Cooper Bay: Key information

  • Home of South Georgia's only macaroni penguin colony accessible by land rather than zodiac cruise
  • All four of the island's penguin species found here, including South Georgia's largest chinstrap colony
  • The most southerly landing site in South Georgia, often visited in conjunction with a ship cruise to the spectacular Drygalski Fjord
  • Latitude 54°46.8’S, Longitude 35°48.4'W

About Cooper Bay

A group of tourists climb a grassy hill up from a beach at Cooper Bay in South Georgia. A zodiac drives to a cruise ship is anchored in the bay.

Following the path through the tussock to view the macaroni penguin colony at Cooper Bay

Lying near the southern tip of South Georgia, Cooper Bay is a charmingly green landing site. It has a relatively sheltered location, meaning that it often avoids the worst of South Georgia's weather. The bay is named for Lieutenant Robert Cooper, who served on Captain James Cook's voyage here in 1775.

There are three coves in the bay, surrounded by dramatic cliffs and facing Cooper Island, which gives the bay much of its protection against storms. Until the successful conclusion of the rat eradication programme in 2018, Cooper Island was a key retreat for the South Georgia pipit, whose song can now be happily heard by those landing on the mainland here.

As the most southerly landing site in South Georgia, Cooper Bay is often visited in conjunction with a ship cruise to nearby Drygalski Fjord. The contrast between with vast blue ice cliffs of the glaciers there and the comparatively cosy green of the tussock grass and fellfield of Cooper Bay is one of the most striking on the island. 

Wildlife at Cooper Bay

A macaroni penguin faces a brown skua perched on a rock in South Georgia. More macaroni penguins surround them.

Macaroni penguins argue with a brown skua at Cooper Bay

The wildlife at Cooper Bay is simply tremendous. All four of South Georgia's breeding penguin species can be spotted here: macaronis, gentoos, chinstraps and kings. Light-mantled sooty albatross, southern giant petrels and brown skuas all nest here, along with smaller burrowing petrels who make their home in the tussock, including white-chinned petrels and Wilson's storm petrels. Their numbers have increased since the successful rat eradication programme, along with South Georgia pipits and pintail ducks.

The beaches at Cooper Bay are thick with fur seals and elephant seals throughout the summer months.

Our favourite South Georgia trips

Special Offers:Swoop has access to the widest range of offers and can help you find the right trip, cabin, & price.

Discover South Georgia, Antarctica and Falklands

This voyage stands out by visiting the Antarctic Peninsula first and keeping the wonders of South Georgia for the second half. You’ll travel on board one of the most exciting new polar ships with spacious cabins, state-of-the-art technology and optional…

  • 19-25 Days
  • $22,595
Antarctica, South Georgia & Falklands In Style

Voyage south in Shackleton’s footsteps, exploring the Southern Ocean's highlights as part of this expansive 20-day adventure. A well-balanced itinerary gives plenty of time in each jaw-dropping location. Explore from the comfort of your sleek purpose-built expedition ship, accompanied by…

  • 20 Days
  • $25,495
Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctic Adventure

With a good choice of departure dates through the season across three medium-sized ships, this 19-22 day trip stands out for its value for money and the broad range of cabin categories available, including Quads, which are…

  • 19-22 Days
  • $13,550
Fly-Sail Antarctica & South Georgia

This unique express trip saves time by flying to Antarctica, cutting out 2 sailing days and skipping the Falklands. Maximising your time amid the spectacular wildlife and scenery of Antarctica and South Georgia is the focus of this voyage. The…

  • 17 Days
  • $15,995
Ultimate Antarctica: South Georgia & Antarctic Circle

An epic 23-day voyage which packs in an astonishing 7 days in Antarctica, 4 days in wildlife-rich South Georgia and the Antarctic Circle at 66 degrees south. It's very rare to find a trip combining all three places. Limited departure…

  • 23 Days
  • $39,490

Visitor guidelines for Cooper Bay

All visits to Cooper Bay must be made in accordance with the site visitor management plan produced for the site by the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

There are two possible landing areas at Cooper Bay, both next to each other on the northern side of the bay. The main beach is quite small but from here it is possible to follow a marked route through the tussock to view the macaroni penguin colony. It is important not to diverge from the path as several species of burrowing petrel nest here, along with giant petrels and brown skuas. Visits may also be made at the beach at neighbouring Albatross Cove, although landings can be tricky at in early summer due to the density of adult male fur seals.

Zodiac cruises in the southern part of the bay offer the chance to see chinstrap penguins and well as kings and chinstraps, but landings are not permitted here.

NOTE: Ship itineraries and visits to specific landing sites in South Georgia can never be guaranteed. Plans can change as fast as the polar weather: decisions on which locations to visit are always made on the day by the ship's captain and expedition leader.

More South Georgia landing sites

A sleeping seal on the shore at the whaling station at Grytviken, with the rusting hulk of a catcher ship in the background


Raise a toast to Shackleton and walk around the rusting ruins of the old whaling station at Grytviken, the historic heart of South Georgia.

Discover More
Fortuna Bay

Fortuna Bay

Fortuna Bay is home to one of South Georgia's most charming king penguin colonies, and offers the chance to recreate the historic Shackleton Walk to Stromness.

Discover More
King penguins mill around two elephant seals on the beach at Gold Harbour, South Georgia, against the backdrop of a hanging glacier

Gold Harbour

With its hanging glaciers towering over a beach dense with penguins and seals, few locations in South Georgia are as dramatic as Gold Harbour.

Discover More
A zodiac boat full of tourists in red jackets cruises in Right Whale Bay in South Georgia, with snowy mountains in the background

Right Whale Bay

Right Whale Bay is home to a large king penguin colony that stretches up the hill from the beach, and immense numbers of fur seals.

Discover More

Ready to plan your Antarctic adventure?



We'll spend some time listening to your aspirations, then discuss the kind of experience that might suit you.



Next we'll discuss the options, shortlist the best trips for you and present you our impartial recommendations.



We'll place a 24 hour hold on your preferred option - without obligation - whilst we talk through the details.

With over 100 years of Antarctic experience between us, we can help guide you to exactly the right trip for you.