Phillip Island in Australia is located in the vicinity of Melbourne in the state of Victoria and is a particularly popular destination because of its proximity to the world metropolis. So there are just 10,500 inhabitants compared to an impressive 3.5 million visitors per year. The small island is connected to the mainland by a bridge and borders the greater Melbourne area. This is where the well-known Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit is located, a motorsport racetrack where national and international races take place. Further attractions are the numerous beaches, the excellent conditions for surfing, the great hiking trails, the daily penguin parade, the largest Australian fur seal colony and the spectacular landscapes. In this post you will find all the top highlights of Phillip Island and get helpful information on the most popular activities, the most beautiful places, the different types of accommodation, the varied range of tours, the best travel time and the arrival and onward journey.
Highlights & recommendations from the editors
- Watch the lively penguin parade on Summerland Beach.
- Sunbathing and relaxing on one of the numerous sandy beaches.
- Walk along the wooden walkways of the cliffs of The Nobbies .
- Watching a race at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit .
- The fur seal colony at Seal Rocks pay a visit.
- Use the excellent conditions for surfing at Woolamai Surf Beach .
- Try fresh fish and a local wine in a cozy restaurant .
- Take the Cape Woolamai Walk and capture the picturesque landscape on camera.
- Get up close to the cute Australian tree dwellers at Koala Reserve .
- Take part in an unforgettable helicopter flight over the island .
Activities & sights
Locations: San Remo, Newhaven, Rhyll & Cowes
Shortly before the island is the small fishing village of San Remo (approx. 1,200 inhabitants), the starting point for Phillip Island. Small restaurants with fresh seafood and fish, cozy cafes , a few pubs , a jetty, the largest shark fishing fleet in Australia , fishing tours and many pelicans characterize the lively settlement in the east of the island. Another highlight is the George Bass Coastal Walk , which leads from San Remo to Kilcunda. On the way it is possible to make detours to picturesque bays and enjoy spectacular views from the cliffs. In addition is the Cape Woolamai Walk recommended, as it not only offers great panoramic views, but also runs along the really beautiful Woolamai Surf Beach. Those who like to be active and prefer to cycle can explore the island on the 17-kilometer bike path from San Remo to Cowes . By the way, despite its location (in front of the island and not on the island!), San Remo is a very good starting point to start various day tours and activities, as some sights are not far away. For example , a visit to the chocolate factory , a trip to the Churchill Island Marine National Park with the Heritage Farm or a helicopter tour recommendable. The Churchill Island Farmers Market is certainly interesting for all fans of fresh food , with its regional products and around 40 stalls always on the fourth Saturday of the month from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Newhaven (approx. 450 inhabitants) is the first place on the island to be on the other side of the bridge and is only a few hundred meters from San Remo. It impresses with its cozy charm and invites you to enjoy the friendly atmosphere with a coffee or a delicious meal . A boat can be chartered at the marina to visit Cape Woolamai . Bird lovers have the opportunity to observe the pelicans , black swans , purple chickens and hen geese living here on a small excursion . Just like from San Remo, Newhaven is only a stone’s throw from these attractions.
Whether trying fresh seafood in a cozy restaurant, fishing , chartering a boat , watching birds or having a BBQ with the family by the sea, the small town of Rhyll (approx. 600 inhabitants) is worth a trip. Above all, however, the leisurely Bush to Bay Trail through the mangroves (possible on foot or by bike) combines several hiking trails and leads from the Koala Conservation Center to Rhyll. The Oswin Roberts Reserve Cycling Trails offers the opportunity to explore the natural surroundings of Phillip Island by bike. Koalas , wallabies and birds can be spotted en route. The nearby Rhyll Wetlands , Conservation Hill Reserve and Koala Conservation Center are also recommended.
With around 5,000 inhabitants, Cowes is the largest town on the island. There is not only most of the accommodation here, but also many facilities for everyday needs, such as supermarkets, banks, shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs. The cozy resort is therefore the ideal starting point to visit Phillip Island and its sights. Also in Cowes can be fresh seafood eat a charter boat , observe birds and fish . Plus , it’s possible to delve a little deeper into local culture at the Phillip Island Museum and Mingara Gallery . The Bush to Bay and Oswin Roberts Reserve Cycling Trails are also easily accessible from Cowes. In addition, the Koala Reserve , a climbing hall and a crazy amusement park are nearby, where children can have fun with optical illusions, puzzles and other interesting things. Every second Saturday of the month, check out the Cowes Island Craft Market for artwork, clothing and other local produce.
Summerland Bay: Sunset Penguin Parade
An absolute highlight and one of the most popular sights on Phillip Island is the penguin parade at sunset. At the end of the day hundreds of penguins waddle back to the beach after a busy day of fishing, where they spend the night in their habitat. This spectacle understandably attracts some visitors who do not want to miss the cute, flightless birds. There will be several tours which all have a different program and can be booked according to individual preferences. It is also possible to take part in guided wildlife tours from Melbourne. Such a day tour is interesting for all those who want to see penguins, seals and koalas, but do not want to spend the night on Phillip Island. Incidentally, the penguin species found on Phillip Island are the smallest penguins in the world.
The Nobbies Boardwalk & Seal Rocks: Hike to the Seal Colony
Another top attraction is the fur seal colony living in the wild . This can be observed on the hike along the wild cliff landscape on the so-called Seal Rocks. On the way it is also possible to see rare species of birds and even a few isolated penguins . The Nobbies Boardwalk is a great experience in every way and definitely recommendable. In addition, you can take part in well-organized wildlife tours , which also include a visit to the seals at Seal Rocks on their daily program. Families are often drawn to the family-friendly The Nobbies Center at Point Grand, where children can go on an Antarctic educational trip and play a lot.
Beaches: Woolamai Surf Beach, Ventnor Beach & Co
There are beaches for everyone on Phillip Island – be it for surfing , relaxing, swimming or a family outing. The Summerland is due to take place here Penguin Parade one of the most famous beaches on the island. Every evening around sunset, the cute penguins come back from the sea and let the fascinated visitors watch them. Access to the beach is prohibited at this time. The well-attended Cowes Main Beach is popular with its shallow waters and low wave with families and swimmers. There are also some useful facilities here (e.g. BBQ, picnic, cafes, toilets, etc.). The long and narrow Ventnor Beach also attracts with calm waterFamilies, beachgoers and swimmers. The Anchorage Beach and the Red Rocks Beach are other great places for swimming and bathing. They also offer great views of the island and the neighboring Mornington Peninsula. However, these two beaches are not suitable for surfing. Probably one of the best beaches for surfing is Woolamai Surf Beach , which is guarded by lifeguards . High waves, strong currents, fine sand and a striking landscape characterize this long beach in the southeast of the island. Smiths Beach, which is also monitoredis located in a beautiful bay and is a good alternative for beginners because the waves and currents are a bit more moderate here. Both beaches are also popular with normal beach goers, as it is just fun to watch the surfers surfing the waves and to spend the day comfortably on the beach.
Note: From May to October, with a bit of luck, you can spot humpback whales in the sea, which pass the coast at this time of the year.
Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit
The Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit is something very special for all motorsport fans. The big motorcycle world championships (MotoGP) and other important racing events are held on this 4,445 kilometer long race track (e.g. Superbike World Championship or V8 Supercars races). You can also visit the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit Visitor Center and let off steam on the neighboring go-kart track.