Phillip Island is possibly best known for its colony of utterly adorable penguins, but it’s got a lot of other things going for it as well! With big surf beaches, opportunities to see native Australian wildlife and only a 2 hour drive from Melbourne, it’s easy to see why Phillip Island is such a popular choice for travelers!
Phillip Island is 140km outside of Melbourne, and it will take you around 2 hours to drive there from Melbourne (possibly longer if you get stuck in holiday traffic).
The best way to explore Phillip Island is to rent a car and spend a few nights there. You can get there via public transport if renting a car isn’t an option.
V line services depart from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne’s CBD. The last stop is Cowes on Phillip Island, but it also stops at other towns on Phillip Island too before it gets to Cowes. Check the timetables here:
Cowes is the biggest town on Phillip Island, and has everything you’ll need; restaurants, souvenir shops, supermarkets, doctors, cafes, tattoo parlours, petrol stations, clothes shops. There are a number of small towns dotted along the coastline of Phillip Island.
Keep in mind that the beaches on the north of the island (Cowes, Silverleaves, Rhyll, Red Rocks, Ventnor) are in a bay; the water is exceptionally calm and there are absolutely no waves at these beaches. These are more family friendly beaches.
If you’re looking for surf beaches, you should stay in the south of the island (Smith’s Beach, Sunderland Bay, Surf Beach, Cape Woolamai).
If you’re staying outside of Cowes, stock up on supplies (food, anything you need) either in Melbourne or Cowes, as most of the smaller towns only have basic convenience stores. The tap water is of course safe to drink!
Things to do
The penguin parade is located in the western corner of the island and is one of the most popular sites for visitors. Prices start at $25 per person to see the penguins, and you may need to pre-book if you are going in peak holiday season (summer holidays; December, January).
Please note that photography of the penguins is not permitted, as flash photography can damage their vision.
More information: http://www.penguins.org.au/
Learn to surf
Phillip Island is well known for its surf beaches, so if you’ve been desperate to learn how to ride waves, Phillip Island is the place to do it.
Surf lessons are offered at Smith’s Beach by Island Surf School, with all gear included. For more information: https://www.islandsurfboards.com.au/surf-school
If you’re after a close encounter with some Australian wildlife, head to the Phillip Island Wildlife Park.
Entry is $18 for adults and gives you access to over 100 species of Australian animals, including all your favourites – koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, dingoes, emus, wombats and many more!
The park is open every day except for Christmas Day.
More information: http://www.piwildlifepark.com.au/
The Nobbies is a series of boardwalks along the rugged coastline. It is a great spot for observing local birdlife, and penguins can be seen from the boardwalk in their nests.
More information: http://www.visitphillipisland.com/listing/the-nobbies/
Seal Rocks is the largest wild seal colony in Australia! You can take a wildlife cruise to get a close look at these beautiful creatures, and you might even be lucky enough to see dolphins too.
This tiny historic island can be accessed via Phillip Island and has local cultural importance, being the first agricultural site in Victoria. There is a market full of fresh, local produce every fourth Saturday of the month from 8am-1pm.
Places to stay
There is a YHA in Newhaven, just near the bridge to access Phillip Island. You can hire bikes and surfboards!
More information: https://www.yha.com.au/hostels/vic/lakes-coast/phillip-island/
You can camp at the BIG4 Caravan Park, where they have a range of powered and unpowered sites for a small fee.
More information: http://www.phillipislandcpk.com.au/accommodation/caravan-camping/
There are lots of reasonably priced options on Air BnB – plus you get the added bonus of staying with a local who will have a lot of local knowledge.
Many of the houses on Phillip Island are available to rent over holiday periods, so if you can get a group together, that’s the best way to do it. If you’re just a few people, Air BnB will probably be more cost efficient.