What is there to see on Phillip Island?Phillip Island is 40 square miles (100 square kilometers) off the coast of New South Wales, across the Western Port Bay from the Mornington Peninsula. It was originally home to the Bunurong people, part of the Kulin nation of indigenous Australians, and was gradually taken over by Europeans from 1798 onwards. Today the island has a population of about 9,400 permanent residents, with the population surging to 40,000 in summer as tourists and other visitors come to enjoy the landscape and beaches of the island. In addition to cliffs, wetlands, and beaches ideal for surfing, the island is home to a nature park that is well-known for its animal conservation efforts. Walk the trails, visit the Koala Conservation Center, or wait until sunset in order to witness the famous Penguin Parade.
What will we see during the Penguin Parade? The penguins that live on Phillip Island are fairy penguins - far smaller (and more adorable, we think) than their more famous cousins. They spend all day out at sea fishing, coming to land at sunset every day to sleep in their burrows overnight. Staff will direct you to the viewing areas in plenty of time to see the penguins arrive, and will keep you updated on when you can expect to see the first little birds waddling in. Over a period of about an hour, the penguins will cross the beach to get to their beds, and visitors should sit back and try not to disturb them. No photography is allowed, and visitors are asked not to startle the penguins in any other way. On the walk back to the visitor center, you might also walk past the penguins heading to their burrows.
Where do you get the best view of the Penguin Parade?There are three different areas for watching the Penguin Parade. The general viewing area has some seats along the beach, plus you can sit on the dunes if the weather’s good and you don’t mind sitting on the ground in order to be at the front. You can always bring a plastic bag or extra raincoat to sit on! Penguin Parade plus is a slightly raised platform next to a path which the penguins tend to take to their burrows. You’ll get a little bit closer to them if you choose this option. Finally, there’s the underground viewing room, which is underneath the Penguin Plus platform. Here you’ll be able to watch from inside, which might be more comfortable, but your eyes will also be at ground level. That’s ideal for getting a close-up view of these tiny fairy penguins, which are often less than 14 inches (35cm tall). If you’re sitting in one of the outdoor areas then make sure to bring a jacket because there’s a chill from the wind, even in summer.
Can we meet the penguins? How about the koala bears?Remember that the penguins on Phillip Island are wild animals, who are still skittish around humans. Guests are asked not to approach or disturb the animals as they make their way to their burrows. The koalas in the Koala Conservation Center are easy to see as well. Visitors can climb the raised boardwalk to get a better view of their lives in the trees, but you won’t get the chance to cuddle them. If you want to get up close to animals, your best bet is to visit the Churchill Island Heritage Farm, where you’ll be able to learn about cow milking, sheep shearing, and how dogs are used on farms, in addition to taking a wagon ride.
What is the Antarctic Journey?The Antarctic Journey is a multimedia exhibition in the Nobbies Center that teaches visitors of all ages about life in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica through a range of experiments and interactive activities. Visit the Antarctic Chill Zone to get a feel for the freezing cold of Antarctica, learn about the different animals that live there and how they’ve adapted for the extreme weather, and discover what efforts at conservation are being made. Finally, use the giant screens and augmented reality technology to imagine yourself standing on an ice floe, or swimming with whales underwater.
What is Churchill Island?Churchill Island is a smaller island connected to Phillip Island by a bridge. Today it’s part of the Phillip Island Nature Park and guests can visit a working farm that uses traditional farming techniques, cottages which date back to the 1860s, and a farmhouse that dates to 1872. All of the areas have been fully restored, and visitors can enjoy exploring the whole island on one of the walking trails, plus they can take part in demonstrations and workshops of farming methods.
Aren’t there also motorsports on Phillip Island?In addition to the Nature Park, Phillip Island is also well known for its part in the history of Australian motor racing. It was the site of the Australian Grand Prix between 1928 and 1935, with races taking place on public roads. In 1956 the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit opened, although the track was badly damaged in 1962, requiring refurbishment that took until 1967. Today the track hosts the Australian motorcycle Grand Prix, plus rounds of the Superbike World Championship, the Moto GP Championship, and the Australian Drivers’ Championship, plus other races. Visitors to the island can also take a guided circuit tour, be driven on a hot lap by an experienced driver, or take a BMW for a spin on the track. The circuit also has a go-kart track where drivers aged 12 and over can take a spin, or children aged 5 and over can participate as passengers in a tandem kart.
What are the food options on the island?Each attraction in the Phillip Island Nature Park has its own café serving drinks, snacks, and full meals. There are also plenty of areas around the island where you can stop for a picnic, either on a beach or at a picnic area. Please remember to be respectful of the environment and make sure that you take any trash with you once you’ve finished.