We recently headed to Port Fairy for a weekend break and I was looking for things to do. As nature lovers, we always try to see animals in their natural environments when we travel and, having seen these charismatic little birds elsewhere in the state it got me wondering, are there penguins at Port Fairy?
Unfortunately, there are no penguins at Port Fairy, though tired or injured birds do occasionally show up on the beach. However, when I did some research, I found that two of Victoria’s six main penguin colonies are on islands within a 22km radius of Port Fairy. Let’s find out more about those islands and if it’s possible to visit them.
What Type Of Penguins Are In Victoria?
Before we learn about the penguins near Port Fairy, I thought it would be good to spend a small amount of time writing about the type of penguins that are found in Victoria.
Victoria has only one type of penguin, these are known as Little Penguins or Fairy Penguins.
Little Penguins I aptly named because they are the smallest species of penguins in the world. The average weight of a Little Penguin is 1kg and their average height is around 35cm. Little Penguins are only found on the shores of Australia and New Zealand, though they spend 80% of their time at sea.
Where Can Penguins Be Found Near Port Fairy?
Penguins have two permanent colonies near Port Fairy, both of which are on islands – Middle Island penguin colony which is just off the coast of Warrnambool and Lady Julia Percy Island (Deer Maar) penguin colony, which is around 22km southwest of Port Fairy.
Middle Island Penguin Colony
Middle Island Penguin Colony is a real success story for conservation.
Sitting only a few hundred metres off of Warrnambool’s foreshore, this island has been home to a Little Penguin colony for many years, but in 2005 it was thought only 10 penguins remained having been devastated by foxes which had made their way over at low tide.
Middle Island was closed to the public in 2006 to ensure eggs weren’t being trampled by visitors and – in a world’s first – Maremma Sheepdogs were brought to the island as guardians to protect the penguins from foxes. This has had a positive effect on the colony, with 180 birds being recorded recently.
It is not yet possible to visit Middle Island however, you can book a tour to meet the Maremma dogs, learn all about Little Penguins and be shown the conservation work taking place here. All profits allow the project to keep going.
Lady Julia Percy Island (Deer Maar) Penguin Colony
Lady Julia Percy Island, or Deer Maar in the Indigenous Gunditjmara language.
It is a small island about 2km in length and 1km wide and home to about 2,000 breeding pairs of Little Penguins who live alongside the biggest Australian Fur Seal colony in Australia with around 27,000 thought to live here. It is also occasionally visited by sea lions, elephant seals and has lots of seabirds such as prions, shearwater and petrels.
Lady Julia Percy Island can be visited on a sightseeing tour that takes around four hours and departs from Port Fairy. This is the best way to see Little Penguins near Port Fairy.
What Other Things Are There To Do In Port Fairy?
There are lots of things to do in and around Port Fairy.
Here is a quick list to get you planning:
- Visit Griffiths Island to see the wallabies and beautiful lighthouse
- Drive up the coast to see ‘The Crags’
- Visit Tower Hill Nature Reserve – an extinct volcano crater, which has lots of koalas
- See the self-proclaimed ‘widest falls in Australia’ – Hopkins Falls
- Watch out for Southern Right Whales at Logan’s Beach whale viewing platform
- Visit one of two UNESCO Heritage Sites in Victoria, Budj Bim
- Let out your inner child at the Yambuk giant slide
- Do a heritage walk through central Port Fairy
- Relax on Port Fairy’s beautiful East Beach
For a full list check out my post ‘18 Eclectic Things To Do in Port Fairy (& The Local Area)‘.
*Photo credit for the header image on this post – JJ Harrison from Flickr