There are so many top things to do in Phillip Island that it actually shocked me the first time I went. Phillip Island’s penguin parade is famous and justifiably so, but I think this can eclipse all the other Phillip Island attractions. Even if you have no interest in penguins, you could stay a week on Phillip Island and not have time to be bored. We have visited three times in recent years and we still have new things to do on Phillip Island.
Not convinced? Or looking for inspiration for your next family trip? Below you will find our complete guide to what to do in Phillip Island including information about visiting Phillip Island with kids, best places to stay in Phillip Island, how to get around and how much money you might need. What is your favourite Phillip Island attraction?
If you only come to Phillip Island for one thing, it will be the Penguin Parade. This is the most famous of the Phillip Island things to do and it is an amazing experience.
Basically, every sunset wild penguins arrive at a beach on Phillip Island and waddle up the sand and into the scrub to go to sleep. Last time we attended, there was over 1100 penguins!
There are bleachers set up on the beach and you can watch the penguins arrive. I personally found this part underwhelming to start with as the penguins were too far away from me to see much. However, then people started to leave and we were able to move to the front and see penguins up close. Even better was when we left the bleachers to walk back to the information centre. There is a boardwalk to walk along and basically there are penguins everywhere surrounding you – it’s awesome!
This attraction worked well with our young kids (2 and 3 last time we went) and I actually highly recommend taking a pram here – not something I do often! It was easy to push on the boardwalk and it stopped rude tourists from pushing in front of Z who was in the pram (which is what they kept doing to poor 3 year old S).
You can read and see more of this attraction here.
Our favourite option of the free things to do in Phillip Island is to visit the Nobbies Centre.
The Nobbies are large offshore rocks just off the coast of Phillip Island. Just beyond them are the Seal Rocks which are home to Australia’s largest fur seal colony. The Nobbies Centre has views to both and is home to Antarctic Journey.
There’s also boardwalks to get closer to the coast. It’s a nice place to have a wonder and it’s free apart from the Antarctic Journey.
Antarctic Journey is a virtual journey from Phillip Island to Antarctica in Nobbies Centre. This new attraction is worth adding to your list of things to see in Phillip Island.
There are informative displays, interactive exhibits and an amazing “state of the art multimedia experience” where you have a taste of what it might actually feel like to be in Antarctica, taking it all in.
The exhibits focus on the animal life around Phillip Island, the Southern Ocean and down in Antarctica. We learned about how the Southern Ocean helps regulate global temperatures and did many fun things – like seeing how warm our bodies were both before and after entering a “chill zone” which has temperatures like that in Antarctica!
The last part is by far the highlight with massive screen projections of Antarctica and accompanying sound making it feel like we were there. We were able to sit just surrounded by film. The coolest part is an area where it looks like you are standing on an iceberg with visiting penguins, seals and whales. The kids won’t forget that for awhile.
We all loved this place. There was enough to do to keep the kids interested. It’s not very big so they did not get a chance to be bored. It’s also worth visiting if you don’t have kids. We visited on a weekday which was fantastic as we had it to ourselves.
One of our favourite things to do at Phillip Island with kids is the Churchill Island Heritage Farm which is located just off the coast of Phillip Island – you can drive across.
The farm is located in a scenic and historic spot and also has some fun farm activities. We went to demonstrations on cow milking, sheep shearing, whip cracking and working dogs. We tried milking a cow ourselves and it’s also possible to try the whip cracking.
There are many small buildings on the site as well which house things like different animals or trades, such as blacksmiths. It is all very interesting, particularly if you visit with kids.
The Koala Conservation Centre is a perfect place to go if you want to see koalas in their natural habitat – high up in trees.
Our visit started at the information centre where we learned more about koalas. There is then three signposted walks which vary in length up to 1.6 kilometres. We did the two shorter walks which were up on boardwalks (no stairs so prams are fine) so we could get better views of the koalas.
Josh and I enjoyed trying to spot the koalas but the kids were bored quickly – they like their animals easier to find at their young age. We did get to see one up close snacking on some leaves which was their highlight.
The Penguin Parade, Nobbies Centre, Churchill Island Heritage Farm, Antarctic Journey and the Koala Conservation Centre are all part of Phillip Island Nature Parks. You can read more about them from our last visit here.
One of the more popular things to do around Phillip Island is to go on a seal watching cruise. You can see the seals on Seal Rock up close with the boats drifting within metres of thousands of seals. There is also the chance of seeing dolphins, kids activities and morning and afternoon tea.
