Under a two hour drive from Melbourne, Phillip Island is the perfect destination for a day trip.
Courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Parks, I was invited to experience the attractions of Phillip Island. The fun-filled day involved seeing land and marine animals, including the famed little penguins of Phillip Island.
For the rest of the month of July, kids go free to the Phillip Island Nature Parks, with one free child's 3 Parks Pass for every adult's 3 Parks Pass purchase. To redeem the offer, you need to like their Facebook page and download the voucher.
We encountered this peacock roaming the gardens at Churchill Island.
A 'three parks pass' ticket (adult $40.40, child $20.20) would gain you access to all of the places I visited. Tickets to each destination can also be purchased separately, if you would only like to visit one or two of the attractions.
Koala Conservation Centre
First, we went to the Koala Conservation Centre. Immediately after the entry is a room with interactive displays about the wildlife. While the robotic koala display was fascinating, seeing koalas in the flesh was much more exciting.
Educational displays at the Koala Conservation Centre.
Boardwalk trails allow visitors to view koalas in their own carefully managed, but more or less natural habitat. Most of the koalas were curled up on high branches, but some were lower down so we could get a better look at them.
The boardwalk trail set-up seems to be the perfect compromise between getting close to the koalas and not disturbing them. The closest koalas were just metres away- near enough to have a good look at, but out of reach of the hands of curious humans.
There were also some colourful birds to be seen at the Conservation Centre. Apparently wallabies and echidnas also roam the grounds, but we did not spot any.
The main drawcard of the farm is the menagerie of farm animals, sure to enchant children and adults alike. You can get extremely close to the animals at the Churchill Island Heritage Farm- or rather, they can get close to you. Geese, roosters and a peacock roam the area, and they do not seem to be shy of people at all.
While most of the animals at the farm are not native to Australia, there is a wallaby enclosure. Unlike the other animals which you can get quite close to, you can only walk around the outside of the fence.
Taking pride of place at the farm was the homestead, which was the holiday house of former mayor of Melbourne, Samuel Amess. The nineteenth century homestead is fairly simple and compact, set up with modest furnishings to be historically accurate. The island has a rich history, being the first place in Victoria to be farmed by settlers.
Sheep shearing was a popular demonstration- it seemed each and every guest at the farm crammed into the shed to watch. Children were invited to sit at the front, but unfortunately the sea of adults standing and craning their necks made it difficult to see much. I suggest arriving at the shed a little earlier than the demonstration is scheduled to begin in order to get a decent spot.
Following the sheep demonstration was a whip cracking demonstration. While most activities on the farm were for children, whip cracking was more for the adults, as grown-up onlookers were invited to try to crack the whip.
Whip cracking demonstration at the Churchill Island farm.
Just a few minutes away from the Penguin Parade, the Nobbies Centre is worth a visit before sunset.
The boardwalks were the highlight of our trip. On one side are breathtaking ocean views, on the other, you can see penguins huddled inside their artificial burrows on the hillside. It seems to be a popular sight for tourists, but it is not too crowded as the boardwalks are so extensive.
Inside the Nobbies Centre were some displays about the marine life. The displays seem to be a little dated and the videos were not operational- I recommend focussing your time on enjoying the views from the boardwalks.
An interactive educational display inside the Nobbies Centre.
It is free to visit the Nobbies Centre, but bring some cash if you would like to operate the binoculars on the boardwalks to get a better view of the shore and its marine life.
The Penguin Parade was incredibly popular, with scores of tourists turning out to see the penguins. At first, budding penguin watchers sat on bleachers facing the beach, for the short wait until the penguins emerged from the water. The penguins came out on cue, close to that night's expected time of 5:50pm. We decided to venture to the penguin parade early in order to get a decent view, but as it turned out this was completely unnecessary. Once the penguins ascended from the beach, they scurried to their burrows which could be seen from the network of boardwalks. Just like the boardwalks at the Koala Conservation Centre and the Nobbies Centre, there was more than enough space to accommodate the sizeable turnout so it was not crowded at all.
Photography of the penguins is not allowed, so you will have to take my word for it that we were mere metres from the adorable penguins. The penguins seemed to be endless. Most scurried past the boardwalks to unseen burrows, but occasionally a penguin would pause for a few minutes. It was fascinating to see the penguins in their natural habitat. I highly recommend the experience, particularly to those who have not seen penguins before.
Inside the Penguin Parade centre are educational displays, which pass the time while you wait but are nowhere near as exciting as the main event. There is also a Penguin Parade café, serving dinner before the parade.
Educational displays inside the Penguin Parade centre.
Beef lasagne from the Penguin Parade cafe. $18.75 (including bottle of soft drink).
Love the peacock picture. This is a wonderful park that I used to visit regularly when I lived in Melbourne. There is so much to see for people who take their time to really observe nature - highly recommend it.