A penguin colony in Boulders Beach, Cape Town, South Africa

The Best Places in the World to See Penguins

What could be better than seeing your favorite feathered friends in the wild?

With their webbed feet, handy flippers, and distinguished black and white bodies (which resemble perfectly-fitted tuxedos), penguins are the epitome of cuteness. These flightless sea birds can be found all over the world – from Australia’s sandy shores to the remote Falkland Islands – touching the hearts of people, everywhere. So, in honor of World Penguin Day, we decided to list the best places in the world to see penguins. Enjoy!

The White Continent: Antarctica

King penguins stand in front of a large cruise ship in Antarctica, arguably the best place in the world to see penguins.
King penguins gaze at a passing cruise ship in Antarctica | © ​​tonyzhao120/Shutterstock

Known as the ultimate penguin paradise, Antarctica is home to unique wildlife and natural treasures so striking you can’t help but wonder if you’re dreaming. For instance, discover icy plains magically suspended between deep, dark waters and blue skies pierced with snow-capped peaks. Give yourself a quick pinch if you like, but the views are real. In fact, you’ve reached an awe-inspiring land of extremes that’ll play with your emotions.

One moment you’ll be engulfed by a powerful yet serene sense of isolation. Next, you’ll be riding a wave of jubilation because a curious penguin waddled by to inspect your group. If you’re lucky, you may even witness a special scene from the movie Happy Feet in which the mother penguins march off to fish for food while the fathers keep the eggs warm. At the end of the day, imagine all the incredible stories and pictures you’ll be able to share with your friends back home!

So, are you ready to visit one of the most magnificent and remote places on Earth? Try one of these epic polar expeditions.

Cape Town, South Africa

African penguins parade on the sandy shore of Boulders Beach in Cape Town, South Africa.
African penguins parade around Boulders Beach, South Africa | © ​​Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock

With its sandy beaches, vast vineyards, and world-class wildlife safaris, South Africa is a bucket list destination. However, it only recently became a habitat for penguins with the establishment of the Boulders Beach Colony in 1983. True to its name, you’ll find gigantic granite boulders lying haphazardly around the beach and in the aquamarine water. The effect is simply stunning! In fact, this beautiful background serves as the perfect setting for photographing the African penguins. 

Visit the viewing area and the three boardwalks or enjoy a swim – if you choose the latter, just remember to keep a safe distance in order to protect the penguins. Since Boulders Beach is part of the Table Mountain National Park, you can also enjoy other activities like mountain biking, wind sailing, and hiking. No matter what you choose, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views of Cape Town.

Discover your perfect South Africa adventure and check one off the bucket list!

Phillip Island, Australia 

A penguin on Phillip Island in Australia, one of the best places in the world to spot penguins.
A penguin savors the sunshine on Phillip Island, Australia | © ​​Unai Apellaniz Ojanguren/Shutterstock

Just a 90-minute drive from Melbourne, Phillip Island is home to beautiful beaches, wonderful wildlife, and extraordinary adventures for the whole family. Hit the waves at Victoria’s first National Surfing Reserve, visit the Koala Conservation Centre, and enjoy a spectacular, cool-climate pinot noir at one of the family-owned wineries.

Oh, and did we mention the famous Penguin Parade? See the world’s smallest penguin species (called little penguins or fairy penguins) dart across the sand at sunset as they make their way home after a long day of fishing. This special sight will make you smile and leave a lasting impression.

Start planning your own adventure to Phillip Island and get ready to make memories that’ll last a lifetime.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

A Galapagos penguin in Elizabeth Bay, Isabela Island, one of the best places in the world to see penguins in the wild.
A penguin stands alert on Isabela Island in the Galapagos | © ​​Todamo/Shutterstock

Have you ever wondered how the Galapagos Islands got their name? Well, think big. Literally! They were named after the Galapagos giant tortoise. Weighing upwards of 500 pounds (females can reach around 300 pounds), these impressive creatures arrived on the islands over 2 million years ago. And they’re not alone. As a matter of fact, the area is famous for its magnificent marine life.

Grab your snorkeling gear and jump into the water for the chance to see manta rays, dolphins, sharks, and more! What’s more, don’t forget to look for the beloved, yet sadly endangered, Galapagos penguin (for more information or ways to help, take a look here). Standing only 20 inches tall, it utilizes its small size by living in snug spaces like the crevices in lava rocks. Another interesting fact about this species is that it mates for life.

Excited to see Galapagos penguins, brilliant blue waters, and fantastic underwater seascapes all wrapped up into one unforgettable vacation? Visit the enchanting Galapagos Islands today!

Falkland Islands & South Georgia

King penguins in South Georgia Island, with an Antarctic expedition in the background.
King penguins strut their stuff in the South Georgia Islands | © ​​Tetyana Dotsenko/Shutterstock

Did you know that Antarctica isn’t the only destination that’s enveloped in a special silence save for the sound of birds chirping? Welcome to South Georgia and the Falklands. Located in the South Atlantic Ocean, these remote islands offer virtually no barriers between you and the local residents.

The beaches, mountains, and grassy areas are a mecca for wildlife including various species of penguins like the rockhopper, king, macaroni, and gentoo. There’s nothing so wonderful as observing penguins in their natural habitat. In fact, they can’t help but steal the show! Watch as a group of penguins slyly snatch nesting bits from their neighbors. And listen for splashing sounds as others gleefully slip and slide into the sea like children at a waterpark. In addition to these little fellas, you’ll also find elephant and fur seals as well as several species of albatross.

Take your pick from these amazing adventures to South Georgia and the Falklands – you won’t be disappointed!

Feeling inspired?

Gentoo penguins head out to sea in the early morning on a rocky quail beach on Bleaker Island in the Falkland Islands.
Gentoo penguins make a splash in the Falkland Islands | © ​​Jeremy Richards/Shutterstock

After seeing all the precious penguin pictures, you’re probably dreaming about a wildlife encounter. Our recommendation? Charge your camera, pack a bag, and then choose from our list of the best places in the world to see penguins – it’ll be the adventure of a lifetime!

Ready to spot penguins in some of the most remote corners of the world? Head to TourRadar and start planning your trip today!

Stephanie is a Content Specialist at TourRadar. You can find her cooking, playing tennis, or exploring the world as she strives to reach her goal of visiting 100 countries before 2025.

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