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Two people walk along a coastal boardwalk overlooking the ocean at sunset.
Photograph: Supplied

Things you can only do on Phillip Island

Only a short journey from Melbourne’s CBD, you’ll feel a million miles away when you bliss out on this picturesque isle

By Time Out in association with Visit Victoria
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A sparkling jewel in Victoria’s glittering crown, Phillip Island is one of the most beautiful coastal escapes you could hope for. The ancestral home of the Hemsworths, there’s a reason why it attracts Australian royalty. Only a short drive from Melbourne, it makes for the perfect weekend getaway. There are Insta-ready surf spots stretching along rugged coastal trails, idyllic cafés and wineries to unwind in, plus a bewildering range of exciting adventure experiences for all ages. And then there’s the real celebrity deal: the island’s world-famous little penguins.

Think you know everything there is to see and do on Phillip Island? We've teamed up with Visit Phillip Island and Visit Victoria for their 'Stay close, go further' campaign to bring you a fresh take on what makes this region so special. Here are the experiences that drive visitors to return year after year, and have cemented Phillip Island as a must-visit destination.

Natural wonders
Photograph: Supplied/Pyramid Rock

Natural wonders

Considering how easy it is to drive to Phillip Island from Melbourne's CBD, it really does feel like another world when you get there. Instead of skyscrapers you'll find towering ancient rock formations that scrabble out of the sea and thrust up towards bright blue skies. Check out Pyramid Rock on the island’s southernmost point, caressed by the wild waves of the Bass Strait, and then take a leisurely stroll along Berrys Beach. If you love a good hike, you’ll also want to explore the granite cliffs of Cape Woolamai, where you can watch surfers catch waves from way on high. Bird watchers will want to carve out some time to stroll along the boardwalk that winds through the mangrove-studded wetlands of Rhyll Inlet, or hop on your bike and work up a sweat.

Signature dishes
Photograph: Supplied/Phillip Island Winery

Signature dishes

Another brilliant reason to take a day trip to Phillip Island is all the delicious food, drawing on local gourmet produce. The 14-acre ramble of Phillip Island Winery is one of our favourite stops to visit. Famous for their coastal-breeze-infused pinot noirs, moscatos and sparkling heroes, why have one when you can try them all? Opt for their scrummy grazing board and wine tasting combo. For a heartier lunchtime feed, head over to Wild Food Farm and Café at Rhyll Inlet for one of the tastiest dishes on the island: the tangy lemon myrtle tempura barramundi served with chunky chips. And you can’t go past the rocky road sundae washed down with a steaming mug of hot choc at the tastebud-melting Phillip Island Chocolate Factory for dessert.

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One-of-a-kind experiences
Photograph: Supplied/Phillip Island Penguin Parade

One-of-a-kind experiences

It’s not just the vast rocky outcrops and pristine beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see that pull visitors from all over Australia and beyond to Phillip Island. The number one drawcard are teeny weeny, and only come out at night. The Summerland Peninsula on the western tip of the island is home to Australia’s largest colony of utterly adorable, 30 centimetre-tall little penguins. That’s actually their proper name, and these eensy-weensy flightless floofs perform a show-stopping parade every eve. At the other end of the size scale, visit during the winter months and you might get to spot orcas and humpback whales frolicking off the coast on a tour with Wildlife Coast Cruises. Then transition seamlessly from blowholes to mini golf at the fab A Maze’N Things for fun for all the fam. The Magic Manor is a must-see for budding magicians.

Boutique shops
Photograph: Claire Davie/Ivy Plant Studio

Boutique shops

The natural beauty of Phillip Island speaks for itself, but there’s a proud tradition of handcrafted, artisanal endeavours too. That’s why no trip to the island is complete without indulging in a recce of the brilliant boutiques on offer. If you’re a nester, then you’re going to go crazy in Ivy Plant Studio. Sitting pretty at the entrance to the island, it stocks everything from homely stoneware pots and the green stuff that goes in them, to beautiful rattan furniture pieces that will give your pad a glow up. Interior design fanatics should also drop into Brinnie T Design in Cowes for abundant inspiration for your home’s lush new look. Fashionistas will look even more glamorous after a dash around nearby Tyde.

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Museums and galleries
Photograph: Supplied/History of Motorsport Display

Museums and galleries

Rev heads flock to Phillip Island for high octane four-wheeled events like Shannons Motorsport Australia Championships and turbo-boosted two-wheel showdowns like the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix. If that gets your heart racing, make sure you floor it to the History of Motorsport Display to discover more about Phillip Island’s fast and furious history. It’s an excellent location for adventurous spirits. Dive into the so-real-it’s-unbelievable immersive Antarctic Journey experience at Nobbies Centre, where you can get a sense of what it must be like to go on an exciting expedition to the South Pole. And if history is your bag, we highly recommend paying a visit to the National Vietnam Veterans Museum for a deeper understanding of the long shadow of global conflict.

Memorable accommodation
Photograph: Claire Davie/Waikiki Beachfront

Memorable accommodation

With so much to see and do on an action-packed trip to Phillip Island, you’ll want to make sure you've got somewhere to unwind at the end of a long day. Luckily enough, there are heaps of great options to book for a night or two (or more!). One of our favourites is Five Acres, which comprises three luxury coastal cabins dotted on a working farm overlooking Western Port Bay. Seriously, these dinky masterpieces look like they’ve been dropped on the grass direct from appearing on Grand Designs. You can make the most of Cowes' café, bar and restaurant scene by staying in 19th-century homestead Glen Isla House for a bed and brekkie experience that’s a cut above. Or aim high with the weatherboard beauty that is Waikiki Beachfront at Smiths Beach. With its cliffside view of the surf beach below, it’s pure magic.

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