour coach trip from melbourne and frankly once you've seen one penguin walk up the beach, well, it doesn't improve.

The show finishes when you get completely bored and wander back to the tour bus.

Sorry to be negative but Melbourne and Victoria have a whole lot more to offer!

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8. Re: Penguin Parade a tourist trap?

COmparing the few Fairy Penguins at the Zoo to those returning at dusk from their daily fishing expedition out onto Bass Straight is dumb. Philip Islands Penguine Parade is well worth seeing and as others have said the seating is to protect the habitat but still allow visitors to see this facinating event.

Adelaide, Australia
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9. Re: Penguin Parade a tourist trap?

Hey AJ have to agree with you though I did feel a bit "herded" at Phillip Island. There is also a penguin parade at Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island which is a bit less touristy. You walk on boardwalks along the beach and see the penguins coming in. It is not as dramatic as PI but there are a lot less people too and its much cheaper.

Anyway if you are only going to Melbourne and not Kangaroo Island then I thoroughly recommend going to the penguin parade.

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10. Re: Penguin Parade a tourist trap?

boston tourist, I tend to sit on the fence a bit re. the penguin parade. I think it is a good show but I shy away from it a bit because I don't really enjoy the mass tourist/visitor thing. If I go again, especially with visitors, I will do the Ultimate tour which is a little less frantic and much less glitzy.

I didn't really want to influence you one way or the other, as most people tend to enjoy but as you see some don't. I thought I might talk about something a little different and ask if you have considered driving yourself down there? It is an easy drive out of town, with freeways much of the way, then a nice country drive around Westernport Bay. I think once you drive yourself, it makes the trip a lot more worthwhile IMO, than if you do a direct bus tour. In a car you can cruise down at lunchtime, or leave Melb early and go via somewhere like Healseville and then on to the Island. There is plenty to see down there and it can fill a day in nicely. There is great water around the island, with some of the biggest surf we have on one side, surf, rocks and seals along the tip and then a calm, flat, sandy beach around Cowes. Fish and chips at San Remo is another highlight.

I have taken more visitors down the Great Ocean Road, where we watch the sunset over the water at London Bridge and then strain our eyes (from the elevated platforms on the beach) to see the resident penguins come in. This very natural viewing of them is exciting but with no lights and the distance from the beach, they can be very hard to see at times....I really enjoy it though and last time we witnessed them, a friendly seal turned arch enemy number one as it waited for penguins coming in for it's main course. London Bridge is very close to the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road. Definitely don't get to see them clearly though like you do at Phillip Island.