Things to Do in Phillip Island
The Koala Reserve on Phillip Island is a fun and informative place to learn more about the popular Australian marsupial. Stroll elevated boardwalks through eucalypt woodland as you observe koalas in their natural habitat.
It looks like something from a movie script; a large, stone, skull shaped rock rising halfway up from a deeply blue sea off an isolated stretch of coast. This isn’t some villain’s lair, however, but a famous rock off Wilson’s Promontory on Victoria’s southern coast. This rugged peninsula is the southernmost point on the entire Australian mainland, and when surfing, hiking, or camping on “the Prom,” Cleft Island silently looms like a haunting skull offshore. To add to the rock’s mysterious allure, it’s believed that only a handful of people have ever set foot on the rock. The cliffs on all sides are dozens of feet high, and an enormous cave the size of a building consumes the center of the rock. For as foreboding as it appears on the surface, however, Skull Rock is a diver’s paradise on the granite walls below. As part of the Anser and Glennie Island groups, Cleft Island is in the middle of Wilson’s Promontory Marine National Park—where colorful sponge gardens, groupers, and seadragons all thrive in the chilly depths. Unless you’re a dedicated diver, however, chances are that Cleft Island will be something you view from afar—whether it’s lounging on sandy Norman Beach and playing in the crashing surf, or enjoying the backcountry bushwalking trails of Victoria’s southern coast.
Phillip Island is brimming with memorable wildlife experiences, but its headline act is the nightly Penguin Parade. Each night at dusk, thousands of little penguins—the largest colony in Australia of the world’s smallest penguin breed—can be seen along the shores of Summerland Beach, waddling back to their beachside burrows after a day at sea.
Phillip Island is famous for its penguins and its massive colony of fur seals, but for a look at 100 additional species of classically Australian wildlife, the Phillip Island Wildlife Park has them all gathered in one spot. Interact with dozens of Australian species on this park’s 60-acre compound, and touch, pet, and even feed your new friendly, cuddly friends. Feel how a wombat’s skin is tough when compared to the fur of a wallaby, and hand feed hungry ‘roos and baby Joeys as they bounce around the compound. You’ll find emus, cassowaries, cockatoos, and kookaburras, as well as koalas lounging in the treetops, and even frantic Tasmanian Devils as they run in circles and pace. The Phillip Island Wildlife Park is the only spot on Phillip Island to see all of these animals in the same spot, and is a convenient stop only 15 minutes from the Penguin Parade at sunset.
Only 90 minutes from the teeming streets of modern, fast-paced Melbourne, Phillip Island is known for its wildlife and scenic, rural shores. The fact that the island has remained so wild is in large part due to the Phillip Island Nature Parks that preserve, protect—and importantly, promote—the island’s wildlife wealth. Though the parks are commercial enterprises that charge admission fees to visit, all of the money goes directly back into wildlife conservation.
The Phillip Island Nature Parks cover 4,460 acres and include the Koala Conservation Center, The Nobbies Center, Churchill Island Heritage Farm and the famous Penguin Parade. The organization also manages conservation areas such as Pyramid Walk and Cape Woolamai, where the rugged nature of the island’s coastline impresses with every turn. The parks are by far the most popular activities when visiting Phillip Island, and over the course of a single day you can watch as seals stretch out on the rocks, hang with furry koalas in the treetops, enjoy craggy rock formations and white sand beaches, and watch as thousands of Little Penguins come scurrying ashore at sunset.
To experience Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse you better have a strong set of legs. This historic light station on Wilsons Promontory can only be reached by foot— and requires a journey that last two days and just over 23 miles. After sloshing for nearly 12 miles through lush, Victorian bush, this lighthouse that’s stood since 1859 appears as literal beacon of hope that the hike is nearly complete. There was once a time when hardy families would live on this isolated point—dutifully manning the flickering light to keep mariners safe at sea. Today those homes where the light keepers lived have largely remained the same, and are split into three, dorm style cottages where hikers can rest for the night. The granite cliffs surrounding the lighthouse form the mainland’s southernmost point, and the roiling Pacific surrounds the cottages on nearly every side. After cleaning up from a long day of hiking, poke your head in the small museum of original lighthouse artifacts, or talk with the rangers who still call the lighthouse their temporary home. On the return trip, many hikers opt to return via Little Waterloo Bay, where golden sands and clear water are worth the extra couple of miles to the trail’s original start.
Get a glimpse into the lives of early Australian settlers and pioneer farming practices at Churchill Island. Located just off the coast of Phillip Island, Churchill Island was the first European agricultural site in Victoria. Today, it’s home to a historic working farm, the Churchill Island Heritage Farm.
