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Phillip Island Penguin Paradise, an accessible and fun adventure for all!

In March, 2023 I visited the Phillip Island Nature Park. I went with my mum, my sister, my aunty and my friend to see the Penguin Parade.

The little penguins at Phillip Island are the smallest species of penguins in the world. You can find them in the southern part of Australia and New Zealand. They have very pretty blue and white feathers and Phillip Island is one of the most popular places to watch them in Australia because every night of the year at sunset they come onto the shore to rest.

We drove there from Melbourne and stayed the night in a cabin nearby. It took about an hour and a half to drive there. We got there around 6.30pm and it was very cold so we wore our coats and beanies to stay warm.

There is a big new modern building and it blends in very well with the landscape. There is also a large carpark with a toilet block nearby.

The centre opens at 5pm. We booked and paid for our tickets online so we went straight to check in with our etickets when we arrived. They do not accept cash and sometimes they sell out of tickets, especially for the Underground Viewing room and the Ranger tour, so it is good idea to book and pay earlier.

The staff were very friendly and a nice lady called Louise was very helpful and asked me if I was excited to see the penguins. She also asked where we were from. They had some really cool Sensory Bags that you can use so I decided to try one. Mum gave them her licence and they gave us a bag to use, then at the end of the night we gave it back and Mum got her licence back.

The Sensory bag had a lanyard for me to wear, some noise cancelling headphones, some fidget toys and some cue cards in it. I enjoyed using the fidget toys while I was waiting for my dinner and also when I was in the Underground Viewing room listening to our guide talk about the penguins and while I waited for the penguins. I didn't need to use the headphones but it was good to have them in case it got too noisy. I liked wearing the lanyard a lot.

Before we visited, Mum and I read a Social Story about the Penguin Parade on the

Phillip Island Nature Parks Accessibility page. It was great to read it and see the photos of what it would be like there.

There is a lot of information at the centre about Penguins. You can read it or just look at the photos.

They also have some interactive zones where you can find out more about the penguins habitat, what they eat, where they go and who their predators are. They have some little boxes there like the ones the penguins sleep in at night.

You could sit down in there too if you wanted to and chill out for a while. They even have a movie about penguins on a big screen to watch.

I really liked the building, it was very big and clean and had very big windows to make it very light. The ceiling was very interesting.

There was a great restaurant and we had a delicious dinner there. I had the Roast Chicken Maryland and a soft drink and I loved it.

After our dinner we went to the lovely toilets and they were very light and clean and smelled good. Then because it was getting close to sunset we went out to see the penguins.

The man checked our tickets with his scanner and said he hoped we enjoyed ourselves.

We had to walk along a very big boardwalk all the way down to the beach area. It took us about 10 minutes because we were looking at the animals and scenery on the way. We could see some other birds and wallabies. This wallaby had a baby in it's pouch which was very cute to see. I liked taking some nice photos along the way.

There is a buggy that drives along the boardwalk for people to get a lift if they can't walk that far. They also had seats along the way in case you wanted to sit and rest. I liked the seats because they had penguin pictures on them.

We also stopped to see the little wooden houses and burrows that the penguins sleep in. There were even some that had penguins inside.

When we got down near the beach we went into the Underground Viewing area. There are also stands up above where you can watch the penguins from outdoors.

There was a sign showing this was a headphone zone because it sometimes gets very noisy with lots of people and later the penguins and other birds make a lot of noise too. There were headphone signs in other areas too so people would know they might need to use their headphones around those areas.

I really liked it in the Underground Viewing area. It was a large room with a window along the wall so you could see the path outside where the penguins would go past. There was a lot of space there for everyone to spread out and find a spot to watch the penguins. There were even some seats you could sit on in the middle of the room.

We got there just before it got dark outside. There was a nice ranger, called Scott, who was very friendly and told us lots of information about the penguins.

It was nice and warm in the room too and it was good to get out of the wind outside.

There was a big TV on the wall so we could watch the beach and the penguins via livestream and see when they would come out of the water. Scott said when they are coming in they form a big group called a raft and then float in together. They they waddle up the beach and up the hill past the Underground Viewing room to find their boxes or burrows.

I found a good spot to wait by the window and I used the fidget toys while I waited. It took a while for the penguins to come but when the first ones came by it was so exciting to see them.

