Where to See Penguins in Tasmania: An Ultimate Guide

see penguins tasmania little penguins

Known for its stunning landscapes and rich biodiversity, Tasmania is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts seeking unforgettable encounters with unique Australian animals. With the majority of Australia’s Little Penguin population residing here, Tasmania offers prime opportunities to observe these charming creatures in their natural habitat. Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or simply drawn to the allure of witnessing penguins in the wild, this comprehensive guide promises a unique and memorable experience with Tasmania’s beloved penguins.

We’ve put together this guide to cover everything you need to know about the penguins in Tasmania, such as: where to see penguins in Tasmania, the best time to see penguins in Tasmania and more. We also cover the captivating behaviours and characteristics of penguins, answering questions such as; what penguins eat, how big penguins are, how long penguins can hold their breath and more. So grab your jacket, pack your camera and get ready for any unforgettable experience to see Tasmania’s beloved penguins on their nightly waddle.

Where to See Penguins in Tasmania?

Encountering penguins in their natural habitat is a truly magical experience. With the majority of Australia’s little penguin population calling Tasmania home, Tasmania offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness these charming creatures in their element. From outstanding free viewing platforms along the coast to guided tours of private penguin rookeries, there are plenty of great spots to see penguins in Tasmania.

Wondering where to see penguins in Tasmania? Below we’ve listed the best places to see penguins in Tasmania.

1. Godfrey’s Beach Penguin Viewing Platform (Stanley)

At Godfrey’s Beach Penguin Viewing Platform in Stanley, visitors are treated to an extraordinary opportunity to witness charming little penguins in their natural habitat. If you’re wondering where to see penguins in Tasmania’s remote north-west, this is the place to go. Nestled along Tasmania’s rugged north-west coast, this scenic location offers a front-row seat to one of nature’s most endearing spectacles. As the sun sets over the horizon, little penguins emerge from the ocean, returning to their coastal burrows for the night.

From the comfort of the viewing platform, visitors can observe the delightful penguins as they waddle ashore. The purpose-built platform provides an ideal vantage point with prime opportunity to view the penguins while giving them the privacy and protection they need, allowing visitors to respectfully watch on in sheer delight as the little penguins navigate their way under the platform and to their burrows. Equipped with special red lighting and a spacious elevated structure, the platform is accessible for wheelchairs and prams, ensuring inclusivity for all. Additionally, signage throughout the platform shares extensive information on the behaviour, biology and conservation of little penguins. There’s also signage at the start of the platform with viewing guidelines and approximate viewing times.

While you’re in Stanley, don’t pass up the opportunity to explore the timeless charm of this quaint town. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes, captivating stories, unique tastes and sense of community that defines this coastal haven with our list of the 24 best things to do in Stanley.

Location: Godfrey’s Beach Penguin Viewing Platform is located in Stanley. It’s approximately; a 2.5-3 hour drive from Launceston, a 1.5-2 hour drive from Devonport and a 4.5-5.5 hour drive from Hobart.

Cost: Free, there are no costs for visiting Godfrey’s Beach Penguin Viewing Platform.

2. Little Penguin Observation Centre (Parklands)

At the Little Penguin Observation Centre in Parklands, near Burnie, visitors are treated to a captivating experience of witnessing little penguins in their natural habitat. Amongst picturesque coastal surroundings on the north-west coast, the observation centre provides an ideal setting for observing these enchanting penguins as they return from their daily foraging trips at sea.

Upon arriving at the Little Penguin Observation Centre you’ll be greeted by a shelter adorned with signage detailing fascinating facts about penguins and realistic displays illustrating the various stages of a penguin’s life cycle. The shelter is a fantastic starting point to learn about the penguins before seeing them in person. From the observation centre stretches a large, wheelchair-accessible, paved walkway that overlooks the coast. Visitors disperse along the walkway, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the penguins.

A team of dedicated volunteers offer free guided tours every night between the 1st of October and the 31st of March at the Little Penguin Observation Centre. During this period, the guides help you view and photograph the penguins, answer any questions you have and share insights on the behaviour, biology and conservation of the penguins. Further enhance your experience seeing penguins in Tasmania with the guidance of the local volunteers.

Location: Little Penguin Observation Centre is located in Parklands. It’s approximately; a 1.5-2 hour drive from Launceston, a 30-45 minute drive from Devonport and a 3.5-4.5 hour drive from Hobart.

Cost: Free. There are no costs for visiting the Little Penguin Observation Centre or joining the guided viewing but the centre does take donations.

