The History of the Phillip Island Penguin Parade

The pristine shores and lush green forests of Phillip Island make it the perfect backdrop for some of Australia’s best-loved wildlife. Boasting national parks filled with native species and scenery that looks like it’s stepped out of a book, it really is a nature-lover’s dream.

One of the most popular things to do on the island is watch the Penguin Parade as darkness falls. The colony of Little Penguins that reside on the island scamper up the beach to their homes for the night, past mesmerised onlookers.

The History of the Parade

Little Penguins have called the shores of Phillip Island home for thousands of years. They head out to fish during the day, and head home as night falls to look after their nests and, for more than 80 years, people have been heading to Phillip Island at sunset to watch the show unfold.

It all began back in the 1920s, when island residents Bert West, Bern Denham, and Bert Watchorn opened Summerland Beach up for the first organised viewings of the penguins.

They greeted visitors off the ferry and charged five shillings for a personalised tour of Phillip Island (an additional shilling would get you strawberries and cream).

Visitor numbers soared in the 40s when the bridge from the mainland to Phillip Island was erected. At this point, tourists began flocking to the pristine shores, and people began building houses around Summerland Beach.

People would take picnic baskets and blankets down to the beach and sit on the sand to watch the penguins waddle ashore, but soon this meant that the burrows and penguin habitats began to get damaged. This wasn’t helped by visitors bringing their dogs to the beaches, who sadly killed many of the Little Penguin colony. The population of these cute little sea birds began to decrease, calling for a radical change in how the penguins were treated by the public.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that fences and viewing stands were built to stop visitors standing on and ruining the penguins’ burrows. Ever since then, constant upgrades have been taking place, making the boardwalks, platforms, and viewing boxes safer for the penguins.

Fast forward to today, and the residential housing blocks have been removed from the Summerland Estate, and the Phillip Island Nature Park is one of the best eco-tourism facilities in the world, balancing scientific research and conservation with visitor education and unique wildlife experiences.

Check out our Phillip Island Penguin Parade Tour today!