Phillip Island, a popular day trip from Melbourne, lies just off Australia’s southern coast and boasts some rather famous locals. And while these locals do have a tendency to set hearts racing, we’re not talking about brothers Liam or Chris Hemsworth, who were born and raised here, but the 20,000 Little Penguins who call the island home.
Every evening thousands of people eagerly await the arrival of its most famous residents as they waddle from sea to dunes. But these little guys aren’t the only popular critters on the island as Phillip Island also boasts Australia’s largest breeding colony of Australian fur seals, around 12,000 of them in fact! Visitors can watch as they lounge about on the edge of the wild waters of Bass Street from Nobbies Centre, where you’ll also find Australia’s unique marine life showcased in a free exhibition. Or you can head out on a Seal Watching Cruise with Wildlife Coast Cruises to watch as they dip and dive from the shore to the sea.
Phillip Island is also famous for stunning beaches. The south coast surf beaches, including Woolamai, Smiths and Summerland are best suited to strong swimmers and surfers while younger families can enjoy a paddle at the more tranquil Smiths Beach, Shelley Beach and Kitty Miller Bay.
Visitors can also discover a world of illusions at A Maze’ N Things, farmyard fun at Churchill Island Heritage Farm, Phillip Island’s own chocolate factory and The Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, which is sure to fire up young racers.
With so much to explore, we’ve rounded up our 10 not to be missed attractions.
Critter loving kids will love Phillip Island but there’s more to this area than little penguins and slippery seals. Visitors can take a stroll through eucalypt woodland and come face-to-fur with koalas in their natural habitat at the Koala Conservation Centre. Or they can pet a koala, hand feed a kangaroo or wallaby, take a walk with a dingo, talk to the parrots or get friendly with a python at Maru Koala and Animal Park. Grab an All-Day Pass’ for access to the animals all day as well as the park’s pirate themed mini-golf course. And at Churchill Island Heritage Farm, a historic working farm, little ones can enjoy a fascinating glimpse of the lives of the area’s early settlers and meet the farm animals in the hands-on animal nursery. There are also intriguing farming demonstrations including cow milking and sheep shearing.
Phillip Island is a great all-year-round holiday destination with four distinct seasons. While spring and autumn are mild, it can be bitterly cold in winter and extremely warm in summer, though the island’s location mean none of the uncomfortable humidity of northern Australia and cooling ocean breezes may still necessitate a light cardigan for the kids after dark.
Phillip Island’s famous resident penguins arrive at sunset every single day of the year, though in winter there is the advantage of fewer tourists so you don’t need to compete with as many onlookers to get a look see. Accommodation is also more readily available and you are more likely to pick up a bargain during the cooler months. Phillip Island is one of the most popular destinations for Victorians during the summer school holidays, so beaches and attractions can be crowded and accommodation books out early.
Phillip Island’s Restaurant scene certainly makes for some exciting dining experiences. With all that coastline, Phillip Island is renowned for its fresh seafood and, of course, fish n chips, but the island offers a wide variety of cuisines and a selection of great restaurants, kid-friendly cafes, hotels and pubs in the main food precincts of Cowes, Rhyll, Newhaven, Cape Woolamai and San Remo. The Lone Pine Bistro at Phillip Island RSL is especially popular with families, featuring a good selection of children’s meals and a play room. And Margie’s Family Bistro in Cowes offers hearty pub grub and an indoor play area for kids. Those that are sweet of tooth can’t miss a visit to Phillip Island Chocolate Factory a celebration of all things chocolate with amazing attractions, interactive chocolate making machines and chocolatiers busily creating chocolates for you to try.
March - Rhyll Wooden Boat Festival
This new festival celebrates the island’s boating history.
October - Australian Superbike Championship
Catch all the action of Australia’s premier production bike racing series.
October - Phillip Island Pro QS1000
This World Surf League Qualifying Series runs alongside the Phillip Island Junior Challenge and Indigenous Invitational.
November - Island Magic
See Formula Vee, Historic Touring Cars, Sports Sedans, Sports Cars, Formula Ford, and Porsche 944s race as well as great entertainment for the whole family.
November- The Phillip Island Jazz Festival
Get your toes tapping at this three-day celebration of jazz.
November - Phillip Island Food and Wine Festival
An annual celebration of the best food and produce on Phillip Island.
From sport and science to music and art, check out our list of family-friendly attractions around Australia based on your interests.
Phillip Island has accessible paths, animal encounters and cabins. Bron Leeks gives us her top tips for travel with a wheelchair.
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