Phillip Island, VIC, Australia

About a two hour drive from Melbourne is Phillip Island, home of amazing Bass Strait coastal scenery, iconic surfing waves, idyllic beaches, the MotoGP Australian Grand Prix plus wallabies, rare geese and a colony of little blue penguins.

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1 Visitor Information Centre in Newhaven on Phillip Island, Australia

Philip Island is an exciting Victoria destination about 90 miles from Melbourne. After driving through San Remo and over a 2,100 foot bridge spanning The Narrows, you arrive in Newhaven, one of about a dozen small towns. Although the island is only 40 square miles, there is a lot to see and enjoy. Let the knowledgeable folks at the Phillip Island Visitor Information Centre help plan your itinerary. Also notice these statues. They are victors of the MotoGP Australian Grand Prix. On the left is Mick Doohan. He was the world champion five years in a row. This annual event is held nearby at a coastal track famous among professional motorcyclists and their fans.

895 Phillip Island Tourist Road, Newhaven VIC 3925, Australia
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2 Cape Woolamai Beach in Cape Woolamai on Phillip Island, Australia

Your introduction to Phillip Island’s southern coastline will bedazzle you. A wide, near-flawless stretch of golden sand defines 2.6 miles of Cape Woolamai, a headland facing Bass Strait. Although its constant waves justifiably intimidate swimmers, this National Surfing Reserve is a welcome challenge among boarders. Hikers enjoy it, too. The 5.3 mile Cape Woolamai Coastal Walk encircles the promontory revealing spectacular sites such as The Pinnacles. These impressive columns of granite accent the end of the bluff.

Club House, Woolamai Beach Rd, Cape Woolamai VIC 3925, Australia
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3 Vietnam Veterans Museum in Newhaven on Phillip Island, Australia

This drab-green, DHC-4 Caribou grabs your attention early in your travels along Phillip Island Road. The Royal Australian Air Force plane transported young Aussies to battle in Vietnam. It is one of several military vehicles among the fascinating displays at the National Vietnam Veterans Museum. The NVVM is an educational tribute to the 60,000 Australians who served in the war and their 521 fallen comrades.

25 Veterans Drive, Newhaven, Phillip Island VIC 3925
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4 Coastal Staircase in Surf Beach on Phillip Island, Australia

Surf Beach is a town but also a ribbon of shoreline between Cape Woolamai and Sunderland Bay. You can view the seascape while driving along The Esplanade. Or select from among several wooden staircases to traverse down the sand dunes and admire the swells of Surfies Point from the beach. If you prefer not to get sandy feet, then enjoy an elevated perspective along the boardwalk leading to Sunderland Bay Road.

156 The Esplanade, Surf Beach VIC 3922, Australia
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5 Wiping Out at Smiths Beach in Smiths Beach on Phillip Island, Australia

Phillip Island’s south coast is defined by the constant waves of Bass Strait. Strong winds, changing tides and underwater formations produce an endless variety of breaks. This famous action has been delighting surfers of all experience levels since the 1920s. Smiths Beach – and the adjacent Beachcomber or YCW Beach – is one of four areas on Phillip Island designated as a National Surfing Reserve. Come wrestle the gnarly swells but be prepared to wipe out along the whitewater. Expert surfers looking for the ultimate adrenaline rush challenge the monsters at nearby Dungeons and Express Point.

Smiths Beach, Victoria 3922, Australia
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6 Pyramid Rock Lookout in Ventnor on Phillip Island, Australia

Just after passing the Grand Prix Circuit track, watch for the turn off at Pyramid Rock Road. When you arrive at the car park, you will be glad you made the two mile diversion. A wooden boardwalk threads along a cliff, providing panoramic views of the rugged coast aiming north back towards Smiths Beach.

