If you could think of one place in Victoria to be in that offers stunning coastal views, a cuddly Koala sanctuary, the worlds largest australian fur seal colony and the most adorable congregation of Little Penguins, then reading this guide to the best things to do on Phillip island is the only place you need to be.
Take a day trip south of Melbourne city centre past the Mornington Peninsula and enter Phillip Island – the tiny island nation completely geographically separated from mainland Victoria and connected via Phillip Island entrance bridge.
Sitting in the middle of WesternPort Bay surrounded by the western cape of the Mornington Peninsula and French island to the north, this small yet vast island is a weekend getaway you’ll be begging to return to.
At roughly 20km wide from the Nobbies in the far west to Cape Woolamai in the far east there is literally something for everyone, family’s, couples and singles alike!
But don’t take our word for it, Phillip Island is a shining example of diversity and variety that we Melburnians love so much.
The road that leads into Phillip Island, (south gippsland highway) is used as a motorbike motorcade every year for the annual international MotoGP festival – famous international riders like Rossi come here to ride this world famous circuit.
Koalas find sanctuary and safety in the dedicated natural reserve, which is ideally located not far from the sweet-tooth’s Chocolate factory.
No matter your preference, we’ve managed to pull all our resources together after years of travelling here to make the most comprehensive guide to help you experience the best things to do in Phillip Island.
NB: A lot of services are all subject to new covid-19 restrictions and limitations so please make sure you follow up with the most up to date information.
READ MORE – Check out our awesome guide to the most insane day trips you can do from Melbourne
Where is Phillip Island
A short day trip from Melbourne just two hours from Melbourne CBD via the South Gippsland Highway due south you will wind your way down the western part of Gippsland passing Corinella and Grantville, eventually draining into San Remo on the eastern side of Phillip island.
The original custodians of what we now call Phillip Island are the Boon Warrung people of the Kulin nation. In Boonwurrung language it’s also known as Corriong or Millowl.
The Island itself is isolated from the mainland and joined by the Phillip island bridge between the two.
There’s one other island that lies between mainland and Phillip Island and it’s called French Island, purely accessible via a ferry or helicopter.
The islands population throughout the year is very low, however the summer months change this, increasing the number of people by around 300%
How to get to Phillip Island
From Melbourne by car
From the city take the Monash Freeway (M1) outbound towards Warragul, and merge onto the South Gippsland Freeway (left) towards Koo Wee Rup.
Continue right along the South Gippsland Freeway following the road along the Bass Coast highway towards Phillip Island and this takes you right into the Island.
Coming from the Mornington Peninsula then you can also opt to take the ferry from Stony Point towards Phillip Island which runs 4-6 times daily at the time of writing.
There are also options to leave Stony Point for French Island if you so wish either on your way through or on return. The Western Port Ferries do not operate all weather ferries so make sure you check the weather forecast and ferry timetable before booking as all are subject to change.
By car – From the Mornington Peninsula
Going by car to the Island from the Peninsula then find your way from the Mornington Peninsula freeway (M11) and exiting left onto Baxter-Tooradin Road, turning right at the roundabout onto South Gippsland Highway (M420)
The South Gippsland highway continues along the coast, make sure you follow the signs towards the Bass Coast Highway for 60km before reaching the San Remo to Phillip Island bridge.
The road then turns into Phillip Island tourist road (B420).
There are a number of options to explore when visiting Phillip Island without your own hire car. We recommend any one of these day and overnight tours from Melbourne to Phillip Island to get the very best experience.
These tours include all the best things like the Koala Tour, visiting the Nobbies, Cape Woolamai and much more. Book your tour here.
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Best time of year to visit Phillip Island attractions
Generally speaking, the summer months from December till mid-March are always hotter on the island but that also comes with the crowds and more expensive accommodation – a general rule of thumb for nicer weather.
However certain activities on Phillip Island like whale watching only run during the winter, cooler months – so it largely depends on what you’re looking to do on the island.
We always visit in the summer months and stay in friend houses for a week or so and love the weather. We also find more stores are open in the summer and close for winter when it’s quieter.
Where to stay on Phillip Island?
