Phillip Island in Australia 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 cruise to Australia will allow you to explore the island in detail. As you disembark, you’ll be faced with numerous eateries and plenty of activities. Animal lovers can seek out sanctuaries, thrill-seekers can get their hearts racing with motorsports while others can even see Phillip Island from above on a helicopter tour. Here’s a local guide to Phillip Island:
A guide to Phillip Island
Top 10 things to do in Phillip Island
Phillip Island is a popular destination with Melbourne locals for some much-needed R&R. But that doesn’t mean 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.
Be wowed by A Maze’N Things
For something a bit different, head to A Maze’N Things where optical illusions, puzzles and mazes take centre stage. The magic and quirkiness of this attraction guarantee entertainment for all ages. Walk around the illusion rooms, mirror maze and 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.
Explore 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 veterans to cope with the events of the war and integrate back into society. This 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 what to expect, “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 artefacts both large and small, interpreted with information, imagery and audio. 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.”
Visit 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 Antarctic Journey, Koala Conservation Reserve and Churchill Island.
We were lucky enough to chat with Roland Pick, Communications Executive at Phillip Island Nature Park. “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 one place? Phillip Island has all this and more, just an easy 90-minute drive from Melbourne.
“Phillip Island Nature Parks attract over 1.3 million visitors to its world-class ecotourism attractions each year. 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, underground experiences, or a small group ranger-guided tour.
Go on an Antarctic journey
(Part of Phillip Island Nature Park)
“Immerse yourself in the hands-on family fun and interactive experiences in the Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies, Phillip Island Nature Park, 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 cafe.
“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 of reaching out to touch an orca majestically rising in front of you.
“Phillip Island Nature Park 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 Park’s ecotourism attractions deliver ongoing funding for ongoing environmental, conservation, research, education and social programs, while also providing a significant contribution to the local, regional and state economies.
Cuddle a koala at the Koala Conservation Reserve
(Part of Phillip Island Nature Park)
“Come face-to-face with wild koalas in their natural habitat from the treetop boardwalks at the Koala Conservation Reserve, 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.
Head to Churchill Island Heritage Farm
(Part of Phillip Island Nature Park)
“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.”
Race around 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 take part in a guided circuit tour.
Roam the Moonlit Sanctuary
The Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park is home to more than 60 Australian species that are all allowed to roam freely. We spoke to Michael Johnson, the sanctuary’s director, who told us: “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 Wildlife Conservation Park 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.”
Sail away on a Wildlife Coast Cruise
Offering everything from whale cruises to twilight bay cruises, Wildlife Coast Cruises (WCC) offers you a chance to explore Phillip Island’s stunning coastline and brilliant marine life. According to TripAdvisor, WCC’s number one tour is the Seal Cruise. Mika Peters from WCC told us what you can expect from this specific tour, “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.”
Take a Phillip Island helicopter tour
Take to the skies and get a unique perspective of Phillip Island with your very own helicopter tour. Lauren Mitchell from Phillip Island Helicopters told us more: “Phillip Island Helicopters operate scenic flights over some of Australia’s most spectacular coastline. Explore parts of the island that can only be seen by helicopter.
“Magnificent views, stunning coastline and famous landmarks are 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.
“Experienced pilots provide informed commentary on the history, attractions and natural wonders of the island. Our helicopter experiences range from scenic flights to combined tours which can include visits to wineries and the Grand Prix Circuit.”
Top places to eat in 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.
Cheeky Goose Cafe
Thanks to Robert van den Brink, the owner and chef of Cheeky Goose Cafe, 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 out.
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, antipasto and more.
Madcowes Cafe & Foodstore
If you’re visiting an unfamiliar destination, you can often tell the popularity of a local eatery or attraction by the length of the queue outside. Madcowes Cafe & Foodstore has one of the longest. The cafe 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 Chocolate Factory
Anyone with a sweet tooth can really get excited about one attraction in particular. Phillip Island has its very 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.
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, a balcony for alfresco dining. The seasonal menu’s winter additions of pot pie and the roast of the day will leave you feeling cosy, while the summer offerings of light and fresh seafood dishes are perfect for warmer days.
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 the classics you could wish for.
The Cape Kitchen
It’s difficult to beat a delicious meal with a stunning view. The Cape Kitchen overlooks the Southern Ocean and rugged coastline, a location that inspires the restaurant daily. The staff behind The Cape Kitchen 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,” the team told us. “It is a place to come together to celebrate. It is our aim to create memories whilst also promoting health and wellbeing. We believe that by providing fresh and creative food, a stunning location and attentive staff, we set the stage for spectacular occasions.
“We source products 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, premium produce and highlights edible indigenous vegetation that we forage from our garden by the sea.”
The Haven Cafe
Want a light bite to keep you going as you explore all that Phillip Island has to offer? Then drop into The Haven Cafe. 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 alike.