Last updated on October 11th, 2023 at 10:57 am
The bridge from mainland Victoria to Phillip Island
Phillip Island is a popular holiday destination in Victoria not only for visiting tourists but many Australians who take weekends away or longer holidays there. And they all come to spend time on the beaches, getting up close and personal with the local wildlife, being amazed at the rugged coastline and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of the main town of Cowes. I have been to Phillip Island a number of times and love it even more with each visit. Even though many visitors may go for the day I would suggest you try to stay at least a couple of days. Then you can truly appreciate all the things to see and do on Phillip Island. Here are my top things to see and do on Phillip Island.
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The Best Time to Visit Phillip Island
When is the best time to Phillip Island? Phillip Island can be visited any time of year. During the summer months though the island’s population swells with services stretched, accommodation more expensive, cafes pumping, over crowded beaches and busy roads. Many people come to the island to see the nightly penguin parade and if this is your goal you might consider going in the warmer months as sitting on a freezing beach may be a deterrent. Note that over summer the penguins come ashore later to coincide with darkness. So if you have come only for a day trip expect to be arriving home late. And if you have little kids with you, they may miss thei bedtime and be vey tied.
Where is Phillip Island and how to get there
Phillip Island is located around 140 km from Melbourne and takes around 2 hours to drive. The island can be reached by driving along the M1 Freeway before taking the A440 then the M420. Traffic can be horrendous at times as there is only one way on to the island – over the bridge that connects the island to mainland Victoria.
It is best to get to the island by vehicle. If you don’t have a vehicle I would highly suggest you rent one because this is the best way to get around the island. You can rent one here.
If you don’t want to drive yourself then sit back and relax on a tour. There are many tours available which you can book and be picked up from your accommodation in Melbourne. The one thing I would advise you here is that if you plan on seeing the penguin parade, the penguins don’t come ashore until the sun is setting and by the time they have arrived you will be leaving the island late and be arriving home late. This is why many stay on Phillip Island for a couple of days.
Accommodation on Phillip Island
Phillip Island has a plethora of accommodation available ranging from camp grounds to hotel rooms to units to holiday homes. I often choose a holiday home near a beach to stay in because I usually stay for a few days to around a week or two. However, choose what style suits you and your budget. Check out the accommodations options here so you can compare and book.
What to see and do on Phillip Island
Feed the Pelicans at San Remo
San Remo is more than feeding pelicans, it is a cute little seaside town where you can chill in one of the cafes or have some fish and chips along the shoreline.
The Penguin Parade
The nightly Penguin Parade is the most popular thing to do on Phillip Island. The penguins have long been coming ashore. 1985 saw a dramatic decline in penguin numbers due to houses, shops, traffic and bushfires. So the penguin parade was introduced to ensure penguin numbers didn’t decline further. Today, the colony of little penguins is around 30,000.
Every night at sunset penguins that have been out hunting for food for most of the day return to the island and their burrows. The phenomenon is so popular a special viewing area has been built. This is so us humans can see nature at its best, and to keep us at an appropriate distance. The parade is extremely popular so I suggest you ensure you pre-purchase your ticket as there may be a long que if you don’t. I would also suggest you take a blanket and a cushion to sit on as the viewing area can be very cold even during summer. The wind off the ocean is brutal and goes straight through you and the seating isn’t that warm either so wrap up. Some people bring a picnic with a warm drink with them to enjoy while waiting for the penguins. I don’t think I have ever been so cold as I was waiting for the penguins!
As well as the penguin parade there is a very interesting program centre to learn more about the penguins before walking along the boardwalk to the viewing area. Along the boardwalk you can see many nests. A word of warning, there are few rules when you watch the Penguin Parade that mostly with no flash photography as the light can harm and frighten the little penguins. There are security guards on watch who will kick you out if you use a camera during the parade.
If you would like to book a ticket for the nightly parade and be brought from Melbourne you can purchase your ticket to just the parade here. If you would like to book a 12 hour day tour which takes you to a number of places and includes a ticket in to the penguin parade then you can purchase your ticket here.
The scenery is just fantastic on this part of the island and if you stand at The Nobbies and look across the ocean you will see seal rock in the distance. This is home to the largest colony of seals in Australia. To see the seals up close and personal you will need to take a cruise, if you would like to purchase a ticket for the cruise you can purchase one here. You can also book a cruise while on the island. If you would like to include the seal cruise as part of a full-day tour to the island then you can purchase a ticket for the tour here.
Phillip Island Circuit
Koala Convservation Centre
Cowes – the main town on Phillip Island
The Chocolate Factory
Enjoy the beaches
Woolamai Surf Beach
If you’re looking to hit the waves then head to Woolamai Beach which is famed for its strong rips and currents. It is patrolled over summer and if you love the sun and surf you will be kept busy.
Situated to the south of the island, Smith’s Beach is tucked away in a secluded bay. It offers calm waves and gentle surf for beginners and its bay-side location provides a very relaxed atmosphere.
If it’s wildlife you’re seeking then Summerland Beach is a must-visit as this is the scene of the famous Penguin Parade. You can access the white sandy shores until dusk but then, the area is cleared to make way for the penguins to come ashore.
Shelly Beach boasts small waves perfect for beginners, but this can depend on the swell. It is also great for water sports and has great views of the surrounding areas.
Ventnor Beach is great if you don’t want to surf but spend your day swimming and sunning yourself. It is a great place to relax and offers breath-taking views towards the horizon.
Cowes Beach is a stretch of sand situated at the end of the Main Street of Cowes. It’s a popular place for families who have accommodation in Cowes and it has shallow waves and plethora of facilities and amenities close by.
Red Rocks Beach
Set against a backdrop of impressive red rocks, this beach is sheltered and sandy, providing the perfect place to splash around in the shallows and relax in front of amazing sea views.
For hardcore surfers, Surf Beach is the place to go. It has large waves and strong currents and is not ecommended for swimming, but it’s ideal for pro surfers looking to catch some waves against a backdrop of incredible landscapes.
Other things to see and do on Phillip Island
The things I have mentioned above are the main things to see and do while on Phillip Island but there is still more to see and do. These things include visiting the Vietnam Veterans Museum, the Maze or take a helicopter flight over the island to see its rugged coastline. No matter what you have come to see there is plenty to see and do on Phillip Island.
And if you don’t want to drive yourself consider taking an all inclusive tour to Phillip Island.