In 1996, the state government formed Phillip Island Nature Parks as a protected area. Located only a 90-minute drive from Melbourne, it's a very special biome consisting of wetlands and woodlands, with creatures like koalas, possums, eastern barred bandicoots, hooded plovers and little penguins calling it home.
It's a proprietor of eco-tourism, a form of travel that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation. One of its biggest drawcards is the Penguin Parade, where visitors can sign up for self-guided or ranger-guided tours to see the world's largest colony of little penguins.
At sunset, the penguins emerge from the ocean and waddle from the shore to their on-land burrows. If you're with a ranger, you'll get to watch them complete their nightly penguin count; it's a practice that's been taking place almost every night since 1978.
You can also visit the Koala Conservation Reserve, where you can wander treetop boardwalks to see the furry critters up close; there's Churchill Island, a picturesque island off the coast of Phillip Island that offers bird-watching huts and historical grounds to explore; the Antarctic Journey, where you'll learn stories about conservation, climate resilience and what lives in the deep; and the Seal Cruise, which will take you to Australia's largest colony of fur seals.
There's a lot to see and do, and the best part is that all revenue raised from these attractions goes towards vital research and environment and education programs. Learn more here.