1. Visit the Township of Cowes Originally named Mussel Rocks, Cowes is the main township on Phillip Island, renamed by Commander Henry Cox in 1865 because it reminded him of Cowes on the Isle of Wight. In its hey-day, Cowes was the luxury retreat of the elite, who travelled over from the mainland on the steam boat Genista and stayed in grandiose guesthouses.
The town remains an island getaway for tourists from Melbourne and elsewhere and is a bustling hub of recreational activities including paddle boats at Mussel Rock, ten-pin bowling and golf, an entertainment centre with billiard tables and games. It also has an impressive cultural scene packed with lively cafés, extraordinary art at the Mingara Gallery and a wide array of island made jewellery and retail shops.
2. Contemplate Coastal scenery Phillip Island's coastal landscape is as diverse as its wildlife. From Rhyll on the north eastern corner, to Cape Woolamai in the south west and Pyramid Rock on the southern tip, each part of its coastline is unique. If you're looking to cast a line, Rhyll is a picturesque fishing hamlet which offers excellent fishing and scenic coastal walks for views across the Rhyll inlet to Observation Point.
The ancient pink granite of Cape Woolamai is Phillip Island's highest point. The viewing platforms and beach walk trails offer magnificent views of the Pinnacles.
While further west at Pyramid Rock panoramic views of the southern coastline also bear witness to the product of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, which is now called Pyramid Rock – columns of basalt shaped like a pyramid.
3. Wine Down The Island is home to some of Victoria's award-winning wineries. Its cool climate and rich volcanic soil produces some excellent quality wines.
The Purple Hen Vineyard has become a favourite, located 4km south of Rhyll Township, the award winning winery offers the full facilities cellar door tastings and purchases and accompanying light platters. Purple Hen's Pinot Noir has been the recipient of several recent awards including the French Chamber of Commerce's Concours du Vin de Victoria 2007.
4. Spot the Seals at The Nobbies and Seal Rocks Perched off the Island's South West corner in Bass Strait is Seal Rocks, home to a colony of over 20,000 Australian Fur Seals. The Nobbies Centre is the Island's newest attraction, where visitors can view the seals using state-of-the-art interactive cameras that focus both above and below water.
The Centre also features presentations of local wildlife and wild seal footage on giant plasma screens, a café and a children's play area. Wildlife Coast Cruises offers daily adventure trips and eco-cruises around Seal Rocks, departing from the Cowes jetty.
5. See the Penguins on Parade
Phillip Island's most popular star attraction is the world famous Penguin Parade where every evening at dusk you can go to Summerland Beach to watch the famous Little Penguins waddle ashore. These Fairy Penguins, recently renamed Little Penguins are the world's smallest penguin, standing at a tiny 33cm.
The viewings of the Penguin Parade are held each evening by the Penguin Reserve. There is an admission charge, but prices vary according to the eco-tour. However, small groups of Little Penguins can also be spotted by the boardwalk at the Nobbies Centre at dusk.
How to Get There
From Melbourne take the M1 to the Cranebourne exit onto the South Gippsland Highway. Follow this onto the Bass Highway and continue pass Bass. At Anderson, take right at the roundabout onto the Phillip Island Tourist Road, past San Remo and over the bridge. V-line transport runs daily coaches from Melbourne to San Remo, Newhaven and Cowes.