Images taken from the Burnie City Council website.

3. Lillico Beach Conservation Area (Lillico)

Located in Lillico, on the north coast of Tasmania, the Lillico Beach Conservation Area offers a fantastic opportunity to observe little penguins in their natural habitat. Just a 10 minute drive away from Devonport and the Spirit of Tasmania terminal, seeing penguins in Tasmania at the Lillico Beach Conservation Area is the perfect way to start or end your trip.

The penguin viewing platform is a boardwalk that overlooks the rocky beach. Designed with the comfort and well-being of the penguins in mind, the platform features numerous red lights that illuminate the area, allowing visitors to see the penguins in the dark in a respectful and non-invasive manner. Additionally, informative signs are placed throughout the platform, providing valuable insights into the behaviour and characteristics of little penguins.

From September to April, volunteer penguin guides from Friends of Lillico are present on the platform each night to offer guidance and educational sessions for visitors, enhancing the overall experience of witnessing these charming penguins in their natural habitat.

Location: Lillico Beach Conservation Area is located in Lillico. It’s approximately; a 1-1.5 hour drive from Launceston, a 15 minute drive from Devonport and a 3.5-4 hour drive from Hobart.

Cost: Free. There are no costs for visiting the Lillico Beach Conservation Area or joining the guided viewing but donations are appreciated.

Images taken from the City of Devonport website.

4. Bruny Island Neck Game Reserve (North Bruny)

At the Bruny Island Neck Game Reserve, visitors are treated to an unforgettable experience of observing little penguins in their natural habitat. Located on the stunning Bruny Island, the Bruny Island Neck Game Reserve offers a truly immersive and memorable encounter with Tasmania’s beloved Little Penguins. As the only place to see penguins in Tasmania’s south, if you’d like to see penguins without straying too far from Hobart, make sure to head to Bruny Island.

The penguin lookout, a relatively small triangular wooden platform located near the beach, provides a cozy vantage point for guests to witness the nightly return of the cute little penguins. Starting from the car park, a short stroll along a wooden boardwalk leads to the platform. Signage detailing the behaviour, lifecycle and characteristics of little penguins and fascinating details of the short-tailed shearwaters who also nest here, add to the experience, allowing visitors to learn about the penguins. This spot also has toilets.

Arriving early is highly recommended, as it offers the chance to catch a breathtaking sunset from the nearby Truganini Lookout, providing picturesque views of The Neck.

Location: Bruny Island Neck Game Reserve is located in North Bruny. It’s approximately; a 4-5 hour drive and ferry ride from Launceston, a 4.5-5.5 hour drive and ferry ride from Devonport and a 1.5 hour drive and ferry trip from Hobart.

Cost: Free, there are no costs for visiting the Bruny Island Neck Game Reserve. The ferry to Bruny Island is free for pedestrians, if you’re taking your vehicle on the ferry there is a fee.

5. Low Head Penguin Tours (Low Head)

Experience the enchanting sight of little penguins returning home from a day of fishing at sea with Low Head Penguin Tours. Situated on a rocky beach along the north coast of Tasmania, Low Head Penguin Tours offer a heartwarming and educational encounter seeing penguins in Tasmania.

For a non-invasive and respectful experience, Low Head Penguin Tours only take small groups of 10-15 people. This way each guest gets to enjoy an intimate and up-close experience with the penguins, making the tour a truly extraordinary encounter. Led by knowledgeable guides, the guided tour offers fascinating insights into the behaviour, biology and conservation efforts of the little penguins. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn about the rich maritime and colonial history of the area.

Location: Low Head Penguin Tours are located in Low Head. Approximately; a 40-50 minute drive from Launceston, a 1.5-2 hour drive from Devonport and a 3-3.5 hour drive from Hobart.

Cost: At the time of writing this the Low Head Penguin Tour costs $40 per adult and $20 per child.

Image on the left taken from Google Maps street view, image on the right taken from the Low Head Penguin Tours website.

6. Bicheno Penguin Tours (Bicheno)

Book a tour with Bicheno Penguin Tours for a heartwarming experience watching these beautiful little penguins navigate their way back home in the serene coastal setting of Bicheno. Bicheno Penguin Tours provide an insightful and respectful encounter with the endearing penguins at their private penguin rookery. An intimate and engaging experience, a tour with Bicheno Penguin Tours is a fantastic way to see penguins in Tasmania’s beautiful east coast.

