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Are there places near Sydney, Australia where one can see penguins in the wild (not in a zoo)? If so, what's the best way to catch a glimpse of these cute creatures?

I have read some information about seeing them at Shelly Beach in Manly but I'm not sure that those posts are up-to-date.

EDIT: "near Sydney" in this case means some place that can be done on a day trip from Sydney.

While the penguin parade as mentioned by hippietrail in the answer below sounds like a fantastic experience, I was looking for something a bit less... formal? Something like the penguin experience at Boulders Beach in South Africa.

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

Well yes and no. Because it depends what you mean by "near Sydney".

Penguins do exist in Sydney, but they are so endangered that only about 60 pairs remain in the only location on the New South Wales mainland that has them. You can read about the efforts to protect them on the environment.nsw.gov.au website. The page doesn't mention anything about tourist access to them and considering their plight I would imagine it's not allowed.

Further south there are plenty of penguins at Phillip Island in Victoria. That's a bit over 1,000 km or 600 miles away from Sydney.

There is a very famous "fairy penguin parade" near a town called Ventnor that you can begin reading about on WikiTravel.

Fairy penguins are apparently more commonly known as "little penguins" elsewhere.
Australian penguin
(Thanks to Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons for the photo.)

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Thanks for that. I have read about the Phillip Island penguin parade but not the kind of experience I was hoping for and too far from Sydney. Let me update the question... – nmc Apr 3 '12 at 18:02
    
I found some more information about a tiny colony near Sydney but I bet tourists won't be able to access them and the site doesn't mention it. – hippietrail Apr 3 '12 at 18:09
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The location of the colony in Sydney is well documented (it's on Manly Point), simply because it's a protected area. For the most part, public access is not allowed. – Doc Apr 4 '12 at 2:20
    
I've heard claims that the penguins were renamed because "fairy" was considered offensive. I don't know if it's true or not. – Andrew Grimm Apr 4 '12 at 7:58
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The Phillip Island Penguin Parade is definitely worth a visit, but don't go for the normal seats, purchase the Plus package so that you actually get to see a lot of penguins up close. – arboc7 Apr 4 '12 at 15:40

Again, depending on how near is "near Sydney", you can see penguins in Jervis Bay, which is a shorter day trip than Melbourne! (About 3 hours drive as opposed to 10.)

Look for whale watching operators and kayaking tours among others.

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I was in Sydney last month and was lucky enough to see one of the little penguins in the wild, during the day, on a rock, looking out to sea, about 10 metres from a pathway that is part of the coastal walk near Manly, a little West (closer to Manly beach) of Shelly beach.

Here's a photo I was able to snap of it. Not the greatest quality as it was taken on my camera phone (no optical zoom).

Little penguin

As for how rare this is; I mentioned it to friends I was visiting (who live in Manly) and they expressed only moderate surprise.

The walk is dotted with signs like the one shown below. So if you're in the vicinity of such a sign, keep your eyes peeled for penguins!

Little penguins sign

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