Phillip Island is only (approximately) 1.5 hours from Melbourne so it makes for a perfect easy holiday destination. You’ll find so many fun things to do in Phillip Island with kids. Here is our guide on what to do in Phillip Island. Complied after many visits over the past 20 years. I think every trip we will probably find a new beach to explore!
There are so many top things to do in Phillip Island, it really is worth more than a day trip.
Let me know what your favourite Phillip Island attraction is? For us, I think it’s exploring the beaches and Cape Woolamai. Two, free outdoor activities to enjoy on Phillip Island with kids.
Back in my University days where I studied a Bachelor of Business/Tourism, I actually applied and had a couple of interviews for a marketing role with the Phillip Island Nature Parks team. How different life could have turned out if I won that job and spent time driving to and from the Island 5 days a week!
Also, as a child I spent 3 weeks every Christmas/January staying the in the Beach Park Tourist Caravan Park not far from Cowes for a number of years. A lot has changed, a lot a still exactly the same!
We even found a couple of new free activities on our latest trip. Even after visiting on and off for 20 years we had never visited these places!
What you can find in this post
Explore the Forrest Caves on Phillip Island
Kicking off with Forrest Caves. A place which in all our years of visiting and exploring Phillip Island we had never been too!
Driving towards Cowes, the car park is just past The Cape Kitchen drive way on the left hand side. It can be hard to spot as the signage is not obvious (enter ‘Forrest Caves Carpark’ into google maps and you’ll get there!).
You take the stairs up and over onto the beach, turn left and walk approx. 500m to the caves. This can ONLY be explored at low tide so please check the tide times before setting off.
There are two caves, formed by sea water erosion over the years. The caves are not huge but are cool and dark in places. The kids were jumping up and down with excitement. Can highly recommend this hidden gem on Phillip Island.
Flying down the Phillip Island sand dunes, nicknamed ‘Spew Hill’
Driving over the bridge from San Remo onto Phillip Island, we had always noticed the sand dunes to the left, but never thought about visiting them or where exactly they might be. Well, this trip we set off to explore!
Travel to the furthest Woolamai carpark and park your car. Then, head back up along the road about 20 metres and you’ll see a small walking trail entrance. From here it is approximately 400m across the sand (yep, it gets hot!) before arriving at the bay. Turn right and you can’t miss the sand dunes.
It’s a big effort walking up the hill for a speedy ride down. If you are fast enough you might end up straight into the water to cool off.
As fun as this activity is for big and little kids, remember to always respect the environment and don’t trample across vegetation.
Bring your own boogie board, bathers, towels, drinking water and snacks. We were there for longer than I was expecting!
Phillip Island Beaches
There are so many beaches on Phillip Island, far too many to mention. The ever popular Cowes beach is a safe swimming beach. There are lifeguards and flags to the left of the jetty and to the right there seems to be endless open beach with shallow water for the kids to play, stretching all the way down past the Silverleaves area.
Smiths Beach seems to be the most popular beach for boogie boarding (and has been for 20 odd years). YCW next to Smiths is quite often not as busy. Red Rocks beach has been said to be the locals choice. We loved exploring the rock pools of Berry’s Beach and there are surfing spots all around, including off the coast near The Nobbies.
Your choices are endless!
Phillip Island Nature Parks
The main attractions on Phillip Island are the Penguin Parade, Churchill Island, Koala Conservation Park and the Nobbies/Antarctic Journey. Tickets are available individually or you can save and purchase a 4 parks super pass. Check out discounted entry tickets here. If you are an RACV member you can also buy discounted tickets here. Make sure you purchase your tickets in advance as the penguins especially will sell out during peak times.
Phillip Island Penguin Parade
For sure this is the most popular and well known attraction on Phillip Island. Upon dusk every night, hundreds of little penguins make their way up the beach.
Everyday during our summer week we saw a couple of signs that said that the penguins were booked out. The Christmas/New Year period is obviously a super busy time.
We visited for a weekend in winter and enjoyed the Phillip Island Penguin Parade at this time. For us, with the kids, it was much better to be there when the penguins arrive around 6.30pm, rather than be waiting at 9.30pm, which is the case over summer. This is just too late for our little ones (not to mention we are well and truly enjoying dinner and wine as adults at this time over summer!!!).
There are a number of viewing options at different price points. We opted for the ‘Penguins Plus’ which is one level up from the General Viewing. We were in a different section to the general viewing and were very close to the penguins as they waddled past. It was busy and we felt like even though we had paid extra for these tickets we struggled to find a seat in the beginning. Everyone is very keen to see the first penguins waddle up the beach but after 5 minutes people are moving around and following them along the boardwalk so you will have ample opportunities to see them.
If you are visiting over winter then you will definitely need to rug up. Take snacks and drinks and this helps pass the time while waiting. You are not allowed to take photo’s of the penguins, so feel free to tell anyone off you see doing this (we did, so did the kids!).
