1) See the fairy penguinsAdmit it, this is why you’re really on Phillip Island — to see literally thousands of fairy penguins (sorry, ‘little penguins’ to be absolutely PC) marching, line after line, with almost military precision, each evening from the ocean to their burrows. A range of tour options is available, including the research tour, which includes a look at how rangers look after injured wildlife, as well as reserved seating on the Penguins Plus platform. Visit www.penguins.org.au.
2) Stroll the boardwalk in the Koala Conservation Centre
Yes, there are real, live koalas in the trees around this fantastic boardwalk, and if you’re lucky one or two of these marvellous marsupials will actually perform — that is, eat a few leaves and perhaps change positions. This is another aspect of the Phillip Island Nature Parks operation, which offers good-value tickets combining the penguins, koalas and Churchill Island. Visit www.penguins.org.au.
3) Cruise past a seal colony
We had to stay an extra day on Phillip Island to fit this in, but I’m just so glad that we did. The two-hour cruise to Seal Rocks took us almost within touching distance of Australia’s largest fur-seal colony to watch these amazing creatures do everything from quibble over rock space to loll about on their backs in the ocean. Visit www.wildlifecoastcruises.com.au
4) Enjoy a helicopter flight
Really put Phillip Island into perspective with a bird’s-eye view from a chopper. The island is small enough to do so on quite a short flight so it needn’t cost an arm and a leg. The trip really does provide some spectacular viewing. Visit www.phillipislandhelicopters.com.au.
Phillip Island … the best way to get a real perspective is from a helicopter.
5) Take a step back in time on Churchill Island
Okay, Churchill Island is an island off a larger island, but like Phillip Island itself it’s easily accessible for motor vehicles. Activities include wagon rides, cow milking, sheep shearing, whip cracking and displays by working dogs, plus just a gentle wander through bygone years of rural Australia. Visit www.penguins.org.au.
Churchill Island … a charming step back in time.
6) Go fishing at Rhyll Trout and Bush Tucker Farm
The Woman with Altitude, who accompanies me on most of my adventures, really isn’t into fishing, but even she couldn’t resist the lure (joke, please) of casting a line with the absolute certainty of catching a trout for lunch. There’s also a trail displaying a variety of native foods. Visit rhylltroutandbushtucker.com.au.
Speed on the oceanfront … Phillip Island Circuit
7) Stay at Ramada Resort Phillip Island
This conglomerate of studios, cabins and spa units covers nearly 65 acres on the outskirts of Phillip Island’s main town, Cowes. It offers just about everything you’d want as the base for a family holiday — fully equipped kitchens, barbecues, a kids’ club, gymnasium and even a pizza joint. Visit www.wyndhamhotels.com.
Phillip Island Nature Parks headquarters … why you really came to one of the Australian mainland’s southernmost outposts
8) Visit The Nobbies Centre
This space-age, absolutely waterfront centre is also run by Phillip Island Nature Parks, and features a myriad of indoor and outdoor activities, including an interactive Antarctic journey, a display regarding penguin conservation, and cliff-top walks among penguin burrows. Keep your eyes peeled and you’re quite likely to see a few. Visit www.penguins.org.au.
9) Drive The Boulevard between the Nobbies Centre and Phillip Island Nature Parks headquarters.
We wouldn’t have even known about this back road had it not been for our helicopter pilot, but it’s really quite a civilised, though at times narrow, drive along the southern coast of Phillip Island and offers spectacular views on the Southern Ocean, as well as the chance of an up-close view of wallabies.
10) Go brmm brmm at one of Australia’s legendary race tracks
Mention race track and the Woman with Altitude’s mind goes immediately to Mount Panorama and visions of Brocky coming out of Skyline corner, none of the wheels of his trademark No 05 Holden touching the ground. But the Phillip Island Circuit experience had her itching to be a pillion as she watched a series of variably fast superbikes do a few laps. There’s a lot here to do here apart from fantasising though, including a good museum, guided circuit tours and testing yourself on racing simulators. Visit www.phillipislandcircuit.com.au.