Since the 1920’s Phillip Island to the south east of Melbourne has hosted one of nature’s great spectacles, the Little Penguins waddling ashore at sunset to their burrows buried in the sand dunes. The Penguins live year round in burrows in large colonies. They fish all day returning under the cover of dusk to feed their young and avoiding their land based predators. The Little Penguin, also often referred to as the Fairy Penguin is the smallest Penguin in world standing at only 17 inches high.
The Penguin Parade on Phillip Island is now a world renowned attraction with over 650,000 local and international visitors enjoying the spectacle every year. The Penguin Parade has the highest eco tourism rating available with all viewing options designed to protect the animals and their homes. All forms of photography are strictly prohibited to further protect the birds. Phillip Island Nature Parks is a not for profit operation and all visitor income goes back into Penguin research and conservation.
In addition to being an eco tourism attraction the Penguin Parade and its associated facilities are accessible and affords tourists with disabilities the opportunity to witness this remarkable nightly event.
On entering the car park follow the signs around to car park number one, proceed to the top of the car park and turn right into the adjacent area. There is a line of disabled parking spaces all of 3.5 metres in width. The path at the top of the car park leads directly to the Visitors Centre. Entry is via the paved path and ramp. The ticket counter is immediately inside the door. To the left is a theatrette. The door is level and there is an area inside where the short film can be viewed from a wheelchair. A ramp to the right of the stairs leads to the lower (main) level of the centre. There is a cafe and shops available inside and they all on level floors with easy access to all. Accessible toilets are available at the left hand end of the building. It should be noted that there are no accessible toilets out on the viewing platforms and boardwalks. There is an interpretative education centre down a small ramp way that explains the habitat and life cycle of the Little Penguin. All of these exhibits are at an eye height that can easily be seen from a wheelchair.
General Access to the Penguin Parade
There is a fair roll from the visitor centre to the observation decks at Summerland Beach. For those that require it a courtesy buggy is available immediately outside the door of the visitors centre. The parade occurs at dusk each day so check with the centre prior to your visit for the exact time and allow for the walk to the platforms. Our photos have been taken in daylight to highlight the slopes and surfaces you will be traversing.
Just outside the visitors centre there is a new gently sloping boardwalk that leads to the dunes. This path is wide and smooth it is with a gentle gradient and ample level rest areas. The boardwalk gives access to both the Penguin Parade and Penguin Plus viewing platforms. This boardwalk also allows viewing of the Little Penguins in their burrows.
This is the main viewing area at Summerland Beach. At the end of the flat boardwalk the boardwalk slopes up to the left. The slope here is 1 in 14. At the top there are two areas. Both have a large level area at the top to accommodate wheelchairs, especially for families, groups of friends or tour groups. The elevated position gives a good 180 degree view over the beach below as the Penguins arrive and waddle across the beach to their burrows. There is a designated wheelchair viewing area between the two platforms that has a prime location right above the weighing station.
Penguin Plus Viewing Platform
This area provides a more personalised penguin viewing experience. Limited to 150 people, this viewing platform provides a closer viewing of the penguin arrival than the main viewing platforms at the Penguin Parade. The stand is located in a high penguin traffic area and is much closer to the ground giving a more intimate experience. Rangers are on hand to give a full interpretation and insight into the lives of these little creatures. Wheelchair viewing is from the bottom of this stand and therefore gives a far better view than is available from the top of the stands at the Penguin Parade. Because of the limited number of spaces available at Penguin Plus bookings are essential.
The latest addition to the Penguin Plus experience is the underground bunker. The area is limited to 60 guest. It provides an eye level view as the penguins walk straight past the ground level windows. The is a special high floor section giving wheelchair users the same experience from a seated position. This option is perfect for people who are susceptible to the cold.