Bruny Island Penguins: Everything You Need To Know To Visit!

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I love penguins and after our great experience getting up close to penguins in Low Head, on Tasmanian’s north coast (read more here), I was very excited when I realised we could also check out Bruny Island penguins on our trip to Bruny.

Home to many fairy penguins, The Neck at Bruny Island is set up so you can visit the penguins as they come in at sunset as well as shearwaters. There wasn’t any tours at the time we visited so it’s an independent activity. We wondered if we would have a good experience and if it was worth the effort to visit here in the evening with our three kids.

So should you go? What time can you see penguins? Are there many?

Bruny Island penguins viewing platform
The viewing platform and boardwalk to see the pengiuns

Below, I give you all the details about visiting the penguin rookery Bruny Island and describe exactly what you can expect from a visit here. I hope you enjoy it too!

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Bruny Island Penguins

The penguins at Bruny Island are fairy penguins which is the smallest species of penguins. They are the only ones that breed in Australian waters and they can be found in many places from Fremantle in Western Australia to southern Queensland and around the coast in Tasmania.

At The Neck, there are some information boards about the penguins as well as a short boardwalk from the car park to the opposite side of The Neck there the penguins come in off the beach. There is a viewing platform on this side. From the boardwalk, you can see many burrows all around. Same from the path up to the viewing platform.

Bruny Island penguins boardwalk
The boardwalk to the viewing platform looking at the beach

In the evening, you aren’t allowed on the beach to protect the penguins. You also can’t use regular torches – you need to cover them in red cellophane.

A couple who showed up when we were there obviously didn’t understand this – they not only went on the beach right in front of the viewing area, but set up a party complete with music on speakers, wine and food 😮 Thankfully, someone else watching managed to convince them to leave.

In this area, there aren’t just penguins but many shearwaters nesting.

Bruny Island penguins Notice board at the observation point
Notice board at the observation point

The Bruny Island penguins’ time is around sunset – when they are meant to come in from the ocean. However, when we visited, no penguins appeared until about 50 minutes after this when it was very dark.

We then only saw a few over the next half hour when finally a bunch of five came out of the water. With my powerful, red cellophane torch, we could see them ok but it was impossible to get any photos that were any good so please forgive the one I show here. It was nothing like our experience at Low Head.

Other people at the platform the same time as us had smaller torches and couldn’t really see anything.

Bruny Island penguins
A penguin on the beach at night

At this point, we had to give up as the kids had had enough and it was very late. I was disappointed as it had seemed like it was just getting good! On the way back over the boardwalk to the car, we saw many shearwaters nesting and making quite a lot of noise.

The drive back to our accommodation was a slow one thanks to wildlife on the roads at night. In a way, this was a better wildlife experience than we had at The Neck as we saw many different creatures up close in the car beams as we waited for them to finish crossing the road including an amazing looking echnida. We didn’t pass a single car in the 30 minute journey – Bruny Island is definitely not a night destination unless you are wildlife.

Bruny Island Penguin Tour

While you may be able to find Bruny Island penguin tours somewhere, there is no sign of any when we visited in October 2020. This is a low key experience you can do by yourself.

Penguins Bruny Island Location

Bruny Island Penguins location map
Click the Map to open in Google Maps. You can then access directions to each of the locations discussed in this article.

The fairy penguins Bruny Island Tasmania are at The Neck. The viewing point is at the same place as the lookout and shares a small car park. I can imagine at busy times, it could be possible for this car park to fill up and there isn’t any street parking.

There is a toilet by the car park.

Bruny Island penguins car park
The car park by the penguin rookery and The Neck lookout
Bruny Island penguins toilets
The toilet block by The Neck car park

Final Words

As a penguin fan, I enjoyed the fairy penguins Bruny Island and I’m glad we stood out in the cold dark to see them. However, it was disappointing after my other penguin experiences and from our experience on this one night, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are a big penguin fan too. It was a lot of waiting for very little.

If you have been to see the Bruny Island penguins, I’d love to hear of your experiences in the comments below to find out if we were unlucky, lucky or if this is a typical experience.

Bruny Island penguins The burrows as viewed on the boardwalk
The burrows as viewed from the boardwalk

Make sure you have a decent torch covered in red cellophane or a special red light torch for viewing wildlife. You’ll need it.

Otherwise, relax, enjoy and have no expectations. Fairy penguins are awesome little creatures!

Want to drink some delicious wines or ciders and have a nice lunch during your time on Bruny? Read our full review of the Bruny Island winery here. Like some oysters before or after your meal? Read about how to get delicious Bruny Island oysters here. You can also find our full guide to things to do on Bruny Island here and Bruny Island camping guide here. Find more fun things to do in Southern Tasmania here.

By Sharon Gourlay

Sharon grew up in Tasmania, moved away and then came back with her family twenty years later. She loves re-discovering her home state and sharing it with you here.