With its sandy beaches, windswept bluffs, and miles of rugged walking trails, Cape Woolamai is a place to unwind and simply get back to nature. Stretched across the southeastern corner of scenic Phillip Island, Cape Woolamai is a popular getaway for surfers, birdwatchers, and hikers. On the western stretch, Woolamai Beach has some of the best surfing in the entire state of Victoria, whereas the eastern stretch is covered in sand dunes just a short walk from town. Woolamai Beach is part of the Phillip Island Surfing Reserve and home to a popular lifesaving club, and granite cliffs provide a rugged backdrop to the wide, golden sands. Atop the bluff, a system of walking tracks leads to the highest point on all of Phillip Island, and while it’s only a moderate 370 feet, the viewpoint provides a panoramic vista looking back towards the Australian mainland. Avid hikers can enjoy the 5.3-mile loop that passes the best beaches and viewpoints, and between September and April, birdwatchers can scan the skies for shearwaters that migrate from Alaska. Of all of the cape’s rugged scenery, however, the most striking image is of waves crashing up against the Pinnacles—an iconic collection of eroded sea stacks towards the very end of the cape.
The Nobbies Centre offers a front row seat to nature’s powerful drama. Marooned out on the western end of Victoria’s Phillip Island, the Nobbies is a spot where the jagged rocks are met by the fury of the sea. The area is best known for the 16,000 fur seals that make their home on the rocks, and the spring season from October-January is when males fight to claim their territory and mothers feed their young. Above the rocks and crashing surf, hundreds of sea birds float and glide on gusty currents in the sky—almost to the point that their avian cloud can partially block out the sun.
A series of boardwalks and lookout points leads from the center to the coast, although the seals are rarely close enough to be seen with the naked eye. Instead, it’s the power of the wind, waves, and sea spray that offers immediate drama. When a storm rolls in off the Southern Ocean and encounters the slippery rocks, the walls of whitewater furiously exploding are reason enough to visit. If the wind is whipping up a chill, escape to the confines of the educational center and warm up with a coffee or tea, and keep your eyes peeled for Little Penguins that burrow under the boardwalk. While the Centre itself is a quick visit, it’s the sweeping views from the coastal boardwalk that make this a visitor favorite.
For many travelers, Phillip Island is known for the penguins that stumble ashore at sunset, but for anyone into high speed racing on motorcycles, go karts, or stock cars, it’s known for the Phillip Island Circuit and the legendary, ocean view course. With a total lap length of 2.7 miles, the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit is not only technically challenging with all of its twist and turns, but considering the sweeping ocean views, is generally regarded as one of the sport’s most scenic and popular tracks. If there happens to be a race while in town, head to one of the spectator spots to watch the fast-paced action, where professional riders accelerate to speeds that can often top 200 mph. On days when races are not actively in session, go kart rides are offered for visitors to get the feel for the course, or you can also whip through the track at high speeds while accompanied by a professional driver. To learn even more about the history of the Grand Prix circuit, and relive its memorable moments, join in a guided tour of the track that takes place at 2pm, where you’ll finish the tour on the winner’s podium like the greatest racers in the world.
More Things to Do in Phillip Island
Located in the bushlands of Mornington Peninsula, Moonlit Sanctuary is a wildlife conservation park that is home to native Australian wildlife, including koalas, wallabies, kookaburras, and dingos. The sanctuary is most famous for its night tours, which allow visitors to see nocturnal pythons, feathertail gliders, quolls, and more.
Set amid the natural wonders and wildlife reserves of Phillip Island, A Maze'N Things offers a fun alternative for a family day out. The small-scale theme park is packed with interactive exhibitions and activities, including mind-bending illusions, a gigantic maze, a minigolf course, and plenty of games, puzzles, and challenges to keep all ages entertained.
Between the surfing, the wildlife, the hiking, and driving, sometimes the best Phillip Island activity is simply doing nothing at all. That’s the plan at the Phillip Island Winery, where the family-run tasting room actively encourages visitors to kick back and relax. Located amidst the green pastures on the western end of the island, sit down with a Chardonnay or a signature Pinot Noir, and allow the owners to walk you through a flight of their colder climate wines. Indulge with platters of Gippsland cheeses, homemade dips and smoked trout, or watch a blustery storm roll in from the cozy cottage confines. This is the oldest winery on Phillip Island and definitely the most relaxed, and a place to simply relax and unwind and experience the island’s beauty.
All hail the mighty chocolate! That’s the feeling you might get when you tour this chocolate-laced compound. Located over the bridge from San Remo when you arrive on Phillip Island, the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory is an Australian shrine to chocolate. On a tour through “Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate” you can find art, houses, activities, and games that are made entirely from chocolate, and you’ll even find chocolate spilling down from the world’s largest chocolate waterfall. Stroll past a carving of Michaelangelo’s “David” that is exquisitely carved from chocolate, and see a solid block of chocolate that literally weighs a ton.
For more of a tasty, hands-on experience, design and create your own chocolate that is instantly made for you to eat. Draw your name in chocolate syrup and watch chocolatiers at work, and then wash down the endlessly tasty morsels with a hot chocolate in the café. The chocolate served at the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory is its own special blend, and from the moment you’re greeted with white truffles that are made from the “secret recipe,” you can literally taste the pride and passion for everyone’s favorite sweet.