Focused on protecting Bicheno’s native penguin population, Bicheno Penguin Tours acquired farmland and rehabilitated it into a habitat suitable for penguins, allowing Bicheno’s penguin population to thrive. Their tours take visitors on a short bus ride to their private penguin rookery for an incredible viewing experience. With a wealth of knowledge and passion for the little penguins, the guides share fascinating insights into the lives of little penguins, their behaviours and the ongoing efforts to protect these charming creatures.

Location: Bicheno Penguin Tours are located in Bicheno. Approximately; a 2-2.5 hour drive from Launceston, a 3-3.5 hour drive from Devonport and a 2.5-3 hour drive from Hobart.

Cost: At the time of writing this the Bicheno Penguin Tours cost $66.50 for adults and $26.50 for children during summer season (September-January), $49.50 for adults and $23.50 for children during winter season (February, April-August) and $42.50 for adults and $19.50 for children during low season (March).

Wondering Where to See Penguins in Bicheno Without a Tour?

Whilst we’d recommend booking with Bicheno Penguin Tours for an up-close and educational experience seeing penguins in Tasmania, there are multiple spots around Bicheno where you can see penguins after dark on your own. We’ve listed where to see penguins in Bicheno without a tour below:

  • Redbill Beach
  • Waubs Beach
  • The Blowhole
  • Along the Bicheno Foreshore Footway Trail
bicheno foreshore footway

7. Tasmania Zoo (Riverside)

For those seeking a traditional zoo experience, Tasmania Zoo offers the opportunity to see little penguins in a controlled environment. While observing penguins in their natural habitat is unmatched, Tasmania Zoo provides a chance to encounter little penguins alongside over 100 other exotic and native species. From giraffes and tigers to wombats and Tasmanian devils, the zoo boasts a diverse array of animals on display.

The zoo has a daily penguin feeding session at 3:50 pm, where visitors gather around the penguin habitat to watch the zookeepers feed the penguins. It’s a fascinating experience getting to observe the penguins up close as they eagerly await (and enjoy) their meal. While not a ‘wild’ experience, if you’re wondering where to see penguins in Tasmania within a traditional zoo setting, Tasmania Zoo is the place to go.

Location: Tasmania Zoo is located in Riverside. Approximately; a 20-30 minute drive from Launceston, a 1-1.5 hour drive from Devonport and a 2.5-3 hour drive from Hobart.

Cost: At the time of writing this, general admission to Tasmania Zoo is $37.50 per adult and $22 per child (2-15 years old).

see penguins tasmania captivity

What is the Best Way to See Penguins in Tasmania?

Below we’ve outlined some tips for the best way to see penguins in Tasmania:

1. Choose the Right Spot – Research and select a known penguin viewing location, such as those we’ve already listed. It’s important to pick a location where penguins are known to frequent and where responsible penguin viewing is possible. Below are some additional notes on selecting a suitable location and being responsible when seeing penguins in Tasmania:

  • Make sure you aren’t blocking the penguins’ access to their burrows.
  • Use existing tracks and platforms.
  • Don’t walk through the colony as you can destroy the burrows and disrupt the penguins.
  • Don’t access beaches where penguins frequent, after sunset or before sunrise. A lot of beaches specify this and close access during the night.

2. Dress Appropriately – Penguin viewing at night can get extremely cold, especially during winter or high winds. Even if you’re warm prior, once the sun goes down the temperature can drop significantly, leaving you extremely cold, especially as you’re staying still and not moving. Make sure to bring lots of layers so you can keep yourself warm and comfortable while seeing the penguins in Tasmania.

As penguins have great vision, a lot of sources also recommend wearing dark clothing to help you camouflage in the dark.

3. Visit at the Right Time – The penguins usually start heading to their burrows after sunset when it gets dark. In our experience seeing penguins in Tasmania this is anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours after sunset. We’d recommend heading to your penguin viewing location and ‘settling in’ before last light so you don’t disrupt the penguins as they’re returning. Visiting before dark also allows you to scout out the area and makes sure you get a good viewing spot.

godfreys beach penguin viewing platform stanley tasmania gate

4. Stay Quiet and Move Slowly – Penguins have excellent vision and easily spot movement. It’s important to stay quiet and move slowly so you don’t disturb or scare them.

5. Look for Movement – Scan the shoreline and surrounding areas for signs of movement or small groups of penguins making their way up the beach. Keep your eyes locked on the ocean as penguins arrive in ‘rafts’. Once the first group of penguins arrive, within minutes more groups of penguins arrive in waves. It’s a very sudden process, one moment you’ll see a black blob in the ocean and suddenly there’ll be loads of penguins making their way up the beach.

