When Is the Best Time
The best time to spot a higher number of penguins in Tasmania s the main breeding season in November and December. However, September, October, January, and February are not bad roughly a hundred Fairy Penguins or Little Blue Penguins arrive after sunset at the shore. Usually, you spot a higher number of penguins at high tide, because the little blue ones have to walk less to their nests which minimises the risk of getting discovered by predators. Tide Times Bicheno
It's pretty tricky for them to get out of the water and walk over the huge boulders. You can watch them in the evening without a tour, but please don't disturb them, don't block their way, don't use a torch just a red light, and don't pet them! If they get scared, they do not come ashore and do not feed their starving chicks. Besides Bicheno, there are two more excellent places in Tasmania to spot fairy penguins. More below.
Are you wondering why I took pictures close to the little blues? I am using a zoom lens from Panasonic 600 mm. We sat on the rocks and observed the penguins without moving or disturbing them! This is most important if you wish to watch penguins without a tour; don't move while waiting, and don't disturb the penguins. If they think you are a threat, they do not come out and may not feed the starving chicks. Please react responsibly so that this nesting area has a future!
You may see blue penguins throughout the year in Bicheno and Tasmania, but a few only mainly male in winter. During summer, you spot plenty of them. However, wildlife is not predictable. Especially in winter, none of them may come ashore.
Penguin Season - Activities
The highest chance to spot some of these cute little blue penguins is from October to February, the main breeding and feeding season.
- Building their nest from April/May to August; mainly male, to impress the female.
- Laying two eggs from August to December
- Chick raising in the summer until February.
- Being out at sea to double their weight before moulting.
- Moulting from February to April/May. A complete replacement of their feathers takes roughly two weeks.
It's busier with many more visitors in summer from December to February, but not extremely crowded. There are fewer visitors in winter and spring but also fewer penguins to spot.
You will love staying here for at least two nights to increase your chance of spotting them. IMPORTANT: Book well in advance if you visit in the high season. Otherwise, you'll risk fully booked accommodations! However, even in the low season, you'll save money if you book in advance! Stay in one of the very view private properties where the little blue nest in the gardens. One of these vacation homes is Cod Rock Point, ideally situated. However, don't get too close; no camera flashlight or torch, only red light for obvious reasons!
Another excellent spot to watch the penguins and stay at a fantastic beach is the Diamon Island Resort. The resort has its own private beach where you can watch the fairy penguins arriving in the evening. Beach access for guests only!
Hiking Tip: Our favourite hike nearby is the Apsley River Gorge Trail which is usually not busy. Another highlight in Bicheno is the Bicheno Blowhole at high tide:
Are you getting to Tasmania from Melbourne or Sydney? If it's Melbourne, stay there for a night close to St. Kilda and watch their huge penguin colony day and night.
Where to See Penguins in Tasmania?
We were fortunate and spent more than a month in Tasmania and spotted the fairy penguins at several locations. Bicheno is one of the places but not the best IMO. There are two spots in the north of Tasmania Lillico Beach Conservation Area (Google Maps Location) and Low Head Penguins and Lighthouse. Volunteer rangers give you tons of information at Lillico. It may take two hours here until you watch all parents coming out with stomachs full of fish. Due to the higher elevation, you are able to see many and close, and best of all; it is wheelchair accessible. Dress up warmly it is cold during the night when standing still all the time.
The Low Head penguins can be seen guided only, but it was worth every dollar. We went to Low Head in February, and our friend Rik from Melbourne in May. Bicheno is a good place to watch them, but we loved Low Head most. These guides do an excellent job, and they know how they can let you get close without any disturbance.
Best Months to Visit
Location and Tips
It is a marvellous experience; to see penguins in small groups arriving ashore, walking and jumping up the rocks to their burrows. If you are lucky and don't move, they walk close to you and pass by to get back to their nests. We had rented a house where penguins nest in the garden close to Cod Rock Point.
In the evening, we went outside with red headlights!! only and we were waiting on a massive rock until the penguins came ashore. Don’t block their way! If they are scared, it is better to leave.
We spotted them spectacularly jumping from one rock to the next. Later on, we heard them in the garden. The next evening, due to heavy rainfall, we stayed inside the house with switched-off lights. They are so cute to watch while walking through the garden to their burrows.
There are artificial nests and self-excavated nests.
It is possible to book a penguin night tour in Bicheno to watch them up close. The guides have immense knowledge, and let you know how to observe the Fairy Penguins without disturbing them!
No camera flashlight or torch, only red light for obvious reasons! Dress warmly, you are getting cold while waiting.
My husband Markus at Cod Rock Point warmly dressed on the cold and windy November day.
7 Facts About the Fairy Penguins
- Most of the little blue penguins breed on offshore islands less than 5 % are found on the mainland.
- These cute penguins are not taller than 40 cm and weigh one kg.
- They live, on average, 6-7 years.
- Diving typically between 10-30 meters to catch small fish, squid or krill.
- Some return year-round to their burrow, but most stay at sea in autumn and winter. If you spot penguins in the winter from June-August, these are males preparing the nests for the next breeding season.
- In the breeding season, the parents share the 33-37 days period of egg incubation. After hatching, the parents leave their chick unguarded to catch fish during the day. When the chicks are about 5 weeks old, they wait outside the burrow to get fed at night. Another 2-3 weeks later, they will leave the nest and their parents forever to move to the sea.
- You see these cute fairy penguins mainly at night when it is dark. They come ashore when it is dark to minimise their risk of being discovered by predators.
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