Phillip Island’s penguin parade is famous as the penguins are gorgeous. We loved the experience but it is one of those things that once every 10 or 15 years is plenty!
Koala Conservation Park
The Koala Conservation Park offers two treetop boardwalks through the bushland allowing you to get up close and personal with these furry creatures in their natural habitat. You also might be lucky and see a koala in the trees as you are driving through Phillip Island.
We visited this attraction a couple of years ago when it was relatively new. It is small enough that it will keep the kids entertained without getting bored but it is not somewhere you need to dedicate a whole day towards.
It’s well done but doesn’t seem to generate the hype that other Phillip Island attractions do. There are lots of hands on activities which educate and entertain all ages. The freeze room is interesting as you can feel how cold it may get in Antarctica and then check out your thermal image.
There is a pretty cool interactive experience for the kids where you will find yourself standing on a ice berg and feel like you are reaching out to the penguins or a whale whilst viewing it all on the screen in front of you.
Churchill Island, like setting back in time. Here you can experience wagon rides, cow milking, sheep shearing, whip cracking and an animal nursery.
There are also a couple of walks (of varying distance) and a café on site.
Please check the website before visiting as timings change depending on the season and school holidays etc.
A Farmer’s Market is held on Churchill Island every 4th Saturday of the month, starting at 8am and finishing at 1pm. We arrived around 10am and the traffic to access the market was crazy. It was banked up because of the one way bridge. I am not sure if this was just because it was summer or if it is always like this. For the number of cars and a small market it didn’t feel crowded at all once walking around the market. You’ll find olives, bread, vegetables, wine and many other goodies.
For discounted tickets to all four attractions please click here.
The Nobbies are somewhere we always seem to visit for a quick walk and it is a great ‘cool’ weather activity. The Nobbies are large offshore rocks and beyond you can see Seal Rocks which are home to a huge number of Australian fur seals.
There are a number of short boardwalks offering different views of the rocks and coastline with little penguins boxes where you might be lucky to see a couple sleeping during the day. At the end of the boardwalk you’ll come to the Blowhole. It’s very wave dependent though!
The Nobbies are free to visit and walk around.
Take the scenic drive from the Nobbies to the Penguins
This drive is well signposted at The Nobbies but the few times we have driven it we have only seen one other car. It is a dirt road but an easy drive (Ross remembers it from years ago as being quite different – a real off road dirt track). There are a couple of look outs along the way and you come into the back/side entrance to the penguins and can look down onto the beach and see the set up for the penguins viewing.
Grumpy’s Mini Golf
Grumpy’s Mini Golf has been around for what feels like forever! If you have never visited Phillip Island before you probably don’t know that there used to also be a ‘Grumpy’s Waterslide’ at the back of mini golf! So much fun when I was growing up.
The mini golf is a great wet weather activity, but very busy.
Pelican feeding and Fish and Chips at San Remo
San Remo is most famous for the Pelican feeding around 12pm each day. The Pelican’s are massive and sometimes do get a little agro with each other! While they are being fed the guys from the fish co-op give a great talk about the animals and are happy to answer any questions.
The Fish and Chips Co-Op was delicious also (but busy even on a weekend in winter).
Go for a walk or bike ride on Phillip Island
There are some great walking trails on Phillip Island. You’ll find many different options from coastal, bush, short or long. One of our favourite walks was along Cape Woolamai. You can read about more walking trails here.
Bike riding is a popular choice of what to do in Phillip Island. Be aware, if visiting during peak summer periods the traffic is crazy and you’ll have a hard time trying to cross any of the major roads. Especially if you are riding with kids. Riding on the Island is mostly flat but it doesn’t seem to be set up for riding as say Bright is as there are not many dedicated bike paths. You can read about some recommended rides here.
Phillip Island Wineries
We always seem to sniff out wineries wherever we go. These days they are generally well set up for families and even though the kids roll their eyes when we mention another winery they both love the food and the open spaces.
Purple Hen is a small family owned winery not far from Rhyll. There is a tasting fee of $5 per person (which is refundable upon purchase). There is a small selection of food (think small cheese and bickie platters) but ample space for the kids to run around and picnic tables to enjoy or glass (or bottle) with friends. Find out more, including opening hours here.
Phillip Island Winery
Phillip Island Winery has recently re-opened after being taken over by 3 local families. They have done a wonderful job as the setting is amazing. A cosy inside area or large tables outside under the atrium. There is ample space for playing games and outdoor games are supplied on the lawn to keep the kids (and non wine drinkers!) entertained. There is live music every Sunday afternoon and other activities scheduled. The platters of food were amazing and they even have a ‘four legged friends’ menu!! Find out more here.
Phillip Island Breweries
Rusty Water Brewery has been around for a while and is situated in the middle of the Island and offers beer samples and food in a rustic setting.
