Two days on Phillip Island

Rest and restoration form the main agenda on Victoria’s Phillip Island for those who enjoy swimming, surfing or simply strolling, there are endless stretches of pristine sand and wild seas. 

Nestled in the warm bosom of Victoria’s Western Port is an island of great beauty and historic significance. Just 90 minutes from Melbourne, reached by bridge across the Narrows, lies Phillip Island, named after the first Governor of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip.

Less pretentious than the Yarra Valley and much less crowded than the Mornington Peninsula, Phillip Island is a haven for those seeking rest, relaxation and perhaps even restoration. We crammed a lot into our weekend on the island, but for those with a week or so to spare, there are endless activities to enjoy including wildlife viewing, surfing, swimming, walking, cycling, wine tasting, fine dining and immersion in the local history and culture.

The best known attraction is the Penguin Parade, but rather than hurtling off to this interesting, but highly structured activity, there are many more relaxing ways to spend your time. For a start Phillip Island is home to some of Victoria’s best beaches. So for those who enjoy swimming, surfing or simply strolling there are endless stretches of pristine sand and wild seas.

Photographers will also delight in the opportunity to record panoramic views or close-ups of local flora and fauna. Cyclists may also believe they have entered paradise with uncrowded roads, flat as a tack, and a grid structure which means one wrong turn and you just self correct at the next crossroad.

Phillip Island was discovered by George Bass who had sailed in a whaling boat from Port Jackson in 1798. Sealers arrived, followed by the McHaffie brothers who took out a lease of the island in 1842 in order to graze sheep. The tourist industry started in 1870 with the construction of the Isle of Wight hotel where the town of Cowes now prospers. Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck stayed there during their filming of the movie On the Beach in 1958. Sadly this iconic hotel was burnt down in May 2010, with a loss of significant historic photographs and memorabilia.

Phillip Island - KoalasStay
Modern day Cowes has many great hotels, but we chose to stay a few miles down the road at the Accor’s All Seasons Phillip Island Resort, a four star property with 200 villas on 65 acres of coastline. Offering tennis courts, swimming pool, gym, BBQs, Numbers restaurant and a pizzeria, it is a very affordable solution for extended families, couples and even grandparents looking for ways to amuse young children.

Harry’s on the Esplanade offers a memorable combination of old fashioned, white napkin dining (at tables spaced far enough apart that you can hear your companion’s murmured sweet nothings absolutely clearly), magnificent sea food and an unbeatable view of the sea. Owner and chef, Harry Schmidt, is originally from Germany but spent years in Mornington honing his skills cooking local produce and offering true hospitality.

Established in 1991, the Koala Conservation Centre now hosts nearly 40 koalas that are free to roam the six hectares, except those separated for breeding purposes. Visitors can also explore the property on two elevated tree top boardwalks, perfect for getting up close to the koalas and taking photos while listening to the myriad of birds warbling, tweeting and cackling in the trees. Normally $10.80 per adult visitor, those with a pension card ID can enter for $7.55. Or as part of the three park pass described in the MORE box.

Churchill Island lies off the north easternmost point of Phillip Island. This well maintained heritage farm has something for all the family and really deserves a day for full exploration of the historic displays, sheep shearing, wagon rides and walking tracks.

Opened in March 2007, the National Vietnam Veterans Museum is dedicated to the preservation and display of photographs, memorabilia, vehicles, weapons and aircraft which tell the story of Australian involvement in the Vietnam War from 1962 to 1972, Australia’s longest war. Don’t miss the very moving Light and Sound show and allow time for a coffee in the Nui Dat Café and merchandise shop.

General information on Phillip Island
All Seasons Phillip Island Resort

The Phillip Island Nature Parks three park pass is just $25.70 – great value for 24-48 hours of wildlife experiences including the Koala Conservation Centre, The Nobbies Centre and Penguin Parade and Churchill Island Heritage Farm.
Harry’s on the Esplanade
National Vietnam Veterans Museum

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