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Destination Profiles

Phillip Island

Phillip Island is a popular holiday destination, around 120 kilometres from Melbourne, approximately 90 minutes driving time. The island's gateway is the fishing village of San Remo where a bridge links Phillip Island to the mainland. Ferry services also operate between Phillip Island and the Mornington Peninsula.

Phillip Island is around 24 kilometres long and 9 kilometres wide. Its first permanent settlement occurred in 1842 with pastoralists making use of the land and eventually fishing became the predominant industry. Tourism began to take off once ferry services were established to the mainland. A suspension bridge between San Remo and Newhaven was built in 1940 and later replaced by a concrete bridge in 1969.

Visitors come to Phillip Island for its swimming and surf beaches, unique wildlife and the famous penguins which make their epic journey along the beach at sunset.

Major racing events are held at the Island's Grand Prix Circuit include the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix and Superbike World Championship.

The western tip of the island, known as The Nobbies, consists of rocky islands just off the coast which can be viewed from the surrounding boardwalks, and the famous Seal Rocks which is home to the largest colony of fur seals in Australia. The Nobbies Centre includes marine displays, a gift shop and dining facilities.

Cape Woolamai is at the south-eastern tip of the island and much of it is covered by a state fauna reserve with mutton bird rookeries and walking tracks along the coastal cliffs. The golden ocean beaches at Cape Woolamai are popular with surfers.

Other attractions at Phillip Island include the historic island farm of Churchill Island, a koala sanctuary, several theme parks and chocolate factory.


Cowes is the largest town on Phillip Island, linked to the Mornington Peninsula by a ferry service to Stony Point and by road to the mainland via a bridge at San Remo.

The commercial centre of Cowes extends along Thompson Avenue, which is lined with golden cypress trees and recognised by the National Trust of Victoria, then down to the waterfront boulevard of The Esplanade. It caters well for the busy holiday crowds with a selection of restaurants, cafes, gift shops, hotels and supermarkets.

Across the road from the commercial centre is the attractive Cowes foreshore which stretches between Mussel Rocks and Erehwon Point. The foreshore consists of wide expanses of lawn shaded by a mixture of native and cypress trees complete with BBQ areas, shelters and pathways. The sloping foreshore extends down to the clean golden sands of the beach, with the inviting waters popular with swimmers. On the beach, at the end of Thompson Avenue is the Cowes Jetty. An outdoor cafe is located at its entrance, while the T-shaped jetty structure is suitable for fishing and is the departure point for several ferries and tourist boat cruises.

Further west along the coast is the Cowes Yacht Club, a two lane boat ramp and kiosk at the end of Anderson Street, and the interesting red rock formations at Penguin Point, located at the northern end of Red Rocks Road.

The coast east of Erehwon Point consists of quiet beaches fronting a bushy foreshore and residential areas, extending all the way to the secluded community of Silverleaves. Visitors can either enjoy a long walk on this stretch of beach or use the Lovers Walk foreshore track and unsealed Stradbroke Avenue to enjoy beach views from this shady alternative route through areas of tea trees, banksias and pines.

Cowes has a number of recreational facilities including a golf course on Coghlan Road and sporting facilities at both Dunsmore Park and Blue Gum Reserve, located on Dunsmore Road.

Cowes makes an ideal base to explore Phillip Island's many attractions. It is 12 kilometres from the famous Phillip Island Penguin Parade at Summerlands, 14 kilometres from the scenic Nobbies Rock formations and visitor centre, 6 kilometres from the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, 7 kilometres from the Koala Conservation Centre and 9 kilometres from the peaceful fishing village of Rhyll.

San Remo

Named after the famous Italian Riviera resort town, San Remo is situated at the southern entrance to Western Port. A bridge in the town centre provides a link from the mainland to the popular holiday destination of Phillip Island.

San Remo's commercial centre stretches along Marine Parade which runs parallel to Phillip Island Road and the bridge across to the island. Cafes, bakeries, two hotels, restaurants and gift shops line this tourist precinct. Across the road from the shops at the western end of Marine Parade is a park with BBQ and picnic areas that stretches down to a sandy beach.