If you’re looking for the best things to do on Phillip Island, then youll want to stay in some pretty amazing places jus to round it all off!
This loft style apartment is super close to Smiths Beach and a very popular choice of accommodation in Phillip Island, the perfect weekend getaway retreat.
Location: 213 Back Beach Road, Ventnor
Price: around $300/night
Budget friendly accommodation
Stay a little further north on the island in Cowes for a much more affordable price, in the heart of the biggest city on the island not too far from Cowes front beach. You’re also super close to the Phillip Island coastal reserve and red rock beach.
Things to know before visiting Phillip Island
Use this quick guide to know the most important things about the Island
- It is an Island and there is only one bridge in and out so plan in advance especially on public holidays and weekends as it can get a little crowded, particularly during Grand Prix season.
- Snakes are common throughout the island, particularly on walks along Cape Woolamai so make sure you wear protective footing.
- The surf beaches are mostly safe, but rips and currents are an everyday presence so only surf within your limits and don’t push yourself.
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16 Phillip Island attractions you need to visit
The Penguin Parade
If you’re wondering what to do in Phillip Island for a weekend then this one should be on the top of your list.
The Phillip island nature reserve was created by the State government of Victoria in the 1990’s and forms a part of the UNESCO western port biosphere that protects both wildlife and natural flora of the region.
In the deep south west of the island in the Summerland region, just before you reach the Nobbies Visitor Centre is the Phillip Island Penguins parade viewpoint.
A dedicated underground and above ground viewing platform provides visitors a unique opportunity to see this 32,000 strong colony of Little penguins, sometimes known as Fairy penguins march up the shore line to their burrows nestled in the sand on the dunes of the Summerlands.
Spring time is the best time to visit the Phillip Island Penguins parade as mothers return from the deep blue swell of the southern ocean to feed and nurture their young,
The Phillip Island Penguin Parade is the largest Little Penguin colony in the world and so for good reason it’s also one of Australia’s premium tourist attractions and most certainly one of the best things to do on Phillip Island.
We personally recommend this tour here of all the places to visit in Phillip Island as this is one of few that lets you get up close and personal with the Little Penguins without being intrusive.
All whilst contributing to the conservation and continued protection of the penguins on Phillip Island.
How to get to the Phillip Island Penguin Parade
Take Back beach Road towards the Nobbies centre turning left at Ventnor road – the Penguin Parade info centre will be on the left hand side.
General admission for Adults are $27.25, Children $13.50 Underground tickets cost $75 and numbers are capped at 30 for this experience. You can also take a guided ranger tour of the penguin parade for $88.00
The Visitor centre opens at 5pm and the Penguins generally arrive at sunset, hence you should arrive one hour prior to this. General ticket holders should arrive one hour prior as well, and underground visitors should arrive 30 minutes prior as space is less of an issue.
If you’re looking for the hands down best full day tour of Phillip Island then you seriously need to check this highly rated and budget friendly option.
Visit the Nobbies
Just past the Penguin Parade in the Summerlands is The Nobbies Centre, a collection of basalt formations and a rocky outcrop that overlooks The Nobbies itself.
A long wooden boardwalk hugs the coastline of Bas strait of the southern ocean that leads towards the Nobbies viewpoint.
Seal Rocks sits roughly one kilometer out to sea and is home to Australia’s largest Fur Seal colony, but the real delight is finding the purpose built dens that the parks wildlife rangers have built into the side of the dunes for Little Penguins to rest and hatch their young during the breeding season.
For an up close look at the Fur Seal Colony we highly recommend taking a tour down Seal Rocks with these guys here
The view from The Nobbies boardwalk is one of the best Phillip Island attractions, giving you unprecedented views of Pyramid Rock, Cape Woolamai and Flinders.
The Nobbies Centre
Adults $13.50, Children $6.75, Family (2adults/2kids) $33.75 and Pensioners $9.40
Location: 1320 Ventnor Road, Summerlands, Phillip Island
Open times: Visitor Centre open daily from 10am through till 4:30pm
Cost: Admission onto the boardwalk is free
Eat: Nobbies Fish and chippery is open till 2:30 pm and 4:15 for drinks
Tip: It can get VERY windy at the Nobbies so bring a warm, windbreaker jacket along.
