Motorcycle fanatics know it as the home of the MotoGP but there’s plenty to see and do on Phillip Island beyond superbike racing. A 90-minute drive south of Melbourne, the 101-square-kilometre patch is home to the famous Penguin Parade – a nightly procession of the island’s 32,000 black-and-white waddlers – and beaches fronting the rugged beauty of Bass Strait. With accommodation options ranging from caravans and camping to boutique luxury, plus an emerging food and wine scene, it’s a destination guaranteed to recharge the batteries – whatever your speed.
Where to stay
It’s a popular spot for camping and caravanning but Phillip Island accommodation hasn’t always conjured images of five-star indulgence. Now, at Five Acres, only 10 minutes drive from the main township of Cowes, three luxe timber cabins sit among the micro-farm’s fruit trees and serene cattle, with an outlook that takes in rolling pastures and the waters of Western Port Bay. The contemporary boltholes are built for two and tailor-made for a romantic getaway, with a cosy wood fire and a bathtub on the private deck.
Families will love Silverwater Resort, where one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments come equipped with a modern kitchen and laundry, plus a barbecue on the balcony. Though the 170-room hotel isn’t technically on Phillip Island – it’s in San Remo on the mainland side of the bridge – it has coastal views that are hard to beat. Also on offer: three pools; basketball, tennis and bocce courts; an indoor/outdoor restaurant; and next-level playground.
If sleeping under the stars is more your style, The Sheltered Glamping Co. has you covered. Accommodating up to 44 people on a four-hectare property within easy walking distance of the beach, the 10 private spaces range from canvas tents nestled among paperbark trees to a safari-style setup complete with kitchenette and hot shower.
Where to eat
M&O Cafe and Tapas
Head to this bustling spot directly opposite the main beach for all-day breakfasts that go the extra mile, whether it’s the chilli scrambled eggs with dukkah or the sticky salted caramel sauce that anoints banana bread French toast. Weekend evenings see the switch flicked to a punchy tapas menu.
The Cape Kitchen
Arresting clifftop views over wild Bass Strait almost distract from the smart modern menu built around regional produce at this sleek waterfront institution. Josper roasted eggplant with beetroot hummus and caper speckled cured salmon bring Mediterranean flair to a leisurely lunch.
Isola Di Capri
Phillip Island’s oldest Italian restaurant remains its finest, with a timeless whitewashed dining room and focus on the classics, from calamari fritti and spaghetti carbonara to a best-in-show margherita pizza. For dessert, pop next door to its gelateria.
This rustic one-stop gourmet shop will get your pulse racing with beans from local roaster Folks Coffee before nudging you towards food bliss with brunch fare such as a spicy tuna melt oozing cheddar and jazzed up with jalapeños.
Wild Food Farm
Walk the bush food trail at this lush property near Rhyll before furthering your exploration of native ingredients with the wattleseed scones, native-berry beef pies and barramundi with finger lime aïoli served at the farmhouse café.
The top 10 things to do on Phillip Island
Visit the penguins
Join the crowds on the beachfront grandstands at the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre to watch as thousands of the birds waddle home to their burrows each evening. Or treat yourself to a ranger-guided tour that includes night-vision scopes and access to the heart of the penguin colony.
Take a surfing lesson
With world-class swells and a proud surfing history that dates back to the 1920s, Phillip Island became Victoria’s first National Surfing Reserve in 2013. Beginners can tackle the waves during a two-hour lesson with Island Surfboards Surf School, a family-run operation that boasts a 99 per cent stand up guarantee.
Walk Cape Woolamai
Traverse the island’s highest point and one of Victoria’s most-loved surfing beaches on the Cape Woolamai Walk. There are several moderate tracks; give yourself 2.5 hours to complete the 6.6-kilometre Beacon loop, stopping at viewing platforms to take in 360-degree views of San Remo, Kilcunda and beyond.
Look up at the stars
With clear skies, uninterrupted vistas and limited light pollution, Phillip Island promises spectacular stargazing – you might even see aurora australis. Astrotourism enthusiasts can book a private workshop with Photo Rangers to learn the ins and outs of chasing and photographing the incredible Southern Lights in all their multi-coloured glory.
Hang out with koalas
Meet the locals at the Koala Conservation Reserve, where you can spot the sleepy marsupials in their natural habitat. Stroll the easily accessible treetop boardwalks, check out interactive displays at the visitor centre and wander the bushland trails, where you might also see wallabies, echidnas and brightly coloured birds.
Hit the high seas
Hop aboard a Wildlife Coast cruise for views of the rugged shoreline, turquoise waters and if you’re lucky, passing dolphins and whales. Humpback season runs from June to late October but you can get up close to thousands of fur seals at the famed Seal Rocks – Australia’s largest colony – year round.
Step back in time
A 10-minute drive out of Cowes, Churchill Island Heritage Farm is a must-see for families. Learn about the region’s First Nations people and explore the historic grounds, a working farm since the 1850s; kids will enjoy the Clydesdale-drawn wagon rides, sheep-shearing demonstrations and meeting the working dogs.
Take the Phillip Island Drink Trail
Sample the region’s excellent cool-climate drops at Purple Hen Wines and Phillip Island Winery, where there’s a relaxed restaurant, picnic-friendly lawns and a gift shop full of locally made products. Then get your craft beer fix at Ocean Reach Brewing, a go-to for a burger and seasonal IPA.
Gear up for go-karting
A replica of the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit – home of the hugely popular MotoGP held in October every year – this 750-metre go-kart track is sure to get your motor running. You can book in 10-minute sessions or as a group for exclusive use and also take Australia’s largest slot car track for a spin.
Survey the skies
Whether you take an eight-minute lap of Cape Woolamai or a full tour, a scenic flight with Phillip Island Helicopters delivers epic panoramas of the island’s nature parks. Highlights include soaring over the Penguin Parade, The Nobbies, Seal Rocks and picture-perfect beaches like Surfies Point.