Phillip Island tours
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Your guide to visiting Phillip Island - Timings, directions, best time to visit

Plan your visit to Phillip Island with our handy guide! 

Lying 125 km south-southeast of Melbourne, Phillip Island is well-loved as a day trip destination by tourists and locals alike. Visit Phillip Island and you’ll be able to see Little Penguins, koalas, wallabies and many other species of Australian wildlife in their natural habitat. It also has attractions like a chocolate factory, an amusement park, natural rock formations and a number of pristine beaches that are sure to leave you spoilt for choice. 

Phillip Island tour timings

Guided tours

Guided tours are of two kinds—full-day and half-day. A full-day tour is usually around 10 hours long and includes multiple spots, like Koala Conservation Reserve, The Nobbies, and the Penguin Parade. The half-day tour needs less time and has fewer spots. These tours start around 11:45 a.m.

Combo tours

These combine two or more experiences to give you variety in your full-day travel itinerary. They usually include a stop at the Penguin Parade and another nearby experience like a trip to Brighton Beach, a ride on the Puffing Billy Train or a visit to the Healesville Sanctuary. These tours are usually scheduled around 10am.

Cruises

Phillip Island has sightseeing cruises as well as cruises with meals. These usually last from 1-4 hours. There are whale-watching cruises, seal-watching cruises, Cape Woolamai cruises and others. The usual slots of these cruises are 8:30am, 2pm and 10:45am respectively.

Phillip Island Nature Park timings

There are a number of nature and theme parks on Phillip Island. Here is a list of their typical timings -

  1. Penguin Parade: The park is open at 4pm, but it is recommended that you reach at least one hour before the penguins arrive if you want a clear view. They come back around 6-7pm.
  2. Koala Conservation Reserve: This reserve park is open from 10am to 5pm daily, barring Christmas Day. Last entry to the boardwalk is at 4:30pm.
  3. Churchill Island: The island, just off the coast of Phillip Island, is open for tourists between 10am and 4:30pm on weekdays and between 9am to 4:30pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Last entry is at 4pm.
  4. Antarctic Journey: The highlight of The Nobbies, the Antarctic Journey park, is open from 10am to 5pm on weekdays, but you have to get in by 4:30pm.
  5. Chocolate Factory: The Phillip Island Chocolate Factory is open from 10am to 5pm every day. Last admission is at 4pm. It is also closed on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
  6. A Maze’n Things: This fun theme park is usually open from 10am to 5pm, all days of the week. You need to enter by 3pm. 

Best time to visit Phillip Island

Phillip Island (as a whole)

No matter which season you choose to visit Phillip Island, you’ll seldom be bored. However, summertime, which is from December to February, is the peak season for Phillip Island. March to May is a good time to see seal pups swimming and learning to catch prey. The Winter months, June to August, are the low season. Since Phillip Island is a great day-trip destination, avoid the weekends, public holidays and school holidays if you want to experience a less-crowded trip around the island.

Phillip Island Nature Parks

Summer is the best time to enjoy the nature parks on Phillip Island, mainly because many of them have outdoor activities like wildlife tours, treetop boardwalks and boating, which is the best during pleasant weather. Autumn and Spring are a great time for long walks, hikes and picnics. However, you can put on some layers and go for coastal and bush walks during the Winter months. Crowds will definitely be higher during summer and holidays. Autumn months, March to May, will be pleasant with less crowds.

Penguin Parade

The best time to see the Penguin Parade is November through March. Summers signal the arrival of the chicks, so the number of penguins is higher and you may even be able to see some chicks! February to April is molting season when young penguins shed and replace their chick feathers to their adult feathers, which is also quite fascinating to witness. In fact, the penguin parade happens every evening at sunset, and when you’d like to visit them depends on whether you don’t mind crowds. You can visit the penguins in the winter as well, as long as you prepare for the cold evenings. And bring a raincoat!

Getting to Phillip Island from Melbourne

By public transport

Buses: Take the V/Line coach bus from the Southern Cross Station to Phillip Island. It will take about 3 hours to get to the San Remo bridge, which connects the island to the mainland. A change of bus is needed at Koo Wee Rup to reach the island all the way.

Trains: A train can only travel part of the way from Melbourne to Phillip Island. First, get to the Dandenong region from the city, and then take a ferry for the rest of the way.

Ferries: Ferries connect the mainland and the island. Take the ferry from the Stony Point Jetty and it’ll take you 45 minutes to get to the island.

By car

Car: You can reach Phillip Island from the Melbourne CBD in less than two hours. You can take the routes M1 and M420 to reach the island. 

