Before heading to Australia in February, we knew that we wanted to head to Phillip Island and explore the popular tourist destination for ourselves.
The island itself is incredibly popular for its penguin parade, which consists of watching the little penguins surface the ocean and head ashore to nest for the night. But little did we know just how beautiful the coastal scenery of the island would be though!
The island is about a 2-hour drive from Melbourne, hence why it’s such a fantastic day-trip and tourist magnetic for those visiting the Aussie city. If you’re in Victoria – whether that be Melbourne, the Mornington Penninsula, or elsewhere – I’d highly recommend considering a trip to this beautifully rustic & wild island.
Our first stop on the trip was Cape Woolamai and it actually came to be my favourite part of the day.
our 7.5km walk began on the beach – the waves were rough and fierce and the coastal scenery was rugged and wild. After walking a good section of the beach we climbed the wooden stairs from the sand to the coastal walking tracks which led us to incredibly beautiful viewpoints (e.g. Photo Opp Beacon Lookout, The Pinnacles) all gifting us with views of the surrounding coast.
After the walk we were ready for lunch – which leads us to our next stop of Cowes Town. We had about an hour to grab some lunch and get a feel for the town before moving on to our next location being the Nobbies. Cowes Town felt a little secluded and a huge contrast compared to the hectic city-life of Melbourne that we’d come to become so familiar with.
We headed to the pier where we grabbed a drink and bite to eat from a lovely cafe near the sea. It was lovely to get a feel for the area… And re-fuel after a blustery coastal walk!
Cowes Town is the main town on Phillip Island and as felt as though, although a little simplistic, it was the main hub for both tourists and locals. As you can see from the image above, the beach was lined with a variety of trees and walking to the end of the pier will grant you with some lovely views out over the sea.
Visiting the Nobbies – which was our next stop – was my second favourite stop of this trip (see images below). We stopped at the Nobbies Centre where we completed the walk via the boardwalk and took in the views basked in shades of auburn as we arrived at golden hour. The scenery here really is something! It was also lovely that we were able to explore on our own away from the group – I much prefer to have independence even when on group trips/activities which we were definitely given with the Fun Addicts.
The last stop of the trip is generally the main attraction for tourists visiting the Island – the Penguin Parade. The day was pretty full-on and come this point I was pretty tired but excited to see the penguins head ashore to nest for the upcoming night. We arrived here just after sunset (the tours take place at an allocated time of the day depending on when the penguins generally surface to nest). We waited for the tour to begin and then headed to the viewing area, patiently waiting to spot the first penguin of the night come ashore. The penguins here are the World’s smallest penguins and really are just so lovely and the benefit of viewing the sweet animals here is that they’re in their natural habitat.
I’ve written a little more about our experience of this part of the trip below * but just to summarise, although the penguins are undoubtedly left to their own devices and are in the wild, it didn’t feel truly authentic or raw. With this being such a huge tourist attraction there were huge crowds of people and unfortunately I found a lot of people to be quite disrespectful to the animals and often ignored the staff’s instructions. It felt as though the penguin’s habitat had become a little too artificial and the tourist appeal was perhaps prioritised over the penguin’s general wellbeing in terms of their natural nesting situation. But, I’m no expert and if I spoke to a staff member I could have been enlightened and proven wrong (!?) … Who knows.
Who did we book our trip with?
Fun Addicts we chose these as their reviews were great, the itinerary looked good and the price of their excursions are far cheaper than the majority of their competitors. If you can afford to pay extra and want a more intimate experience then consider booking with another company, however, if you’re after a budget tour, happy to pack lunches or buy meals out at cafés whilst out then book with these! The tour guide herself seemed lovely but honestly, she didn’t seem to know a lot about the island and the information and speeches she gave seemed pretty unprofessional but that didn’t bother us too much.
What was our favourite part of the day?
The coastal walk was my favourite part of the day. Once arriving at Phillip Island we headed to the coast to complete a 7.5km walk which was beautiful! The terrain was easy to walk on and the majority of the walk was pretty flat so certainly wasn’t particularly difficult. We saw wallabies out in the wild and were blessed with incredible views of the coast.
What was our least favourite part of the day?
* Much to everyone’s dismay, honestly, the Penguin Parade was my least favourite part of the day. Don’t get me wrong the penguins themselves were adorable and seeing them come in from the ocean to nest for the night was really cool, but I just found the whole experience far too over-touristy. Walking back to the main centre after seeing the penguins felt like walking out of a football match or concert, there was a mass of people and everyone was bumping into everyone. A lot of people also ignored the signs and announcements to not take photographs of the penguins, especially with the flash on, which I found pretty inconsiderate. The centre makes a lot of money for the county and island through the parades, and the event itself seemed ethical and you could tell the staff cared about the animal’s wellbeing.
If you don’t fancy joining a tour then I’d highly recommend hiring a car and travelling to/exploring the Island yourself! The drive to Phillip Island seemed pretty easy and straight-forwarded and once on the island other than a little congestion in places due to the traffic of tourists, the drive seemed pleasant. Driving around yourself also means that you can explore areas at your own leisure and you’re not confined to an itinerary or timing of a tour group.
If you’re looking for day-trips local to Melbourne then Phillip Island should definitely be a strong contender!