Phillip Island, VIC
Phillip Island is a great destination for a family getaway. Under two hours drive from Melbourne, it offers diverse accommodation to choose from, wildlife experiences, and plenty of opportunities to get into the water.
San Remo is the last town before leaving the mainland and the gateway to Phillip Island. Drop into the famous local fishing co-op to pick up a fresh lobster and watch the local pelicans descend on the San Remo wharf for their 11.30am daily feed.
The first town on the island is the small fishing village of Newhaven – a popular place for fishing from the pier, surfinf one of the best surf beaches in Victoria, walking along the beautiful Cape Woolamai or exploring nearby historic Churchill Island.
On the south-east tip of the island is the quiet village of Rhyll. Wander through the nearby Koala Conservation Centre and Woodland to see koalas at close range or view birds as you walk through the famous wetlands at Rhyll Inlet.
Cowes, the main commercial centre on Phillip Island, has a wealth of charming cafes and upmarket restaurants for visitors to enjoy. Take a wildlife cruise to the large fur seal colony on Seal Rocks or enjoy watching hundreds of Little Penguins returning to their burrows at the nightly Penguin Parade at nearby Summerland Beach.
Victoria offers some of the finest temperate diving in the world. The crisp and pristine waters of Western Port Bay which surround Phillip Island feature some of the most outstanding scuba diving.
Divers flock to the island to descend the clear, deep waters rich in exciting sea life and reefs.
One of the most popular diving spots, particularly among advanced divers is the Pinnacle, a towering kelp-covered granite rock which rises from a depth of 50 metres to within 10 metres of the surface. Extraordinary fish life on the vertical walls is a spectacle that has to be seen to be believed. To get to the Pinnacle, take a boat from San Remo.
Another favourite is Collins Cave. It features a small reef with towering vertical walls that extend almost to the surface, swim-throughs and an endless variety of colourful fish and crayfish.
Don’t be surprised if you’re approached by a curious fur seal. Phillip Island is home to Australia’s largest colony of these tame creatures.
Many divers come to Phillip Island to explore the scuttled bucket dredge wreck of the George Kermode, located off Smiths Beach and Cunningham Bay. The vessel is completely intact, upside down on its superstructure. What’s exciting is that it is still in excellent condition and is easy to penetrate. Originally scuttled to form an artificial reef for temperate fish life, the wreck is more than 100 metres long. Night diving on this wreck is excellent when there is a full moon and calm conditions.
Located some 139 kilometres south of Melbourne, Phillip Island is best known for its Penguin Parade, featuring dozens of fairy penguins which shuffle up from the sea at dusk on their way to underground burrows.
Also popular with visitors are the koalas at the Koala Conservation Centre, where a boardwalk lets you take a glimpse into the cuddly marsupial’s tree-top home.
The western tip of the island ends in The Nobbies, a strange-looking rock structure reached at low tide by a basalt causeway. Two offshore islands nearby offer fabulous views of the coastline, while the furthest has a population of some 12,000 Australian fur seals.
Birdwatchers will love Rhyll Inlet on the north coast, where you can spot a host of wading birds such as spoonbills, oyster catchers, herons and egrets as well as rare bird life. Swan Lake is an important habitat for black swans.
At Cape Woolamai you’ll find walking tracks leading through heath land and pink granite to spectacular coastal cliffs. From September to April it’s home to thousands of shearwaters – also called mutton birds.
Elsewhere in the Gippsland region, you’ll find the Gippsland Lakes – three giant waterways, complete with sandspits and islands famous for bird life. The surrounding marshland is home to an abundance of native waterbirds and wildlife too.
At the coast, spend some time to relax and enjoy the cool clear waters, long sandy beaches, spectacular cliffs and rock pools.
The Gippsland region includes 12 national parks, covering both the coast and high country. One of the best known is Wilson’s Promontory National Park, an isolated area of granite headlands, abundant wildlife, magnificent beaches, thick coastal forest and bushwalks.
In 1998, Phillip Island became a world first in environmental technology. It opened the “Zoo of the Future” known as the Sea Life Centre.
The hi-tech A$17 million centre brings visitors face to face with Australia’s largest population (16,000 to 18,000) of Australian fur seals. On a large indoor screen, the fur seals can be seen swimming, hunting and playing.
The pictures of the seals are taken from a sophisticated camera tower near Seal Rocks and are transmitted to the centre by laser, instead of submarine cables, to protect the seabed.
The centre allows people to see seals and other marine life in their natural habitat without disturbing them or polluting their environment. Also at the centre is an interactive Voyage of Discovery where visitors retrace the journey made by explorer George Bass in 1798, and learn about the history of the Australian fur seal.
Phillip Island attracts more than 800,000 visitors a year. Most come to see the world-renowned fairy penguin parade, but once here you’ll be amazed by how much more there is to see and do.
As well as seals and penguins, the island is a major breeding ground for sea birds and home to a thriving community of koalas. Make sure you visit the Koala Conservation Centre. It was specially established in a remnant eucalypt woodland to provide koalas with a natural habitat protected against future development.