Relax. Unwind. Meet the penguins
Rugged Phillip Island has wineries, spas and windswept beaches, but its big attraction is its wildlife.
See and do
Be prepared for an attack of the warm fuzzies as you watch the world's smallest penguins, aptly named Little Penguins, come onto the Phillip Island shore at sunset. Phillip Island Nature Parks offer a range of penguin tours, from general viewing ($22) to the Ultimate Penguin Tour ($78.40) where a ranger will take you on an intimate tour away from the main beach with night vision goggles. 1019 Ventnor Rd, Summerlands 3922.
Need another dose of cute? You can meet koalas, along with their joeys, in their natural habitat at the Koala Conservation Centre, an ecotourism venture that invites visitors to tour treetop boardwalks. 1790 Phillip Island Rd, Cowes 3922. penguins.org.au. $4.65-$11.30. And don’t forget to view Australian fur seals from the clifftop boardwalks of the Nobbies Centre. 1320 Ventnor Rd, Summerlands 3922. Daily 11am-one hour before sunset. Free.
Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit hosts massive events each year including MotoGP, World Superbike Championship and the V8 Supercar Series. There are guided tours, slot cars and a mini replica track for Go Karting. The stout of heart can even buckle up with a racing driver and experience the circuit for real. Black Beach Rd, Ventnor 3922. 03 5952 9400.
Eat and drink
Sleepy Rhyll boasts the very relaxed Foreshore Bar and Restaurant, set right on the water with 180-degree ocean views. A posh pub-style menu features succulent chilli mussels and chorizo in tomato broth, and crispy half duck served on a citrus celeriac purée with green beans. Make a booking for the front deck just before sunset to catch the colours playing over the darkening sea as you sip a sweet glass of local moscato. 11 Beach Rd, Rhyll 3923. 03 5956 9520. Lunch and dinner Wed-Mon.
Phillip Island Winery produces award-winning cool-climate pinot noir and chardonnay. Tastings at the cottage cellar door can be enjoyed over a platter of Gippsland cheeses, housemade dips and smoked trout. 414 Berrys Beach Rd, Ventnor 3922. 03 5956 8465. Sat, Sun 11am-6pm.
Clifftop is a boutique hotel perched on the magnificent cliff above Smiths Beach; every room comes with a balcony and panoramic water views. Guests can enjoy private access direct to the beach. Time Out was sure that the kangaroo bouncing its way across the garden in front of our balcony was a plant, until a drive to dinner during which we spotted five more in the bush confirmed the island is full of them. 1 Marlin St, Smiths Beach, Phillip Island 3922. 03 5952 1033.
Take the Monash Freeway (M1) to the Cranbourne exit, and turn into the South Gippsland Highway (M420). Continue on to the Bass Highway (A420), and turn right at Anderson roundabout onto the winding, coastal Phillip Island Road (B420) to San Remo, and over the 640m multi-span bridge onto Phillip Island. The journey takes one hour and 50 minutes.
For more short getaways, visit off the beaten track.