Five Things to Do in Penguin
First settled in 1861 as a timber town, Penguin sits quietly on the Bass Strait coast between Ulverstone and Burnie, divided from the hinterlands by the forests of the Dial Range. It's home to around 4,000 locals, but Penguin's population swells every Sunday for the giant undercover craft and vintage market. And if Little Penguins were allowed to fill out the census, the population would double again during the summer breeding season.
1. Little Penguins
Penguin is named after the tiny sea birds that gather in rookeries all the way along Tasmania's north-west coast – but especially at the little beach bluff between Ulverstone and Burnie known as Penguin Point. Swimming from island colonies in the Strait (including the nearby Goat Island), many come ashore each year to lay their eggs in burrows. The beach waddling happens after dark and visitors can join tours at Penguin Point during the breeding season from September until March. If you don't spot any though there's always the Big Penguin – a 3.15-metre cement and fibreglass statue erected in front of the beach to mark the town's centenary in 1975.
2. Penguin Market
Tasmania's largest undercover market has been happening every Sunday for more than 20 years in the building that originally housed Penguin's school. With more than 100 stalls, the market features a mix of vintage and secondhand goods – from teapots to records – as well as textiles, woodwork, leather and pottery. Fresh lunches are available (and they come with free entertainment in the courtyard) but there's also a lot of local produce to take home. Traditionally a Sunday thing, the market is now also open from Wednesday to Saturday with a smaller range of specialty stalls to browse.
3. Dial Range
There are a plenty of walking and horse riding trails leading through Penguin's mountainous southern backdrop, the Dial Range. Good starting points can be found at Ferndene Gorge and the Mount Montgomery State Reserve. The east and south of the range is bordered by the Leven River, which is popular for fishing and canoeing, or both at once. More adventurous types attempt the seven-day walking trail from Penguin, through the range and across the plains to Cradle Mountain. Or there's the annual Cranky Penguin mountain bike marathon in October: 70 km for professionals, 40 km for the not-so cranky.
4. Penguin Miniature Railway
Operated by train enthusiast Gerry Howard, the Penguin Miniature Railway is open on the second and fourth Sunday of every month from April until October. The track runs alongside Johnson's Beach and it costs $1 a ride, with views thrown in.
5. Parks and Gardens
The two most-loved parks in Penguin are the Perry-Ling Gardens – a community-built plot that provides a kilometre-long burst of colour between Penguin's Main Road and the beach – and Hiscutt Park, home to a working windmill donated by the Dutch community to celebrate the long-time connection between Tasmania and Holland.
For more things to do on Tasmania's North West coast see our itinerary North West Coast.