One of the things we were most looking forward to about Punta Arenas was the penguins! Indeed, if you ask a lot of people they seem to be under the impression that Punta Arenas doesn’t have a lot offer other than these little guys. Actually Punta Arenas is full of museums, a bit of shopping (tax free zone!) and also some wildlife.
When you do a google search for Isla Magdalena penguins most often what comes up is private tours. These range in price from 80USD to 150USD depending on the tour company. Usually you ride in a Zodiak boat, and see both Marta and Magdalena Islands. We only found out once we arrived that there is another option. The company, Austral Broom, runs a ferry to the Island once a day. The trip is 2 hours each way (whether or not you are on a zodiak or a ferry) and it costs 30,000 CLP (roughly $48 USD at time of writing) round trip.
You have to make your own way to the ferry terminal, and then after the ferry returns your own way back to the centre. This was probably the most worrisome part for me – but was super easy. First we purchased our tickets in the morning at the ferry office (at the corner of Pedro Montt and Magallanes in the centre). You can also buy them right from the ferry terminal until 30 minutes prior to sailing. Check the schedule here: Austral Broom Penguin Boat Schedule.
About an hour prior to your sailing time start to make the trip to the Ferry. From the centre you can catch a Collectivo to the port. The collectivos are just taxi’s with numbers on the top – you are looking for #15. Catch the collectivo across the street from the ticket office (on Magellanes). You are headed to Tres Puentes. Cost – 400 CLP
Once you arrive there is only one building there, so stand around, get a coffee, think about penguins – and buy your ticket if you don’t have one in hand! Our boat was a car ferry, but there were obviously no cars on our ferry to penguin island. Inside were comfortable seats and facilities to buy coffee, water, and some small snacks.
2 hours later you are ready to hug penguins (only with your eyes though – no actual touching is allowed.)
There is a walkway set up with rope barriers, and a goal of walking up to a lighthouse. I never made it to the lighthouse because I was too busy taking a million photos of the cutest animals alive.
At the end you re-board the boat where you disembarked and take the two hour trip back to Punta Arenas.
When you get back to Punta Arenas it’s true that there aren’t many taxi’s to take back into the city. Don’t worry, no need to push anyone out of the way to get to one of the taxis. Instead there will be quite a few minivans waiting there to take you back to the centre for 1,000 CLP. They will be holding signs that say – “Centro 1,000” There was no one left behind at the port when we drove back to town.
Best patagonian activity to date!
Now for these guys!