Originally established as a deep water port for the transportation of farm produce and coal to Melbourne in the mid-1800s, a thriving fishing industry soon developed in San Remo. The main hub of boating activity occurs around the network of elevated walkways which constitutes the San Remo Jetty, offering direct access to both Western Port and Bass Strait. On the beach foreshore adjacent to the San Remo Jetty, pelicans are fed daily from freshly caught fish at around 12 noon.

A scenic coastal track commences near the entrance to San Remo Jetty. It curves around Davis Point and follows the length of Childrens Beach and Beach Beach, offering views along the coast towards Griffiths Point and also across the water to Phillip Island.

San Remo's Back Beach, located off Back Beach Road, is situated at the base of cliffs and directly opposite Cape Woolamai at Phillip Island. Lions Park, which sits above the cliffs, features BBQ and picnic areas and a scenic clifftop walk. One of San Remo's most secluded beaches is Bore Beach, located at the southern end of the unsealed Potters Hill Road and facing Bass Strait. A scenic track winds its way down from the car park at the top of the cliffs down to a large stretch of sandy beach below.

A bridge spans the fast moving waters of "The Narrows", linking San Remo with Phillip Island's most easterly settlement of Newhaven. The 700 metre long bridge was opened in 1969 and includes a pedestrian walkway which offers good views over San Remo, the jetty and towards Phillip Island.


Rhyll is a small, peaceful fishing village located at the north-eastern tip of Phillip Island, 8 kilometres east of the island's largest town of Cowes

Rhyll has two commercial centres. A general store and post office can be found inland on Lock Road, while Beach Road, which runs along the coast, features cafes, takeaway outlets and speciality shops overlooking the beach.

A jetty is located at the town's main boat ramp and a longer one can be found further west along the coast in front of the monument to George Bass who first discovered the area.

To the west of Rhyll is the Rhyll Inlet and Conservation Hill Reserve. This network of waterways and wetlands is a significant feeding and breeding area for resident and migratory birds. A pathway which features several sections of boardwalk extends along the coast from Rhyll's town centre and along the southern side of the inlet, then heads inland to the Rhyll Wetlands.

To the south of Rhyll is the Koala Conservation Centre where people can enjoy a stroll on the boardwalks and meet koalas up close. There are several walking tracks through the surrounding bush.

Newhaven / Churchill Island

Newhaven is the first town on Phillip Island visitors pass through after crossing the 700 metre long bridge spanning the waterway known as "The Narrows" which links Phillip Island with Victoria's mainland at San Remo.

The heart of Newhaven consists of Newhaven Plaza - a collection of shops and a small supermarket, set one block back from the coast.

The coastal route of Forrest Avenue hugs the rocky coastline around Newhaven, extending from the main shops and passing above the marina and along the northern coast. Several accommodation establishments front Forrest Avenue and offer views over the cliffs and out to sea. Newhaven has a boat ramp located near the marina and a large jetty at Woody Point, to the north of the bridge to the mainland. For swimming, there is a sandy stretch of coast which extends from the bridge and south-west towards Cape Woolamai. There are also several small sandy bays at the base of the rocky cliffs along Forrest Avenue.

Newhaven is home to a number of significant attractions on Phillip Island. The region’s Tourist Information Centre is located west of the town centre, and nearby is the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory and Vietnam Veterans Museum.

Churchill Island, which is a former island farm, covers 57 hectares and is accessible via the bridge on Samuel Amess Drive. Visitors have the opportunity to explore the old Amess Homestead which was built in 1872, heritage farm buildings, gardens surrounding the homestead, beaches, mangroves and mudflats. A walking track circumnavigates much of Churchill Island, offering magnificent views across Western Port and down to the beaches at the base of the cliffs in the rocky northern section of the island.

Cape Woolamai

Cape Woolamai is located at the south-eastern tip of Phillip Island, just a few kilometres from Newhaven. It is named after the very distinctive landform that consists of granite cliffs and golden beaches.

The commercial centre of Cape Woolamai is located along Vista Place and its junction with Woolamai Beach Road and includes a small supermarket and several eateries. A general store and cafe can be found closer to the beach along Cottosloe Avenue.