Parking: Here are some parking spots in Phillip Island if you choose to drive to the island -

Carpark Phillip Island wildlife park

Kitty Miller Bay - Car Park

Woolamai Surf Beach Parking

Getting around Phillip Island

Phillip Island does not have a great public transport network. Western Port Passenger Ferry Service has services running between Stony Point on the Mornington Peninsula, Tankerton on French Island and Cowes on Phillip Island. Private charter buses are available from Wonthaggi to Cowes daily. You can also go around on a helicopter in Phillip Island! 

The best way to get around the island is in a car or on a bike. You can easily rent both here and there are great parking services on the island.

Know before visiting Phillip Island

Accessibility
What to carry
Tips
Dining
Stay
  • Penguin Parade: The Penguin Parade can be entirely accessed on a wheelchair. Free wheelchairs are also available inside the visitor center.
  • Koala Conservation Reserve: The reserve has wheelchair access, including treetop boardwalks so that you can see the koalas up close from your wheelchair.
  • Churchill Island: The island has wheelchair parking at all farming activity stations and the paths are smooth and have moderate gradients.
  • Antarctic Journey: The Nobbies Centre, within which lies the Antarctic Journey, has internal pathways for wheelchairs, ramps and lifts to assist those with mobility issues.
  • Chocolate Factory: The complex is on one level, and the height of the displays is all wheelchair accessible. There are also disabled parking spots.
  • A Maze’n Things: Many of the attractions at the theme park are wheelchair accessible, especially Puzzle Island and the Magic Manor.

When you visit Phillip Island, you should definitely wear comfortable clothes and shoes as there is a lot of walking involved. Carry an umbrella or a raincoat if there is a rain forecast, especially during the winter. Do not forget to carry sunscreen. When visiting the Penguin Parade, you should bring a warm layer because the coast can get windy and chilly after sundown.

phillip island map
  • Map: Keep this map of Phillip Island handy to know what attractions should be on your bucket list.
  • Children: It is recommended that you have a conversation with kids prior to visiting Phillip Island, mainly because they’ll be in close proximity to a lot of wildlife. Make sure to tell them not to go close or try to touch a penguin or seal.
  • Stay: It is best to stay a night at Phillip Island, especially if you want to experience the Penguin Parade. In the Summer, sundown can be quite late and you wouldn’t want to drive back in darkness as there are very few street lights.
  • Planning: Plan your trip to Phillip Island well. The timings of the Penguin Parade especially change from season to season, so make sure you’re well aware of it.
  • Travel: When visiting Phillip Island, it is best to hire a car or a bike. There are many convenient parking spaces, and public transport is scarce.
  • Weather: Always be prepared with a raincoat or an umbrella, as the island’s weather is unpredictable. Keep a warm layer close as well.

Saigon Maggie: Located in Cowes Plaza, this Vietnamese restaurant is a go-to place if you’re craving a hot broth. Especially popular during the winters, this small, family-run unit has great flavor and portion sizes.
Address: 8/209-213 Settlement Rd, Cowes VIC 3922, Australia

Cafe Omaru: This Sri Lankan restaurant, serving curries and traditional fare with fresh ingredients, is a unique farm-to-table experience in Phillip Island. It’s also near the Penguin Parade!
Address: 776 Ventnor Rd, Ventnor VIC 3922, Australia

FlameTrees Restaurant, Cafe & Bar: Located within the Ramada Resort by Wyndham, this spacious restaurant is tastefully set up and is well known in the island for its woodfire Pizzeria. 
Address: 2128 Phillip Island Rd, Cowes VIC 3922, Australia

Wing Ho Chinese Restaurant: If you’re craving Chinese, this quaint little restaurant serves traditional Chinese cuisine at an affordable price. 
Address: 81 Thompson Ave, Cowes VIC 3922, Australia

Ramada Resort by Wyndham Phillip Island: About 4 km away from Koala Conservation Centre and 5 km away from Smiths Beach, this 4-star hotel is set on 26 hectares of bushland. 
Address: Phillip Island, 2128 Phillip Island Rd, Cowes VIC 3922, Australia

North Pier Hotel, Bar, Bistro & Accommodation: Near the Western Port Bay beach, this 3-star hotel is close to the Phillip Island Wildlife Park and the Phillip Island Circuit.
Address: 5 The Esplanade, Cowes VIC 3922, Australia

Oak Tree Lodge: Located in the quiet little village of Rhyll, this luxury hotel is designed around a little English-style garden and has a period setting decor.
Address: 32-34 Walton St, Rhyll VIC 3923, Australia

Swan Lake Guest House: This fairytale-like quaint hotel has stunning views, being just across Flynn's Reef Beach, and is just a 3-minute walk away from Penguin Parade.
Address: 935 Ventnor Rd, Ventnor VIC 3922, Australia

Marlin Beachfront, Smiths Beach: Sitting among 10 acres of rural land, this hotel is a paradise for those who like being close to nature. 
Address: 1 Marlin St, Smiths Beach VIC 3923, Australia

Do's and Don’ts at the Penguin Parade

The Penguin Parade is one of the most important attractions on Phillip Island, mainly because of the Little Penguins. It is a rare opportunity to witness these penguins in their natural habitat, going about their day. And to best experience this, here is a list of dos and don’ts that you should keep in mind for the happiness of both you and the penguins.