I really loved watching the penguins go by. They were very cute and sometimes they stopped and looked at us through the glass. There were lots of penguins and they came by in little groups.

We stayed in the room for about an hour and we were the last people to leave because we really liked watching the penguins and talking to Scott.

You are not allowed to take photos because the flash might hurt the penguins eyes.

You can upload great photos like these ones from the Phillip Island Nature Parks website.

The way the penguins waddle is very cute and because it was moulting season some of them had eaten a lot of food and they had very full tummies and fell over a lot. Other penguins ran past very fast.

I saw a wheelchair in the room in case someone needs it.

The rangers count the penguins every night and they have the information on a big sign in the main building that they update every day.

After we left the Underground Viewing room we walked back up the boardwalk slowly and watched the little penguins still walking back to their boxes and burrows. There were lights so we could see well and we could hear the penguins. It takes them a long time to get back to their homes. There were still a lot of people walking back up with us but it wasn't too crowded.

I really liked being in the Underground Viewing Room because it was nice and warm and we could see the penguins up close. It was quiet in there too.

On the way out we went through the shop and there were lots of great souvenirs you could buy. I got a T-shirt and my sister got a cute penguin with a jumper on.

Louise served me in the shop and she asked if I liked seeing the penguins. I told her that I really loved seeing the penguins.

I think the penguins are very cute and it was great to watch them and learn about them. The staff were very friendly and helpful and I really enjoyed visiting the Phillip Island Nature Park Penguin Parade. My sister loved it too and so did my mum, my Aunty and my friend. My favourite thing was watching the fast penguins run past the window.

Tips from my travelling companion -

Our visit to the Phillip Island Nature Park to see the little penguins was such an enjoyable experience. We were very impressed with the lovely new facilities. The carpark area was easily accessible and there were ample parking spots available. It was well signed and the beautiful state of the art building was amazing. It has been designed so well to fit in with the surrounding environment and was incredible inside. The staff were welcoming, friendly and professional and paid extra attention to helping Flynn so he could enjoy his visit.

Before we went I contacted the Phillip Island Nature Park via email and asked about their Accessibility features and they replied promptly with a great deal of information. They told us about the sensory bags they have for those who may need them, signage for quiet zones around viewing areas, a buggy for those with mobility needs or requiring assistance to leave the boardwalks, and the fact that their staff have been trained to understand that each individual will have different needs. I had already researched and asked about the option of the Underground Viewing room and they replied that they thought this was probably a great option as it would provide Flynn with choices. Also, because it is out of the weather, it also has a smaller number of guests and provides a fantastic close-up view of the penguins. They said that generally the Underground Viewing visitors stay there for the first 20 minutes, but that if Flynn felt uncomfortable at any time we should just let the ranger know the situation and they will suggest options. I was very impressed with their response and the information they provided clearly shows they are extremely inclusive and open to catering for all needs.

After experiencing it, we highly recommend the Underground Viewing area as it was a very calm, sheltered way to see the penguins, whilst still being very close and interactive. Flynn loves to stand up and move around a lot too so this was a perfect option.

Another fantastic feature they have on their website is a Social Story setting out in photos and simple text what to expect when visiting the Penguin Parade. We read through this before our visit and it definitely helped Flynn prepare for the experience by helping him to feel confident in understanding what he may see and experience on his visit.

The Penguin Parade is a KultureCity Certified Sensory Inclusive Venue, meaning they have gone through the process of learning about sensory needs and how to better engage with and support individuals with sensory needs.

They accept the Companion Card to allow a support person to accompany the person with disability free of charge. They also allow Assistance animals too. Information on the above, as well as mobility accessibility, and their Changing Places facility can be found on their website on the Accessibility page

We were very glad we had booked the tickets a few weeks in advance as the Underground Viewing room was sold out the night we visited. We were also glad we could visit on a weeknight and not in school holidays as we have heard the crowd numbers are much bigger on weekends and in holiday periods. This might be something to keep in mind if crowds cause distress.

As the drive was quite long we opted to stay at Phillip Island for the night rather than drive back late. This was definitely a good decision for Flynn as driving both ways in the same afternoon/evening would have been very tiring. There's plenty of accommodation to choose from.

Overall we would highly recommend the Phillip Island Nature Park Penguin Parade to others as a truly accessible and enjoyable experience for all ages and abilities.

By Flynn's mum, Jenni

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