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Penguins at Dusk on St. Kilda Pier Breakwater

This walk takes you from the end of the number one tram line at South Melbourne beach along to St. Kilda Pier and the breakwater where the Penguins return at dusk.   The number of penguins will vary depending on the time of year, which in winter can be from 5.00pm to about 10.00 pm at the height of summer.  There are a number of transport and add on options included in this post.

The breakwater is a bit of a surprise to visitors with a location so close to the city for viewing penguins.  It is a good alternative to making the trek down to Phillip Island where you will find the world famous Penguin Parade and the largest of penguin colonies in Australia.  Penguins return to shore after feeding in the Great Southern Ocean.  If on an organised tour to the island [half or full day] or self-guided the travel time will be 90 minutes each way minimum.

At both locations the larger number of penguins return in late spring and summer.  Parents return to feed chicks in the nests in the burrows at dusk when less predators are about.  You will often hear the noise of the chicks coming from the nests in the rocks or under the board walk [Mum  – I am hungry].

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The St. Kilda location is a little unique and surprise being located in an urban environment.   When as a tourist, you are time poor having only allowed a couple of days to see the many things that Melbourne has to offer, it is a bonus to your stay.

Take the number one tram to South Melbourne beach, where the tram terminates at stop 32 Beaconsfield Parade / Victoria Ave.  For those interested, alighting earlier at stop 27 at corner of Park and Montague Streets provides a detour walk St. Vincent Place to view early Victorian architecture and grand homes of the late nineteenth century.

Resuming the tram trip if you have taken the detour continue to end and get off at the South Melbourne Beach stop.  Cross the road at this T intersection, turn left to walk along the beach footpath towards St Kilda and the marina.  The closest path to the beach is pedestrian only and runs along the edge of the sea wall.

[Click on the images below to enlarge]

Walk to the pier and at the end you find located a kiosk and bar, Little Blue.  It is a great spot to take in the view of the city across the Marina and watch locals and tourists participating in the water sport activities on offer  be it yachting, stand up paddling, wind surfing and kiting.  Having walked along the foreshore you will have  passed the hire companies or schools based nearby in caravans or offices.  Many people don’t realise the vastness of the Port Philip Bay on which Melbourne is located.  The Great Southern Ocean is about 58 kms south on the bay and  through the heads.

To the left of the kiosk on the marina is a jetty, where people start to gather sitting with their feet over the edge.  From experience position yourself at the far end next to the steps that access the jetty.   You should be able to see any penguins that come in from the water, but be sure to turn around and look at the rocks behind and under the steps.  As it gets darker you’ll find up on the breakwater some, will come in from the seaward side, keep an eye out for other people gathering. Remember the parents are coming back to the nest to feed their young and will consider you a predator, be  quiet and you’ll be rewarded.

Don’t expect large numbers but with patience will get you one on one moment with the fairy penguins, this encounter is a privilege and I am always in awe of the location and urban environment.  There are usually a couple of volunteer guides who will answer any questions you have and are there to look after the welfare of the penguins so please follow their requests if made.

As mentioned viewing time will depend on the time of the year and in summer gets really late as dusk is not until well after 9.00pm.

As an indicator the writer did this walk in spring, late October and the penguins were out and about at about 7.45pm.

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Returning home to Southbank after the viewing, catch tram 3a and 16 from nearby Fitzroy Street to Grant Street, which runs along St Kilda Road to other destinations, Arts Precinct, Federation Square and Flinders Street Railway Station.  Also connecting with trams to other locations.

Directions to tram stop – from the end of pier, continue straight ahead up on to the bridge to cross  the road and access the esplanade and walk left 200 metres.

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What’s underneath the Onion Skin – add on and other things nearby:

St. Vincent Place -Victorian Grand homes and Architecture from the late nineteenth Century.

Luna Park – historic amusement park with old world and new rides

Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research – located in nearby Elsternwick.

Craft Market St Kilda Esplanade [Sundays] – great for local artisans products, crafts and good tourist souvenirs

St. Kilda Sea Baths – Oceanside featuring an indoor salt-water pool and day spa,

St. Kilda Beach foreshore – water sports, kite surfing

Food: Acland Street with a great eclectic mix of foods, particularly good are the Jewish and east European cake shops.

Suburb/ Neighborhood:  St. Kilda and nearby Elwood, Elsternwick

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St Kilda Marina from Little Blue on St Kilda Pier

How to get there: Melway reference – Map 57 H10

By Car:  park along St. Kilda foreshore and remember to feed the meters, the park inspectors are vigilant.

By Tram: 1 to South Melbourne Beach to do this walk. Direct to almost the end of the pier 3a and 16 along St Kilda Road, or 96 from Bourke Street and 112 from Collins Street or South Melbourne Market [rear].

Arrive by water: Connecting ferries: One operates just between Williamstown and St Kilda pier and the other also adds Docklands as an extra location.