Do's:

  • Attire: Wear something warm when you go penguin viewing, as the coast can get chilly as the sun sets. In the winter, remember to carry your raincoat, as it rains pretty often.
  • Arrival: Get to the viewing area at least an hour before sundown so that you are fully ready and in your seats when the penguins appear.
  • Briefing: Listen to the briefing and instructions and follow the rules of the experience. It is a big responsibility to take care of the penguins while enjoying yourself..
  • Souvenirs: If you wish to get photographs of the penguins, they are readily available at the park. Other souvenirs are also available at gift shops and retail outlets.
  • Trash: Snacks and drinks are available nearby, so make sure that you throw your trash away correctly.

Don’ts

  • Photography: Do not take photographs or videos of the penguins after sundown. This is the cardinal rule of the Parade. These penguins are nervous and delicate creatures who get stressed and disoriented due to flashes of light or even phone screen light. So, it is best to keep your phone away altogether. 
  • Seating area: The seating areas are demarcated clearly with rope. Do not try to get closer to the penguin paths or cross the ropes for any reason.
  • Cash: Do not carry just cash with you. The ticket kiosk, gift shop and food shacks are all cashless.
  • Driving: It is best to avoid trying to get back to Melbourne on the same day as your Parade visit. Depending on the time of the year, the viewing can go on till late and it may be dangerous to drive back if you’re not used to the road conditions. There are very few lights on the road till you get closer to Melbourne.
  • Contact: Do not go near the penguins or startle them in any way if you come close to them accidentally. There may be a few hanging about the boardwalk, so be careful when walking. 

Other day trips from Melbourne

Ballarat Wildlife Park

A family-owned wildlife park and conservation unit, Ballarat hosts a range of native Australian animals like kangaroos, koalas, wombats and emus, as well as the famous Super-Croc, CRUNCH.

Puffing Billy tours

Set amidst the breathtaking Dandenong Ranges, the Puffing Billy experience entails riding a century-old steam train through lush green terrain. Marvel at the beautiful forests from the open-air cart as the train chugs from Belgrave to Emerald.

Mornington Peninsula Hot Springs

Nestled amidst the Victorian coast bushlands, these natural geothermal mineral springs are the perfect self-care getaway. Enjoy a relaxing spa and take a dip into the natural springs to find your way back to nature.

Frequently asked questions about visiting Phillip Island

How frequently is public transportation available on the island?

Phillip Island does not have a great public transport system. There are ferries that connect a few places and some private charter buses are available. There are also helicopter rides that you can take around the island.

When can I see the molting penguins?

The molting season for the penguins at Phillip Island is from February through March. 

What are the best attractions of Phillip Island?

Phillip Island has a number of attractions, some of the best being the Penguin Parade, Koala Conservation Reserve, A Maze’N Things, Phillip Island Chocolate Factory, Cape Woolamai, and The Nobbies.

How long should I spend at Phillip Island?

Phillip Island is about 2 hours away from Melbourne and has a lot of attractions. Therefore, a one-night stay is recommended, especially if you’re staying to watch the Penguin Parade. 

When can I see the most number of penguins at the Penguin Parade?

You’ll be able to see the most number of penguins in the Summer, from November to February. This is the chick feeding season so you’re likely to see a lot of young ones too!

What activities can my kids do at Phillip Island?

The Penguin Parade is quite a fascinating sight and is open to children of all ages. Most nature parks, too, have a number of children’s activities. However, the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory and the A Maze’N Things theme park are the biggest hits with kids.

What is the easiest way of getting around Phillip Island?

The easiest way to go around Phillip Island is to use a car or a bike. You can rent both at the island. The island is also immensely walkable.

What can we do at Phillip Island during Winter?

Although the temperatures dip considerably, there are a number of things you can do if you visit Phillip Island in the winter. Penguins appear at the Penguin Parade all year round, so you’ll be able to enjoy that even in the winter, even if the numbers are less. You can even go whale-watching or do some of the bush and coastal walks.

Can I pet the penguins?

No, it is strictly forbidden to touch or go near a penguin. They are very timid and sensitive creatures so we must maintain our distance for their protection.

Are the Phillip Island attractions wheelchair accessible?

Phillip Island attractions are all widely accessible by those who use wheelchairs. The Penguin Parade has a separate section for wheelchair users so that they can enjoy the penguin viewing in comfort. The Koala Conservation Reserve has ramped treetop boardwalks that make it wheelchair accessible. The Nobbies Centre is also equipped with ramps and lifts for safe access for wheelchairs.