PHILLIP ISLAND: THE HIDDEN GEM
April 14, 2017
by Benjamin Witcomb
I’m sure you will be visiting Melbourne at some point on your Australian escapade, so do not miss out the magnificent Phillip Island. If it’s not in your plans, then pull your act together! Mix the quirk of Camden, London and a sprinkle of Melbourne originality and you have a perfect city to work, live and travel in!
However, this post is not about the hip back streets of Melbourne. If you want an article about the best vegan dish in Fitzroy, then I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. Today we will be uncovering the wonder of Phillip Island and its wildlife! Pull up your socks boys and let’s discover what Phillip Island has to offer! Plus, it’s pretty cold there so… best to pull up your socks anyway.
How to get there
Phillip Island is around 2 hours from Melbourne city centre. You can book yourself onto a tour, catch a couple of buses from the city, catch a train and a ferry or even fly a helicopter if you’re feeling fancy! I mean, on a backpacker budget it’s going to have to be the cheapest option possible. Get a group together and just rent a car.
Just before you cross the bridge over to the island, the fun can begin. If you leave Melbourne before 10 am, you should arrive at San Remo Pier just before 12 pm. This means you’re just in time for the pelican feeding! Head to the San Remo Fishermans Co-op for the pelican extravaganza to begin. Apparently, there can be up to 35 hungry pelicans there each day waiting for the scraps of the leftover catch. Do you want to hear the best news? It’s free! Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see this because our tour was late, however, I’m pretty sold on wanting to do it when I’m back. For the animal rights activists out there, never fear, the whole thing is regulated by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
As you head over the bridge onto Phillip Island, you will notice that it is a complete contrast from city life. For the Scottish readers out there, it almost reminded me of the Scottish Highlands. Picture lush green shrubbery, an abundance of wallabies, cute Cape Barren geese and a clear lack of skyscrapers.
Park up and head over to The Nobbies Centre. It showcases an amazing view over the dramatic Phillip Island western coastline and you may be able to spot a family of fur seals. There is also a cafe and a gift shop in the centre, you can grab one of the iron-on transfers for your backpack. Just outside of the centre, there is a trail of connecting boardwalks that take you to The Nobbies, The Blowhole and Seal Rocks. The views are absolutely stunning as waves crash into the rocks beneath you. Keep your eye out for the odd miniature penguin hiding underneath the boardwalk.
The Koala Conservation Centre
If the wildlife lovers haven’t already spotted a koala on their travels, then you are in luck. Phillip Island also has its very own Koala Conservation Centre. Under normal circumstances, you would have to spot a koala from the ground and admire the cute, grey lump from afar. The Conservation Centre has a fascinating tree-top boardwalk that allows you to get amazing views of the koala’s. Side note, it also allows for pretty a bangin’ Instagram. Not only does the centre have koalas, but also possums, wallabies, snakes and echidnas!
Philip Island Village
By this point you’re probably getting pretty hungry, so head down to the main village of Phillip Island. It’s so cute and quaint and reminds me of the small, seaside towns in England. There is an abundance of cuisine, such as Chinese, Italian and, of course, fresh seafood. We went to the Italian which was absolutely delicious! There are also a couple of boutique style shops selling souvenirs and some pretty unique home decor items. The village is close to the pier and the beach, which is lined with fisherman and children playing in the sea. I have no idea how they were swimming, as I was freezing!
The Penguin Parade
One of the main attractions on Phillip Island is what happens in the evening. The Penguin Parade! This has to be one of my ultimate highlights of travelling Australia and it is a must-do if you are an animal lover. It really is a popular attraction and gets very busy, so I would suggest pre-purchasing a ticket and heading down there early. Every night between 7 pm and 9 pm, depending on which time of the year that you go, hundreds and sometimes thousands of penguins return from their day out hunting in the ocean.
Now, there are different viewing areas where you can watch the penguins and, surprise surprise, all come with their individual price tag. There is the original Penguin Parade viewing which is located on Summerland Beach, where you can sit on the sand, but it also has tiered seating. This is the cheapest option and offers an 180degree viewing of the penguins. As a ‘flashpacker’ at the time, I opted for the Penguin Plus viewing, which is a raised platform surrounded by penguin huts and is one of the main entrances to the pathway for their long waddle home. There is also a viewing tower option, an underground viewing area and a Penguin VIP tour that you can choose from.
For me, the penguins came out of the ocean around 9:15 pm. They were a little late as there was a wallaby bouncing around the beach that spooked them. Once the first group had cleared the beach, there was no stopping the little critters! I think around 800 penguins came out that night, which was just the most magical spectacle to watch. You could see their little white bellies waddling up the beach, as they tripped and fell over each other. I wouldn’t recommend a stroke as apparently they have quite the nasty bite!
And that, my friends, is your complete guide to Phillip Island! There is heaps more to do, guided tours, scenic flights and sporting events, but this is a brilliant day for something different to city life and for those that love wildlife. Plus, you can always return again to try out something new.