If you love penguins as much as I do, you’ll be excited to find out there are many places where you can see fairy penguins in Tasmania. However, the season matters, and not all penguin viewing spots offer the same experience. Here are some tips to help you organise your trip and see wild fairy penguins in Tasmania.
The numbers in brackets refer to the map of places to see fairy penguins at the end of the article.
At what time of the year are penguins in Tasmania?
Penguins are in Tasmania all year-round. However, they sometimes spend more time at sea. There are three distinct seasons for seeing penguins in Tasmania:
- October to January: It’s the breeding season. From December, penguins spend their day at sea and come back at night to feed their babies who wait for them at the rookery. Mid-December to mid-January is the best time to see penguins in Tasmania as the babies are brave enough to get out of their nests when calling for their parents to bring them food.
- February to May: After the babies leave the nests, the parents first spend time at sea to gain weight before hiding in their burrows for a couple of weeks while moulting. When their new feathers are waterproof, they’ll again go on long fishing trips and only occasionally return to land. So the number of penguins in Tasmania is lower during this season, reducing your chances of seeing them.
- June to September: Males regularly come to the rookery to build or maintain their nest to seduce a female.
How to see fairy penguins in Tasmania
Fairy penguins can be seen when they return to the beach after fishing all day. They usually get out of the water after the last light when they feel it’s safe.
Make sure you don’t shine white lights as it blinds them, and avoid movement so you don’t scare them off. And don’t bring your pet to the beaches that little penguins call home; it’s dangerous for them even if your pet is on a leash. There are some places in Tasmania that make it easier to spot wild penguins as the little ones are used to seeing humans near the rookery.
When looking for penguins in Tasmania, remember these are the smallest species of penguins. They are no bigger than 40 cm.
8 places to see fairy penguins in Tasmania
On the north coast
Our favourite place to see wild penguins in Tasmania is on the north coast. They have built a viewing platform around the rookery, allowing visitors to get close to the nests and watch both parents and babies reuniting for their meal. The red lights installed are fantastic for seeing the penguins without disturbing them and taking photos. We could easily move around, as the penguins are used to having humans on the platform and don’t get scared easily.
Volunteers are present every night to count the penguins, watch their behaviours, and answer tourists’ questions. Sometimes, a ranger from Tasmania Parks is also present, and activities are available to learn more about the animals. We stayed for hours watching the baby and adult penguins. This wildlife encounter is one of the best wildlife experiences I had in Australia.
We went to Lillico Beach (1), only 10 minutes away from Devonport. There are similar platforms at Stanley (2) and Burnie (3).
There is also a town named Penguin (4) where you can see penguins from the beach, but there are no boardwalks or tours to make it easy for you and the penguins. If you’re interested in a guided tour, have a look at Low Head Penguin Tours (5) near Launceston.
On the east coast
Bicheno (6) is a popular destination for all travellers going to Tasmania and the most famous place to see penguins on the east coast of Tasmania. The best way to see penguins in Bicheno is to join a tour as they will take you to a private beach where penguins are used to human spectators.
I really wished we had booked the tour when I was on Redbill Beach in Bicheno, surrounded by visitors who didn’t know where to wait and what to do to ensure the penguins weren’t disturbed. It was very dark and impossible to take photos or move around as penguins would get scared. I also spotted a few penguins hidden in the rocks at the blowhole during my first trip to Tasmania, but the experience was nowhere as good as the other ones I had in Tasmania.
You may be interested in staying at accommodations that penguins visit: check Diamond Beach Resort* – they offer a free private penguin show for their guests – and Cod Rock Point*, which has penguins nesting in the gardens surrounding their property.
On the south coast (near Hobart)
Bruny Island (7) is a popular day trip from Hobart, but there’s so much to do there that many visitors choose to spend a night on the island and stay for a couple of days. If you head over to The Neck’s viewing platform after dusk, you might get to catch a glimpse of some penguins. However, it’s a very touristy area, so take extra care not to disturb the penguins.
You may have heard that Maria Island is a great place to see wildlife in Australia. It’s very true for wombats and wallabies. Unfortunately, there are no longer little penguins on Maria Island. The population got decimated with the introduction of Tasmanian Devils.
King Island (8) is between Victoria and Tasmania, in the middle of Bass Strait. The island belongs to the state of Tasmania, so it deserves a spot on this list. A fairy penguin colony lives at Grassy Harbour.
On the west coast
There’s a colony of little penguins on Bonnet Island, not far from Strahan. Tourists could get there by booking a guided tour*, but it is unfortunately no longer available. I’m still including it on the list in case they open again.
Tips to take photos of little penguins in Tasmania
First of all, ensure that the flash is turned off on your camera or phone. If you don’t, you risk blinding the little penguins and scaring them away. Test your settings before they arrive on the beach to avoid mistakes.
You may be wondering how we managed to take photos of little penguins in the dark without using a flash. We didn’t have any special equipment, just our phones and a point-and-shoot camera. While our photos may not be featured in National Geographic, they are good enough to provide us with great memories and share our experiences with friends and family.
Check if your phone or camera has a night mode. This is likely to give you better results. When taking photos lit by red light, they may not look great initially, so you may need to post-edit them to make them look okay. You can simply adjust the white balance to achieve a sepia or black-and-white photo.
If you arrive early and have a good zoom on your camera, you may be able to photograph a baby penguin close to the exit of its nest when there is still some daylight.
Have you seen fairy penguins in Tasmania? Share your experience in the comments below!
Map of places to see fairy penguins in Tasmania
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