If you’re visiting during chick season, make sure to keep an eye out for any movement from the burrows also. Older chicks often leave their burrows after sunset and stand outside waiting for their parents to return.

6. Be Respectful – Treat the penguins with respect and keep these beautiful creatures safe. Stay a considerable distance away from them and refrain from attempting to disrupt, touch or feed them. We recommend adhering to any signage or guidelines that are in place at your chosen viewing spot to protect them and their natural habitat. Additionally we have outlined some ways to respect and protect the penguins below:

  • Torches, phone lights, camera flash and other bright lights are never ok to use when viewing little penguins. Only dim torches emitting red light can be used. If you don’t have a red light torch you can achieve the red by placing red cellophane over a normal torch. Even with the red light never aim the torch directly at the water or the penguins.
  • If you want to take a photo of them do so discreetly, don’t get in the penguin’s personal space and make sure you don’t have flash on.
  • Don’t visit a colony with dogs or cats, they are a major threat to penguins and their smell attracts others.
  • Penguins are protected, its illegal to catch or harass penguins and offences are taken seriously, if you see this behaviour call the ranger.

7. Be Careful Driving – If you are driving to/from the penguin viewing spot please be careful of wildlife on the roads while driving at night. Please slow down and if you see an injured or orphaned animal call Bonorong Wildlife Rescue on 0447 264 625.

If your vehicle is parked near the coast while you’re at the penguin viewing spot make sure to check underneath your vehicle for penguins before you drive.

see penguins tasmania under vehicle sign

Frequently Asked Questions About the Penguins in Tasmania

As you embark on your quest to see penguins in Tasmania, your curiosity is likely to be piqued by inquiries about the captivating behaviours and characteristics that make these charming little creatures so special. In this section we answer frequently asked questions about penguins such as; the best time to see penguins, what penguins eat, how big penguins are, how long penguins live, how long penguins can hold their breath and more.

What Species of Penguin is in Tasmania?

The species of penguin commonly found in Tasmania is the little penguin, which is also known as the fairy penguin or blue penguin. The majority of Australia’s little penguin population is found in Tasmania, which is why Tasmania is such a fantastic location to see them.

For the rest of these frequently asked questions we’ll be specifically talking about the little penguin.

When is the Best Time to See Penguins?

The best time to see penguins in Tasmania is after sunset, this is when the little penguins return to the shore after a day of feeding in the ocean and waddle up the coast to their burrows.

The exact time the penguins return to shore varies throughout the year depending on the season and local conditions. Therefore, we’d recommend checking prior to your visit what time sunset is in your location. We’ve watched penguins return to the shore multiple times now at different times throughout the year and they usually start about 30 minutes to 1.5 hours after sunset.

godfreys beach viewing platform stanley tasmania penguin signage

When is the Best Time of Year to See Penguins?

While penguins are in Tasmania year-round they do act seasonally and have specific times of year for breeding, raising chicks and moulting. This seasonal activity can impact the best time of year to see penguins in Tasmania.

The worst time of year to see penguins in Tasmania will be during moulting (February-May) as the penguins retreat to their burrows and remain in there during their two week moult. You’ll likely still see penguins during this period but in much lower numbers. The rest of the year June-January is usually pretty consistent with seeing decent numbers of penguins. September-January is frequently noted as the best time of year to see penguins in Tasmania as you get the chance to see chicks. Especially as the chicks grow in confidence and begin standing outside the burrows while waiting for the parents to return from the sea.

Below we’ve expanded on the seasonal activity of little penguins further, guided by information provided by Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service. There are many factors that can impact this pattern so the exact months may vary each year.

  • June-August: This is when male penguins return to the shore to either renovate their old burrows or dig new ones.
  • September-January: This is when the penguins are raising chicks on the shore. Eggs can be found as early as May or as late as October, these eggs will then hatch within 33-37 days and chicks will stay in the burrow for 7-8 weeks before moving to the ocean.
  • February-May: This is when the penguins will moult. The little penguins will feed frantically so that they can gain as much weight as possible prior to their moult. Once moulting begins it takes approximately two weeks and during this time they retreat to their burrows, unable to feed or drink during the moult.
see penguins tasmania chick

When are Penguins Active?

Despite being commonly mistaken to be nocturnal, as night-time is when humans are most likely to see them, little penguins are active during the day and return to the shore at night to rest.

As mentioned previously, the exact time they return to shore will vary each day and will depend on the location and time of year.

Are Penguins Hard to Spot?

