St Kilda’s Pier: Paradise and Penguins

St Kildas Pier in Melbourne Australia

Quick Facts

  • St Kilda’s Pier is home to Fairy Penguins (also known as blue penguins)
  • The pier was construced in the 1800’s, with the addition of the breakwater added in 1956 for the Melbourne Olympics.
  • After the historic kiosk burnt down in 2003, it was rebuilt using the original plans from 1904.
Fairy penguin beak

Before I departed for my Australian adventure, I bumped into a girl I went to school with. Since we left education she had spent a lot of time in Australia, including living there for several months. As soon as she found out I was heading there myself she promised me a list of all the things I had to do whilst out there. Fast forward to a week later and I’m sitting in an airport bar enjoying an ice-cold beer, and my phone pings with a message from her containing the full list. It all sounded amazing, but for some reason “see the penguins at St Kilda’s Pier” stood out. Now penguins are one of my favourite animals so that was one reason, but considering Australia’s wildlife has a reputation for trying to kill, penguins seemed like an odd animal choice to see on the list.

St Kildas Pier in Melbourne Australia

The Fairy Penguins

St Kilda is home to a colony of Fairy penguins although they are sometimes called Blue penguins. Primarily named for their size, they are the smallest of their species, usually maxing out around 16 inches. This small size means they aren’t the fastest of creatures, with a maximum swimming speed of 1.6mph.

Walking along St Kilda

It was early afternoon when I checked into the Base hostel in Melbourne. I was exhausted from the trip and had just finished my East Coast group tour, and for the first time, I was alone. I had spent the last two weeks with constant companionship, eating, drinking, exploring and even sleeping with people I now considered friends. Feeling at a bit of a loss, I loaded up my list and checked out what to do in Melbourne, to my delight I found out the nearest thing was St Kilda’s pier was just a short walk away. I grabbed my camera and made my way there, walking along the beach and taking note of bars and restaurants along the way. The walk along the pier is stunning, with incredible views of the harbour. 

Fairy Penguins in St Kilda Melbourne Australia

At the very end, you come to the breakwater that makes up the penguin’s home. Unfortunately for me, no penguins. No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t see a single one. Disappointed, but hopeful I would see them on at least one of the few days I had in Melbourne, I made my way back to my hostel. It was there during a conversation with one of my roommates that they mentioned it was because I had visited at completely the wrong time of day. The penguins leave in the morning and make their way back in the evening. Melbourne is maybe the only city in the world where even the wildlife has to commute. 

Walks in the Nighttime

A bit more hopeful I’d see penguins that night, I went out to get some dinner to pass the time. As the sun started to amble back to St Kilda’s Pier (although this time at a much slower pace thanks to a full stomach) I got to the end to find the once deserted pier filled by a crowd. The penguins are left as wild as possible, with them being allowed to freely roam.

What I love is that it’s the public that is behind barriers and not the penguins. I walked along the set path and saw penguins nestling into the rocks, whilst a couple of the braver ones amongst them bounced through the thin barriers as if to greet me. Whenever one of them was confident enough to do so they were followed closely by a man assigned to act as their bodyguard. This guy’s role was to keep the public back and make sure they didn’t harm or disturb the animal. Reminding people they are free to photograph and video the penguin but don’t use flash to avoid distressing it.

Before long I could feel myself getting tired, it had been a long day of travelling so I made the decision to start walking back to my hostel. Travelling can be expensive and it’s easy for the costs to rack up, so it’s a relief to find incredible experiences like this that don’t break the bank. It doesn’t require much planning, besides knowing when to show up. If you are like me and need the occasional break but don’t like to feel they have wasted a night doing nothing, then this is the perfect compromise.

Returning the St Kilda

I found myself going past St Kilda’s pier a few more times during my visit. But due to a tight schedule I was never able to go again at the right time to see the penguins. Currently, St Kildas pier is undergoing some refurbishment and will be extended. At the same time providing better protection and viewing for the penguins. This is due to be completed and scheduled for reopening in 2024.

St Kilda’s Pier FAQs

How much does it cost to visit?

St Kilda’s pier is free to visit at all times of the day.

What else can I do in Melbourne?

Melbourne is an amazing city with so much to do. Check out Get Your Guide for the latest activities. I have attached a link below showcasing some of the latest activities. By booking through the link it won’t cost you any extra, but I will receive a commission which helps me continue to create content and guides.

Are there any restaurants or bars near to St Kilda’s Pier?

Yes, there are some amazing bars and restaurants along the beach so you will easily find somewhere to eat before or after your visit.

What time is best to visit St Kilda’s Pier and see penguins?

The penguins can be seen just after sunset, the first hour after is meant to be the prime time.

How close can I get to the penguins?

This is down to the penguins on the night you visit. To stop humans from interfering with their natural lifecycle, the habitat is surrounded by barred fences. This allows the penguins to jump through but stops tourists from getting too close and disturbing the nests.

What species of penguins live here?

The penguins who make St Kilda’s pier their home are Fairy Penguins.

Are they there year-round?

Yes, the penguins can be seen throughout the year. However, you are far more likely to see them in the summer months.

When can we expect to see penguin chicks?

Your best bet for seeing penguin chicks will be to visit in November / December time.

Can we take photos of the penguins?

Absolutey, but please ensure your flash is off so you do not disturb them. There is red lighting in the area to help you and your camera see them.

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