535 Pyramid Rock Rd, Ventnor VIC 3922, Australia
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7 Pyramid Rock in Ventnor on Phillip Island, Australia

Pyramid Rock is the beautiful dot at the end of this natural exclamation point. The triangular rock formation is best appreciated from the last observation platform. Watching the waves swirl around it and then create patterns of white foam is mesmerizing. To continue savoring this dramatic seashore, follow the 2.5 mile boardwalk and gravel path along Storm Bay and Redcliff Head until you reach Berry’s Beach Road.

535 Pyramid Rock Rd, Ventnor VIC 3922, Australia
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8 Phillip Island Vineyard and Winery in Ventnor, Australia

Phillip Island tourists congregate along the coastline. Most are unaware over half of the island’s acreage is dedicated to farming and raising livestock. Another surprise is to discover the Philip Island Vineyard and Winery. They serve a delicious choice of wines from grapes grown in their Berrys Beach vineyard. Consider yourself an amateur sommelier? Then sip your way through the Southern Gippsland Wine Trail. This scenic wine region features a dozen boutique vineyards on the mainland east of Phillip Island.

414 Berrys Beach Rd, Ventnor VIC 3922, Australia
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9 Nobbies Discovery Centre on Summerland Peninsula on Phillip Island, Australia

At the west end of Phillip Island is Nobbies Ocean Discovery Centre. Inside are play activities, informative exhibits, a gift shop and restaurant. The best feature for its educational value and sheer fun is the Antarctic Journey, a multimedia exploration of the world’s southernmost continent. The whole family will be thrilled to virtually experience the bone-chilling cold, barren landscape and diverse wildlife at the other side of the Southern Ocean.

1320 Ventnor Rd, Summerlands 3922, Australia
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10 Nobbies and Penguin Shelters at Nobbies on Summerland Peninsula on Phillip Island, Australia

Outside of Nobbies Centre is this remarkable vista. The epicenter of Point Grant is a rock mound called The Nobbies. 1.25 miles in the distance is Seal Rock and Black Rock. 25,000 Australian fur seals plus a colony of seabirds live on these islets (collectively called Seal Rocks) less than 20 acres in size. Dotting the hillside are wooden nesting boxes. The shelters were built in the 1980s to save from extinction the last of Phillip Island’s original ten penguin colonies.

1320 Ventnor Rd, Summerlands 3922, Australia
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11 Churning Sea at Nobbies on Summerland Peninsula on Phillip Island, Australia

An array of boardwalks encircles the Nobbies Centre, allowing you to explore the tip of Summerland Peninsula. Along the way are seven lookouts. These provide a close look at ragged rock formations, the churning waters of Bass Strait plus water spraying from a blowhole. If you are lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of passing whales, dolphins and fur seals.

1320 Ventnor Rd, Summerlands 3922, Australia
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12 Coastal Rocks on Summerland Peninsula on Phillip Island, Australia

The best kept secret on Phillip Island is The Boulevard. It resembles a service road at the end of the Nobbies Centre parking lot. Don’t miss it! It hugs southern Summerland Peninsula, a jagged shoreline with dramatic points and inlets resembling a geological sawblade. Far below are stunning basaltic lava rocks awash in the turbulent sea.

The Boulevard, Summerlands VIC 3922, Australia
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13 Wild Wallaby on Summerland Peninsula on Phillip Island, Australia

If you drive along The Boulevard at dusk, occasionally look away from the amazing coastline and scan the grassy plains. There may be wallabies watching you. This is a swamp wallaby. At 29 pounds for a female and 37 pounds for a male, they are considerably smaller than a kangaroo. They are adorable. Their distinctive characteristic is the light cheek stripe. They also have a pungent smell, hence the name of this subspecies. Some Aussies just call them stinkers. This macropod uses their forelimbs to hold onto a plant or shrub while eating it. This unusual trait is called browsing. They leverage their tail – which can be as long as their body – to help them stand. The Summerland Peninsula is the southernmost tip of the black wallaby’s range along eastern Australia.

