When you are living in a backpackers environment and you're not sure what local activities to do, the best thing to do is to speak to other backpackers to see what they recommend. I walked around Nomads Melbourne and asked for advice. I already heard some good stories from friends who hired a car and went to Phillip Island. I was enthusiastic when I heard them talk about the stunning beaches and the general vibe on the island. Unfortunately, they could not see the Penguin Parade that the island is famous for without tickets or going a tour.
My choice was finally made! I would go to Phillip Island and let a tour guide show me all the ins and outs of the island. I chose to go to Phillip Island with AAT Kings.
My pick up was pretty early and I was excited to leave the hostel and CBD for a long day on the road. With tonnes of facts and jokes from the driver, we arrived with the tour bus at Maru Koala and animal park. I wasn't well prepared and thought I was just going to see the coastline, but what a welcome surprise that I could feed Koala's, Wallabies and Kangaroos and even an old time favorite; the horse.
The discovery of the day was definitely the Wallaby; no one told me that mini-kangaroos were Wallabies. All the must-see Aussie animals were represented, including some sheep shearing demonstrations and an optional photo-shoot with a Koala, AWESOME!
After a quick and well needed tea break we drove further to see some highlights of Phillip Island. You have a nice drive around the Island to get a sense of what life is like living here.
We passed more rural dotted landscapes with smaller townships and farming properties. The tour guide told us a lot about the vegetation, farms, farmhouses and the earthworm myths. It was very interesting to learn so much about the life and history of all the different places we passed.
Of course we drove to the famous motor track as well. The island is steeped in Motorsport history. Australia's first ever international Grand Prix was held in 1924 on the original circuit comprising the still existing roads on Phillip Island. The annual Australian Grand Prix plus a round of the World Superbike is currently held at the 1950's purpose built Motor Racing Circuit, and draws a massive contingent of motor sport fans (known as "petrol heads") every year.
Many wild animals cross your route and just before the sun sets the bus arrives at the Penguin Parade visitors center at Summerland Beach.
There is a little penguin museum and information center in the visitors center, a small restaurant and two souvenir shops. You can enjoy yourself there and learn more about the penguins or spend some time in the shops and restaurants, or even in the cinema room, until the penguins start their famous parade.
The Penguins you see on Phillip Island are the really cute ones seen on the far right of this picture!
When the sun went down, I walked to the water and took a seat in the viewing area. Everyone was excited to see the penguins and tried to save the best spot. Rangers are trying to calm the crowd, and guide the daily parade of the penguins from the water to their homes. It is dark and many people are trying to see them, but it was worth staying at the viewing area for a while to get a glimpse of the funny running creatures.
On my walk back to the visitor center, I observed the penguins at only a couple of centimeters distance away whilst they were on their way to their bunkers. It is amazing to watch a wild animal on his daily routine from only a small distance away.
After admiring the penguin parade it was time for dinner and the ride back home. The driver took us to Cowes. Cowes is the main town on the island, there are other smaller towns such as Rhyll, Cape Woolami, Ventnor (closest town to the Penguin Parade) and Newhaven. The principal source of income is tourism, and there are many cafes and restaurants, souvenir and surf shops and activities to do here.
Altogether you get to see so many highlights of the Island... If you decide to go on a tour to Phillip Island you will have a day you won't forget! There are a few companies that do Phillip Island Penguin Parade Tours, check them out!
Please note that taking pictures of the penguin parade is not allowed. The pictures of penguins in this article are all provided at the information centre.