You can find more details on the Wildlife Coast Cruises website. They also have some other cruise options.
If you are looking for more adventurous Phillip Island things to do, this could be it! If you can’t make it to the Motorcycle Grand Prix itself or one of the many events held here, you can cut a lap with an experienced race car driver or take your own motorcycle for a lap.
There are lots of other choices (read more about them on their website) as well as guided tours, the History of Motorsport Museum and a replica go kart track.
When working out what to do at Phillip Island, Panny’s Phillip Island Chocolate Factory is a yummy choice. You can pop in for a coffee and a chocolate (or better yet, I recommend strawberries with dipping chocolate) and also check out their “amazing world of chocolate” which is a paid attraction.
They describe it as a series of experiences which is a good explanation. The journey started with exhibits about how chocolate is made – from cocoa trees to the finished product. What is cool is that they have small versions of the equipment that perform some of the stages and you can use it yourself.
After that there are model trains (a huge hit with Mr 4, he could have played with that all day), chocolate statues and (interestingly) some ball games. If you won the games, you got to exchange the balls for chocolate.
We then did things like guess what certain chocolate related smells were and make our own chocolate shapes which we could eat.
There’s a surprising amount here, although it’s still a fairly quick attraction – we spent about 40 minutes. There’s a few different chances to eat the chocolate as well as a chocolate bar on arrival.
The cafe and shop is free, the amazing world of chocolate has an entry fee. Find more details and ticket prices on their website.
The National Vietnam Veterans Museum has been built by Vietnam veterans to help support other Vietnam veterans to cope with their experiences during the war. However, there is much of interest for other people too.
The museum has an impressive collection of artefacts from the Vietnam War as well as lots of information. The museum starts with a hologram show which is a good introduction to what happened in the Vietnam War including Australia’s role. There are many vehicles, tanks and aircraft, as well as models which kept our kids particularly interested. Impressively, it’s run by volunteers.
If you want to learn more about the Vietnam War and Australia’s was history, this is a must visit attraction.
Find more information here.
On our first trip to Phillip Island, one our favourite Phillip Island attractions was this trout farm. We had fun trying to catch trout with a toddler S. Thankfully they have instructors around to help though as we didn’t have much luck.
You can take your catch with you or they will cook it up for you. There is also a Bush Tucker Trail to walk around while learning about native foods. More information here.
If you are looking for things to do on the way to Phillip Island, this is a top choice! Located just 20 minutes from Phillip Island on the way from Melbourne this is a great place to stop, especially if you haven’t seen native Australian wildlife before.
Maru Koala and Animal Park is a small wildlife park but it is beautifully presented and contains many native Australian animals. I think that the fact that it is small is a bonus as it’s quick and easy to see all the main Australian animals – like koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, Tasmanian devils, emus, dingoes, kookaburras – without having to walk a lot. They also feel very close which adds to the experience.
The park has quite a few koalas and these, along with feeding kangaroos, are the main highlights. The koalas were the liveliest lot I have seen and there are hourly koala talks to add to the experience. There are also regular sessions with the other creatures.
The entry price includes food to feed the kangaroos and wallabies. I thought this was awesome initially, but the downside is that these creatures are well fed and most are not interested in you feeding them. There’s also the option to do more up close animals encounters.
We very much enjoyed our visit here as it was quick and easy to get close to the wildlife. I especially recommend it for little kids and people who are less mobile as you don’t need to walk much. It is worth adding to your list of things to do near Phillip Island. Find more information here.
You can also visit the Phillip Island Wildlife Park.
At noon every day, the San Remo Fishermans Co-Op feed a group of pelicans on the foreshore right next to the bridge over to Phillip Island. While they are feeding the pelicans, they give an informative talk about these creatures. We love using it as an excuse to have a fish and chips picnic.
Bike riding is a popular choice of what to do in Phillip Island – it is mostly flat and the distances between attractions is not large. You can find some recommended rides here.
There’s also some good walking trails. Read more here.
Of course being an island, popular Phillip Island tourist attractions are the many beaches. The best one for swimming is at Cowes Main Beach or Cowes East Beach.
If you are like me and love a drop of vino, then definitely add visiting a winery to your list of places to visit in Phillip Island. There are two lovely wineries on Phillip Island – Purple Hen and Phillip Island Winery. We have visited and enjoyed them both.
Unfortunately, Phillip Island Winery has only limited opening hours now, usually that coincide with a musical event. Check their website for details.