The Boulevard, Summerlands VIC 3922, Australia
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14 Southpoint Lookout on Summerland Peninsula on Phillip Island, Australia

Southpoint Lookout is one of several wooden platforms perched atop the cliffs along The Boulevard. The magnitude of these bluffs is best judged when you notice the relative size of the people and car in the upper right corner. Feel the gusts of wind. Smell the sea air. Watch the circling seabirds. Imagine the power of the waves slapping the rugged shore. The experience is exhilarating.

Southpoint Lookout, The Boulevard, Summerlands VIC 3922, Australia
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15 Cape Barren Goose on Summerland Peninsula on Phillip Island, Australia

Another resident of Philip Island Nature Park on Summerland Peninsula is the cape barren goose. Typically seen in pairs while grazing in pastures and grasslands, this bird has mostly grey plumage with brown feathered eyelets accented with red eyes and a green cere covering its short beak. As you approach one of the world’s rarest geese with your camera, you will be surprised by their large size. Males can weigh up to 15 pounds with a 75 inch wingspan.

The Boulevard, Summerlands VIC 3922, Australia
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16 Coastline Conservation on Summerland Peninsula on Phillip Island, Australia

Summerland Peninsula has come full cycle within two hundred years. Prior to the 19th century, this undisturbed, 900 acre headland hosted unique species of flora and animals among its windswept beauty. When Europeans began settling here in the 1830s, they cleared the vegetation for farming and cattle. At the turn of the century, houses were built. This was followed by the developers of Summerland Estate who created more than 775 residential plots. Tourists also came in droves. In short, Summerland Peninsula was endangered. To protect this natural asset, the Victorian government implemented the Summerland Restoration Project in 2010. This included purchasing and demolishing the homes and revegetating the land. Thanks to this coastal conservation, you can savor its original grandeur.

The Boulevard, Summerlands VIC 3922, Australia
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17 Penguin Parade Viewing Platform on Summerland Peninsula on Phillip Island, Australia

Over 30,000 little penguins live on Summerland Peninsula. Only a faction nest along Summerland Beach, yet they are the star performers at the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre. During the day, this complex is free to explore its exhibits and displays. As the parking lot fills shortly before dusk, you can purchase from among six tour options to watch the world’s smallest penguins emerge from the sea and waddle towards their burrows. The eudyptula minor species of penguin, also called the fairy penguin or blue penguin, is only about a foot high. These charming birds have a blue back, white belly and tiny flippers that are useless for flight but ideal for swimming.

St Helens Rd & The Boulevard, Summerlands VIC 3922, Australia
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18 Right Point along Cat Bay on Summerland Peninsula on Phillip Island, Australia

From the Penguin Parade, drive a short distance north on St Helens Road until you reach Ventor Road and then find a place to park. Wooden steps head down to Right Point or the adjacent Shelly Beach. This rock littered shoreline seems unattractive at low tide. But when the waves are surging across Cat Bay, this National Surfing Reserve is great for beginners and experience surfers, especially during the week when the crowd is absent. So squirm into your wetsuit, grab your board and catch a wave.

1065 Ventnor Rd, Summerlands VIC 3922, Australia
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19 Resort Town of Cowes on Phillip Island, Australia

Almost half of Phillip Island’s population of 9,400 people lives in Cowes. During the summer months, this resort town swells with visitors. A cluster of retailers and cafes hug the gentle slope of Thompson Avenue. Tourists are shaded from the sun by an impressive canopy of Australian golden cypress. These trees can reach a height of 65 feet. Hotels and the best restaurants face the shore along The Esplanade. The most popular watering hole is at the North Pier Hotel.

10 Thompson Ave, Cowes VIC 3922, Australia
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20 Cowes Beach in Cowes on Phillip Island, Australia

The town of Cowes finest attribute is this beach. Unlike the incessant waves on the Bass Strait coast, the water on the northern shore is calm and inviting when the wind is from the south. On a clear day, you can see Mornington Peninsula and French Island, two of Cowes’ neighbors in Western Port Bay. Equally enticing are the waterfront promenade and picnic tables on the foreshore. When the sun is shining, families favor the manicured lawns while sunbathers relax on the pristine sand.