Journey into Antarctica
The Nobbies Centre has a cafe, a shop and a new virtual experience called the Antarctic Journey, providing a glimpse into one of the planet’s harshest natural environments.
With a bunch of exhibitions, state of the art virtual reality programs and interactive displays, be transported back in time and walk the ice shelves with the Penguins of the Antarctic!
The displays focus on showcasing the life of marine animals around Phillip Island and the journey they make from the Antarctic in seeking the warm Australian waters.
Hike Cape Woolamai
Not too many people venture to Phillip Island to do hiking, so if you’re looking for the perfect Phillip Island attraction to take incredible photos then you will want to do this hike!
The Cape Woolamai circuit is situated in the far south east of Phillip Island and one for the first towns you drive into across the bridge from San Remo.
The hike is lined by Woolamai Surf beach to the south and takes roughly a half day to complete, as it will see you hike into Woolamai state reserve including Beacon lighthouse, Cape Woolamai beacon, Cowrie patch beach and Gull island lookout.
Personally speaking it’s one of our most favourite things to do when in Phillip island on a beautiful Summer’s morning or afternoon, depending on how far you intend on walking.
Either way, the hike begins at Cape Woolamai Surf life saving club car park where turn left heading along the sand towards The Pinnacles.
Half way down there is a large wooden staircase that leads up the beach and continues along the ridge of the cliffs with your first stop being The Pinnacles – 360 million year old rock formations that are the most beautiful natural feature of the Woolami track.
Either continue for the duration of the walk to Gull island and the Old Granite Quarry, or choose to turn around at the Pinnacles and head back to the life saving club.
The hike from the Beacon to Gull Island lookout will take approximately 10 minutes and is located on your right. Continue onwards for another 15-20 minutes until you reach Old Granite Quarry and Cleeland Bight Beach.
If you make it as far as Cape Woolamai Beacon (just after the pinnacles) you’ll be afforded incredible views stretching out over the horizon of the southern ocean, with the Nobbies to your left, and San Remo behind you.
The hike in total covers 8km and takes around 2.5 hours to complete.
Depending on your level of fitness you can opt for the shorter Pinnacles hike at 4.4km, or the Old Granite Quarry walk which is 5.6km.
In total you will ascend a max altitude of 105m, not very high considering you get views across the Island but not the least impressive!
If you want to get a bit more intimate with the ocean and see the land from afar then this boat tour of Cape Woolamai might be the perfect option for you.
Location: Cape Woolamai Surf life saving club
Hike time 2-4 hours
Hike km total 8.5km
Tour: Cape Woolamai ocean tour
Your day tour of Phillip Island will include going to places like Cape Woolamai and beyond so make sure you grab this awesome deal before the crowds get hold of it!
Take to the skies in a helicopter flight
This once in a lifetime experience above the beautiful coastline of the southern ocean in a Helicopter flight is one of the most incredible things to do on Phillip Island.
With insane views over most of the southern coast of the island including Summerlands and Seal Rocks, you’ll have the opportunity to see some incredible wildlife and natural beauty.
Of all the Phillip Island activities, this one isn’t for everyone, particularly if you have a fear of heights.
However we always say life is a daring adventure or nothing at all so just go for it!
- 16 minute helicopter flight over Phillip Island with commentary
- See the Grand Prix circuit track
- Seal Rocks
- Berrys Reef
- Pyramid Rocks
- Finish with the Nobbies
$165AUD per person, max 3 passengers per flight
Location: 1 Newhavens Drive, Newhaven
Join a seal watching tour on Seal Rocks
If you’re game enough and love wildlife, this seal watching tour out to Seal Rocks is the perfect way to spend a few hours, watching Australia’s largest colony of Fur Seals play, sun tan and frolic on the rocks and the cool waters of the southern ocean below.
The seals find refuge here from their predators like Great White Sharks and Orcas, but they’re rarely seen right here.