Purple Hen is open most days but does currently shut Tuesdays and Wednesdays from Easter to Christmas. We tried the wines here and had a yummy tasting platter. Find more details here.
If you are into surfing or want to try it out, the answer of what to do on Phillip Island is to hit the surf!
The best areas for surfing are on the southern coast. Cape Woolamai is the most popular but best suited for experienced surfers. Smiths Beach is the better option for beginners and families.
If you want to hire a board or have a lesson, try Island Surfboards.
Rusty Water Brewery is a great place to have a beer and a meal in the middle of Phillip Island. The beers and food are good and the service even better. For people travelling with kids, there are pencils and colouring papers as well as a kids menu. It was one of the most relaxing meals we have had in awhile with the kids well entertained and happy.
More information including the latest menus (and tasting notes) here.
Cowes is the main town on the island. Although if you are looking for things to do in Cowes Phillip Island, this isn’t where the main attractions are situated. Cowes is about enjoying a wider range of restaurants, shops, hotels and beaches. It’s a handy place to base yourself to be near lots of places to eat and it’s not far from any of the tourist attractions in Phillip Island.
With kids it can be fun to walk along the many rocky edges of the coastline to explore the rock pools. We did this in Cowes – the Anchor Belle Holiday Park (more below) has a guide to the creatures you might find if you are a guest.
A Maze’N Things is an interesting mix of a maze, mini golf, illusions and a puzzle island. There is also the new Skytrail which is a high rope obstacle course and is only open on weekends when we visited in August.
To be honest, I wasn’t that excited by the prospect of going but I was wrong. It was actually very interesting and a fun thing to do in Phillip Island for all of us. We enjoyed all the illusions and puzzles and had fun trying out the different exhibits together. We were surprised by how well some of the illusions worked – both Josh and I had some vertigo. The mirror maze was so good it was actually a bit disturbing.
After finishing with the illusions and puzzle island, we went outside and did the massive maze – the largest wooden one in Australia. There are 4 flags to visit and we had a girls vs boys competition. I’m happy to say the girls well and truly won.
This is a fabulous family activity. There was a high school excursion when we were there and the kids seemed to be enjoying it as well so I think it can work well with kids of all ages.
Find more information on their website.
Phillip Island really is the perfect destination with kids. There are so many things to do in Phillip Island with kids in such a small area that I think it is the best destination in Victoria for a family holiday. Our kids have loved all our adventures on this small island.
We have visited Phillip Island with kids aged from 2 months old to 6 years old and each visit has been a success.
We have stayed in three places so far in Phillip Island and we would recommend them all!
I would recommend that you take a car to Phillip Island. There are other options to get there, but the attractions are spread out and you will need a car to get around.
There is also the option of taking two buses from Melbourne or a train/bus combination. Many day trips also operate from Melbourne, but try to come for longer if you can.
If you only have a day or two in Phillip Island what should you do?
The Phillip Island Nature Park activities – the Penguin Parade, Koala Sanctuary, Churchill Island Heritage Farm and the Nobbies Centre – can make a great day trip from Melbourne. I wrote an article about this here.
Other Phillip Island attractions that I would include with a second day are A Maze’N Things or the chocolate factory in the morning, heading to Rhyll for the trout farm for lunch and the afternoon at the Purple Hen. Maru Koala and Animal Park is also worth a visit on your way to or from Phillip Island especially if you have not had much of an opportunity to get close to Australian wildlife. We enjoyed this Phillip Island attraction more than the Koala Sanctuary as the creatures are much closer.
We have enjoyed everywhere in Phillip Island though, so pick whatever interests you most.
To give you an idea of what a long weekend to Phillip Island can cost, our latest long weekend set us back about $1000 for a family of 4 (we also had our baby with us but he didn’t cost anything). This included three nights accommodation, attractions every day, eating out once a day and our supermarket bill for the rest of our meals.
We saved money by buying a combined attractions pass. Two passes that are worth checking out are the Phillip Island Attractions Pass and the Phillip Island Nature Parks pass. They are easy to buy online and we have used both.
We love Phillip Island! It’s an easy getaway from Melbourne and there is plenty to do, especially with kids. It’s a very easy place to be.
The Penguin Parade is the top attraction and an amazing experience. The other attractions are more low key, but also worth some time. It’s a fun place to get out and about and explore and there is enough that you can come back a few times and still have new places to go – we have spent three long weekends on the island now and would happily come back again.
Have you been to Phillip Island? What’s your favourite thing to do in Phillip Island?
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