Surrounded by Western Port Bay is Phillip Island, a pocket paradise comprising forest, beaches, tourist farms, family attractions and dunes where you can while away the day surfing, picnicking, fishing or boating–whatever your pleasure may be.
And it is just the perfect size for touring; not too big to drive around but plenty to see. If the wind is blowing from one direction, simply head to the other side to enjoy your day. Enjoy sheltered, family-friendly waters or pound the waves on a surf board.
There are three townships on the island, the largest being Cowes. It’s well serviced by major shopping outlets and fuel just a 15-minute drive from the bridge.
Despite its size, Cowes has a real small coastal town vibe. You can lazily lose hours browsing galleries and boutiques in reach of a decent wine, brew and view. And with all kinds of attractions on the Island, it’s a pleasant base worthy of a few days here.
Cycle or walk the Esplanade for Western Port Bay views, then pull up a patch of grass under mature pines for picnic, ice-cream or fish and chips out to a large jetty. Breaching whales are beautifully tributed in the recently refurbished boardwalk. A stroll from town, you’ll find a large park with picnic facilities and family-friendly Erehwon Point Beach, where you can dig for tiny crabs or splash in tide pools depending on the time of day.
If you can pull the little ones away from the shoreline, you’ll find plenty within Cowes itself, with a bright, fun mini golf a short walk from town and a bowling and Clip ‘n Climb a short drive out.
During the Christmas-New Year school holiday season, get festive at the annual summer carnival. Here, you’ll find rides for kids young and old.
Phillip Island’s famous Penguin Parade is just a 10-minute drive from Cowes. Every year, local and international tourists jostle to witness our world-famous little fairy penguins waddle in from the sea to their burrows. You can sit or stand to admire the Penguin Parade, but you’ll need to rug up as night falls.
Not keen on braving the chill? Spy them within burrows and boxes during the day on the Nobbies Boardwalk that follows cliff’s edge overlooking the bay. In fact, if you’re lucky enough you may even spot a fairy penguin under the raised walkway.
The coastline is magnificent, with tough, salt-sprayed flora contrasting against tidal waters crashing on ancient basalt coast. Watch sea spray shoot into the air at the Nobbies Blowhole then spot a large colony of Australia fur seals at Seal Island.
A little further on, you’ll learn all about sea-life at The Nobbies Centre, home to the Antarctic Journey. Here, see your thermal image change in the chill zone, study marine life under a microscope and channel your inner Attenborough while tasked with recognising sea-life calls.
Then, follow the remarkable birds on a world-wide migration then watch whales, penguins, seals and albatross amid ice movement, blizzards and even auroras on large cinematic panels. Through the magic of three dimensional projection, find yourself standing on an ice floe, surrounded by seals, penguins and whales that seem real enough to pat!
From Cowes, brave the seas for seal encounters on the Wild Ocean Eco-boat tour where seal pubs bob up and down within the water to meet your gaze.
For a quieter pace, support koala conservation at the Koala Conservation Centre a 10 minute drive west, where you walk a raised boardwalk to see koalas.
Closer to the bridge, near Newhaven, is the beautifully-maintained Churchill Island Heritage Farm.
A must for history and nature buffs seeking out a peaceful spot. Here, volunteers retell the exploits of Lt. James Grant Bass who harvested Victoria’s first wheat on this little island.
In 1872, former Lord Mayor of Melbourne and well-known architect, stonemason and builder, Samuel Amess, retired here and built a wonderful house, surrounded by a very productive garden and farm. The old fruit trees are still in the orchard and a team of volunteers maintains a superb English cottage garden and vegetable plot.
Wander a step back in time through the old restored buildings and admire blacksmiths, wheelwrights and farm hands who worked hard out in the sheds.
You and kids can experience milking, whip cracking, shearing and a wagon ride for a perfect education in traditional primary production methods. There are stables, baby animal pens and even wallabies.
The entrance building houses a beautiful gift shop and café that puts on a delicious lunch overlooking original post and rail fence out the sea beyond. The café is even licensed if you would care for a glass of wine with your meal.
The Moonah trees, a type of melaleuca, are sacred to the original inhabitants of this area, the Bunurong people, and the trees remain today as an integral part of the landscape. We stopped to admire the herd of Scottish Highland cattle on the way back to join Phillip Island again.
NATIONAL VIETNAM VETERANS MUSEUM
History of a very different sort can be found at the excellent National Vietnam Veterans Museum. Run by a small staff and many volunteers, this important tribute does not glorify war but preserves a part of our history some of us remember but many know little about. The displays are intriguing and we enjoyed listening to the well-informed guide.
Read about the conscription system alongside the lottery barrel from where birth-date marbles were drawn. The museum holds many special events during the year and caters for school groups. The light and sound production is very impressive. If you would rather set your own pace, you can guide yourself through the museum with a hand held wand to activate information points.
A MAZE’N THINGS
Children and teenagers will love Amaze’N Things, where they can scramble the SkyTrail ropes course or send themselves into silly fits in a mirror maze.
Here, you’ll find a fabulous little golf course, Maxi Mini Golf, too big to be called mini golf. Not to mention the silly mirrors and other optical illusions for giggles guaranteed.
A tap pours water out of the sky and the classic timber maze will have them lost in a good way.
Car and motorbike enthusiasts will love seeing the Grand Prix circuit which has been operating on the island for decades and is still part of the international racing calendar.
- Find holiday parks in the Phillip Island touring region
- Read how shearer Trevor Heywood’s sea-change shaped the Churchill Island Heritage Farm