A surf beach lines the western coastline of Cape Woolamai which is quite popular with surfers. The northernmost part of this beach, at the end of Lantana Road, is known as The Colonnades and features basalt rock cliff faces which have been weathered by the ocean to create a geological feature resembling organ pipes. Further south is the wide expanse of sand known as Anzacs Beach which is accessed via Woolamai Beach Road. One kilometre further south, at the end of that road, is Phillip Island's only surf lifesaving club where there is a large car park and kiosk. Continuing southwards is Magic Lands Beach which is backed by steep cliffs, and the fascinating rock formation of The Pinnacles is located near the end of the Cape.

The Cape Woolamai Trail extends southwards along the top of the coastal cliffs from the Woolamai Beach Surf Lifesaving Club and then loops back, deviating along a couple of branches, providing a walking trail that takes around 4 hours to complete at a very leisurely pace. It provides panoramic views of the ocean and coast; however the only access to the beach along the cape's west coast from the trail is via steps down the cliff face at Magic Lands Beach. The trail passes through areas dotted with mutton bird burrows which are inhabited by around one million of these migratory birds which fly back from Alaska each year to breed.

The eastern coastline of Cape Woolamai is dominated by sand dunes which face the water channel between Phillip Island and the mainland at San Remo. There are various access points to the northern part of this coastline along The Esplanade where there are sheltered beaches suitable for swimming. The main access point is opposite Cottosloe Avenue where there is a car park, picnic areas and a BBQ shelter..

Phillip Island Facts and figures.

Phillip Island is well-settled, with somewhat more than 10,000 year round residents upon land area roughly 26 kilometres long and 9 kilometres wide. A bridge connects the township of Newhaven to the mainland village of San Remo, and the island is about 90 minutes by car from the city of Melbourne.

The island is a popular tourist destination for several reasons, most notably the nightly “Penguin Parade” at Summerland Beach, in which visitors can watch groups of “Fairy Penguins” returning from their sea hunting. Koalas, dolphins, seals, pelicans and many other types of wildlife can also be seen in the various parks. The island also has its own Grand Prix track, which hosts races for V8 Supercars, Motorcycle Grand Prix, Superbike and many more types of racing almost year round.

An access road and spectator platforms built in the 1920s allowed viewing of penguin colonies, which quickly became a major tourist draw, and a car ferry service was instituted. A suspension bridge was built in 1940, and the first of the Grand Prix races soon followed, along with more nature tourists. A concrete bridge was built in 1969 to serve the ever-increasing traffic.

The island was often visited by aboriginal Australians, but was given its modern name after its “discovery” by British explorer George Bass in 1798. It was named for Governor Arthur Phillip, founder of Sydney. No permanent settlement was made until 1826, after which the farming of the coffee additive chicory was its primary industry. Several ships have run aground in the sometimes tricky waters.

The most populous township on the island is Cowes. It was originally named Mussel Rocks, but renamed after the town on the Isle of Wight in 1865 by a homesick sea commander. The township’s jetty, built in 1870, was the docking point for the island ferry, which was the most common point of access for visitors for the next seventy years.

An access road and spectator platforms built in the 1920s allowed viewing of penguin colonies, which quickly became a major tourist draw, and car ferry service was instituted. A suspension bridge between San Remo and Newhaven was built in 1942, and the first of the Grand Prix races soon followed, along with more nature tourists. A concrete bridge was built in 1969 to serve the ever-increasing traffic.

In the 1990s, several different parks and preserves were combined into the non-profit Phillip Island Nature Park, which now oversees the Penguin Parade, the Koala Conservation Centre, Churchill Island, the Rhyll Inlet, The Nobbies headland and blowhole, Seal Rocks, Swan Lake and more. 

The island now serves more than 3.5 million visitors every year.

Cowes History

The area was originally known as Mussel Rocks. In 1865, a government surveyor Henry Cox returned from a holiday retreat in England and named the town he surveyed after the seaport town of Cowes on the Isle of Wight, England. The Post Office opened on 1 August 1869

*Information supplied courtesy of Travel Victoria  website