Penguin is located 137 km northwest of Launceston, 17 km east of Burnie and 31 km west of Devonport on Tasmania's northern coast. It is a pretty seaside resort town which, unsurprisingly, was named by the distinguished botanist Robert Campbell Gunn after the fairy penguins which still inhabit the local coastline.
The area was explored by Bass and Flinders and by the Van Diemen's Land assistant surveyor Joseph Fossey who travelled through the district in the 1820s and named the Dial Range which rises behind town.
Settlement of the district was relatively late due to the density of the bushland. A demand for timber caused by the goldrushes of the 1850s led timber cutters to the area where they cut palings which were shipped across Bass Strait to the goldmines of Victoria. Wharves were built along the coast to allow boats to load the palings. This helped to clear the area and the town site was first settled in June, 1861 when Edward Beecraft acquired 167 acres of land.
The town continued to prosper as a port for local produce and it was proclaimed on 25 October, 1875. The arrival of the railway in 1901 led to a decline in Penguin's role as a port. Local produce was transported along the coast to the larger ports of Burnie and Devonport.
Today it is a combination of a local service centre and a tourist destination. Travellers are offered a wide range of activities.
Things to see
One of the major attractions in Penguin is the town's sense of humour about its namesake. Consequently there is a large penguin the beachfront park (reputedly the largest penguin in the world), there are penguin garbage bins in the street and even the Penguin Meals on Wheels has a picture of a penguin on the side of the building.
The main attraction is the fairy penguins (Eudyptula minor) which can be seen arriving each evening between November and March. Contact the local visitor information office on (03) 6437 1421 for details of where and how to see them.
The Penguin Uniting Church and St Stephens Anglican Church
The combination of the Penguin Uniting Church and St Stephens Anglican Church makes the beachfront area of Penguin quite exceptionally attractive. The Uniting Church is a beautiful old timber church with some particularly attractive decorative flourishes. It was completed in 1903 with some attractive woodworking flourishes.
St Stephens Anglican Church was built on land given by Alexander Clerke in 1874. Its construction - a bluestone base and timber with a shingled roof and bellcote - is typical of the materials available in the local area at the time. It is a simple church which comprises of a nave, chancel and vestry.
The Dutch Windmill
The replica Dutch windmill in Hiscutt Park was presented to the people of Penguin to commemorate the Dutch settlers in Penguin and the Dutch explorers who were the first Europeans to make contact with Tasmania. A plaque proudly declares: 'On behalf of the Dutch settlers of Penguin on the first day of October 1988 as a gift in the Australian Bicentennial Year. The Mill is dedicated to the memory of Janneti Tjaers who was the wife of Abel Tasman.' On the side of the windmill it has 'This windmill is a Bicentennial Gift from the Dutch community to the people of Penguin in appreciation of the warm welcome extended to those migrants who settled here. 2 January 1988.'
Hiscutt Park has some excellent play equipment for children and is well maintained particularly in spring when there is a spectacular tulip display to complement the Dutch windmill.
Johnsons Beach Reef
Johnsons Beach lies just west of the Uniting Church. It is a popular place for walks at low tide as the reef is exposed and is well worth worth exploring.
Walking in the Area
There are a number of excellent walks in the area including trails up the Dial Range to Mount Montgomery and, closer to the town, the Ferndale Bush Walk which includes Thorsby's Tunnel, an old silver mining shaft. Details of all the walks are available from the Tourist Information Office opposite the Big Penguin.
Penguin Tourist Information Centre
78 Main St
Penguin TAS 7316
Telephone: (03) 6437 1421