$88AUD per person
-2 hour scenic tour seeing thousands of seals
– Tea, coffee and cake on board
– Educational wildlife commentary from a professional
Meeting Point: 11-13 The Esplanade, Cowes VIC
Explore Forrest Cave
Formed by sea erosion over hundreds of years, the Forrest caves have been shaped into the cliffs and can only be accessed on low tide.
The Forrest caves are a fantastic place to get a glimpse of short tailed Shearwater birds.
Located just outside of Surf Beach and just after Phillip Island airport on Phillip Island road, the easiest access is by walking up the steps and turning left at the beach.
Location: Forrest Caves carpark, Surf beach VIC (turn left just before the Esplanade)
What to bring?
-Wet weather jacket
Learn to surf at Smiths Beach
Catching your first wave and standing up is a pretty special moment to experience and if you’ve never done either then the best place to start is at Smiths Beach.
Perfect for the novice surfer and accommodating for the seasoned surfer, Smiths Beach is renowned for its easy surfing conditions, with the local Island Surf School being in operation since 1969.
Laura and I have previously had lessons from the instructors at Island surf school a few years back and loved our time learning not only about surfing itself, but how to read the water and the swell.
One of the best things to do on Phillip Island is an early wake up call to drive down Smiths Beach road at low tide and spend the better half of your morning on the water – you can even rent a surfboard and wetsuit from the friendly staff at Island Surf School as well.
Location: Island Surf School, Smiths Beach VIC
Cost: Soft board $40/day or $12.50/hour – Wetsuit $30/day or $10/hour
Walk around Cowes
The largest of all the towns on the Island is Cowes to the north of the island and by far the most populous of towns.
Whilst there aren’t too many things to do and see in Cowes it’s worth spending a few hours exploring and grabbing a bite to eat before heading off for coffee and gelato.
The drive up Thompson Avenue is lined with Golden Cypress trees on either side resembling something of an Honour Avenue that’s so beautiful in Autumn.
For a delicious bite to eat we recommend Pino’s Trattoria. In operation since 1991 serving hoards of motorcycle fans during March for the annual MotoGP festival, head a little further down the street towards Cowes beach and pop into Isola Gelateria for a delicious italian gelato.
Location: Thompson Avenue, Cowes VIC
Find Whales from Pyramid Rock
Few things bring us more joy than seeing wildlife in their natural habitat and Pyramid Rock is just the place to do so.
As it’s so named, Pyramid Rock is indeed shaped like a Pyramid and sits on a rocky outcrop at the end of Pyramid Rocky road just south of the Phillip Island Grand prix circuit
The winter months of June through to October play host to migratory pods of both southern right whales and humpback whales as they make their way from Antarctica into warmer waters to give birth and raise their young and can be seen from the viewpoint.
Splashing, breaching and tail slapping is the name of the game for these giant creatures and should be high on your list of Phillip island activities when you visit.
Best to check the local council website to see when sightings become more and more frequent using their self reporting service.
Make sure when you’re down here to stop at the Bass Coast Whale discovery Trail sign, as it’s also a great vantage point for spotting whales.
This highly recommended 4 hour whale watching tour is available during the winter months giving you the best chance of spotting whales in the wild and personally one of our most favourite things to do on Phillip Island
Location: Pyramid Rock, Ventnor VIC
Cost: Entry down to Pyramid Rock is free
Accessibility: A small circular car park at the bottom of the road
Whale watching boat tour with lunch
$150AUD per person
Depart from: Rhyll jetty, return via here.
- Freshly prepared lunch coffee and tea on board
- Cruise around the waters of Phillip Island
Ever wanted to see our native Koala in its natural habitat?
Then look no further than the Koala Conservation Centre in Rhyll, Phillip Island.
One of the top things to do in Phillip Island is by paying a visit to this dedicated Koala Reserve aimed at protecting the Koala species and providing guests with a unique opportunity to see Koala’s and provide an eco-friendly tour experience across 6 hectares of natural Aussie bushland.
There are two tree-top boardwalks over 800m and 600m long respectively that take under an hour to complete that give you intimate access to not only Koalas walking along the trees and branches, but other native Australian wildlife such as Wallabies, Echidnas and birds like Eastern yellow robins and Cockatoos.
