The island is accessed via a bridge across from San Remo. It takes a mere 30 minutes to go from one end of the island to the other so getting around is quick and easy if you have a car. The bus service starts from Wonthaggi, goes through San Remo and will drop you in Cowes. You’ll miss out on a lot of the island with the bus unless you can hitch a ride or hire a bike.
Beware: If you are travelling to Phillip Island between December – January, during School Holidays and over Easter long weekend expect an influx of tourists crowding the main areas especially the paid attractions. They’re usually part of large groups so to avoid the crowds choose off-peak times to visit places or wait it out, they’ll pile onto the bus after about half an hour if they’re on a guided tour.
Phillip Island Accommodation
For accommodation there’s only one hostel called The Island Accommodation YHA with prices starting from $27 per person. Camping is not permitted in public areas nor is sleeping in your car but there are a few camp grounds to pitch a tent. You can chose from: Cowes Caravan Park – 1 site, 2 people $55/night, Beach Park Tourist Caravan Park or Big4 – 1 powered site, 2 people from $35/night.
To find Fairtrade coffee, Lugano Café is your place with good Wi-Fi and a relaxed atmosphere thanks to the friendly staff who like to have a chat and a bit of a joke. There’s a garden out the back with seating inside and on the footpath.
Activities on Phillip Island
There are plenty of things to do so depending on your time on the island you can instantly cross off things you’ve already ‘been there, done that’. Some activities include: the wildlife park especially if you’ve already seen the animals elsewhere.
You might be asking is Penguin Parade worth it? Well it depends on the experience you’re after. If you want to learn about the little penguins from an experienced guide, watch the penguins emerge from the ocean and make their way up to their burrows on the beach then the Penguin Parade is for you for $24.50 per adult.
If you would simply like to see a penguin free-of-charge then The Nobbies is the place. Just minutes down the road you’ll be able to see penguins in their man-made wooden boxes while walking along the boardwalk on the headland. You’ll be sharing your time with noisy Silver Gulls nesting with their chicks around August – December. You might even be lucky enough to see the Fur Seal Colony at Seal Rocks between October – December during breeding season.
If you’re on a budget you can save money on food by buying groceries there’s a Coles, Woolworths and Aldi in Cowes and many IGA around the island. Take a packed picnic lunch to Churchill Island heritage farm, you can sit on the lawn and enjoy the view over the Western Port Bay. Alternatively you can order a meal from the café with meals starting at $15 for fish and chips or a focaccia. The meals are large and tasty and the café is also licensed if you want to try the local wine, I recommend the Purple Hen Sauvignon Blanc. During the summer months you might even catch some live music on the lawn check out the website for events.
Churchill Island heritage farm
The Heritage Farm itself is a paid attraction at $12.25 for an Adult. What to expect in the tour include; sheep shearing, working dogs, cow milking, and whip cracking. Being an Aussie these things aren’t new to me so I didn’t bother paying for the visit, the island is beautiful enough I recommend spending 1 hour.
Now let’s talk wine, there are two wineries to visit; The Phillip Island Vineyard and Winery and Purple Hen Wines. Both are excellent vineyards owned by families with a passion for wine, expect the usual cheese platter and tapas foods. The Phillip Island Vineyard and Winery have live music, art exhibitions and local theatre acts as well as functions for that special occasion. Tip: make sure the wineries are open before venturing down to do a spot of tasting. You might be disappointed to find they are shut so give them a call beforehand just to be sure.
The Chocolate Factory
I didn’t enjoy my visit to The Chocolate Factory for a few reasons. The first was the atmosphere, the café felt like a cafeteria serving a variety of curry’s from a hot box. Secondly the price, expect to pay $17 for 400g of chocolate which doesn’t have anything unique about it. They advertise palm oil free and gluten free chocolate but there’s no information about where cocoa beans are sourced, the most I got from the staff member was that the cocoa beans are from Africa. So although it’s manufactured in Phillip Island it’s not certified ethical or sustainable. I didn’t do the chocolate tour as it was $15 per adult and it didn’t seem very appealing, it’s more of a touristy place than anything.
Rhyll is a small fishing village in the north-east of Phillip Island, there are two jetties for fishing just be aware boats will come and go frequently so make sure to practice good etiquette and real your line in when boats are near. I didn’t catch anything but one of the locals told me you can find squid which hang around the jetty and Pinkies, which are popular around the Mornington Peninsula area.
There are so many walking trails to do on Phillip Island so make sure to pack a good pair of shoes. Dogs are allowed on a leash in most areas make sure to check before you venture out. Three highlights for me are;
- Ventnor Beach Walk is a short half an hour walk along the beach you’ll be looking down the coast of Phillip Island. I recommend doing this one during the day so you can have a dip in the water it’s one of the safest swimming beaches on the island.
- Swan Lake (1.3km) is the only freshwater lake on Phillip Island with an array of birds to spot on a 40 minutes return walk around the lake.
- Cape Woolamai – You’ll be standing at the highest point on Phillip Island here with a three walks to enjoy the remarkable views. All walks begin at the carpark of the information centre. The walks are identified by coloured markers, green for the Pinnacles walk (4km) approximately 2 hours return. Blue markers is the Old Granite Quarry Walk (6km) approximately 3 hours return. Black markers indicate the Cape Woolamai Beacon Walk (6.6km) estimated walking time is 3.5 hours return. You can do all three walks as part of the Cape Woolamai Circuit (8km) estimated walking time is approximately 4 hours.
Phillip Island is renowned for good surfing with regular competitions hosted by Surfing Victoria. Here’s a list of surfing spots in order from beginner to advanced surfer levels starting with Cape Woolamai for beginners, next to it Surfies Point and Right Point for intermediate surfers and lastly Berrys Beach, Express Point and Kitty Miller Bay for advanced surfers.
So there you have it, my highlights of Phillip Island with some notes on how to save a bit of cash now it’s up to you to decide what you do depending on how much time you have.