Thursday, November 3, 2011

Penguins on My Brain, Penguins on Parade in Australia

Ok, we know, we know.... "Little Feet 2" will be in theatres before Christmas. But we are not the only ones with penguins on the brain.

A friend just told me about a new TV series called "Penguin Island," airing on Nat Geo WILD on November 12 and 13 as part of the network's all-day, all-weekend "Penguin Palooza."

This story makes sense, however, when you realize that this National Geographic show is all about the little penguins of Phillip Island (located just 90 minutes outside of Melbourne, Australia).

For families who want to go behind the scenes to get up-close-and-personal with the little penguins, Phillip Island Nature Park is running a day-long “Penguin Island Tour.” Phillip Island is endowed with all sorts of wonderful wildlife, and in fact, a family can spend the whole day and take in three different animal preserves. Their 3 Parks Pass provides discounted entry to the main event, the Penguin Parade; as well as the (adorable) Koala Conservation Centre; and the Churchill Island Heritage Farm, a working Australian farm.

The “Penguin Island Tour” highlights what most families come for, and it is priced at $90 AUD/person. This tour includes:

•    Ranger Guided Tour – highlighting the “love nests” featured in the documentary

•    Behind-the-scenes of research efforts on the island

•    Penguin Plus (reserved seating on an exclusive viewing platform for the Penguin Parade)

•    Hot drink and MP4 player

•    Penguin Island DVD

•    Penguin green screen photo experience

•    Tour limited to 10 people

Are you heading Down Under over the holidays? During December, January, Easter and long-weekends it is essential to pre-book tickets for the program. The penguins are estimated to return to their "home" at sunset (about 8pm at this time of year), so visitors are asked to come one hour beforehand. That will allow you time to show the kids the interactive displays in the Visitor Center, grab a snack, and saunter over to seats at the beach.

If you want to watch the action without the guided tour, Phillip Island Nature Park also offers great value family tickets (a package for 2 adults and 2 children ages 4-15) and private family tours. Children under 4 enter free, and the park is both stroller and wheelchair accessible.

Getting there is just part of the adventure.  Phillip Island is easily accessible by car or public bus from Melbourne, though many visitors choose to spend the night camping, or in one of the 100 accommodations (beachfront apartments, B & Bs, hotels, motels) at all price levels. For more information, check the site of the Phillip Island Information Centre or drop by their offices at 895 Phillip Island Tourist Rd, Newhaven, Victoria 3925 (Tel: 03 5956 7447 or 1300 366 422).

Of course, you'll also want to spend time in the wonderful city of Melbourne, so check out Family Travel Forum's Melbourne with Kids guide before planning your visit.

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