Tasmania is a great place to see Little Penguins (or Fairy Penguins as they are also known). If you’re in the north west region of Tassie, an easy-to-get-to and excellent spot to see these cute little critters is the Lillico Beach Conservation Area, 10 minutes west of Devonport on the Bass Highway.
Little Penguins at Lillico Beach
This shrubby coastal strip of land is home to a colony of delightful Little Penguins. They enchant visitors every breeding season (September to May) and during the summer months (mid December to mid February). Local volunteers and Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife rangers are on site during this time.
The Friends of Lillico Penguins also offer a free guiding interpretation service all through the breeding season. The reserve is only 2.5kms long with a total area of 14 hectares. Lillico Beach, which is an important wildlife corridor for the area, is made up of sand and attractive, evenly polished stones known as shingle.
There’s a first-rate viewing platform and walkway arrangement in place, which makes it easy to watch the Little Penguins as they return to their burrows each evening after a day’s search for food in the beautiful waters of Bass Strait. These penguins are around 30cms in height and weigh in at just a kilo. They are the world’s smallest breed of penguin and have been known to dive down to 57 metres for their food.
How to Behave Around Fairy Penguins
There’s a few “dos” and “don’ts” if you are going to view Little Penguins of an evening. Firstly, penguins use visual cues to make their way back to the burrows, which means they can become easily lost and confused by light and noise. Visitors are asked to stay on the platform; remain quiet and still; wear dark clothing and refrain from using camera flash or any white light torches.
Definitely do not approach or touch the penguins or walk through their colony. That would be very traumatic for them and could damage the burrow areas, preventing the adults from getting to their hungry offspring.
As the penguins can easily see movement (especially if you are outlined against the sky) you should not walk along the beach to get to the viewing spot. A torch with red cellophane over the light source is acceptable. Digital cameras without a flash and video cameras without a spotlight can be used.
Lillico Beach Conservation Area is a very well established and maintained area to view these Little Penguins, and we are lucky to have them here in Tasmania. This is a lovely experience to take with you from this part of the north west coast.
Penguins can be found almost anywhere around Tasmanian coastlines. Some other interesting places you can see Little Penguins in Tasmania are:
- the aptly named town of Penguin where they come ashore near the main town area (there’s also the Penguin Point Fairy Penguin Tour each night from September to March)
- at Burnie in the early evening on many of the beaches and at the Little Penguin Observation Centre on Parsonage Point at the western end of west beach (where Friends of the Burnie Penguins hold free interpretive tours for visitors from September to March)
- near the town of Port Sorell you can frequently see them hurrying up the beach
- at Low Head near George Town where nightly tours are taken from the Coastal Reserve
- at Stanley I’ve often seen penguins in the day swimming around where the fishing boats are moored
- Bicheno Penguin Tours have the biggest nightly penguin tour in Tasmania. It runs all year but penguin numbers are more reliable during the breeding season
- Bruny Island penguins are common along the isthmus beach where North and South Bruny meet
- at Strahan on the west coast you can take the Bonnet Island Experience Tour or discover them yourself if you take a trip at dusk to the southern end of Ocean Beach