You’re reading this article because you’re thinking about taking a trip to Phillip Island, probably with your kids.
Congratulations! This small Melbourne day-trip has a global reputation for being a full dose of family-friendly fun, and you’re about to discover why.
Phillip Island is Australian nature at its most accessible, with everything from surfing and hiking to penguin parades and confectioners crammed together on a stretch of land that’s just 25 minutes’ drive from east to west.
So many different activities on the menu means you’ll need a carefully planned itinerary to make sure you don’t miss anything, which is exactly why we wrote this article. We’ve compiled the best free and paid family activities in Phillip Island all in one place, and we think you’ll love what we’ve found.
Keep reading to find out what made the list.
Hop on a bike
Cycling might not be the first activity that comes to mind when you think about one of Australia’s most popular family destinations, but Phillip Island boasts a multitude of excellent biking trails.
Got younger kids? Start off with a baby 16-kilometre ride on the Tour de Silverleaves-Cowes track. If your brood’s entering the teenage years, try anything from the 24-kilometre A Maze’n Things-Newhaven Run to the massive 80-kilometre Phillip Island Circuit and Tour of Discovery.
Island E-Bike Hire offers electric bikes for hourly or daily hire, which can make tackling those big circuits a lot more fun. Alternatively, if you’re a push-and-pedal traditionalist, Ramada Phillip Island has garden-variety bicycles available for guest hire.
Go for a swim
You’re on an island. In Australia. What were you expecting?
Phillip Island’s beaches fall into two main categories: swimming and surfing. All those pretty, family-friendly beaches you’ve been dreaming about are in the island’s north. The south is lashed by the brutal currents of the Bass Strait – great if you’re suited up and ready to ride some waves, but not so safe if you’re a run-of-the-mill swimmer.
Our top three picks are Cowes Beach (near the Mussel Rocks picnic area and the Erehwon Point Reserve), Ventnor Beach and the photogenic Red Rock Beach. They’re all less than 10 minutes’ drive from Ramada Phillip Island, so don’t feel like you have to choose just one.
Lace up your shoes
If you’re staying on Phillip Island, it’s all about the great outdoors, and the best way for you and your family to absorb the beautiful countryside is on foot.
There’s plenty of smaller trails to explore, both along the coastline and throughout the island’s interior, but the most popular walk is, inarguably, the Cape Woolamai Coastal Walk. This 8.5-kilometre hike takes up to three hours to complete, and loops along the coastline of Cape Woolamai, circling past sites like the Pinnacles, the Beacon and Phillip Island’s abandoned granite quarry (more exciting than it sounds).
For something less time-consuming, check out the Forrest Caves. These rugged seaside caverns are submerged at high tide, but, when the water retreats, they’re a fantastic place to explore with the kids.
Once you’ve smashed out Cape Woolamai and snapped some cool pics of the Caves, try the George Bass Coastal Walk. Meandering along the cliffs between San Remo and Kilcunda, this beautiful trail is practically made for postcard-perfect family pics.
Last but not least, we recommend the reassuringly short (1.2 km) Rhyll Inlet Wetland Boardwalk. This well-maintained timber path guides visitors through a wilderness of sedges and paperbarks – a pleasant contrast to Phillip Island’s typical wind-swept shores.
Visit the Pinnacles
Yes, this one requires more walking, although you’ll be pleased to know that the Pinnacles are actually part of the Cape Woolamai Coastal Walk.
Carved by the ocean over millions of years, these fissured stone columns are one of Phillip Island’s most dramatic natural landmarks. They’re surrounded by mounds of fist-sized stones, so make sure everyone wears good footwear when you wander down from the track to inspect them.
The first thing you want to do is take a really great photo (they’re particularly magnificent at sunset). After that, check out marine life trapped in low-tide rockpools, or enjoy a picnic gazing out across the Bass Strait.
If your kids are young, it’s probably best if they wear long pants when visiting the Pinnacles – you don’t want them to end up bloody-kneed and watery-eyed while you try and console them on the 20-minute hike back to the carpark.
Explore The SS Speke Shipwreck
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that there’s a shipwreck along Phillip Island’s notorious southern coastline.
Owned by British shipping company R. W. Leyland and Co., the three-masted SS Speke ran aground in 1906, apparently due to poor navigation. Although most of the crew survived, the ship was torn apart by the currents, and today just a handful of heavily corroded remnants are scattered among the black stones just past Kitty Miller Bay.
Got kids who love maritime history and giant lumps of rusting metal? Visit at low tide for the best experience. If you’re just interested in some nice pics for the ’gram, high tide offers better aesthetics.
Check out Phillip Island Nature Parks
You’ve been waiting for this one. We know you have. The Bass Strait’s fairy penguins put Phillip Island on the global map, and there’s nowhere better to see them than at Phillip Island Nature Parks.
If you’re worried that these adorable creatures are trapped in a typical wildlife enclosure, visible only through print-smeared Perspex screens, don’t be. They’re all completely wild, and the iconic ‘Penguin Parade’ occurs nightly when they waddle from the ocean to their burrows in the sand dunes of Summerlands Beach. Seeing them up close (you’ll be seated in grandstands on the beach) is a genuinely magical experience that will create incredible memories for your kids.
Of course, there’s a whole lot more to see than just penguins. Phillip Island Nature Parks also runs the Koala Conservation Reserve, which brings you and your family face-to-face with some of Australia’s cutest mammals.
