Guide to Phillip Island

Listed as one of Victoria’s top tourist destinations, Phillip Island has a little something for everyone.

Guide to Phillip IslandCredit: Toursim Australia

Famous for its compilation of wildlife, petrolheads, food, and more, the region attracts a broad mix of visitors. Where travellers can embrace the seaside lifestyle as they enjoy sandy beaches, unique wildlife, and unforgettable attractions.

The essential facts

  • Phillip Island is located just off Australia’s southern coast, which is about two hours’ drive from Melbourne.
  • The landscape is a natural paradise, featuring outstanding coastal scenery and thick bushland.
  • Its most popular tourist attraction is Penguin Parade; the home base for the smallest penguin in the world, the Little penguins.
  • The very first farm in Victoria was created here, pioneering the country’s nineteenth-century farming techniques
  • Declared Victoria’s first National Surfing Reserve, Phillip Island has endless coastal hot spots to choose from.
  • It is a perfect day trip from Melbourne, either with a one-day trip or a weekend experience.

The History of Phillip Island

Phillip Island Landscape

  • The Indigenous People of Phillip Island

    The very first people to inhabit in Phillip Island were the traditional owners of the land; the Aboriginal Bunurong tribe. However, they were not permanent residences of the island, rather using Phillip Island as a hunting ground during the muttonbird season.

  • Phillip Island’s European Discovery

    The first European to discover the island was George Bass, who voyaged to the region’s shore in 1798. He declared the area to be named Western Port, as he first saw the island from the west when travelling down from Port Jackson. The island was later named after Governor Arthur Phillip, who was the first Governor of New South Wales.

    It wasn’t until 1868 when Europeans chose to open a settlement on the island, using the area for sheep herding and seal hunting up until this point as. Unfortunately, Phillip Island’s first settlement faced numerous hardships. Coping with harsh conditions such as drought and failing crops, leading to many settlers giving up and heading back to the mainland. However, some stayed, eventually planting the edible flower Chicory, which flourished and became the symbol of Phillip island’s hope and potential.

  • Phillip Island and It’s Unique Landscape

    Every nook and cranny of Phillip Island boasts a stunning agricultural landscape. Farms are scattered about the edges of the island, and bushland covers the rest. However, the seaside section of Phillip Island is by far its biggest draw. A major surfing destination, as it is considered one of the most reliable surf conditions in the whole of Australia. But perhaps one of the biggest draws of Phillip Island, though, besides its spectacular landscape, is its climate. Boasting much milder weather than Melbourne, it offers a breezy respite from the hot shores of the Australian mainland. Its climate tends to be more in line with northern New Zealand than Australia – a definite bonus during the sun-baked summer months.

Things to see & do in Phillip Island

  • Woolamai Surf Beach

    Woolamai Surf Beach

    Woolamai Beach is famed for its big waves and ripper currents, boasting a backdrop of mesmerising ocean views and a never-ending supply of wildlife. The beach is continuously patrolled, making it a safe wonderland for families and those unused to Victoria’s stronger tides. There is plenty of action to keep you busy, with swimming and surfing being the top activities on offer. If you aren’t much of a swimmer, strolling down the soft sands is just as enjoyable, letting you soak up the coastal beauty. If this isn’t enough, you can even trek up to the nearby Cape Woolamai lookout, which is also known as the tallest point at Phillip Island. Promising visitors a delightful sea breeze and an epic view of the surrounds.

  • Cowes Main Beach

    Cowes Beach

    Undoubtedly the most popular beach on Phillip Island, Cowes Main Beach features calm waters and silky sand. It is the biggest north-facing beach in the entire state of Victoria, giving both locals and travellers plenty of space to spread out. The beach is nearby a number of popular food and drinks spots, being only a short walk from the town region.

  • Cowes

    Cowes, Phillip Island

    Phillip Island’s centre hub, Cowes is the heart of the island, with a constant buzzy seaside holiday vibe. Being a perfect blend of nature and township, Cowes is covered in perfect picnic spots, beach attractions, accommodation, and a number of cafés and restaurants. Shopping spots also lined the streets, including unique vintage, surf shops, and even memorabilia stores. Due to Cowes only being 10 minutes away from the major attractions on Phillip Island, is the number one town to stay in when travelling here.

  • The Nobbies

    The Nobbies

    The Nobbies is a spectacular wonderland for wildlife and knowledge, perched along the coastal region of Phillip island. The area features a number of attractions, including coastal rocks home to the resident Australian fur seals, an endless weave of seaside boardwalks and lookouts, and the popular .

  • Nobbies Centre

    Nobbies Centre

    Nestled on Phillip Island’s glorious clifftop region, the Nobbies Centre offers both glorious views and fascinating information. Dive a bit deeper into the island’s history and wildlife as you enjoy the informational exhibitions, technological displays, and interactive demonstrations. Boasting floor to ceiling windows, visitors can admire the stretching landscape, made up of the region’s lush greenery and surrounding sapphire waters.

