In continuing my Magic of Melbourne series I should really call this post the magic of St Kilda but it would be too confusing. There is magic in seeing wild penguins though.
St Kilda is a beach hang out spot located just south of Melbourne city. Maybe a 10 minute tram ride from the CBD (Central Business District).
The beach isn’t too bad actually with lots of space to roam plus a hive of activity of water sports.
St Kilda normally draws a youngish crowd at night as it is the trendy place to be seen for many Melbournese. However it is not just the young party goers who hang out here.
As tourists to Melbourne many people will take the tours to Phillip Island to see penguins. This is a protected area and you will literally see loads of penguins. I’ve done the trip myself and really enjoyed it. The downsides of the trip was that it was quite pricey, you have to take maybe a two hour coach ride there and back and you are not allowed to take photos, not one. You do see hundreds of penguins though and I love penguins, they are so cute.
I did recently find out though that penguins have also been settling on the breakwater rocks at St Kilda. This has been happening since around the early 1970s and it is now a protected area.
The great thing about this is that it is free (well if you’ve already bought your Myki day/week pass for zone 1 it is). You can also take pictures although not with a flash. Bright lights are proven to make penguins stressful. Not only can this harm their health but they may regurgitate all the fish they’ve taken in that day. We don’t want all those baby penguins to go hungry now do we.
So excited to see penguins again I headed to St Kilda Pier one Saturday night.
The pier was originally built in 1904 but burnt down on 11th September 2003. It was since rebuilt in 2005 and now hosts a restaurant on it, although book in advance if you want to use it.
The pier is quite a stunning sight. You can also get some great landscape pictures of the Melbourne skyline.
Just past the restaurant are a few signs about penguins and what you’ll find at the breakwater at the end of the pier. Not only will you find penguins but a kind of water rat creature called Rakali also live on the rocks.
Just before sunset people head towards the breakwater viewing area to get a good spot.
I’d get there early as it can get quite busy.
On the night I was there we were joined by three ladies in luminous yellow coats. They are there to look after the preservation of the penguins. They spent most of the time telling people to keep off the rocks since that is where the penguins live. In spite of their instructions some people were still stupid enough to go on the rocks which led the women to become more and more vocal.
The ladies in yellow coats also kept telling people not to use flash lights which inevitably some people ignored.
Admittedly it was very dark once the sun went down and very difficult to get any decent pictures without a flash. To help us though the three ladies had red light torches. These have been proven not to be distressing for penguins. I think I even heard one of the ladies saying penguins were colour blind.
I was able to see some penguins come to shore as they come home for the night. I probably saw maybe a dozen which was a little disappointing considering how many I saw in Phillip Island. However we were right beside the rocks and could see plenty of penguins either nesting for the night or stood on rocks as curious of us as we were of them.
I found that if you wait a little while after sunset most of the crowds disappear so you can get a much better view of them.
I really enjoyed my trip to St Kilda that night. I can’t think of anything which offers more magic of Melbourne than seeing real life penguins in their natural home.