In the heart of Phillip Island, a two wooden boardwalks wind between eucalypts and gums, which frequently feature sleepy-eyed koalas. On the forest floor, explore a network of walking trails populated by echidnas, wallabies and native birds.
It’s not an overstatement to say that the nature parks of Phillip Island are what make this small Victorian destination so special. Do yourself a favour and visit them.
Experience the Nobbies Centre’s Antarctic Journey
Phillip Island is one of the southernmost points of mainland Australia, making it the perfect location for an Antarctic-themed interactive experience. Located in the Nobbies Centre (also part of Phillip Island Nature Parks), the Antarctic Journey is exactly what it sounds like – a virtual tour that immerses you in the frozen, windswept world of Antarctica.
In the Lab, education meets excitement with hands-on activities, while the Antarctic Chill Zone gives you a taste of the southern continent’s painfully cold temperatures. Compare your thermal image to a penguin’s, throw some bowling balls, gaze through a microscope at the Sound Lab and Research Centre…the options are pretty much endless.
Cap it off with the centre’s famous audio-visual augmented reality experience. Watch orcas rear up in front of you, balance on an ice floe, and reach out to pat a bright-eyed penguin as you wander through a world of jagged sculptures and cold blue light.
For families with young children, the Antarctic Journey is one of Phillip Island’s must-do activities.
Relax on Churchill Island
The Penguin Parade might be Phillip Island’s most famous attraction, but Churchill Island is its most historic.
This tiny island – situated just off the north-east coast – became Victoria’s first European garden in 1801 when Lieutenant James Grant ordered his crew of convicts to plant wheat, corn, apples, nectarines and other edibles. It’s also significant for the Boonwurrung/Bunurong First Peoples, who walked it before and after European colonisation.
Today, Churchill’s agricultural legacy continues; although it’s technically a working farm, it’s open for tourists, and includes cattle dog shows, whip cracking, history tours, bandicoot talks, sheep shearing and equestrian demonstrations.
If that’s not enough to keep your kids entertained, there’s also roughly 4 hours of walking trails to explore, including paths that wind beneath ancient moonah trees.
Get lost in A Maze’N Things Theme Park
Phillip Island has a well-deserved reputation as an ecotourism hotspot, but it’s also home to a handful of more traditional attractions, like the A Maze’N Things. Comprising five different sections, each whackier than the last, this absurdist theme park is childhood joy writ large.
Puzzle Island is a collection of reality-bending experiences ranging from the eerie Mirror Room to the downright confusing gravity room. The Magic Manor turns up the craziness with time machines, flying chandeliers and, yes, magic rabbits, so don’t feel bad if you have to step outside to compose yourself with a game of mini golf.
SkyTrail is for the more adventurous – this convoluted high ropes course includes climbing nets, tightropes and swinging bridges (good thing you’ll be wearing a harness). Once your legs stop shaking, it’s time to enter the titular Maze. Get lost in two kilometres of narrow wooden passageways, or let the kids forge ahead while you grab a coffee at the on-site café.
Fill up at Phillip Island Chocolate Factory
Is it the best idea to feed your hyperactive offspring a whole bunch of sugar-loaded treats? Probably not. Are you going to do it anyway? Yes. Why? Because the deliciousness at Phillip Island Chocolate Factory simply can’t be ignored.
If you’ve seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s in store for you. In addition to a storefront featuring a tantalising selection of handcrafted Belgian chocolates, there’s attractions like:
- The world’s largest chocolate waterfall
- A miniature village made completely out of chocolate
- Interactive tours exploring the chocolate-making process
- Chocolate carving
- A penguin fountain (yes, this is actually a thing)
- Animatronic displays
- A mosaic of Dame Edna composed of truffles
- A one-tonne block of chocolate
- A replica of Michelangelo’s ‘David‘ … made entirely of chocolate
This is one Phillip Island attraction that needs to be experienced to be believed, so what are you waiting for? Add it to your itinerary, and start dreaming about the boxes of goodies you’ll be able to take home as ‘souvenirs’.
|Ramada Phillip Island|
|Address||Phone||Website||Cost per person||Time From Resort|
|Biking||Hire available at: Phillip Island, 2128 Phillip Island Rd, Cowes VIC 3922||(03) 5952 8000||Click here||From free||–|
|The Pinnacles||Park at Woolamai Surf Beach Parking. Follow the trail to the Pinnacles Lookout, then take the small dirt track down the hill to see them up close.||–||–||Free||15 minutes by car|
|SS Speke Wreck||Park at Kitty Miller Bay carpark. Take the stairs, then walk left until you see a dirt track. Follow it to the wreck.||–||–||Free||10 minutes|
|Phillip Island Nature Parks||1019 Ventnor Rd, Summerlands VIC 3922||(03) 5951 2800||Click here||Varies||12 minutes|
|Antarctic Journey||1320 Ventnor Rd, Summerlands VIC 3922||(03) 5951 2800||Click here||From $9.00||15 minutes|
|Churchill Island||246 Samuel Amess Dr, Churchill Island VIC 3925||(03) 5956
|Click here||From $6.75||19 minutes|
|A Maze’N Things||1805 Phillip Island Rd, Cowes VIC 3922||(03) 5952 2283||Click here||From $12.00||8 minutes|
|Phillip Island Chocolate Factory||930 Phillip Island Rd, Newhaven VIC 3925||(03) 5956 6600||Click here||From free||13 minutes|
Ready for your Phillip Island adventure? Book your family holiday now.