  • San Remo

    San Remo, Phillip Island

    Nestled right before Phillip Island’s gateway bridge, San Remo is a lively seaside town where fishing and dining options flourish. Home to Australia’s largest shark fishing fleet, the town’s main attraction is the large marina, letting folk cast a line off, join a fishing charter, or visit the neighbouring penguin colony. Dining at one of the many restaurants here guarantees you an unforgettable seafood cuisine, but you can even visit the local fish and chip shop for just as good fish.

  • Seal Rocks

    Seal Rocks, Phillip Island

    Nestled two kilometres offshore from the centre of Nobbies is the largest colony of Australian fur seals that call these seaside rocks their home. It is a paradise for the seals, perfect for hunting, swimming, and resting throughout the day and night. Visitors can hang about nearby the rocks from the lookout and see these amazing creatures sunbake the day away.

  • Penguin Parade

    Penguin Parade

    One of Victoria’s major tourist draws, the Penguin Parade showcases the parade of little penguins on the island. This colony of creatures are the smallest species of penguin in the entire world, with Phillip Island being one of the only places you can see these creatures in the wild. The colony spends the majority of their day swimming in Victoria’s deep waters, hunting for fish and other small creatures. However, after sunset, the herd of penguins venture back to their nesting ground, which lies right on Phillip Island’s Summerland Beach region. Travellers have visitors this area for years and seeking out this unforgettable sighting, beginning in the 1920s, when island residents Bert West, Bern Denham, and Bert Watchorn opened the beach up for the first organised viewings of the penguins. Over the years, it has progressed, even more, installing a number of viewing platforms and assigned nesting areas, making it one of the best eco-tourism facilities in the world. Visitors can choose to sit on the standard viewing platform, the upgraded penguin plus, or even an underground viewing. Seeing these incredibly cute penguins shuffle their way up the beach to their burrows. The centre is also home to a restaurant, a sovereign shop, and an information section!

  • Koala Conservation Centre

    Koala Conservation Centre

    Enjoy the views the local koalas get every day when you visit the Koala Conversation Centre. A centre with a number of tree-top boardwalks just let you roam by the bushland’s tree’s top branches. Giving you front-row views of the native koalas hanging about. The centre offers over six hectares of bushland, so you can immerse yourself in Victoria’s magnificent bushland while meeting some of the resident’s koalas. The bush isn’t just home to the beloved Koala, with wallabies, echidnas and an array of birdlife roaming about too. Don’t leave before heading to the informational centre, which has everything you would ever know about the beloved koalas.

  • Churchill Island

    Churchill Island

    Step back in time when you visit the 50-hectare island in Phillip Island’s Western Port. Churchill Island features a historic and stunning region, home to quaint cottages tucked among perfectly manicured gardens, with a range of local farm animals roaming about it all. It was the very first European garden in Victoria, boasting impressive trees and colourful flower beds. The animals, however, are Churchills biggest draw, from herds of cows, friendly horses you can ride, and countless chicken and ducks wandering freely. Join in on the fun, with activities such as sheep shearing, cow milking, and more!

  • Maru Wildlife Park

    Maru Wildlife Park

    If you are still aren’t sick of Victoria’s greatest animals, then Maru Wildlife Park is for you! Offering a great place to get up close and personal and meet the beloved Australian animals. The family-owned park gives travellers a more hands-on animal interaction, offering daily activities and presentations with the animals. After seeing all the animals, you can even unwind at the park’s Mini-Golf Adventure course!

  • The Grand Prix Circuit


    Wildlife isn’t the only thing that draws Phillip Island’s visitors in, with the island known for its Moto Grand Prix Circuit. This main attraction attracts a herd of motorheads year-round and can be quite an exciting area to a visitor regardless of your level of motor enthusiasm. The original track was created in 1956 and became one of the top racing venues in the entire world. Although it has lost this label over the years, it still hosts a range of grand races, including the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, the Superbike World Championship, and the Shell Australian Touring Car Championship. Even if you don’t come during these big events, the circuit is still worth the visit. The circuit boasts an informational centre which displays an extensive range of historic artefacts and stunning collection of past records. If you’d rather a more hand one experience, you can try out the many activities on offer throughout the year, like go-karting, hot laps, and a Guided Circuit Tour. Whether you’re a racing enthusiast or not, the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit is well worth adding to your itinerary.

  • The Phillip Island Chocolate Factory

    Phillip Island Chocolate Factory

    Chocolate lovers won’t want to miss this delicious stop! Phillip Island’s sweetest attraction is by far the Chocolate Factory, which celebrates everything chocolate has to offer! See how chocolate is made through a number of real-life workshops, interactive exhibits, and even create-your-own chocolate activities. After you’ve tried your hand at chocolate making, head to the shop and pick your favourite flavoured bar, even grabbing a hot chocolate at the cafe.