I never went to Bicheno with the intention of seeing anything or anyone other than my friend, and to avoid the storms that were starting to whip the southeast corner of Tasmania.
Having had enough chills for a lifetime, I was keen to search out some sprays of sunshine and gaps in the bursts of wind. This was a holiday, dammit. Don’t give me storms.
If there had been more time to play with I would have headed to the far northeast tip of Tasmania and sailed across to the white sands and warmer weather of Flinders Island, but with ferries only running once weekly, I’d have to save that adventure for another time. The Bay of Fires – another place where I would have loved to have got lost for a week or two – would also have to wait. No time.
The other option?
Bicheno, a place I knew nothing about other than that my friend, Hugo, would be working there on a marine project. Having hinted that the climate was usually more forgiving up that way, he’d got my attention and so D-man and me drove a couple of hours north of Hobart to this ‘jewel of the East Coast’.
Maybe some of you have been to Bicheno and enjoyed kicking back in its limited scattering of cafes, restaurants and bakeries. Maybe you’ve been to paint the fishing boats bobbing about in the bay or the blowhole coughing up metres of pillared mist. Maybe you’ve been kitted up to surf crystal waves or dive into the cold currents of the Tasman Sea.
Or maybe you’ve visited Bicheno with the full intention of seeing what I had no idea I was going to see. Because, it seems, if you actually do some research on the place, there is one main reason to visit Bicheno.
After a campervan cook-up washed down with (yet another) glass of local Pinot Noir, D-man and me layered up. On the way to buy the aforementioned Pinot Noir my friend Hugo had taken us on a cliff and scrubland wander and hinted at the activity that occurred once night-time fell.
And the night-time activity started with squawks; the gathering call of adult fairy penguins coming onshore en masse, and the call of the young awaiting their parents, reminding their parents of where to find them.
Walking quietly with a t-shirt covered torch, D-man and me made our way back along the cliff path and found a perch on the rocks overlooking the beach. We didn’t’ have to wait for long before we saw the waddles. Creatures, barely knee high, shuffled over boulders and through undergrowth in search of their young.
Little penguins – AKA fairy penguins – going about their daily routine as if this were the most usual thing in the whole wide world. Which for them, of course, it was. But for us? Not at all. I felt like I was living an Attenborough documentary. Bring on the narration.
Once the cold of the night took hold we retreated, giving the continuing dribs and drabs of returning penguins a wide berth when we encountered them on our walk back. Which we did. Over and over. Little waddles, little flaps, and, well, just lots of little.
Catching up with a friend in Bicheno: wonderful. Living a magical bedtime story full of squawks, waddles and fluff: unexpected. Sometimes not reading about a place before you go: priceless.
Further reading and watching
- EXCELLENT RESOURCE! Little Penguin Eudyptula minor (parks.tas.gov.au)
- Little penguin (environment.nsw.gov.au)
- WITH VIDEOS: About Little Penguins (abc.net.au)
- Australia’s most famous penguin colony at Phillip Island, VIC: