Phillip Island is a small island located about 2 hours south of Melbourne. Although at first glance this island might not seem that special, it has some rather amazing attractions.
The island isn’t particularly big, but you can easily spend a day exploring it and experiencing the many sights and activities that it has to offer.
Even if you aren’t interested in the activities (more on those soon!), Phillip Island has some stunning beaches and it is a great place to stay if you want to avoid the city for a while.
However, there are a few activities that I would highly recommend doing, and in this post I want to discuss those things!
This is why you should visit Phillip Island, and everything that you need to know to have a great day, or few days, on one of Victoria’s biggest attractions.
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How to Get to Phillip Island
Getting to Phillip Island is luckily quite easy. However, it can take a while depending on the method of transport that you take.
The best, fastest, and most convenient method by far is to hire a car and drive from Melbourne to Phillip Island. The drive takes around two hours, and is mostly following big roads that are easy to understand. For better directions, check Google Maps.
If you don’t want to hire a car, or it isn’t an option, there are a few more ways to get from Melbourne to Phillip Island (and vice versa).
Public transport can take you to Phillip Island from the city in around two and a half to three hours. You can find the full details and times on the Victoria PTV website.
Another route that can taken to reach Phillip Island involves taking the ferry from Stony Point. To take the ferry, you must first take the train from Melbourne to Frankston. From there, take the train from Frankston to Stony Point.
This will take you directly to Cowes (the town on Phillip Island). It takes between two and three hours depending on the timing and wait time between transfers. For more detailed information on taking the ferry route, please refer to this detailed route.
All in all, there are quite a few different routes to reach Phillip Island. While hiring a car is definitely the easiest method, it is also more expensive and not accessible to everyone.
However, it is worth keeping in mind that assuming you are traveling from Melbourne, a trip to Phillip Island will take two to three hours each way. For this reason, it is probably worth staying the night in Phillip Island.
Not only is traveling six hours in one day tiring, but you won’t get time to explore a lot of the island if you only spend an afternoon there.
Where to Stay
There are many different accommodation options on Phillip Island and you have a large variety to choose from. Whether you are looking hotel style accomodation, or to hire a whole house, there are choices available!
Island Escape in Wimbledon Heights is one of the highest rated options on Booking.com and gives you a lot of space. This option only has one choice (1 bunk bed and 1 double bed), so it is best for families looking for somewhere to stay on Phillip Island.
The accomodation is located in the middle of the island and as such, a drive will be required to get to most attractions. For this reason, this accomodation option is best for visitors who have also hired a vehicle.
Located right by the entrance to Phillip Island it the BIG4 Phillip Island Caravan Park. If you have a caravan or want to camp, then this is the place to stay.
However, the caravan park also has cabins available in many different sizes, making it ideal for anyone. Further, it has quick beach access and it located close to some attractions such as the chocolate factory and Churchill Island.
If you would prefer to stay in the local town (Cowes, located on the northern side of Phillip Island), then there are many different options and you can take your pick with whatever suits you best.
One of the most popular options are the Phillip Island Apartments. These apartments are located centrally in Cowes and are within walkable distance to most of the town’s attractions.
Further, they offer everything from a single bed apartment to an ‘executive’ apartment with three double beds. This makes it a fantastic option for everything from couples to large families.
Phillip Island Attractions
There are a ton of different attractions on Phillip Island and I can’t cover them all. Why? Because I haven’t experienced them all myself!
However, in my day on the island I got to experience a range of activities and to be honest – I was amazed at how great the island was. I didn’t go in expecting much, but the island had a lot to offer.
Therefore, while I will cover the activities that I did in this post, there are also many that won’t be covered. For a full list of activities on the island, please refer to the Phillip Island website.
The first, and by far the biggest attraction (at least for me) on Phillip Island was the Koala Reserve. As I mentioned earlier, I went into Phillip Island not really expecting anything. However, the Koala Reserve quickly changed my mind.
The Reserve itself could be compared to a zoo, but at the same time it really can’t be. It’s a large outdoor space that has a few different enclosures for a variety of Australian wildlife.
In some of the smaller enclosures you will find the more dangerous animals from Australia such as dingos, cassowaries and tasmanian devils. These exhibits in themselves are very nice, and in terms of animal welfare, the definitely feel better than those at a zoo.
However, the Koala Reserve has a lot more to offer. As the name implies, there are a few koalas in the trees of the sanctuary – at times, they are even close enough that you can almost touch them!
But, these aren’t the real attraction. That is the free-roaming wildlife such as the kangaroos, wallabies and emus. The reserve has a massive area that can be explored on foot, and within this area you are allowed to feed and interact with the animals.
I have never had such a close experience with kangaroos and wallabies and I had a great time at the koala reserve. The animals were so friendly (or hungry), and interacting with them was a wonderful experience.
On top of this, these animals feel and seem to be in a far better environment than at zoos. They have a large area to roam and many other animals to interact with.
