The advantages of going somewhere during the off-season are simple—better deals, smaller crowds —and they derive from the premise that off-peak travel must involve lowered expectations and certain compromises. A few rare places, however, hold hidden allure in the quiet months: castles on a rainy day, fishing-boat fairy lights, the braying of amorous penguins. As local experts make clear in the following year-round selection, you don't need to go peak to hit the heights.
Winters in Melbourne aren’t exactly harsh, but they can be dreary. Interest in the area, anyway, tends to drop off in August—unless you’re a foot tall and live on a diet of raw fish. Danene Jones, Phillip Island Nature Parks communications chief and a former guide, explains.
“We live on a little island connected to the mainland, with beautiful beaches, eucalyptus trees, koalas. We’re also home to a colony of the world’s smallest penguins, called little penguins, which are about 13 inches tall. At sunset, the penguins come onto the beach.
“August is the start of breeding season, so there’s a lot of action—partners catching up, or penguins trying to find a boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s quite noisy. There are about 32,000 penguins, and they’ve been coming here for thousands of years.
“They’re cute, it’s undeniable, though they can pack a punch if you bother them. They’re little, but they’re still feisty.”