You can get exclusive access to the Koala Sanctuary by purchasing your Full Day Experience Pass with Get Your Guide for the most competitive price on the market
Of all the Phillip Island tourist attractions this tour offers the most intimate experience allowing you to get upfront and really personal with these cute and cuddly Koalas.
While you’re here, make sure you head across the road (literally) to Amaze ‘N’ Things; Phillip Islands one and only house of illusions, mazes, puzzles and mini golf accessible most of the year round.
Location: 1320 Phillip Island road, Phillip Island VIC
Open times: Open daily from 10am to 5pm, excluding some public holidays (last admission is always 15 minutes before closing time)
Cost: $13.20 for Adults, Children $6.60 and family passes are $33.00
Other wildlife & nature cruise/encounters
If you’d like to experience more wildlife encounters we’ve included a short list of some of our favourite ones below
Other incredible places to visit in Phillip Island
Whilst the list above is by no means an exhaustive list we firmly believe having done all of these ourselves these are the best things you can do whilst on the island.
As an added bonus if you find yourself needing to explore more and you have a bit more time on your hands then these attractions below should fill your cup just right.
Sightseeing on Phillip island doesn’t have to stop on the coast, in fact you’ll have to cross the ocean to get to Churchill Island.
The Churchill Island heritage farm is an island within an island that’s only accessible via a single lane wooden bridge across Western Port Bay which is within the protected zone of Churchill island marine national park.
To give you an idea of what to expect, picture being greeted by Cape Barren geese everywhere blocking the road ahead, driving past green pastures of Highland cows – the type that have become famous on Instagram.
The heritage listed buildings and farm house on site make this the place of the first European garden in Victoria.
Take a guided tour through the historic farm and restored cottages dating back to the 1860’s and a homestead from 1872.
Explore the Churchill Island cafe and have a vegetarian or vegan cake with a delish coffee, whilst enjoying the picturesque views or walk around the 50 hectare island in less than an hour.
Location: 246 Samuel Amess drive, Churchill Island 3925 VIC
Cost: Adults (16+) $13.50, Children $6.75 and families $33.75
Churchill island farmers market: Last Saturday of every month 8am till 1pm
Churchill Island Cafe: 10am till 4pm Monday to Friday, 9am till 4pm weekends
Phillip Island chocolate factory
The perfect entry or exit strategy for the island should include a stop at the Phillip island chocolate factory.
Receive a complimentary chocolate on admission to the shops and be greeted with the widest selection of hand crafted chocolate anywhere in the state.
Panny’s world of chocolate celebrates all things chocolate with fun, interactive machines to try. You might even be lucky to experience chocolate making yourself!
Afterwards head into Panny’s chocolate cafe and chocolate retail shop and purchase a selection of truffles, gift boxes and so much more!
Make sure to spend roughly 45 minutes to an hour or so to really get the full experience of the Chocolate Factory.
Location: 930 Phillip Island road, Newhaven VIC
Hours: Open Daily 10am till 5pm
Cost: Adults $18, Children $12, kids under 12 are free with a paying adult. Family (2 adults, 2 kids) $54
Moto GP circuit track
Most notably, the Phillip Island grand Prix circuit holds the annual MotoGP, where international motorbike riders from all over the world including names like Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez come to compete on the world stage.
You also have the unique opportunity to drive on the circuit yourself in one of the many driving opportunities with an experienced guide right here.
The Grand Prix Visitor centre and Go-karts is your chance to experience what it feels like to drive on an iconic racing track in the heart of Phillip Island, with go-kart bookings available daily from 9am till 5pm, and range anywhere from $8.00 to $80.00
During March every year this place gets very busy so if you’re not interested in the traffic be sure to avoid Back Beach road in the morning.
Location: 381 back beach road, Ventnor VIC
Watch the Pelican Feeding in San Remo
An occurrence steeped in tradition, the staff of Fishermans co-op ritually feed an enormous group of Pelicans that come to the shores at noon hour every single day and take what’s left of the catches of the day.
It attracts crowds far and wide and the staff give a brief explanation into the tradition and provide listeners with invaluable information..plus it makes for great photos!