As the little penguins return to the shore after sunset it’s usually quite dark. Your eyes adjust to the lack of light and you can usually see the penguins quite well but the lack of light makes it difficult to get any decent photos or videos of the penguins.

Torches, phone lights, camera flash and other bright lights are never ok to use when viewing little penguins. Only dim torches emitting a red light can be used, if you don’t have a red light torch you can achieve the red by placing red cellophane over it. Even with the red light never aim the torch directly at the water or the penguins.

Even in the dark the penguins are usually quite easy to spot, keep your eyes locked on the ocean and the penguins will appear in ‘rafts’. Once the first group of penguins arrive within minutes more groups of penguins arrive in waves.

penguins stanley

What are Penguins?

Penguins are flightless seabirds. The little penguins that call Tasmania home are the smallest of all species of penguins.

Where do Penguins Live?

Little penguins live in colonies along the southern coastlines of mainland Australia and on the coastlines of Tasmania, New Zealand and the Chatham Islands.

What do Penguins Eat?

While their diet varies in different locations, little penguins primarily feed on small school fish (such as anchovies), squid or krill.

see penguins tasmania little penguins

How Much do Penguins Weigh?

Fully grown, adult little penguins weigh approximately 1kg.

How Tall are Penguins?

Little penguins grow up to a height of 40cm.

How Long can Penguins Hold their Breath?

Little penguins can dive underwater and hold their breath for up to 2 minutes.

How do Penguins Stay Warm?

Little penguins have approximately 10,000 feathers, which is three to four times the feather density of flight birds. This helps provide little penguins with a waterproof and insulated coat.

The base of the little penguin’s feathers are also very downy which helps trap air and provide insulation for when the penguin is in the ocean.

For waterproofing, little penguins have a gland at the base of their tail which secretes an oily substance. When preening, the little penguins spread this oil like substance over their feathers to help keep them waterproof.

Where do Penguins Sleep?

After spending a day foraging and diving for food most little penguins return to the coast during the night to rest. Little penguins can also sleep out in the ocean if they wish as they can float on the surface of the water and nap.

On land little penguins prefer burrows they have dug in sand dune areas but they can also be found nesting amongst rocks and caves. Burrows typically consist of a tunnel around 60-80cm long that ends with a bowl that is filled with bedding material such as grass or seaweed.

How Fast can Penguins Swim?

On average, little penguins swim 2-4km/h but there has been a record of a little penguin swimming at 6.4km/h.

see penguins tasmania swimming

What is a Group of Penguins Called?

There are multiple phrases for a group of little penguins.

  • A group of little penguins in the water is called a ‘raft’.
  • A group of little penguins on land is called a ‘waddle’.
  • An entire population of little penguins is called a ‘colony’.
  • The location where a population of little penguins breeding, nesting and raising their young is called a ‘rookery’.

What Noise do Penguins Make?

Little penguins make a variety of different noises from barks and growls to squawks and squeals. At night, especially during the breeding season, penguin colonies can be extremely loud.

How Long do Penguins Live?

On average little penguins typically live for 6-7 years. There are reports however of some little penguins living over 20 years in the wild.

What do Penguins Look Like?

Each penguin species varies in appearance. The little penguin is short in size with a compact and robust or stocky body. Their feathers are blueish-grey on their head, back and flippers while their underside is white. They have a slender, pointed, black beak, pale pink feet and small silvery-grey eyes.

Where Can You See Penguins in Tasmania?

  1. Godfrey’s Beach Penguin Viewing Platform (Stanley)
  2. Little Penguin Observation Centre (Burnie)
  3. Lillico Beach Conservation Area (Lillico)
  4. Bruny Island Neck Game Reserve (Bruny Island)
  5. Low Head Penguin Tours (Low Head)
  6. Bicheno Penguin Tours (Bicheno)
  7. Tasmania Zoo (Riverside)
see penguins tasmania little penguin photo

Enjoy Your Journey to See Penguins in Tasmania!

That’s the end of our guide on everything you need to know about little penguins and where to see penguins in Tasmania. We hope this guide has helped you pick where you want to see penguins and we hope we’ve provided you with valuable insights on the unique behaviours and characteristics of Tasmania’s charming little penguins.

Want to see other unique animals during your time in Tasmania? Check out our other guides:

Watch Our Experience Seeing Penguins in Tasmania!

If you’d like to watch our video where we see penguins in Tasmania you can in our YouTube video below. We went to Godfrey’s Beach Penguin Viewing Platform in Stanley and had an amazing time.

Lydia
Lydia

Hey! I’m Lydia.

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