In Cowes you will also find the Ocean Reach Brewery. We walked past and had a look but didn’t stop for a drink or a meal. It looks like a really cool little find though. Next time!
A Maze’n Things
I rolled my eyes at taking the kids to A Maze’n Things (about 6km before Cowes) as it feels like it has been around forever but I was pleasantly surprised! We all had a great morning out. It is very well done and was a interesting and fun thing to do in Phillip Island for the whole family.
There are illusions, puzzles and exhibits to explore. A mirror maze is always fun and this was no exception, you can try and work out why you are shrinking in the shrinking room and then try and work out how the ball is rolling uphill in the gravity room. There is also a 7 metre vertical drop slide.
I loved Magic Manor where all sorts of magic tricks and illusions were performed. From moving objects and a time machine to magic rabbits! There was also a scare room but the kids were totally freaked out with the prospect of it so I am not sure how actually scary it was (and I wasn’t going to go by myself to check it out!).
Outside is Victoria’s largest wooden maze which again, the kids loved. There is also mini golf and a small high ropes course but we ran out of time for both of these.
Phillip Island Chocolate Factory
The Phillip Island Chocolate Factory has been around for many years. It also hasn’t changed much over the years either. The shop and café are free to enter and there is a paid exhibition called Amazing World of Chocolate. At $50 for a family we haven’t ever paid to experience this. It does look quite cool though and you’ll find more information here.
National Vietnam Veterans Museum
National Vietnam Veterans Museum on Phillip Island is run by volunteers and apparently is a must visit attraction to learn about the Vietnam War and Australia’s War history. The National Vietnam Veterans Museum is dedicated to the heritage and legacy of Vietnam veterans. In all the times we have visited Phillip Island was have never stopped here. It actually sounds really informative for all ages so I’ll add it to our itinerary on our next visit. You can read more here on their website.
Grand Prix Circuit
This could be one of the more adventurous Phillip Island things to do if you are looking for some thrills. There are many big events held throughout the year but even on non race days there is plenty of action to keep you busy.
You can take a lap with an experienced racing car driver, race the go karts or cycle around the track. Check the website here for more information and opening hours and activities.
Phillip Island with kids
Phillip Island is the perfect destination with kids of all ages. There are so many things to do in Phillip Island with kids without needing weeks at a time to see everything. We have listed many kid friendly experiences on Phillip Island, Victoria. We think it is one of the best destinations in Victoria for a family holiday. It ticks all the boxes for a great family getaway. Easy to get to from Melbourne, great attractions and activities and many free options including walks and beaches so it doesn’t need to break the bank. You might even be lucky and find some hidden secrets on Phillip Island.
I have visited Phillip Island for the past 20 or so years and even though much has changed, much has stayed the same. Gorgeous beaches are the star attraction and lots of old style holiday houses without the sometimes pretentiousness you might find elsewhere.
Map of Phillip Island
How to get to Phillip Island
Taking a car is the best way to get to Phillip Island. There are organised coach trips to visit the penguins if you are desperately pushed for time. It is approximately 1.5 hours from Melbourne but be aware that at peak summer hours this time frame could double (as it did for us).
All the attractions are well signposted on the Island but do not under estimate the size of the island. It might not look huge but it can be 20-30 minutes from one side to the other (depending on peak summer traffic).
Here are some of the best places to stay on Phillip Island.
Have we convinced you to book a weekend away on Phillip Island yet?
There are ample places to stay on Phillip Island depending on your budgets, wants and desires. From holidays homes, resorts and caravan parks.
There are literally hundreds of homes listed on Air BnB dotted all around the Island. We have stayed in Cowes quite a few times and also around Woolamai which is much quieter. Whenever we travel with friends we like to book a large holiday house. This means that after the kids are in bed we can all sit around and chat together, rather than having to separate into our own apartments. For a discount with your first booking click here.
The Waves Apartments, Cowes
Only a few steps away from the beach and a couple of minutes walk from the main street of Cowes, The Waves Apartments are a great choice. Families of 5 are catered for. Check out the best prices online here.
The Ramada Resort, Cowes
A large resort with various accommodation options. The resort features swimming pools, playgrounds, walking and riding tracks and a café. A good all rounder but you will need to drive to visit the beach. For the best online prices click here.
Big 4 Phillip Island
Located just over bridge when you enter Phillip Island, the Big 4 Phillip Islands offers cabins and camping options with a jumping pillow and playground. It is minutes walk to the beach but a bit of a drive if you wanted to explore Cowes. You’ll find prices on their website here.
Our overall verdict
Phillip Island is a wonderful place to visit with kids and visitors to Melbourne. It really is a great, easy destination from Melbourne with many great attractions to visit. You can definitely visit as a day trip but I’d recommend a weekend or a long weekend to take it all in at a slower pace.
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