Best places to eat on Phillip Island
NB: At Chris and Laura Travels we make a huge concerted effort to include places that we’ve been to and enjoy, but this sometimes involves us intentionally leaving out places we don’t endorse for one reason or another.
Waterboy in Cowes
This newly renovated, high cieling touch of Melbourne-esk cafe is the perfect place to grab yourself a coffee on the go, or sit and enjoy an eggs benny with mushrooms before an Oat milk latte.
Near the corner of Chapel st and Thompson Ave is where you’ll find this delightful cafe.
Location: 58 Chapel St, Cowes VIC
Porter fresh Poke bowls in San Remo
If macrames, eclectic artwork and hanging plants are your thing then you need to visit the former Porter Republic turned Porter fresh poke bowls.
These guys do excellent customer service, healthy vegan poke bowls filled with crispy fried tofu, eggs benny and zucchini corn fritters and a taste of Melbourne style coffee right in the heart of San Remo.
Location: 117 Marine Parade, San Remo VIC
Visit The Store
This cute little hipster store is located right off the main road in Ventnor and is owned and operated by local Siann since 2019 and is not only a fantastic place to eat but one of the best things to do on Phillip Island.
Your one stop shop for local island produce, veggies, floristry, quality coffee, sourdough, cheeses, keep cups, shoes, hats and an all round friendly atmosphere both inside and a tabled garden patio area outside.
Siann stocks a great range of zero-waste products from soap bars to deodorizers, reusable straws and makes for the perfect place to spend an afternoon on the Island.
Location: 511 Ventnor Rd, Ventnor VIC
Hours: Monday – Saturday 8am till 3pm, Sunday 8am till 2pm
Phillip Island Winery
What happens when three groups of friends come together to create something incredible?
Phillip Island winery, that’s what. Aside from food, wine and cider, these guys even have their own cellar door on a beautiful garden property to their very own fresh, locally sourced produce on sale at ‘The Yards cellar door’.
If you can’t make it to the winery itself then they have their entire selection of all Australian wines like Rose, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.
Location: 414 Berrys beach road, Ventnor VIC
Opening hours: 12:00-5pm Thursday till Sunday (kitchen is open 1200 till 4pm)
Dogs are allowed, complete with a four-legged menu option. Phillip Island Winery also hosts a range of functions including weddings, birthdays and bah-mitzvahs.
Bookings: There’s over 5 hectares of land so if you don’t make a booking then you can always set up a picnic rug and sip wine on the lawn (our favourite thing to do)
3 day Phillip island itinerary
If you’re pressed for time and want to see the most you can in the limited travel days available to you then we’ve created a few options for you to help see the most out of the island.
Day 1 – Smiths Beach to Cowes
Start the day off bright and early and head into Smiths beach, grab yourself a longboard and hit the morning waves around 6am.
After working up an appetite you’ll probably want to head into town and grab a delicious breakfast and a coffee, hence you’ll want to head into ‘The Store’ in Ventnor and pick yourself up a large oat milk latte and an avo on toast for $12.
Soak up the sun on the tabled outdoor section and revitalise before heading off to your next stop in Cowes.
Stroll up and down main street Cowes window shopping, admire the Cypress trees on the drive down Thompson Avenue and take a stroll along Cowes beach down by the Jetty.
Day 2 – Hike Cape Woolamai and do some whale watching
Once again start the day off bright and early and make your way down to Cape Woolamai and hike along the 8.4 km track to the Old Granite quarry viewpoint, stopping at the Pinnacles along the way before looping back to the carpark.
Time to get off the land and into the water as you jump on a Whale watching tour or a seal watching tour whilst enjoying a refreshing cup of coffee in the calm waters of Bass Strait.
Day 3- The Nobbies to Churchill Island
Bring a windbreaker jacket and explore the rocky coastline of the Nobbies Visitor Centre in the south-western part of the island. Bring your binoculars or a long telephoto lens to check out Australia’s largest fur seal colony on Seal Rocks.
Experience what it was like for early European settlers to run this heritage listed farm and the gardens over on Churchill Island, taking time to feed the sheep and stop by the cafe before beginning your journey back into Melbourne.