Hands down, one of our very favorite days while we were in Victoria was the time we spent at Maru Koala and Animal Park and Phillip Island.
Animal conservation is something very near and dear to me, but this (shockingly) actually isn’t a trip that I sought out on my own. My sister and brother-in-law actually booked the day trip for us via Viator and gifted it as my (slightly belated) birthday present! On the list of best birthday present ever, this experience is pretty high up there, right with *NSYNC concert tickets for my 12th birthday and an engagement ring for my 28th birthday. 😉
The day trip didn’t begin until 1pm, so we spent that morning having a ridiculously delicious, leisurely brunch at Tall Timber in Prahran. When I say ridiculously delicious, what I mean is the most scrumptious food I’ve ever had for brunch. Seriously, these guys are wizards.
I went for the Breakfast Board, which included mini versions of the Bircher muesli, fruit and yogurt, avocado toast, absurdly good (so so so so good) hummus with dukkah, a poached egg and orange juice, because I’m bad at making decisions and prefer to sample a little bit of everything, and Chris ordered the suped-up eggs Benedict, which came with ham hock terrine, Champagne-poached eggs, bacon, and an apple cider hollandaise sauce.
We were seriously impressed had very happy tastebuds and tummies.
From there, we headed to the CBD to meet our tour and boarded the comfortable bus, complete with WiFi and USB charging outlets. The drive from Melbourne to the animal conservation center took an hour and a half or so, and Chris and I both dozed off and on during the ride.
But when we made it to Maru Koala and Animal Park, we were fully awake.
We were literally the last people to get back to the bus because we were having such a good time.
But. Penguins awaited us.
That’s right—there’s a colony of teeny penguins that lives on gorgeous Phillip Island and you can go see them on their nightly parade from the sea to their homes on land.
And you should.
Because it is absurdly adorable, but also because it’s completely fascinating.
The way the viewing platform is set up allows for different viewing experiences that are ticketed and priced a bit differently. My sister and brother-in-law had gotten us an upgrade to the viewing platform, so we were a bit closer to the beach and right along one of the trails the penguins use—definitely worth it because, as it turns out, you aren’t allowed to take photos or videos of the penguins.
A huge bummer, for sure. But it’s for the penguins’ health!
Well, you could absolutely take photos or a video of them with no flash, but because the parade happens right after sunset, so many people were forgetting to turn the flash off that it became a major issue: the penguins were getting cataracts!
For real. The camera flashes were giving the little friends major eye issues, which in turn affected their vision under water and made it hard for them to fish.
Then the government of Australia said PHOTOGRAPHY OF PENGUINS IS ILLEGAL, as they should.
And the conservation employees are serious about enforcing this: I won’t lie, I was trying to sneak a couple (flash off!) photos to send to my sister and I got caught. They were perfectly nice about asking me not to take photos—no aggression or rudeness at all—but, they do insist that you do not take photos and are firm about it.
Anyway, back to anticipation of the parade. Once you’re out on your viewing area, you basically just stare at the sea and wait. The conservation staff explained that the penguins wait at the surf line in the water until after sunset to emerge from the sea so as to avoid predators, and they generally arrive on the beach in little groups that are adorably called “rafts”.
The night we were there, the first penguin we saw arrived alone though! It was this crazy moment, because you’re shifting your gaze from the water to the beach and back, trying to perhaps spot the penguins as they approach, but then voilà! There’s a penguin on the beach!
Watching the petite birds arrive and then start their march to their homes is a really cool, unique experience and totally, totally worth going.
After leaving the penguin parade, we went into Cowes for dinner and had a few different options of where to go. Chris and I decided to head to a family-run Italian place and had a very nice, rustic pizza.
After that, we got back on the bus and made our way back to Melbourne.
A truly fantastic day, all-around.