Just a short drive from Melbourne, Victoria is the stunningly wild Phillip Island. Full of impressive wildlife, awesome beaches and outstanding natural attractions, Phillip Island is understandably a popular place to visit. Certainly, one of the best ways to experience the beauty of Phillip Island is by completing one of the many coastal walks that encompass the coastline here.
In this guide, we’ll showcase 6 wonderful coastal trails not to miss when you visit Phillip Island. As well as being hugely enjoyable in their own right, many of the walks visit some of the best natural attractions on Phillip Island, including wildlife hubs, where you’ll get to see little penguins and fur seals. What’s not to love about that!
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Walks and Attractions on Phillip Island
Most famous for its Penguin Parade, Phillip Island is a hub of wildlife activity. The island, just a 90-minute drive from Melbourne, also houses Australia’s largest fur seal colony. Indeed, within this well-cared-for and much-loved island you’ll find koalas, kangaroos, and an array of birdlife. Perhaps you’ll even spot migrating whales as they travel up and down the Victorian coastline.
The rugged south side of the island attracts surfers and water sports enthusiasts, who take advantage of Phillip Island’s excellent swell and surfing conditions. The region was even named a National Surfing Reserve because of its flawless natural environment – the only one in Victoria. Even the famous Bells Beach along The Great Ocean Road fails to hold that title.
But, for hiking enthusiasts, like ourselves, Phillip Island offers an abundance of enjoyable walks. Whether it’s coastal tracks, circuits, or simply beautiful attractions to see along the beaches, there’s plenty on offer when you take to a Phillip Island walking trail.
6 Best Phillip Island Walks
The below 6 walks on Phillip Island enable you to see the majority of the top attractions and best places to visit. Dan and I covered these walks over a weekend, but it’s certainly possible to tick some off as day trips or spread them out over a week’s break.
Below is a map showing the location of six awesome walks we’ll cover in the below guide.
1. Cape Woolamai Walk
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 8.5km
- Time: 2 hours
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Woolamai Surf Beach Car Park
The Cape Woolamai Coastal Walk is a wonderfully wild and picturesque hike in the southeastern corner of Phillip Island. The walk should take no more than a couple of hours to complete and is full of some of the best natural attractions on Phillip Island, including the impressive Pinnacles rock formation, Cape Woolamai Beacon, Gull Island Lookout, and the old pink granite quarry. Additionally, you’ll be sure to spot plenty of wallabies as you adventure across the cape, especially if you visit early in the morning.
The Cape Woolamai Walk is neither long nor difficult and is the perfect introduction to what Phillip Island has to offer. This walk is certainly one of the best things to do in Phillip Island, so don’t miss it. Once you’ve completed the circuit, be sure to sit back and relax on Woolamai Surf Beach.
2. Forrest Caves
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 1.5m
- Time: 30 minutes
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Forrest Caves Car Park
Located on Forrest Caves Beach just next to Phillip Island Airport are the Forrest Caves. These vibrant red-orange caves, formed over millions of years of sea erosion, are one of the most incredible natural attractions on Phillip Island, and certainly one of the top things to do.
After a short walk from Forrest Caves Car Park, you’ll spot the awesome caves to the left along the beachfront of Phillip Island. Here, you’ll get to explore a warren of tunnels with window-like lookouts over the outstanding landscape.
Sadly, visiting the caves requires some planning. That’s because access inside the caves is only possible during low tide. For Dan and I, our visit coincided with high tide, and so our enjoyment was limited to viewing the caves from on top. So, if you experience the same, take care if walking over the top of the caves when the tide is high. The waves can be large and strong, and so we would never recommend walking too close to the outer edge.
Given how rough the sea is here, the sheer force of each wave creates a sort of blowhole effect through openings in the cavern ceiling. It’s a great additional attraction for the caves, especially when you can’t gain access inside.
3. Churchill Island Circuit
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 5km
- Time: 1 hour
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Churchill Island Visitor Car Park
Yes, that’s right, there’s an even smaller island off an already very small island. This is Churchill Island, and a quick visit here provides a glimpse into the life of early European settlers to Victoria and their farming heritage. In fact, Churchill Island was the first location of agricultural pursuits in this part of Australia.
The short and picturesque Churchill Island North Point Loop coastal walk covers the northern part of the island. It’s a pleasant 2km walk. But, if you really enjoy yourself, you can add a further 3km onto the trail to complete the full island circuit. The walk begins from the Churchill Island Heritage Farm car park, with the walking trail hugging the low coastal woodland surrounding the farm. From Observation Point, you’ll find views towards the main body of Phillip Island. Whilst, further along the loop at North Point, you’ll find views that stretch out toward French Island and east to Western Port.
The walk certainly isn’t the height of hiking excitement. It requires little effort and its low elevation means sweeping views aren’t on the cards. But, Churchill Island feels different from the rest of Phillip Island, and is its own little patch of tranquillity (and history if you’re interested). So, for that reason alone, we think it’s worth a stop and is a wonderful attraction on Phillip Island.
