Punta Arenas Penguins in Magdalena Island

Punta Arenas is the gateway to Chile’s Southern Patagonia. This is where you fly into if you want to visit the famous Torres Del Paine National Park. But just like all other locations in Chile, after a long flight comes an equally long drive. Good thing our Toddler likes to sit still for hours on end! A 3 hour flight followed by a 4 hour drive didn’t sound appealing to do in one go with two babies so we opted to stay in Punta Arenas for a night to break up the long journey.

(Not So) Fun Fact: we went on a total of 11 flights during our month in Chile

There’s really not a whole lot to do in Punta Arenas itself but there is one perk. There’s a super cute Penguin Colony that inhabit a small island that’s just two hours away by boat. Not sure that counts as a Punta Arenas highlight, but it’s the only way to access this little island!

Penguins and lighthouse on Magdalena Island near Punta Arenas
Punta Arenas Penguins

There are multiple tours that can take you to the island by speedboat. I wasn’t too keen on putting our two babies on a speedboat, so we opted for the ferry instead [1]. (The nitty gritty of getting here are at the bottom)

It was actually a really nice, spacious ferry; it even had a little cafe on board. Most importantly, the benches were good enough for Toddler to catch some z’s for the whole ride there 🙌

The ferry that gets you from Punta Arenas to Magdalena Island to see the Penguins
Ferry to Magdalena Island
Magdalena Island
Watching the Penguins on Magdalena Island

Luckily we caught the tail end of Penguin season, so there were a good thousand or so still around. Definitely enough to make the trip worthwhile! The island was covered with their little homes (and big poops!). Several peeked out and gave us quizzical looks as we fawned over their cuteness.

A penguin in its home near Punta Arenas
Penguins peeking out on Magdalena Island
Penguins peeking out of their homes on the Island of Magdalena
A field of penguins on Magdalena Island

Following our penguin excursion, we were left with a 4 hour drive to our hotel near Torres Del Paine. Without kids this would’ve been a breeze but because it was nearly 5pm by the time we got off the boat, we dreaded the ride ahead with both kids’ witching hours in full swing.

The first half of the drive ended up being quite entertaining, as we played “spot the Emu”. Danny didn’t believe me at first when I yelled at him to slow down because I saw one. FOUR emus later I convinced him to pull over so that I could snap some photos of a mother emu and her babies.

A mother Rhea and her babies on the side of the road in Punta Arenas
Emus in Punta Arenas
Rheas on the side of the road near Punta Arenas

We later found out that these birds were in fact, not emus, but Rheas (so I guess Danny was right… technically 🙄). Rheas are native to South America and are distant relatives of the emu and ostrich. How cool! We later saw a flock of about 20 of them on the side of the road, but the symphony of whining and crying that was going on inside the car at that point prevented us from enjoying them.

(Not So) Fun Fact #2: Puerto Natales, the last gas stop before Torres, also has a big hand sculpture like the one in Atacama Desert! Driving by however, we saw that it looked like a miniature knockoff- so with that and our backseat symphony, we happily skipped this non-attraction.

How to get to Punta Arenas

The easiest way to get to Punta Arenas is to fly into the Punta Arenas Airport.

Renting a Car in Punta Arenas

The Punta Arenas car rental is very easy to find as it is right at the Punta Arenas Airport. Unlike the car rentals on the other side of the Patagonia border, this place has a lot more options including automatic transmission cars and larger vehicles.

How to see the Magdalena Island Penguins

To get on a Punta Arenas penguin tours you need to make your way to Tres Puentes Terminal. The ferry leaves from Tres Puentes Terminal, which is a short 10 minute drive from Punta Arenas. You can buy tickets online or in person, and it costs about $80 pp (small kids are free). The ferry leaves once a day at 12:15, and returns around 4pm. It only runs during penguin season – first week of November to last week of March.

There are also private Punta Arenas penguin tours but those are a lot more expensive.

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