Wondering *why* exactly you should be taking a trip to Phillip Island this summer? Forget past childhood holidays filled with sunburn, neon zinc cream and a raging penguin obsession—there’s heaps for grown-up kidults to do in the region. Here are 11 ways to do Phillip Island right.
#1: Caffeine-fuelled retail therapy is living the dream.
Are we in Brunswick?! At Porter Republic cafe you can splash some cash with latte (turmeric or otherwise) in hand, though we won't blame you for switching your daily fix for a "big kids" sized peanut butter choc shake. Splurge on Milk & Sugar homewares, Murchison Hume's luxe cleaning products and Zen Moments candles.
#2: Fish and chips is *still* a tasty classic!
In the hurry to get on island we always accidentally skipped San Remo. No longer; the best fish and chips is scored at the Fisherman's Co-Op. Think super fresh-tasting flake (sustainable local gummy shark) with fat prawns and scallops all crispy fried 'til golden. Take your feast down to the jetty and watch the pelicans snap up lunch as you do. P.S. If you want some fresh seafood to BBQ later, go early; their tasty morsels sell out fast.
#3: The local pub will surprise you.
Kiss themed pinball, ping pong tourneys and hanging out with the locals (and several pots of locally brewed Furphy) on the festoon-lit deck on a balmy evening should be enough of a reason to stop by the Westernport Hotel. But in all seriousness, the Ancient Grain Salad is a superfood dream and our pick of the menu especially after the deep fried lunch we recommended earlier. The pub also attracts some very decent live blues and rock bands to the calibre of Stonefield and The Delta Riggs.
#4: Your new fried chicken destination is here.
We can't believe we're saying this but the best fried chicken we've tried in a looooong time isn't found at a Fitzroy or Windsor joint. It's at the Cheeky Goose Cafe in Cowes. It's a simple equation of perfectly crispy, non-greasy, subtly-spiced coating plus juicy insides. Inside this converted church you'll discover the house-made pies and the decadent brownie swimming in caramel sauce (it's GF, coeliac peeps!) are also worth a look in.
#5: The Penguin Parade is not like you remember it.
You no longer have to endure the chilled, huddled masses of your childhood to spot the wee creatures as they waddle on home after a big day out. Opt for the new underground bunker for sheltered viewing of the march at the penguins' eye-level or the even more exclusive skybox. You could even go high-tech with night vision on an intimate guided tour to a secluded beach. And do ask the rangers for the inside scoop on how the little darlings are actually ALL about the Netflix and chill (no more mating-for-life fairy tales here). Do go the back way from the Nobbies to get here for a bonus coastal drive and play a hectic game of native fauna-spotting bingo while you're at it.
#6: You can slumber in bohemian luxury.
Their collection of kaleidoscopes, natural rocks and semi-precious stones gives Clifftop an upscale hippie vibe. Here you could—and should—breakfast on very good croissants from the balcony outside your room with the local wallabies and bunnies. It's mere seconds to a private, picturesque ochre-hued clifftop from which you can watch surfers and dog walkers dotting Smiths Beach and Bass Strait below.
#7: Get up-close and personal with seals and seaspray.
Take a cruise with Wild Ocean EcoBoat Tours through salty spray, out to craggy rocks and get up close and personal with SO many fur seals. They're darn entertaining as the pups play and tumble in the water (it's so cute when they come up to scrub their little faces clean) and the hulking bulls on land do their posturing thing to try to impress the lady seals. They did not look amused but then again, we don't speak sealish.
#8: There's a restaurant with views that rivals any CBD rooftop.
A stop at The Cape Kitchen is probably the highlight of any grown-up foodie's Phillip Island jaunt. It's a locally sourced, seasonal deal here with some ingredients grown, foraged or harvested right on the property. We think the best way to dine is to order a bunch of things to share; it's all vibrant, feel-good food. They even source salt from the ocean that’s on their own doorstep. Book early and ask for a prime centre table by the window or outside for unobstructed ocean views.
#9: The seafood game is strong.
Our tip for the best seafood platter in town: Sherwoods. For someone from a lineage of butchers, chef Ed sure knows his way around creatures from the deep. All the produce is Australian, including huge tiger prawns and natural oysters. They cure and smoke their own fish here too. Let the restaurant know you want the platter when you when you book and take a pesce-friendly companion as this feast is enough for two.
#10: You can rule your own private world.
Feel like a celeb on vacation and book out the whole of Oak Tree Lodge for yourself and up to 11 of your mates. It's a lofty, leafy B&B that feels super private and is only a couple of minutes to Rhyll foreshore. It's pretty luxe inside with multiple private bedrooms across several residences and a dream country kitchen. We can't go past the heated bathroom floors even in Summer.
#11: You can workout without working up a sweat.
Phillip Island is a water sports smorgasbord. Of course you can surf Cape Woolamai and boogie board or body surf at Smiths Beach. But how about taking a guided kayak while bird watching through the Rhyll wetlands? Or learning how to stand-up paddle board or wind surf from one of the masters? Snorkel Smiths or the pool at Forrest Caves beach (at low tide) or scuba dive at several sites including Westernport Bay.
Melbourne’s an incredible city, but sometimes we all need to get out of town for a weekend. The Urban List has partnered with Visit Victoria to bring you our Get Out Of Town! series—the ultimate guide to Victoria’s rural gems. For more ideas about where to wander in Phillip Island, click here.
Image credit: Michelle Jarni for The Urban List