Cowes Beach, The Esplanade, Cowes VIC 3922, Australia
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21 Cowes Jetty in Cowes on Phillip Island, Australia

British navigator George Bass was the first European to explore this area in 1798. He named his discovery Phillip Island in honor of Arthur Phillip. He was the first governor of New South Wales from 1788 until 1792. 72 years after the first sighting, the Cowes Jetty was built. The historic pier is popular among local anglers. Among their fresh catch of the day are gummy shark, snapper, Australian salmon and squid. A regular ferry service also operates from here for scenic transportation back to the mainland and French Island.

Cowes Jetty, The Esplanade, Cowes VIC 3922, Australia
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22 Renison Bight Separating Churchill Island from Phillip Island, Australia

Before leaving Phillip Island, make a detour to Churchill Island by crossing a bridge over Renison Bight seen here. These lands were inhabited by the Yaluk Baluk clan for thousands of years. Although they lived primarily on Phillip Island, remnants of their homes have been discovered on Churchill Island. The Boon wurrung people crossed this waterway to collect ochre. This yellow and red clay was used as pigment during their ceremonies. The 125 acre island is now part of Phillip Island Nature Park.

Samuel Amess Dr, Churchill Island VIC 3925, Australia
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23 Indian Peacock at Churchill Island Heritage Farm near Phillip Island, Australia

This strutting Indian peacock seems to be the greeter as you enter the visitor center at Churchill Island Heritage Farm. After crossing the threshold, you enter a time capsule of the lives of the earliest European settlers. The 140 acres are filled with 19th century residences and a working farm reflective of the Victorian era.

246 Samuel Amess Drive, Churchill Island 3925, Australia
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24 Barns and Blacksmith at Churchill Island Heritage Farm near Phillip Island, Australia

These historic buildings at Churchill Island Heritage Farm – two barns and blacksmiths shop – are filled with period implements. They convey the hard toil early farmers endured using rudimentary tools. Equally interesting are the educational boards introducing you to the initial landowners. The first was Lieutenant James Grant, a British navigator who explored the southern coast of Australia and the Bass Strait in 1800 and 1801. He named the island Churchill after a benefactor who supplied him with agricultural seeds.

246 Samuel Amess Drive, Churchill Island 3925, Australia
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25 Amess House Nursery at Churchill Island Heritage Farm near Phillip Island, Australia

In the center of Churchill Island Heritage Farm is the Amess House. It was built in 1872 as a seasonal home for Samuel Amess, a prolific stonemason from Melbourne. Inside are nine rooms, including this nursery. The homestead appears suspended in the late 19th century. Guides wearing period costumes tell about the families who lived here until the property was sold to the government of Victoria in 1973.

246 Samuel Amess Drive, Churchill Island 3925, Australia
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26 Working Farm at Churchill Island Heritage Farm near Phillip Island, Australia

Children enjoy touring the working farm at Churchill Island Heritage Farm. Among the activities is the chance to milk a cow, pet an enormous Clydesdale, watch a sheep shearing demonstration, mingle with other livestock and see indigenous animals like wallabies at their small zoo.

246 Samuel Amess Drive, Churchill Island 3925, Australia
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27 Clydesdale at Churchill Island Heritage Farm near Phillip Island, Australia

The ancestors of this draught horse began from crossbreeding Flemish stallions with Scottish mares in the early 1800s. The species was named for the county of its origin: Clydesdale, Scotland. Lampits mare, considered the mother of the Clydesdale breed, was born in 1806. Soon afterwards, the British aggressively exported the work horse to their colonies. By the turn of the 20th century, there were over 25,000 Clydesdales in Australia. Aussies call them “the breed that built Australia.” Sadly, there are only 5,000 of these magnificent horses left in the world.

246 Samuel Amess Drive, Churchill Island 3925, Australia
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