On the island’s south-eastern tip is Cape Woolamai, home to the Cape Woolamai State Faunal Reserve and one of the most important breeding grounds of the short-tailed shearwater, better known as the Australian muttonbird.
The stunning natural beauty of the island and the nightly parade of its large colony of penguins has helped make it one of the best-known tourist attractions on the Bass Coast with a fine selection of holiday rentals for travellers to choose from.
Cape Woolamai takes its name from the Aboriginal word for the snapper fish, “wollamai” – the explorer George Bass, who gave his name to the coastline around here after his voyages in the late 18th century, thought the headland looked like the head of the snapper fish and so Cape Woolamai was born.
Originally farmland, the Cape became a magnet for holidaymakers drawn to its super beaches and wildlife after the Second World War. Today the original beach shacks have been transformed into excellent holiday accommodation while surfers and water sports enthusiasts continue to flock to the area every year.
Phillips Island’s most popular tourist attraction is the Penguin Parade that takes place daily at Phillips Island Nature Park. Little Penguins, the smallest breed of that flightless bird, is the only penguin to live permanently in Australia and these tiny birds attract more than 3 millions visitors every year to watch them waddle comically from the sea every night back to their nests.
More natural Australian wildlife can be spotted at the Koala Conservation Centre where this enduring and endearing symbol of the continent can be spotted in its natural habitat. Two boardwalks allow visitors to walk amongst the treetops and see the wild koalas, while bush walks reveal wallabies, echidnas and birds.
Conservation groups work hard across Phillips Island to preserve its terrific wildlife, including the major breeding colony of the muttonbird at Cape Woolamai and visitors are welcome to watch and participate in the voluntary groups.
The beaches on Phillips Island are considered among the very best in Australia for consistently good surf conditions and the island has hosted some of the world’s biggest surf competitions and events. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced in riding the waves or simply want to soak up the sun, the sandy, long beaches are a delight to be on.
For adrenaline-fuelled action of a different kind, head for the island’s Grand Prix Circuit. For decades, Phillips Island has been at the forefront of Australian motor racing and its circuit hosted the original Australian Grand Prix in 1928. Today motorbike enthusiasts head here twice a year for the Superbike World Championship and the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, while car racing fans turn out in force for the V8 Supercars, Island Magic and Historic Car among many racing events.
If you’re planning to combine a trip to Cape Woolamai with a visit to a racing event, make sure you organise your holiday rentals or self-contained accommodation in plenty of time as the island gets very busy.
The Pyramid Rock Festival is another popular event, taking place each New Year’s Eve; Easter brings the Churchill Island Festival; and picnic races take place at Woolamai Horse Racing Club from November to February.
Phillips Island enjoys the temperate climate typical of the coastal area around Melbourne with ocean breezes making it seem a little cooler. Summer brings average daily temperatures of around 25°C with June and July rainier months with average temperatures around 16°C. Expect changeable weather even during the hottest time of the year but as the island is small, it’s easy enough to return to your holiday accommodation for a quick change if necessary!
UK visitors travelling to Phillips Island will arrive at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne. There are direct flights to Melbourne from London’s Heathrow Airport. Phillips Island is only a two-hour drive from the city so car rental would make the transfer to your accommodation quick and easy. Public transport is also plentiful and there are bus and ferry services that go direct from the city centre to towns on the island, including Cape Woolamai.