Phillip Island is wild. From its coastline and surf to the native animals that call it home, the popular day-trip destination from Melbourne packs a lot into a small space. Known globally for its penguins and grand prix race track, your Seabourn cruise holiday will allow you to explore the island.
Stepping off the boat you will be faced with numerous eateries and activities to choose from. Animal lovers can seek out a number of sanctuaries, thrill seekers have their choice of motorsports or you can even take to the skies in a helicopter.
Food on Phillip Island
Sampling the local gastronomy is a massive part of any holiday. On Phillip Island you have a wealth of options, ranging from family-friendly dining to romantic settings for you and your partner.
Phillip Island Chocolate Factory
Anyone with a sweet tooth can really get excited about one attraction in particular. Phillip Island has its own Chocolate Factory! Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate offers a series of interactive experiences, where you can take a self-guided tour of how it all began with the humble cocoa bean. Around the attraction you can try games, admire exhibitions and even make your own chocolate.
Rhyll Trout & Bush Tucker Farm
One of Phillip Island’s most appealing features is its connection with nature and at Rhyll Trout and Bush Tucker Farm, you have the chance to catch and cook your own dinner. To explain more about the farm we were fortunate enough to speak to Adam Fraser who told us what to expect:
“Visit Phillip Island’s Rhyll Trout and Bush Tucker Farm for a natural experience and plenty of good old-fashioned hospitality. Proudly carbon negative, the farm was recently inducted in the Bass Coast Business Awards Hall of Fame for Environment and Sustainability, awarded Best Tourist Attraction in the 2011 RACV awards and also received many awards through the Local Business awards.
“Friendly fishing instructors teach you to catch rainbow trout in a picturesque tree-lined lake where the fishing is more challenging and rewarding. The all-weather indoor ‘Rainforest Pool’ allows for easier fun fishing for all ages and a guaranteed catch with plenty of smiles. Take your catch with you, cleaned or prepared with a marinade, or ask the chef to transform your trout into a magnificent meal of Lemon Myrtle Tempura Fish and Chips, or Whole Baked Marinated trout.
“The Bush Tucker Trail winds through three hectares of native food crops, producing numerous edible fruits, berries, seeds, leaves and flowers. Learn about how the Koori people harvested and used these plants from the wild.
“The licensed Farmhouse Café offers Devonshire Tea, home-style meals with a full menu and a huge variety of homemade bush tucker products. Along with fresh trout, wood smoked trout and the farm’s famous smoked trout dip, you may also browse our selection of bush spices, jams, preserves, chutneys, teas and more. Fun for all ages!”
Cheeky Goose Café
Thanks to the owner and chef of the Cheeky Goose Café, Robert van den Brink, the Cowes Tudor Church has been rejuvenated and now serves as one of the island’s top eateries. The building is as stunning as the menu which consists of fresh, locally sourced ingredients transformed by chef Brink and his team into modern Australian cuisine. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant is perfect for sitting both inside and outside.
The Haven Café
Want a light bite to keep you going as you explore all that Phillip Island has to offer? Then drop into the Haven Café. Gourmet salads, exceptional espressos, wraps, even fish and chips are all on the menu at this relaxed spot. Served with a smile, kick back and enjoy a snack amongst locals and tourists.
Pino’s Trattoria has been serving up a taste of Italy in Phillip Island since 1991, when owners Pino and Rosa Scarlato set about achieving their dream of creating a spot that served fresh and traditional Italian fare. Dining at Pino’s is like being welcomed into the Scarlato family. The warm, familiar atmosphere comforts you, while the delicious menu offers all of the classics you could wish for.
Phillip Island RSL Sub Branch
Modern, expressive and delicious, Phillip Island RSL is passionate about quality food served with a smile. Open for lunch and dinner, this award-winning family-friendly restaurant has an elegant dining room or if the weather is in your favour head for the alfresco balcony. The seasonal menu’s winter additions of pot pie and roast of the day will leave you feeling cosy, while the summer offerings of light and fresh seafood dishes are perfect for hot days.
