Getting to Phillip Island only takes 2 hours from Melbourne, and we decided to spend the afternoon and evening there after visiting the Melbourne zoo in the morning… There was easily enough time to do both but spending the whole day on the island is certainly easily possible and I’d love to go back and spend some more time there… I bet its a really nice place to spend the night too!
This was one of 2 pre-booked activities for our time on the island and it is a great place to visit. It is split in to 3 areas, with 2 of these being board walks and 1 being a more open woodland walk. The board walks have a total of about 10 koalas between them and some times they will be at eye level and just about always have signs which point them out to you. If you want to see a koala, that’s the way to do it!
However if you like a bit more of a challenge without having tons of tourists crowing around you, making noise and getting in the way of photos, I highly recommend the woodland walk! There are koalas here too but they require a lot more work to spot… If you plan on going out to try and find them in the wild at any point, this is a good practice run. If nothing else it is a nice walk but is also home to plenty of wallabies, galah cockatoos and kookaburra!
Phillip Island wildlife park
Hmmmmm… Where to start? Well firstly we didn’t plan on coming here and to be honest had no idea it even existed, but had loads of time after the koala centre so decided to pop in.
The cost is $18 for adults, including a free bag of kangaroo food, which is pretty cheap by Australian standards. Right from the start our expectations were low but we had a big surprise when we first entered… The echidnas were actually awake and wandering about, and the koalas looked really nice too. We then headed around the zoo which is home to various reptiles, both indoors and outdoors, birds of prey, parrots, Tasmanian devils, wallabies, kangaroos, wombats, dingoes and more!
I want to say that the animals generally look in great condition and the wallabies and kangaroos are certainly very well fed (a lot of kangaroo food walks around that park), but the enclosures are a different story…. There are some old and run down enclosures (one aviary even had a collapsed tree on it… Birds still inside), and lots of random old falling down buildings which seem to have no real purpose!
With the collection they have they could have great potential with a tidy up and move about! Most of the site has no usage and there are some weird paths which don’t really seem to lead anywhere!
I know they probably suffer a little from being further along the road than the penguin parade and koala centre but it looks like they have decent visitor numbers, so could probably just do with a little re investment… One thing I didn’t understand was the 4 star trip advisor certificate… That’s the same as ZSL London Zoo in the UK or Wildlife Sydney Zoo in Australia! Yeah the animals here look good but this is no 4 star zoo… If you have time and take it for what it is, you can certainly see some nice animals here, and kids will no doubt absolutely love being able to get so close to some of the animals, however if you drive past it on the way to somewhere else, chances are you’re not missing out!
The fig and olive
It was time to pop in to Cowes for some dinner… There are loads of options but for some reason half of them were still shut (with no sign of opening) at 5:00pm. The fig and olive however was open and looked good so we popped in. The food is fairly reasonable Italian fare, but tasted very nice indeed! I had the burger which is not only big (just like pretty much every burger in Australia) but also tasted great – just like the chips!
We had no idea what this was but the sign for it had seal rock underneath it, so was a must check out activity before heading to the penguin parade. The centre was closed by the time we got there but we still had some amazing views across to seal rock from the observation deck. It was close to the penguin parade start time so we didn’t walk all the way down, but the pay as you use binoculars are good…. Saw no seals but plenty of nesting birds.
Best thing about checking out the nobbies, and as a testamentary to why you need to drive carefully in wildlife areas are all the animals by the side of the road… This includes geese, wallabies, and… Wait for it…
The penguin parade
Seeing the little penguins (the smallest penguin species in the world) on Phillip Island is a really nice experience, as they bungle they way up the beach… Especially in March when they are moulting which makes these guys about twice as fat as usual, and thus twice as likely to fall over on the sand!
We went for the ultimate experience package which I highly recommend… Rather than sitting on the stands surrounded by other people and kids you get taken in a group of no more than 10 to actually sit on a secluded part of the beach where they walk past you no more than 6 feet away from you sometimes. Afterwards you then walk back to the penguin parade building through the colony which is very noisy but really cool. We even saw a wallabies hanging out in the surf on the beach!
It is very dark on the beach so you get equipped with a radio receiver so that your guide can tell you what’s going on as well as infra red night vision goggles!
This is a very nice experience and easily worth paying the extra for… As long as no one in your group is under the age of 16.
Remember that no matter which package you choose you are not allowed to take any photos of the Penguins coming on to the beach, but there are plenty of photos, post cards, books and DVDs in the 2 big gift shops. Alternatively they do also have a free app which you can download anywhere (on android or Apple) or whilst at the centre you can take advantage of their free wifi. This app has access to various photos and facts about the Penguins as well as a very cool 24hr webcam feed to one of the penguin boxes… Obviously it’s not always in use as the inhabitant might be out at sea or hanging out in front of their burrow, but it is a nest box which is often used for rearing chicks so depending on the time of year you might be luck enough to watch a penguin chick get reared on this camera!