While only a 90-minute drive from Melbourne, Phillip Island is a world away in tempo. With bucolic farmland blanketing one side and beaches to the Bass Strait on the other, this rugged stretch of land holds a trove of adventures just waiting to be unlocked.
The penguin adventure
The Little Penguin is the world’s smallest type of penguin and Phillip Island boasts the largest colony on earth. Watch the aptly-named creatures make their dusk commute to cosy beach burrows, speed-waddling out of the ocean in the nightly Penguin Parade – drawing upwards of 600,000 tourists each year.
Where to stay: After the show, turn in at Marlin Beachfront, just 10-minutes’ drive across the island. Accommodation overlooking Smiths Beach ranges from a private couple’s retreat to a six-bedroom large-group house complete with fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows, ideal for soaking in stunning coastal views.
The gourmet adventure
Gippsland is fast becoming one of the hottest wine regions in the country and these two vineyards prove why. Settle in with a grazing platter overflowing with local cheeses and sourdough made at Phillip Island Winery’s onsite micro-bakery, paired with a glass of the producer’s pinot noir (equally oaky and acidic, and easily the bestseller). Next, direct your designated driver 10 minutes east for a tasting at the award-winning Purple Hen Winery – perched on a peninsula overlooking the picturesque Bay of Western Port – and serving up an award-winning 2020 riesling.
Where to stay: Make yourself at home at Ramada Resort, sprawled across 26 hectares of native scrub. Explore the meandering bush trails with complimentary pedal karts, or cool off in the sun-soaked pool before dining at laidback resort eatery, Flametrees Bar and Restaurant.
The nature adventure
Snake your way along sheer cliff tops for an uninterrupted view of the Pinnacles on the Cape Woolamai Circuit walk, The hike is the best way to take in the dramatic pink granite structures reaching skyward from the foamy sea or watch the famously treacherous surf breaks of Woolamai Surf Beach.
Where to stay: Just 100 metres from the breathtaking beaches of Cape Woolamai is Bunya By The Sea, a bright, airy beach house available for private rental. Barbecue a fresh local flathead on the deck or use the house’s 525 power telescope to try your luck spotting migrating southern right whales in the winter months.
The wildlife adventure
Experience nature from the water with Wildlife Coast Cruises and come within metres of playful fur seals from Australia’s largest colony, just two kilometres off the coast. In winter, circumnavigate the island for a chance to spot humpbacks and southern right whales on their majestic annual migration. Feathers more your speed? Take a kayak through world-renowned Rhyll wetlands to spot migratory and resident birds.
Where to stay: Embrace the serenity of Bimbadeen, a 137-hectare family-run working farm. Relax in the country air on the north-facing deck of your own private eco-retreat, check in with curious alpacas or enjoy a walk up Hurricane Hill, the second-highest point on the island.
The flop and drop Adventure
Great adventures often come from little-to-no planning (or plans to do nothing). Opt for the latter and settle in for the sunset at working micro-farm Five Acres. Cosy up inside one of three moody, timber-lined cabins or watch the light change over stunning Western Port Bay from a handcrafted outdoor bathtub. A hotel more your vibe? Silverwater Resort in San Remo, just a short drive from Phillip Island, offers tennis courts, rainfall showers, an outdoor and indoor pool and dinner with a view at Watermark Restaurant (where the local Southern Ranges lamb shank is not to be missed).