The Cape Kitchen
It’s difficult to beat a delicious meal with a stunning view. The Cape Kitchen overlooks the Southern Ocean and ragged coastline; a location which inspires the restaurant daily. The staff behind the Cape strive for unique, natural and distinctive dishes. Their menu changes with the seasons, meaning that you will only have the freshest locally sourced produce plated in front of you. “The Cape Kitchen is set in a breathtaking natural landscape with sweeping views of the Southern Ocean on Phillip Island, Victoria,” said the team at The Cape.
“It is a place to come together to celebrate everyday celebrations and special occasions. It is our aim to create memories whilst also promoting health and well-being. We believe that by providing fresh and creative food, a stunning location and attentive staff, we set the stage for spectacular occasions.
“We source produce with a great deal of care and our food philosophy is simple - we prepare honest, seasonal, and sustainable food carefully sourced and thoughtfully presented. Our modern Australian menu is created from local and Australian premium produce and highlights edible indigenous vegetation that we forage from our garden by the sea.
“Our core values and vision extend beyond the dining experience. We are acutely aware of our pristine environment surrounding the Cape Kitchen, and we continue to nurture and protect this special place. We understand the significance of the land being a traditional gathering place for the Bunorong people.
“We also believe in the importance of our connections within the community, and we endeavour to support this via means of employment, purchasing local where possible, as well as supporting community events and active involvement in conservation activities.
“We pride ourselves in being conscious, respectful, connected and healthy – whilst still enjoying life with a little dessert indulgence every now and again! Our menu changes seasonally, and we offer a fully licensed bar with wines and spirits sourced locally where possible.”
Harry’s on the Esplanade
Another restaurant with stunning panoramic vistas, Harry’s on the Esplanade is perfect for everything from an intimate dinner or large party. Harry’s uses the finest Phillip Island ingredients to create delicious European inspired plates, some of which have been described as the finest seafood dishes on the island.
Isola Di Capri
A Phillip Island dining institution, Isola Di Capri has been serving up traditional Italian food to hungry customers since 1972. Opposite the beach in Cowes, the Fumagalli family produce brilliant pasta, pizza, antipasti and so much more.
Madcowes Café & Foodstore
If you are visiting an unfamiliar destination you can often tell the quality of a local eatery or attraction by the length of the queue outside. Madcowes Café & Foodstore has one of the longest. The café has been serving locals and international celebrities its famous breakfast and lunch since 2003, with the roast beef sandwich being a highlight on the menu.
Phillip Island is often the number one spot for Melbourne residents to vacate to for some R&R, with its slower pace of life and tranquil landscapes. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything going on. Nature lovers will rejoice at the number of sanctuaries and sports enthusiasts will love the surfing and race track. The island is also home to totally unique attractions.
Phillip Island Circuit
Get your heart racing at Phillip Island Circuit, where you can embrace your inner Lewis Hamilton as you race around a track that is famous in Australian motorsport history. Racing had been limited to open-road circuits, before a new track was opened in March 1956. You can challenge your friends or family to a Go Kart race, jump into a hot lap with an experienced racing driver, try your hand at driving slot cars or do a guided circuit tour.
Phillip Island Nature Park
If you have a soft spot for animals, head to one of the five Phillip Island Nature Park attractions. Including the world-famous Penguin Parade, the park also manages the Koala Conservation Centre, Antarctic Journey, Churchill Island and Wild Oceans EcoBoat Tours.
We were very fortunate to speak to Roland Pick, communications executive for the not-for-profit organisation, who told us more about the sites:
“Where can you find a spectacular array of Australian wildlife, stunning coastal scenery, wide sandy beaches, wetland sanctuaries, tranquil woodlands, and fun family activities all in the one place? Phillip Island has all this and more, right on your doorstep, just an easy 90 minute drive from Melbourne.
“Phillip Island Nature Parks attracts over 1.3 million visitors annually to its world-class ecotourism attractions including the iconic Penguin Parade, the exciting new Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies Centre, the Koala Conservation Centre and Churchill Island Heritage Farm.
