Ten little penguins would probably do it but there are plenty of other reasons to plan an adventure on Phillip Island. This little island is big on activities for every weekend wanderer: surfers and sand-castle builders, wildlife watchers and sports spectators, foodies and fishing fans, jazz cats and history buffs. The best bit (aside from the penguins)? It’s only a 90-minute drive from Melbourne. Jump in the car and you’ll be there in a jiffy.
Reason 1: Swell beaches
Welcome to some of the best surfing in the country. Declared Victoria’s first National Surfing Reserve for its quality breaks and pristine environment, Phillip Island has four surfing hot spots: Cape Woolamai, Smiths Beach, Summerland and Cat Bay. A choice of big waves, left and right breaks, and small, consistent waves for learners, makes the island popular with grommets and seasoned board riders. Hire gear locally and sign up for lessons.
Reason 2: Destination dining and local brews
Fresh caught seafood and locally sourced produce are served up with spectacular views at Phillip Island’s foodie hot spots. Dine with a view of the Southern Ocean at The Cape Kitchen or at Saltwater Phillip Island. Try cool climate wines at Purple Hen Wines or Phillip Island Winery, and try beers poured straight from the tap, at Ocean Reach Brewing – with food to match. Get your coffee fix from BEANd roastery.
Reason 3: Cute suits and koalaty time
Little penguins waddle ashore in some seriously cute suits. Visit the Penguin Parade to watch them surface from a day’s fishing and waddle up the beach to their burrows in the sand dunes. Phillip Island has plenty of koalas too. Visit the Koala Conservation Centre and wander woodland boardwalks to see them dozing in the trees. Twitchers can visit the island in spring to see shearwater birds arrive from Alaska to breed.
Reason 4: The perfect pitch
Picture yourself camping, with lots of life’s little luxuries, just walking distance to one Phillip Island’s most pristine beaches. The Sheltered Glamping Co. will make it happen. Picture private farm and woodland pitches, cotton canvas tents, comfy queen sized beds, off-grid solar power and other low impact features. Book ahead for a cosy bed.
Reason 5: On the rocks
Some 35,000 seals make their home off the coast of Phillip Island at Seal Rocks, Australia’s largest fur seal colony. Venture out on a boat cruise with Wild Oceans Eco Boat Adventures or Wildlife Coast Cruises to see the seals fish from the rocks, taking in the rugged coastline along the way.
Reason 6: A-maze-ing family fun
This little island’s big on family fun. Let the kids loose at Panny’s Phillip Island Chocolate Factory and burn off the sweets among the mazes, mini-golf and tunnels at A Maze’N Things. For a virtual trip to the Southern Ocean, take the family on an Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies Centre: big deep-sea adventures without the extra jumpers.
Reason 7: Holiday catch ups
Angling for a fishing holiday? Join the locals and snapper up a catch from the jetties at Cowes, Newhaven, Rhyll and San Remo. Cast your net further afield and take a boat or fishing charter out onto Westernport Bay. Don’t go home empty handed. Stop by San Remo Fishing Co-operative for the best fish and chips in town, or buy seafood fresh off the boat. No one need ever know that you didn’t hook it yourself.
Reason 8: Circuit breakers
Torque about motorsports: the famed Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit plays host each year to the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix (MotoGP – October), World Superbike Championships (February) and the V8 Supercars (April). Satisfy your need for speed any time of the year on the go-kart track – a scale replica of the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit – at the Grand Prix Circuit Visitor Centre.
Reason 9: Island grooves
Jazz cats: the Phillip Island Jazz Festival is the best way to get into the island groove. Every November, local and touring jazz bands bring three days of swing, gypsy and trad sounds to Cowes. The island tunes don’t stop when the festival ends. Live bands and solo acts can be found adding beats to sunny afternoon sessions and late night revelry, at venues across the island.
Reason 10: Churchill Island
History buffs, Churchill Island is your dream island home. The site of the first farm in Victoria, this is the place to delve into pioneering history and nineteenth-century farming techniques. Watch whip cracking, sheep shearing and working dogs doing the hard yards. Jump aboard a Clydesdale-driven wagon or wander through the original homestead and traditional gardens at your own pace.