4. The Nobbies Boardwalk
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 800m
- Time: 20 minutes
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: The Nobbies Centre
At the furthest western tip of Phillip Island is one of its finest attractions – The Nobbies. Here, a spectacular rugged volcanic headland is home to a huge colony of little penguins and fur seals. To enjoy this wonderful spectacle you’ll complete one of the best short walks in Phillip Island. A carefully laid boardwalk leads you through the nesting area of the little penguins where, if you’re lucky, you may see a few that decided not to head out for a day’s fishing. The Nobbies Boardwalk offers excellent vantage points across to Seal Rocks too.
The landscape on this Phillip Island walk feels wild and untouched, and the consideration that’s been taken in merging tourism with natural habitat is highly commendable. Again, it’s a popular attraction to visit when spending time on Phillip Island, but we found the walk wasn’t too overcrowded during our winter visit.
The fur seal colony that calls The Nobbies, or in particular Seal Rocks, home is Australia’s largest. They make up a quarter of the entire population. Recognised by their brown fur and external ears, you may spot some swimming in the waters below as you take to the boardwalk.
5. Pyramid Rock to Berrys Beach
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 6.5km
- Time: 1.5 hours
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Berrys Beach Car Park
Pyramid Rock is a small cone-shaped sea stack off the coast of Phillip Island, Victoria. It sits at the southern tip of Phillip Island and is another of its most popular natural attractions. Black basalt columns make up most of the geology of Pyramid Rock, and these sit on top of pink granite, the same as you’ll see on the Cape Woolamai Walk.
Beginning from Berrys Beach Car Park, you’ll first pass Red Bluff Lookout, which offers a great vantage point of Pyramid Rock. The trail eventually winds around the cliff top to the Pyramid Rock Lookout Car Park, where you’ll follow a short boardwalk to a couple of excellent viewing platforms. These offer quite spectacular views of Pyramid Rock.
If you’re short on time or fancy a quicker walk, you can simply begin the walk from Pyramid Rock Lookout car park. This shorter walk takes about 15 minutes.
6. The George Bass Coastal Walk
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 15km
- Time: 3–4 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Punchbowl Road, San Remo
Special recognition on this list of the 6 best walks in Phillip Island goes to The George Bass Coastal Walk. That’s because this walk technically falls just outside of Phillip Island. But, if you love hiking and the outdoors, then The George Bass Coastal Walk really shouldn’t be missed on your trip down to Phillip Island.
Dan and I were recommended this hike last minute, and we’re so happy we fit it into our itinerary. The picturesque walk offers wonderful views and the coastal route follows that of explorer George Bass and his epic voyage of discovery.
The 14km return trail is a clifftop sweeping, exposed hike. The rugged headlands and grass-covered bluffs often feel more reminiscent of a UK coastal walk. Gone are the dense bush or forest-edged beaches you’ll see plenty of in Australia. In their place are wide expanses of fields, sometimes farmland, gently undulating along the edges of the cliffs. For me, it was homely and familiar. Perhaps the gloomy weather aided in that sense too. And with that being said, we found this is a hike that works well in all weather. But, be warned, some sections can become quite muddy due to the grassy terrain in poor weather.
The out-and-back trail stretches between the towns of San Remo and Kilcunda, just outside of Phillip Island. There’s even the bonus of a pub pit stop upon arrival at Kilcunda. Again, adding to the English feels surrounding this walk.
This Phillip Island walk can be started from either San Remo or Kilcunda and takes around 3 hours to complete.
Read more: George Bass Coastal Walk: The Complete Guide
Walks in Phillip Island Recap
So, that’s our rundown of the 6 best walks on Phillip Island. We thoroughly enjoyed this rugged little part of Victoria and think it’s well worth a visit, whether part of a wider road trip or just a weekend or day trip from Melbourne.
Now you know about the walks you should complete when visiting Phillip Island, let’s take a look at some other useful things to know before you go.
Phillip Island Attractions and Activities
Aside from glorious coastal walks on Phillip Island, there are a few other must-see attractions. They include the following.
- Koala Conservation Reserve: take the treetop boardwalk and get up close and personal with these sweet tree-dwellers.
- Oswin Roberts Reserve: check out the last remaining bushland on Phillip Island.
- Bush to Bay Trail: 7km walk from the Koala Centre to Rhyll.
- Rhyll Inlet Wetland Boardwalk: stroll through coastal woodland and paperbark forest and enjoy a world-renowned habitat.
- SS Speke Shipwreck: short but rocky walk from Kitty Miller Beach to a shipwreck to be viewed at low tide.
The Penguin Parade
Of course, no trip to Phillip Island is complete without a visit to the Penguin Parade. The penguins are, of course, what the island is most famous for.
