Little penguins are adorable, and it’s very exiting that they visit a few places in Tasmania. No taller than 40 cm and with fluffy babies, they are some of the cutest birds you can meet. So if you’re going to Tasmania’s East Coast, you’ll be thrilled to know you can see wild penguins in Bicheno. Our experience will help you make the most of your little penguin adventure.

Responsible travel tip: I highly recommend joining a guided tour in Bicheno. If you don’t want to pay, you could also visit another place in Tasmania to see penguins from a platform to keep the wild animals safe. I didn’t thoroughly enjoy spotting penguins on the beach in Bicheno without the guided tour, as the risk of disturbing them was very high.

Yellow roadsign next to a road to warn drivers there are penguins in the area

When to see penguins in Bicheno

You’ll see more penguins during the breeding season, from September to January. From December to January is the best season to see penguins in Bicheno as adults go to sea during the day and come back to the beach at night to feed their babies. You’ll have to wait on the beach until it gets dark. When they feel safe (darkness, no movement on the beach), the adults exit the water and make their way to their babies who waited all day hidden in their burrows and call for them at night.

Penguins are wild animals, so you cannot be sure about the time when they will return to land. Sunset time was 8.50 pm when we went to see penguins in Bicheno. We expected to see them soon after the last light (around 9.30 pm). But they came a lot later (after 10 pm) when the beach was finally quiet, and most people had left, thinking they weren’t showing up that night.

You can still see penguins in Bicheno the rest of the year but in lower numbers. When the babies are big enough to fend for themselves, they leave the burrows and don’t come back until they’re ready to mate. So from February to April, it’s time for the parents to look after themselves. It’s when your chances of seeing penguins are the lowest. They hide for a couple of weeks as they moult and cannot go to sea for a while until their new feathers are waterproof. Before and after moulting, they will spend more time at sea to put on weight. From April to August, the males start to regularly return to land to prepare their nests in order to seduce a female.

Are you assured of seeing penguins in Bicheno?

Little penguins are wild animals, so you are never assured of seeing them. However, you can do a few things to maximise your chances of spotting penguins in the wild. Going during summer or choosing a day when high tide is around sunset time will maximise your chances.

The best way to see penguins in Bicheno is to book a tour. Many people who go without a tour don’t find them or end up not doing the right thing to have a positive experience (for both the penguins and other visitors). It’s much easier to be part of a smaller group following a guide with the right equipment and knowledge.

If the penguins are frightened, they may turn around and not come to shore that night. It’s disappointing for all the visitors who came to spot them. But it’s worse for their babies, who spent the day waiting to be fed and will have to wait another 24 hours!

If you don’t want to book a tour, you may want to consider going to the north coast or to Bruny Island for a better wildlife experience. A few places have been arranged for visitors to see the penguins without disturbing them and get an opportunity to learn more about the colony. We could see the penguins from closer, with red lighting, for a much longer time and even take many photos with our phones! As we had to watch them in the dark, we didn’t get any good photos of the penguins in Bicheno. Remember you cannot light a torch and take photos with a flash.

An adult and a baby little penguins next to their nest at Lillico Beach near Devenport in Tasmania
Photo taken from the boardwalk near Devenport on the north coast of Tasmania

Where to see penguins in Bicheno

Penguins visit a few beaches in Bicheno. But you won’t have the same experience everywhere. The best place to see penguins in Bicheno is on a private beach with a guided tour. It’s safer for the penguins, and you’ll have a more rewarding and unforgettable experience. If you don’t go on a tour, you – and all the many other visitors – may struggle to find where to stand to see the penguins without disturbing them.

If you choose not to go with a tour, three beaches are known for being the home of penguins in Bicheno: the blowhole, Redbill Beach and Waubs Beach.

At Redbill Beach, we joined a group waiting on rocks at the right end of the beach and saw a couple of dozen little penguins making their way to their burrows.

People sitting on rocks on the beach in Bicheno at sunset waiting for penguins
People waiting on the beach at sunset, hopping to see penguins in Bicheno

Accommodations in Bicheno where you can see penguins

As penguins arrive at night, you don’t want to sleep too far away from where you’ll spot them. You’ll find many accommodation options in Bicheno.

But what if you could spend the night somewhere the penguins visit so that you don’t have to drive to the beach?

Have a look at Diamond Beach Resort*; they offer a free private penguin show for their guests.

Penguins also nest in the gardens surrounding the property at Cod Rock Point*.

Remember the rules to increase your chances of seeing penguins

If you want to see penguins in Bicheno, you must follow a few rules so that they feel safe to come out of the water. Otherwise, you may wait longer or even end up not seeing any penguins.

The two most important rules to spot penguins are not to use white light, even to find your way on the beach (dimmed red light is okay) and not to move too much. It means you cannot light a torch and must not take photos using a flash or a light. If you arrive early, it will be easy to see where you’re stepping. It’s also better to stay in a bigger group, so join other people already waiting on the beach.

When you plan to see penguins in Bicheno, you should understand that you may not be able to leave whenever you feel like it. Movement on the beach will disturb the penguins. If you turn on your light, it will disturb them too. Make sure you bring warm and dark clothes as you’ll get cold waiting and want to blend in the darkness to increase your chances of seeing them.

Responsible travel tip: It’s important to follow the rules during your wildlife experience to increase your chances of seeing penguins. But it should not stop there. After your experience, drive slowly when you leave the site. Penguins can go a few hundred metres on land, and it will make it safer for other wildlife too. If you have pets, understand when and where you can take them to the beach. Ideally, avoid bringing them to beaches where penguins nest. It will protect penguins and shorebirds.

Did you see penguins in Bicheno? Share your experience in the comments below!

Where is Bicheno?

Bicheno is on the East Coast of Tasmania. It takes approximately 2.5 hours to drive there from Hobart. It’s a popular stop for visitors touring Tasmania as it’s close to Freycinet National Park in the south and the Bay of Fires in the north.

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