Sometimes I can’t work out if I can actually remember a place I visited as a young child or if I am only remembering because of the family photos and stories mum and dad share when we’re taking a trip down memory lane together.
There’s the one when dad caught the shark in Eden in NSW, the one where I broke my arm when I was double bounced off a trampoline, I vividly remember the endless summer barbecues, being dumped in the waves, playing cards with mum and dad and my brother and sister, and of course having scruffy camping hair! And then there’s the memory of watching the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island with my grandad Stan out from England when I was just 3 years old.
Fast-forward 3 decades (where on earth did the time go?) and here I am. In Phillip Island with my 5 year old daughter who shares the same scruffy blonde hair as I had. As soon as we enter the grounds, even though I was here a couple of years ago, I have a big lump in my throat that just won’t go away as Charli excitedly swings on my arms. “Mum this is the best day ever” she squeals. “Dad, can we pick them up and cuddle them when they walk up the beach?” she asks Clint.
We’re here filming for our TV series. But you’d barely know it. We’re really here with our good friends Emma and Russell (Russell happens to be our cameraman) and their two children Ella and Evie who have never been to see the Parade before.
Together we make our way onto the viewing platform on the beach. A lot has changed since I was a child – with well planned walkways, special lights near the penguins’ burrows, even an app for your iPhone as you tour the centre – and of course these days no show would be complete without popcorn and a coffee cart!
With a few thousand other excited tourists from not only across Australia but all over the world, together we wait for the sun to go down so it’s safe for the penguins to make the dash to their burrows. Every now and then you hear someone yell out “over there, over there…at 11 o’clock!”. The outbursts become more frequent and all off a sudden a silence comes over us all. The Penguins are on Parade. One appears first. Then slips back into the shadows of the water. Then another appears, and then another. All of a sudden when a big enough group has gathered, they head up the beach together. Safety in numbers. Waddling, Stopping. Looking. Waddling. Making a waddle for it. Before we know it, it’s pitch black and the penguins here in Phillip Island have made it home to their waiting chicks for the night.
As I sit with 10-year-old Ella, I ask her how she finds the night. Completely mesmerised by these endearing creatures she replies, “I didn’t know much about penguins to be honest…I’d only seen them at the zoo…and there’s just nothing like seeing them in their natural environment doing what they would do whether we were here or not… you can’t learn that at school… this place is cool…”
As the crowds disperse, we head back to the walkway where you can see the last of the penguins still making their way through the shrubs to their burrows. Ella, Evie and Charli are crouched down together, excitedly pointing “Can you see the mum in her home?” they whisper. Already they’re asking if they can buy a penguin from the souvenir shop. I have no doubt this is a holiday story they’ll be reminiscing about one day too.
Ready to make your own memories on Philip Island? Find out more here.
Where are the places that hold holiday memories for you? Have you been back lately? Tell us below.