To view the parade, bookings must be made in advance online. The standard ticket for the Penguin Parade provides tiered seating at Summerland Beach. From here you can watch the Little Penguins waddle back to their beach bunkers at the end of the day.
Dan and I decided to book the Ultimate Penguin Tour. It was worth it. This accredited eco-tour takes visitors out of the centre and across to secluded Shelly Beach. You and your small group (no more than 10) are then treated to front-row seats of the little fellas washing up after a hard day at sea.
Tickets are expensive, but the experience is phenomenal. Guests are provided with night vision goggles, an infrared torch and a cushioned seat to relax in on the beach. You’ll arrive a little before sundown and wait patiently for darkness to fall. That’s when the magic starts.
The Little Penguins
For Dan and I, we sat quietly and listened out for a slight hum coming from the sea. This is evidence of the penguins heading back to shore. You can also look for shadows on the water, but it was far too dark for us to see that. First to be sighted was a little lone ranger, a brave penguin soldier out on his own. We watched through our goggles as it wandered, tentatively, up the beach, peering behind to see if his comrades were following. They were. Slowly groups of up to 10 little penguins at a time began to wash up on the shoreline.
Huddled together, they dashed for the dunes and back to the safety of their burrows. Dan and I were lucky enough to have the best seats in the house. The penguins walked within mere metres of us as they headed home. Some amused us as they tried and failed to get up the small sandbanks. All in all, we must have witnessed over 100 penguins come out of the water that night. It was an unbelievable experience.
But it didn’t end there. Our walk back to the visitor centre took us past some of the burrows that were slightly more inland. By now, glimmers from the street lighting were beginning to show the little penguins without any need for night vision. There were so many! And they were SO noisy! Sadly, it’s not permitted to take photographs during the tour, and so it’s just an experience we’ll have to remember. In all honesty, it’ll be hard to forget.
Penguin Parade Tour
Dan and I thought the tour was extremely well organised, brilliantly led, and an incredible experience. So, if you’re a huge wildlife fan then we can highly recommend this tour.
Book Penguin Parade Tour from Melbourne
- Koala Conservation Reserve
- The Nobbies Boardwalk
- Penguin Parade Plus at Summerland Beach
There are countless organised tours you can do from Melbourne or Phillip Island, to really get the most out of your trip there. Our Top 5 Phillip Island Tours From Melbourne details 5 of the most popular tours, plus a few great tours you should consider once on the island.
How to Get to Phillip Island
A car is the best option for getting to Phillip Island, but there is public transport available. From Melbourne, you have an average drive time of 1.5 hours. If you don’t own a car, we’d recommend hiring one. It makes getting around the island much simpler, meaning you can see a lot more in the time you have.
If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.
There is public transport available from Melbourne to Phillip Island, though much less convenient. The V/Line coach service leaves Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station and heads for Phillip Island daily, stopping at many of the towns on the island. You can expect the journey to take around 2.5 hours.
Where to Stay on Phillip Island
There are plenty of accommodation options on Phillip Island, with the town of Cowes being one of the best places set up for tourists and visitors. But, for something a little more budget-friendly, consider staying next to Phillip Island instead. We stayed in San Remo, next to Phillip Island Bridge, for a much better deal.
Top 3 Places to Stay on Phillip Island
Hiking Gear for Phillip Island Walks
These are our five hiking gear essentials for exploring Phillip Island. Be sure to pack water, sunscreen and snacks too.
Osprey Skarab 30
The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.
Osprey Ultralight Raincover
A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.
BUFF Original Ecostretch
The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.
To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.
- Bundled tickets: You can purchase a bundled ticket option to see multiple attractions on Phillip Island when you book your Penguin Parade ticket. This includes the Koala Conservation Centre and the Churchill Island Heritage Farm.
- Wildlife, everywhere: As I’ve mentioned, Phillip Island has an abundance of wildlife, and so you must always consider where you walk and how you drive. Such is the conservation effort around the Little Penguins, that the road to head to their nesting area (The Nobbies) is actually closed at sundown. Also, a hugely successful effort to rid the island of foxes took place, meaning Phillip Island is fox free! There are even cameras on the bridge to track if any try and make it across.
More Walks in Victoria
Check out some of our other walks and natural attractions guides in Victoria.
- Wilsons Prom: The Complete Guide To Hiking and Camping
- Mornington Peninsula Walks: 5 Wonderful Coastal Trails
- Grampians National Park: The Complete Visitor’s Guide
- 23 Awesome Things To Do In Halls Gap, Grampians (Gariwerd)
- 15 Best Hikes In The Grampians: The Complete Guide
- 12 Must-See Grampians Waterfalls: The Complete Guide
- Sugarloaf Peak: An Epic Hike via the Wells Cave Track
We hope you enjoyed this post on Walks in Phillip Island. We’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment at the bottom.