“Witness the natural spectacle of the world’s smallest penguins arriving home at sunset each evening at the world-famous Penguin Parade. Experience the nightly march from the beachfront viewing stands as the penguins emerge from the waves and waddle across the sand. See them up close from the boardwalks as they trek along their penguin pathways to their burrows.
“There are plenty of viewing options to choose from including general viewing from the terraced stands and boardwalks, the premium Penguins Plus or underground experiences, or a small group ranger guided tour.
Koala Conservation Centre
“Come face-to-face with wild koalas in their natural habitat from the treetop boardwalks at the Koala Conservation Centre, established to protect Phillip Island’s koalas and their habitat. Stroll along the woodland walking trails and you may come across some of the many visiting native animals including wallabies, echidna, and over 35 different species of birds.
Churchill Island Heritage Farm
“Journey back in time and explore the heritage and bucolic scenery at Churchill Island Heritage Farm. Hands on farming activities run daily, including sheep shearing, cow milking, whip cracking and working dog demonstrations. The farm also features a restored homestead, historic cottages and delightful heritage gardens and orchards.
“Immerse yourself in the hands-on family fun and interactive experiences in the Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies, showcasing the wonders of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. ‘Feel the freeze’ in the Antarctic Chill Zone; compare your thermal image to an Emperor penguin; visit the Research Station and Sound Lab; or check out the sustainable menu in the virtual café.”
The giant screens and stunning soundscapes create an unforgettable walk-through experience, surrounded by creatures of the deep like whales, seals, sharks and more. The interactive wildlife experience is bound to be a highlight as you see yourself on a giant screen, standing on an ice floe, patting a penguin, stroking a seal or reaching out to touch an orca majestically rising in from of you.
“Phillip Island Nature Parks also manages over 1,805 hectares of Crown land including a variety of coastal reserves, Ramsar listed wetlands, and woodlands. As a self-funded, not-for-profit organisation, Phillip Island Nature Parks’ ecotourism attractions deliver ongoing funding for our ongoing environmental, conservation, research, education and social programs, while also providing a significant contribution to the local, regional and state economies.”
A maze’n Things
For something a little different, head to A Maze’N Things, a place where optical illusions, puzzles and mazes take centre stage. The magic and quirkiness of this attraction guarantees entertainment for all ages. Walk around the illusion rooms, mirror maze or rotating room, or head to the LookOut! Slide. Try and escape Australia’s largest three-dimensional timber maze, or challenge your friends and family to a round on the 19-hole Maxi Mini Golf course.
Visit the National Vietnam Veterans Museum
Dedicated to preserving the heritage of veterans from the Vietnam War, the National Vietnam Veterans Museum (NVVM), has been helping vets to cope with the events of the war and integrating back into society. This really authentic experience is not one to be rushed. It allows you to fully appreciate the sacrifice that so many made.
Sonia Hogg, sales and events executive at NVVM, told us more about the goals of the museum and what you can see on your visit:
“The NVVM seeks to remember, interpret and relate the experience of the veterans of the Vietnam War and the enduring impact of the war on society.
“The museum was initiated and created by volunteers. Now largely also run by volunteers it is home to a huge collection of artifacts, both large and small, interpreted with information, imagery and audio (using our fantastic InfoWand devices and touch screens). It will keep you, your family and friends engaged for the length of your visit.
“Our museum talks to you. Starting with the Holographic Light and Sound Show, this helps visitors understand the significance of Australian military involvement by outlining the causes and consequences of the conflict. You can then investigate this era by seeing it through the eyes of Vietnam veterans.
“At NVVM you will see the conscription ballot balls used in the system of National Service that divided our nation. You will walk beneath and around such key vehicles as helicopters, a tank, even a bomber used in Vietnam. See yourself in the boots of a Tunnel Rat or the helmet of a Chopper Pilot. Endlessly fascinating and absorbing, no matter what age group. Expect the unexpected.”
