A couple of weeks before, in a spontaneous & desperate desire to leave town, I purchased a Groupon voucher with a local touring company. This one was headed to Phillip Island, located Southeast of the Mornington Peninsula. The primary attraction is the Penguin Parade, when the one-foot tall Little Penguins march from a day of fishing in the Bass Strait to rest on the Summerlands Beach and feed their young. However, there ended up being so many other highlights throughout the day.
First we stopped at Warrook Cattle Farm. Here we were treated to an afternoon tea and visits with their wildlife inhabitants. The largest animal collection was of kangaroos, which were all quite docile, relaxed, and interested in eating from your hand. (Feed provided by staff). I took photos of them lying peacefully in the grass, and sent them back to my parents in the States. "Take it easy," I reminded them.
Afterwards, we made our way to the Island. The first stop was the Koala Conservancy. Within the one-hour stay, we were provided heaps of information and plenty of koala sightings. Even baby koalas were up and about, and yes, they are as cute as one could imagine. Eating eucalyptus like the forest might run dry, and exercising the little energy they had by traveling slowly between the trees, seeking more edibles. There are also nice walking trails throughout the conservancy, but the boardwalks they've built are the place for koala action.
Naturally, the penguin viewing is a huge tourist attraction, with copious souvenirs available, a full café, and even an opportunity to have one's photo taken amongst computer-generated penguins. Also, all of the proceeds go right back into the preservation of the area, which is independently funded.
Just as the sun falls, the penguins feel safer from predators and begin their first attempts back home. After they've made their way ashore, the best viewing is, once again, up on the boardwalks. At one point, I stopped because I noticed a rabbit on the beach, chewing through a patch of grass. The penguins simply waddled around the obstruction, as the rabbit remained inattentive to their presence. After a moment, a wallaby scooted over, got close enough for a penguin (half its size) to squawk loudly, and then went bounding back up the hill.
Truly a wildlife wonderland.
The Groupon is still available, and combining entry fees and transportation costs, it is quite a good deal. You might find it more enjoyable than you anticipate. I sure did.