We have just started our epic 2 month road trip around Australia and getting so close to nature at Phillip Island was a perfect way to kick off our travels here! We arrived in Melbourne, Victoria on 24th March and will be making our way to Cairns, Queensland by Mid May. For more details of our itinerary, budget and travel planning, see here.
We started our first day sightseeing around Melbourne and hanging out with old family friends that we hadn’t seen in years. Nothing better than having locals to show you around their city, but more on that in another post! The next day we set off bright and early for Phillip Island. It is 1 hour 45 minutes drive from Melbourne – 140 km – so the trip can be done as a day trip from the city. However, having done it in a day, I would recommend doing Phillip Island over two days and spending the night on the island. This is specially true for families with small children. There are so many activities one can do here, and the fact that the penguin parade is at the end of the day and doesn’t finish till 9-930pm, it can be too tiring for little ones.
There are several different activities one can do in Phillip Island, ranging from beach fun, wildlife viewing, enjoying food and wine and various other free and paid family oriented activities all over the island. We were keen on the wildlife activities and decided to for the three pass day – Penguin parade, Heritage Farm and Koala Conervation Centre – which cost $104 for a family of 2 adults and 2 kids.
We went over Easter weekend and it was a Saturday as well – We were bracing ourselves for hoards of tourists and hundreds of school kids with their family. Thankfully we had set out early and it was not until mid day that it started to get busy, and even then, it was only at the penguin parade at the end of the day, could you tell how many people actually were there – over 4000 people!
We started at the koala conservation centre and took dibs on who would get to spot the first koala. Within a few minutes of walking, I spied a creature standing so still next to us I thought it was a statue at first. We all stopped to see our first wallaby in the wild 🙂 We spotted a few more after that, foraging in the bushes. There were three tracks you can walk around, two board walks and one long woodland walk. We spotted several koalas during the walk along the boardwalk, most of them were sleeping. We learnt that the koala sleep 20 hours of the day – Ashique says they are his kind of creature 🙂 It started to drizzle half way into our tour so we had to cut the walk short and skip the woodland walk.
We then went to Churchhill Island Heritage Farm next and since we got there quite early, by 1230, we decided to walk outside the place along the river for a while. We saw several bird species and some Yaks. We could see the cars starting to pull in now and the place getting busier. Once inside there was lots going on all around. There were several farm activities and demonstrations. We saw how hay is made, how the land is ploughed using shire horses, and the kids did a tractor-trailer ride. There were several stalls selling local handicrafts and yummy food. Unfortunately we are on a budget – see here how we are doing our 2 month Australia Road Trip – so we had to bypass all the goodies and have home-made egg and ham sandwiches. Not as delicious but saved us a lot of money though and we had a random peacock to entertain us while we ate so no complains 🙂 At 2pm all the heritage farm activities started – the kids milked cows, watched sheep being reared and we even got to experience whip cracking! Was disturbing and fascinating at the same time! The finale was the working sheepdog demonstration which was really awesome to watch. We finally left heritage farm around 1600 and set off for the Nobbies coastal walk and Antarctic expedition.
It was a 20 minute drive to the Nobbies which was at the other end of the island. We had to stop several times because the scenery was so stunning! We saw surfers at one of the beaches, wallabies hopping across the road and several others just on the scrubland along the drive to nobbies.
We did the state of the art Antarctic expedition, which was way more fun than I had expected. It was broken into two parts – the Lab and the journey. Both were very hands on and all three kids and the two adults really enjoyed this interactive, educational and fun tour. The whole tour took about 45 minutes and then we grabbed a bite to eat at Nobbies café before setting out on the walk.
The Nobbies boardwalk was one of the highlights of the whole day. I will let the pictures speak for themselves, just breathtakingly beautiful!
We finally set off for the penguin parade at 645 pm. The line for the prebooked tour was really long but it was a public holiday weekend and the staff informed us that they had double the amount of people than they would other days. Finally we were in and made our way to the beach, jostling through hundreds of other people all doing the same! This part was quite stressful as everyone clamoured to grab the seats on the benches or squeezing in amongst hundreds of other people on the beach which was roped off a good distance from the sea. There were volunteers all around but they were finding it hard to maintain the crowds as well. We were all separated as Ashique and the kids managed to squeeze into the benches really far back. I found a space on the beach. We waited in anticipation as the sun went down, watching the crashing waves for signs of the penguins. It was just like in the many national geographic programs I had seen on TV. You see these white waves crashing onto the beach and suddenly there were these adorable blue penguins standing in herds on the sand. After a few minutes of standing around, the penguins started waddling about and making their way to their nests inland, super adorable to watch. The images below are provided by Phillip Island as photography is not allowed!
After watching the first two groups, I made my way back to the kids, only to find Ashique bringing them to the front as you really can’t see well from the benches. We watched another group of penguins making their way inland from the beach and then left to get back to the information centre. To our delight we saw few of the penguins really close just near the information centre as well! It made Shama’s day 🙂
It was 930pm by now and everyone was super tired. We left for Melbourne and the kids were out before we even left Phillip Island! The day was super packed but so worth it with all the wildlife we got to experience on our 2nd day in Australia!
We would like to thank Phillip Island for our complimentary tickets to all the different wildlife and heritage farm tours. All opinions, as always, are our own. We found Phillip Island to be a very special place and makes for a perfect family day out.
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