You should allow yourself at least an hour and a half to really absorb everything. But if you need something to keep you going, stop off in the Nui Dat Café for some delicious light bites and drinks.
Maru Koala & Animal Park
Take a walk on the wild side at Maru Koala & Animal Park, the award-winning attraction founded, owned and operated by the Heffer family. Join one of the hourly koala tours where you get personally introduced to the koalas, see Tasmanian Devils, dingoes, wombats and a number of other native Australian species.
The Moonlit Sanctuary is home to more than 60 Australian species that are all allowed to roam freely, meaning a truly natural encounter with these animals. Michael Johnson is the director of the sanctuary and was kind enough to tell us more about Moonlit:
“Melbourne’s award winning wildlife park, Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park invites you to explore 10 hectares of bushland, meeting endangered species, feeding kangaroos and wallabies, cuddling koalas and enjoying encounters with colourful birds, reptiles, dingoes and many other animals.
“At night, Moonlit Sanctuary comes alive with world-famous lantern-lit tours. Night birds are active, tiny feathertail gliders and giant yellow-bellied gliders swoop around, and endangered quolls, pademelons and bettongs forage for food.”
Wildlife Coast Cruises
Offering everything from whale cruises to a twilight bay cruise, Wildlife Coast Cruises (WCC) offer you a chance to explore Phillip Island’s stunning coastline and brilliant marine life. TripAdvisor’s number one tour attraction is their Seal Watching Cruise and Mika Peters from WCC gave us an insight into what is in store when you book a trip with them: “Join Wildlife Coast Cruises on a unique 2-hour scenic cruise from Cowes, Phillip Island, to Australia’s largest fur seal colony, Seal Rocks. See thousands of seals up-close from the comfortable cruiser with indoor and outdoor viewing decks. Enjoy the informative commentary and the scenic coastline as you are served complimentary afternoon tea on your return to Cowes”.
Head back onto the water with Pioneer Kayaking, where numerous tours allow you to get an intimate look at Phillip Island’s brilliant coastline. With a diverse ecosystem, you can explore the waterways around Churchill Island, Cowes Foreshore, Rhyll Wetlands and Cape Woolamai.
Phillip Island Helicopters
Take to the skies above Phillip Island and get a unique perspective with your own helicopter tour. Take in the whole area and even head to a winery tour or fishing tour, or try some hiking or picnics along the way. Lauren Mitchell from Phillip Island Helicopters filled us in on the details:
“Phillip Island Helicopters operates scenic flights over some of Australia’s most spectacular coastline. Explore parts of the Island that can only be seen by helicopter. Open every day, flights start at just $85pp. With 7 different flights to choose from there is something for everyone.
“Magnificent views, stunning coastline, famous landmarks - just a few of the amazing visuals Phillip Island Helicopters passengers experience daily. Cruising in comfort above one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations, a scenic helicopter flight over Phillip Island is an unforgettable experience. For visitors, this is the ultimate way to see what the island has to offer with any one of our many flight options. Seal Rocks, Cape Woolamai, Churchill Island, Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit and Summerland Bay, the home of the Penguin Parade, are some of the many sights that make Phillip Island a perfect destination for scenic tours.
“Experienced pilots provide informed commentary on the history, attractions and natural wonders of the island. Our helicopter experiences range from scenic flights to combined experiences including winery tours, group tours and hot laps at the Grand Prix Circuit. We are open 7 days a week, 364 days a year (closed Christmas Day) from 10am until dusk. Walk ins are welcome (subject to availability). Go on try it. You’ll love it!”
A cruise holiday caters to some many different types of people. Not everyone is going to have the same interests, so finding a destination that can keep everyone happy can be a challenge. Yet, Phillip Island manages to provide a little something for everyone. History buffs will enjoy the museums, nature lovers will race to the sanctuaries and foodies can spend all day sampling different menus across the island. Whatever it is you want to do, Phillip Island will have you covered.
Image Credit: Phillip Island Phillip Island Helicopters MadCowes Café & Foodstore Pino’s Trattoria