Phillip Island is an island located at the entrance to Western Port Bay, around Melbourne (Victoria). 26 km long and 9 km wide, you can access it for free via a bridge that connects it to the mainland. This island is mainly known for the Little Penguins (often called fairy penguins by Australians) that it shelters, which every evening return by the thousands to spend the night there. Phillip Island is also famous for being home to the largest Australian colony of sea lions!
When to visit Phillip Island and how to get there?
Phillip Island is 140 km south of Melbourne. To access it, you have different options:
- By car: Phillip Island is located 90 minutes by car from Melbourne. It takes an additional 20 minutes to cross the bridge to get to the Penguin Parade. Take the Monash Freeway (M1) south-east, then continue on the South Gippsland (M420) and Bass (A420) Highways, and finally on the Phillip Island Road. There is free parking on-site.
- By bus: Public transportation is limited on Phillip Island. The V-line serves Phillip Island’s main town of Cowes from Southern Cross station in Melbourne. Please note that the V-line bus does not drop you off directly at the Penguin Parade and there is no return bus to Melbourne at the end of the Penguin Parade.
- By taxi: Contact Phillip Island Taxis on 03 5952 2200 to arrange transfers on Phillip Island.
The best season to visit Phillip Island
Located in the very south of Australia, the climate will be cool during the winter: around 14°C on average between May, June and July. To fully enjoy your stay, opt for the warmer months from September to February. Beware of the Christmas period there are often much more tourists.
Things to do in Phillip Island
If you want to observe a rich variety of fauna, Phillip Island is made for you! So, what animals can you find in the area?
Reserve your ticket for the famous Penguin Parade from $27.70. The parade is open daily at dusk between 8pm and 8:45pm in summer, and between 5.15pm and 6.45pm. in winter. (There is more information about this further down in the article.)
You can also observe sea lions in huge numbers, basking on rocks in the sun. Access is from 10am to 8pm in summer, and from 11am to 4pm in winter.
Koala Conservation Park
We advise you to visit the Koala Reserve to learn more about the way of life of these little living teddy bears. They sleep 20 hours a day and feed exclusively on eucalyptus leaves, which allow them to stay hydrated. Koalas rarely change trees. Book your ticket in advance ($13.70 per adult). The reserve is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Your ticket will allow you to visit the centre as well as to observe wild koalas in their natural environment.
If you want to visit several parks and/or several reserves on Phillip Island, it’s a good idea to buy a Multi Pass (entry to 4 parks for $58) to save money.
Watch the Penguin Parade
Phillip Island is famous for being home to the penguin parade. As night falls, watch these little creatures come out of the water in small groups. They waddle from the water to dry land, where they will spend the night. It’s a very special sight that nature lovers will adore. You can also hear the shrill cries that the penguins use to communicate! A platform has been set up so you can watch the show without disturbing them. It is also forbidden to take photos at the risk of dazzling and disturbing them.
Several paid plans are also available to take advantage of additional benefits:
Phillip Island Penguin Parade
This parade (which is the most popular) is at the end of the island. Access is paid and expensive for the short observation time. It costs $27.70 per adult to access the observation stands. They overlook Summerland Beach, where limited capacity walks are also included. Book here.
The observation deck allows you to enjoy a closer view of the little penguins for $65 per adult. They are smaller bleachers than the one mentioned above, right on the beach. Book here.
It is possible to view the penguins from underground while being protected from bad weather at a price of $75 per adult. The little penguins waddle right next to the viewing window. Book here.
Guided Ranger Tour
An informative journey through the colony of penguins is accessible through a guided tour by a ranger. You are given individual headsets to hear the audio tour, and get a great view of the penguins emerging from the water before crossing the beach. Tickets start at $88. You must be at least 12 years old for this tour. Tours are available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Book here.
Ultimate Adventure Tour
Be one of the few to venture to a secluded beach away from the Penguin Parade. Individual audio headsets ensure you hear the informative commentary and night vision goggles allow you to observe penguins in the dark. You will be able to walk in the heart of the penguin colony. Tickets from $100. Minimum age of 16 years. Book here.
Family Wildlife Tour
A ranger guides this visit, providing an educational commentary. Seats are available in the front row to watch the penguins. Each family leaves with a souvenir sweater and a book. Tickets are priced at $40 per child ages 4-15 and $75 per adult. Book here.
Rest assured, despite this long list of paid activities, it is also possible to observe penguins for free on the entire island. The little creatures are veery discreet, so pay attention to your surroundings if you want to catch a glimpse!
Guided tours from Melbourne
If you’re looking for an easy way to visit Phillip Island, especially if you don’t have a car, you might like to book a day tour (about 170$/ pers.). Leaving from Melbourne, these tours include entry to the Koala Conservation Centre and the Penguin Parade.
The best hikes on Phillip Island
There are many hikes on Phillip Island that will delight nature lovers. Here are our top 3:
Distance: 8.4 km. Difficulty: moderate.
At the southern entrance to the island, Cape Woolamai is a very popular place for surfers but also for lazing on the beach. Stroll along the sea to the cliffs. A small hiking trail leads to a viewpoint overlooking the ocean. The landscape is wonderful. Take your time because the view is incredible and animals often hide in the scenery. Surfing, dipping and sunbathing are a great way to spend your day here.
Distance: 18.4 km if you do the loop. Difficulty: moderate.
Located at the end of the island, close to the penguin parade, The Nobbies is renowned for its large population of sea lions. A wooden jetty overlooks the sea and runs along the coast. Marvel at the incredible flora and fauna of Phillip Island. Pay attention to the rocks: they could be sea lions as they blend in perfectly with the decor! Look through the wooden slats of the path: you will see some little penguins.
Take a look at the information boards around you to learn more.
Distance: 1.4km. Difficulty: easy.
Go at low tide to see spectacular sea caves. These rock formations are only visible from the lookout on Phillip Island Road, in the southeast of the island. Animals can even hide there.
Take a look at the best hikes here.
Where to stay on Phillip Island
The mobile apps Campermate (free) and Wikicamps ($7.99) list a wide selection of campsites for you to choose from. You will find both sites where you can camp with your equipment, and cabins fitted out according to your needs.
Free camping is not permitted on Phillip Island.
If you’re on a bigger budget, hotels and Airbnbs are also available on Phillip Island. Kaloha Holiday Resort Phillip Island is a tropical, beachfront park that’s a great choice for families, with a heated swimming pool, children’s playground, and BBQ facilities. Rooms from $165. Another great option is Ingenia Holidays Phillip Island, where you can choose from standard cabins or more luxurious deluxe and premium villas. Prices from just $76.
Phillip Island controversy
In October 2022, the practice sessions for the Australian Grand Prix took place on Phillip Island. The return of MotoGP created controversy around the protection of Australian wildlife. Sadly, several animals (wallabies, wild geese and seagulls) have been injured or killed crossing the tracks in recent years, which is dangerous for the drivers as well as the animals. Drivers have called for higher podiums around the track after too many near misses.