With limited time on Phillip Island and so much to see and do, we didn't know if we would have time to visit The Nobbies. But on our last afternoon we ventured out to have a look and we are so glad that we did.
The Nobbies is the headland formation at the end of the Summerland Peninsula on the western tip of Phillip Island.
From here you can view the breathtaking scenery of the rugged coastline and appreciate the wild waters of Bass Strait. These waters are home to Australian fur seals, dolphins and migrating whales. If you visit from late May to early July you might be lucky enough to see the whales on their journey north, travelling from the cool Antarctic waters up to the warmer waters of Queensland, to calve.
Point Grant is connected to the Nobbies at low tide by a large platform of basalt. You can see Seal Rocks in the distance
This area is now known as a haven for wildlife, however it wasn't always this way. Seals were hunted in this area and throughout Bass Strait from the 1800's and sadly, by 1825, the seal population were all but decimated at Seal Rocks. It wasn't until 1928 that the hunting of seals was banned in Victorian waters and a wildlife reserve was created here at Seal Rocks.
Seal Rocks lies approximately 2km to the west of Nobbies. It provides an important breeding area and nursery for a colony of around 25 000 Australian fur seals. To view the seals from Nobbies you can BYO binoculars or use the coin operated binoculars along the boardwalk. Inside the Visitor Centre there are reportedly more options for viewing the seals.
Although not at risk from hunting these days a new threat to the seals has emerged - entanglement in rubbish and debris in the ocean. It is sad to hear that something so preventable is such a big problem. Phillip Island Nature Parks rescue an average of 20 entangled fur seals each year from discarded rubbish such as fishing nets and lines and plastic bags. Unfortunately it is the seal pups that are most susceptible to becoming entangled.
Fishing line around the neck of an Australian fur seal.(Image Credit: Phillip Island Nature Park)
As part of its conservation and protection role Phillip Island Nature Parks is also involved in seal research to monitor the diet and health of the seals and record their population after each breeding season.
Not only home to Australian fur seals, Nobbies is also an important nesting ground for some of the 200 species of birds that call Phillip Island home. As you walk along the boardwalk you can see the nesting boxes amongst the hills and enjoy some bird spotting.
Before boardwalks were installed in the 1980's the footsteps of visitors destroyed much of the vegetation and plants that grew here. Thankfully through the protection of the boardwalks and conservation efforts it has regenerated and was quite lush when we visited.
You will find signs along the boardwalk which include interesting information about the wildlife, vegetation and history of the area.
The Nobbies Visitor Centre is free to enter and includes a café, gift shop and exhibits. Unfortunately the Nobbies Visitor Centre was in the process of refurbishment when we visited, so I am unable to provide more information. According to their website there is a new permanent exhibit due to open in December 2015.
Phillip Island is just 90 minutes south east of Melbourne. Phillip Island Nature Park is a not for profit conservation organisation which looks after 1805 hectares across Phillip Island, including The Nobbies. Tourism on the island is managed in a way that can benefit the area by raising awareness of environmental issues and by using the funds from ticket sales and investing in conservation, research, education, wildlife rescue, and environment activities.
Located 5 minutes beyond the Penguin Parade, the Nobbies Centre is open every day but closes one hour before sunset to protect the native wildlife. You can check the website for current opening times.