Australia: Phillip Island
January 1, 1970
by Melissa Badsey
The sun is beating down our backs as we stand at the top of the stairs that descend to the cool blue ocean below. Smiths Beach, my go to when I visit Phillip Island. It is probably one of the most popular beaches on the island, with many locals, visitors and semi-locals like me who make the trip often but don’t actually live there. My love for smiths beach began when I first learnt to surf, it’s perfect, the beach is protected on each side by rock faces so isn’t totally open to the whole ocean and the beautiful sandy stretch gives room for everyday goers, beginners surfers, pro surfers, body boarders and everyone in-between to have a good day at the beach and not get in the way of each other. There’s rock pools to the right that get swallowed up in high tide and when you venture over them there is a whole another section of beach if you want a little bit more privacy, it’s usually more of a local hangout. I love Smiths because I’ve been there when it’s been forty degrees and blazing and nineteen degrees and raining and I’ve never been disappointed by its atmosphere, you can find the beach totally packed and totally empty, either way shows the diversity and how beautiful the beach is. If you visit Phillip Island I would make it a top priority.
As we hop in the car and drive ten minutes down the road with the windows down and the salty breeze flowing through our hairs and the radio on high we enter the town of Cowes. I’d say this is the central town, it’s amazing how a town so small (this is coming from a Melbournian girl) can fit SO much into itself. The town doesn’t lack in diversity, there are a range of cafes which all showcase unique and different food options, and then of course your ‘have to have’ fish and chips shop, which does pretty good chips if I don’t say. Then you have a good old burger joint and a few random restaurants scattered around town, I would say they are not lacking in the food department, which is always a good thing. If you aren’t after something made by someone else there is a local shop which provides all of the goods with a Safeway always there with fresh fruit and veg and everything else you’d expect in a supermarket. The town features a lot of unique independent clothing stores, with quite a few with souvenirs but with lots of nice little trinkets, one store in particular is jam packed full of random things like anklets, necklaces, souvenirs, cars stickers, cheezy t-shirts, it’s honestly the best time to have a look at what they are selling, I’ve bought many beachy anklets from them. Cowes then have their branded ‘Island Surf’ store which houses hundreds of products like boards, bathers and surf apparel, always good to just go in a soak in the beachy vibes, you can usually tell someone is a local or is down there a lot as they will have an ‘Island’ logoed sticker from the shop stuck to the back of their car, pretty cool. Down the street we have a few opp shops which you can usually find a good deal or so, along with a church that sometimes has rummage sales with heaps of cool stuff like books. In all the town does not lack in the interest department in terms of stores, there is something there for everyone and I have literally spent hours on good summers day, with a icypole in my hand, browsing up and down the road of stores at all the showcased goodies.
Beaches of the Island
Of course Phillip Island has an abundance of beaches, there’s smiths which I would say is one of the most popular which contains a lot more waves to tussle you about to have a good time playing in the shallows or even to have that beginner surf lesson (I forgot to mention that they do surf lessons which I highly recommend, the instructors are great surfers themselves and have the best attitudes and personalities, even if you don’t want to become a pro it totally worth is for a bit of fun. Their store is located along the road leading to smiths- can’t miss it), then you have one on the shoreline of Cowes. The one on Cowes is perfect for families! It has next to no waves and has lots of green grass embankment along with sand to sit back and relax with a book (and maybe some of that great fish and chips) and watch the kids play safely in the water, or even a good place for a cute picnic beach date anybody? After that you have a more open beach such as Cape Woolamai which more independent surfers may prefer over smiths on a crowded day, it’s not as enclosed as smiths and goes on for a few kilometres, perfect for a nice beach walk with the family, by yourself or a partner. Always make sure if you are swimming that you find the flags to swim between, it’s not as patrolled as smiths so you need to watch out a bit more where you swim but it’s generally quite safe.
Where to stay
If you are ever curious where to stay there are a few commercial places but I’ve honestly never looked at them, my go to has always been ‘AirBnB’ it’s a great app for travellers, it has personal reviews and is super friendly (as friendly as an app can get) and can help you get the best Island experience possible. I stayed with a woman in her house once and it truly gave a great islander experience, she was a local and had a daughter that surfed, she was able to tell me about the life around the Island and some of the good places to see around Phillip Island. Her house was decked out with beachy trinkets and décor and it was a lot more unique than staying at a commercial accommodation. I’ve also stayed in a cabin part of someone’s house, it was cosy, cute and snuggly for me and the friend that came with me, the hostess came home through the trip and we just had a good chat over tea the morning that we left. Connecting with the people who live in the places you visit is such a key to truly embracing travelling, so I would recommend finding somewhere to stay through the ‘AirBnB’ app.
Here is a quick link to the Phillip Island tourism website.