Phillip Island is situated roughly 140 kilometres (or about a two hour drive) south-east of Melbourne. When you crest the final hill and look down on the town of San Remo and glimpse the sparkling waters of Western Port Bay to your right you'll know you're nearly there. San Remo is your last stop before crossing, what the locals call The Bridge That Joins San Remo to Phillip Island.
The Bridge That Joins San Remo to Phillip Island
After crossing the Bridge the last 20 minutes or so of your drive is getting to the major township of Cowes situated on the north coast of the island. From Cowes you have great views of French Island and the Mornington Peninsula.
Phillip Island is a major tourist destination for one of Victoria's major attractions - The Penguin Parade. Nightly tourists sit and wait expectantly for the Little Penguins to rise out of the sea and waddle their way up the beach to return to their nests located in the sand dunes. No matter what the weather may have been like during the day it's always a good idea to be prepared for a wait and to be dressed appropriately.
The Island is a cyclists dream with relatively flat terrain which makes it easy to cycle to most of the attractions and beaches. It's also a comfortable place to drive around with pleasant views across verdant undulating hills.
With it's many surf beaches, hot summers, popular fishing spots and relative closeness to Melbourne, Phillip Island is a very popular summer vacation spot for many Victorians. A good time to visit is just before and just after the summer school holidays. Although, one can visit Phillip Island in a day to give the place a good going over and not feel rushed when visiting the sights one should plan a couple of days at a minimum.
Cowes is a relaxing laid back seaside county town with it's main retail, cafe and restaurant street ending at the beach and pier. To start your day it's the perfect place to locate a café order a big breakfast and coffee and make your plans.
There are a number of things to see and do on Phillip Island.
Of course there's the obligatory visit to see the penguins, however plan to arrive early and drive to the western tip of the Island and visit The Nobbies to see the surf crashing up against the rocks, and if the conditions are right see water spurting out of the blowhole. Also if you are there around December be prepared for the continuous screech of seabirds as they hover in the wind and nest amongst the grasses growing on the hillside. Take a walk along the boardwalk at the back of the visitors centre and along the coast and view Seal Rocks. (Seal Watch cruises are available from Cowes but check the timetable the night before because some cruises are dependent on numbers so if insufficient numbers, then no cruise).
The Nobbies, Phillip Island
If you are looking for surf beaches then Phillip Island have a few with Woolamai Surf Beach (at the end of Woolamai Beach Road) and Shelly Beach (on Ventnor Road just before Penguin Reserve) being among the more popular.
Surf's Up at Shelly Beach, Phillip Island
Native wild animal life is abundant on the Island and it also has a couple of reserves that are very popular amongst tourists. The Koala Conservation Centre, located about 10 minutes from Cowes on Phillip Island Road, is a great spot to visit to get a close up view of a koala (or many koala's) in their natural environment. Although an introduced species to Phillip Island (in the 1880's) they have thrived and the Centre was opened in 1992 to monitor and study the koala population and to give visitors and opportunity to see them.
Sleepy Head Koala, Phillip Island
Another popular animal reserve is the Wild Life Park, located just outside Cowes on Phillip Island Road, and, although a little run down, it does give you the opportunity to get up close and view a wide cross section of Australian animals, including, dingoes, kangaroos, goannas, lizards, koalas, wombats and echidnas, to name a few. When you enter you are provided with a small bag to feed the animals as you wander around. Try holding an open bag of food up to a Cassowary, they're not shy.
Finally, you can't leave Phillip Island without visiting Churchill Island to see the National Trust listed Rogers Cottage & Amess House and grounds.