If you want to learn more about the koala reserve, I wrote a full article on why you should visit!
Located near the entry point to Phillip Island is another (albeit far smaller) island. This island is called Churchill Island and can easily be explored within a few hours.
Churchill Island is famous for being an island that has been farmed since 1850 and was the first agricultural pursuit by Europeans in Victoria. Therefore, it is historically very significant.
Until today, the island has been kept as a farm and there is a small museum on the history of the island. Exploring the island will reveal all kinds of different farm animals, some of which are very friendly!
While exploring the island, you will also take in some stunning sights. The beaches along the coast of Churchill Island looked amazing, and I would have loved to explore them further.
However, for the sake of the environment it is better to stick to the path and to just enjoy the sights with your eyes.
There is also a cafe on the island if you would prefer to sit down and enjoy a coffee while taking in the views.
I highly recommend walking around Churchill Island even if only for an hour. The sights are amazing and you really can’t find better beaches anywhere else. Well, except maybe in New Zealand.
Perhaps the biggest attraction on the whole island is the Penguin Parade. Phillip Island is famous for this parade, and for good reason.
In the evening, the penguins come out of the ocean and into their houses – which are conveniently on Phillip Island. Hundreds, if not thousands of penguins come out of the ocean to spend the night in their homes.
Watching penguins tumble over each other to get out of the surf and onto land is one of the most hilarious, but also overwhelmingly cute sights that I have ever seen.
Although I do recommend the Penguin Parade, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. Firstly, and most importantly, they can’t guarantee how many penguins you might see. Some nights you can see hundreds, other nights the penguins might be shy.
While you should always see some penguins, you might not always see as many as you are led to believe by their marketing.
Secondly, it’s important to stay quiet and invisible. This means no cameras. While the real issue is with flash, they have placed a carpet ban on cameras to remove the possibility of anyone accidentally using flash.
However, nearly everyone ignored this rule. Although there were many staff keeping an eye out, nearly everyone ended up taking pictures anyway. For the sake of the penguins though, this should be avoided.
If you are someone who likes chocolate, then this may be the best attraction on the island! That is the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory, a chocolate factory located near the entrance of Phillip Island.
The chocolate factory itself is quite large and offers a variety of different attractions. Everything from tasting chocolate (they offer free samples) to exploring how chocolate is made can be done here.
Perhaps the biggest attraction though, is that you can make your own chocolate while at the factory. If you have ever wondered what that combination of ingredients would take like with chocolate, why not try it here?
If you would prefer a less hands-on way to enjoy chocolate, the Chocolate Factory also has a cafe that can be enjoyed. If I’ve learnt one thing about cafes that specialise in chocolate, it’s that they are always good!
Although the chocolate factory may not be for everyone, it’s a great place to visit for many people. It’s especially popular for children, and as such it’s a great place to visit with your family!
A seal sunbathing. This image was taken in New Zealand.
If the Koala Reserve and Penguin Parade don’t satisfy your want to see animals (or maybe, you just want to see a different kind of animal!), then the Nobbies Centre is a great place to visit.
The Nobbies Centre is located right on the tip of Phillip Island on the west side. The centre houses an exhibit on Antarctica, and also offers some fantastic viewing of the blowhole. I recommend checking out their website for more information!
Another attraction that Nobbies offers though, is the ability to see seals from the largest fur seal colony in Australia. With approximately 16,000 seals, there are a lot to see!
Please note that the image above is actually from New Zealand. I wasn’t able to capture any images of seals at Nobbies due to some camera issues.
The Nobbies Centre also offers a cafe. This is a great idea for anyone who wants to relax and take in the scene from a chair. You will get a fantastic view at the cafe and if you have some spare time, it’s a great place to relax.
One of the biggest attractions on Phillip Island is the Cowes township. This is the island’s biggest town, and could almost be called the capital of Phillip Island.
The town is of a medium size, and it has a few unique attractions of its own. Not only does it have a wonderful seaside location (with some beautiful views), but it has some fantastic cafes, restaurants, and attractions.
I didn’t get time to visit the whole town while I was there, however I spent long enough there to know that some wonderful food and drinks can be served! Not only this, but having a picnic on the beach is very nice.
For more information on what is available in Cowes, I recommend checking out the Cowes page on VisitMelbourne. As the website says, Cowes is also the ideal place to stay as it is relatively central to many of the island’s attractions.
Phillip Island – Melbourne’s Paradise
Melbourne is one of my favourite cities in the world, and I could happily spend hours and days (maybe even weeks and months!) exploring it.
However, there always comes a time when you want to get out of the city and to experience nature again. This is when Phillip Island is perfect.
Further than that however, I think that anyone staying one week or more in Victoria should visit the island. It’s definitely one of the biggest attractions of the Melbourne region, and perhaps even the state.
If you are in Melbourne already, I would recommend trying to make some time in your schedule to visit Phillip Island. The experiences that I had there stick with me today – I still haven’t had a more personal experience with kangaroos or seen more penguins in one place.