Green grass, wide open spaces and the allure of the Ocean’s roar drew us to Phillip Island for the weekend. Life had been busy, too busy in fact. We sought an opportunity to escape the demands of city life, and reconnect as a family. Very distant childhood memories of watching Fairy Penguins waddle from the sea to shore and eating fish and chips had me convinced that a Victorian childhood is no childhood at all without this Island tradition.
Located on Australia’s southern coast, Phillip Island is a rural seaside town, with a sleepy feel in the shoulder and Winter seasons. Renowned for it’s wildlife and coastal walks, a weekend of crisp, clean air exploring The Nobbies or Cape Woolami Coast to the Pinnacles is breath taking even in Winter. In the time it took the kids to watch a DVD, the pleasant 90 minute drive from Melbourne to Phillip Island was over. Barely long enough for them to ask, “Are we there yet?”
Check In: Cliff Top Boutique Accommodation
Privacy. Unobstructed Ocean views. Wildlife. Escapism. These were the all-important must-haves on our list for accommodation. Cliff Top Boutique accommodation offered exactly that. Situated at the end of a no-through road, in a residential area, the Lodge is the epitome of country seaside tranquillity. The open plan layout, with expansive floor to ceiling glass windows allows for natural light to warm the communal living area. Equipped with pool table, casual lounging area, fireplace and informal dining area for breakfast, the establishment feels like a second home. Eight individual guest suites, complete with en-suite branch off from the communal lounge area, all varying in size and design.
On our first night we booked both the Ocean View Suite 1 and Seascape 2 suite. The Ocean View Suite 1 offers commanding views overlooking Smiths Beach. Each night we deliberately slept with the curtains open, only to awake each morning to dusky pink skies, with wallabies and rabbits grazing on the grasslands below our room decking. Um, yes, glorious it was! The suite is huge, with the option for a rollaway, which our youngest daughter occupied. The expected in-room amenities are all provided, with TV, DVD player, mini fridge, tea and coffee provisions and daily housekeeping services available. Also noteworthy is Helen, property manager and regular Jill-of-all-trades. She truly is a credit to the property, offering good ol’ country hospitality at first arrival, and every bit the accommodating host right up until checkout.
Coastal Walks: Cape Woolami to the Pinnacles
I urge you, come rain, hail or shine do not allow the weather to deter you from exploring this walk. Cape Woolami is a headland at the South Eastern tip of Phillip Island. The path is first accessed along Smiths Beach, which quickly changes to a well formed, compacted sandy path. The route is clearly marked. You’ll meander along a moderately undulating path, with the flora lush and slightly changing. The views are incredible, with several opportunities to pause for reflection or relaxation. Cape Wooloomai is the highest point on the Island, panoramic views, pink granite and the Pinnacles’ tip jutting upwards from the Ocean await you once reaching the headland.
Pyramid Rock Walk
Along a sandy clifftop track, gently undulating, we made our way towards Pyramid Rock. Through grassland, and low-lying vegetation, the landscape is beautifully picturesque, more so as you approach Pyramid Rock. There are two lookouts, the walk can be accessed either via Berry’s Beach carpark or Pyramid Rock carpark.
I’m Hungry: Where to Eat?
Two dinners, two lunches and one breakfast in 48 hours, but I’ve chosen to share only the very best of where we ate, beginning with brunch which is my favourite meal of the day.
The Cape Kitchen
With impossible to miss road signage and an online menu that had me licking my lips, I knew I couldn’t leave Phillip Island without a visit here. Upon arrival, if felt very ‘Melbourne’ save for the 180 degree ocean views. Characterised with a light tonal interior, and seaside-luxe ambience, I knew I had chosen the right place for brunch. The menu confirmed it. Presented with field mushrooms, candied walnuts, Yarra Valley feta on Brioche bread, and a side serve of smoky-bacon, I have one word for you. Oink! As a family of five, there’s always one of us that isn’t thrilled with our meal, except on this occasion, a rare treat indeed.
The Big Fish Cowes – Phillip Island Fish and Chips
In an upstairs shop, accessed from the Main Street in Cowes, you will find, The Big Fish, Cowes. Based on taste and quality alone, if fine dining had a category for deep fried food this business would make the cut. As a relatively clean eater, ordinarily I can’t eat such food without being gravely ill, every once in a while I try it, only to have my tummy confirm it was a bad idea, but not so this time. This time was fabulous. They only offer six items on the menu, no hamburgers, souvlaki’s, crab sticks etc here. That being said, they have perfected these six menu offerings.
San Remo Bakehouse
Found on Marine Parade, just outside of Cowes, this bakery will redefine your expectations of how an Aussie pie should taste. Yes, the queue out the door is indicative of quality and taste, and as I reached the counter the most gourmet of the award winners had been sold. Fortunately for me, the humble plain meat pie and the vegetarian cauliflower and cheese were the best pies I have ever eaten. Truthfully. It’s no wonder they win all the regional awards.
Tourist Attraction: Phillip Island Highlight
Fairy Penguin Parade
As dusk falls the nightly Penguin migration from Ocean to shore, and then to burrows begins. These penguins are completely wild, and as such the experience of seeing them waddle from the sea is all the more authentic. The conservation is entirely supported by the funds generated from Tourism, ie: visitors such as you and me through ticket sales and merchandise. If visiting in any season other than Summer, I strongly suggest you book tickets to the underground viewing platform, as opposed to the open air. By doing so you are at eye level with the penguins, whilst still being sheltered from the elements of rain and wind. Wait 20 – 30 minutes after the penguins have emerged from the water and then you can progress above ground, following them alongside the boardwalk and watch as they find their burrows. Please note, all photography, mobile phones and videography etc is strictly prohibited due to the sensitivity of a Penguin’s eyesight. The light from any camera flash blinds a Penguin for life, we actually saw two penguins freeze and fall over as someone used their camera. Consequently, I have no photos to show you how iconic and novel the experience was, but you’ll just have to experience it first hand for yourself.
San Remo, the road leading into Cowes, Phillip Island