Penguins of Hall Point, Tasmania

Flanked by long stretches of white sand beach, sites at this unassuming camp are keenly sought after, snapped up by travellers with self-contained motorhomes, caravans and campervans long before day’s end.

The chance to free camp on such a beautiful stretch of Tassie’s northwest coast would be enough to ensure Hall Point’s popularity, but there is more to this grassy headland camp than first meets the eye.

Stroll around the headland by day and you’ll discover dozens of penguin nests that stud dunes, their entrances revealed by streaks of pungent white poo.

And when darkness falls, this busy little penguin rookery comes to life: chicks left alone in their nests begin to peep in earnest for parents who will soon tumble in out the surf, bellies full with fish to share.

The penguins’ nocturnal nighttime commute is a magical experience. For hours after dusk, we sat quietly above the beach, waiting and watching before finally, the cavalcade of little penguins began.

Emerging suddenly from the surf to find awkward footholds as waves washed them ashore, the penguins instantly struck up a melodic singsong, calling to each other and ever so patiently making their way over a rock shelf, across the sand and through tussock grasses to their nests burrowed into the dunes.

The little penguin – Eudyptula minor – is the world’s smallest, measuring just 40cm in height. Adults weigh around 1kg and have an average lifespan of just six years. Tasmania’s estimated number of little penguin breeding pairs ranges from 110,000 to 190,000, but only about five percent of these nest on the mainland, making Hall Point’s rookery a precious place.

The best time to view little penguins is from November to March during their summer breeding season

There are a few viewing guidelines visitors should stick to: watch dark clothing and find a spot away from burrows that doesn’t block the penguins’ passage from the sea to the dunes.

Watching them from behind the beach is best. Settle in before the penguins appear and when they do, keep quiet and still, and be sure that you don’t shine torches (they must be covered with red cellophane) directly at penguins or any spots where they are coming ashore. Avoid flash cameras too.

Without facilities, Hall Point’s camp only suits those with self-contained rigs, but if you are traveling light, there are caravan parks at nearby Burnie and Penguin where you could set up camp, visiting Hall Point after dark to watch the penguins.

Local wildlife carers also recommend an alternative camp if you are travelling with pets. Dogs are the little penguin’s biggest threat and even if your dog remains on a lead, its scent will later lure other dogs to the rookery that if unrestrained, put penguins at risk.

Spending a night at Hall Point’s lovely grassy camp is highly recommended, as is taking a long walk on either of the firm, white sand beaches that stretch endlessly to the east and west.

You can rockhop around the headland, explore the rocky reef shelf and in the warm summer months, swim and fish in the shallow waters. For supplies, head west to Burnie or east to Penguin.

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