Phillip Island

Stories from our backyard: Phillip Island Penguin Parade

They are only 33 cms tall. Formerly known as fairy penguins, Phillip Island’s little penguins are indeed the world’s largest colony of the world’s smallest penguins. It’s a heart-warming experience to see…and something that draws a smile during these COVID times. On any given evening at sunset you can expect to see 1,100 little penguins waddle in from the sea. This is the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island. A magical event in which the little penguins have the starring role and their natural environment is the stage.

Phillip Island

Penguin Parade

Phillip Island is located only 90 minutes from Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. The Penguin Parade first drew attention back in the 1920’s with small operators taking tourists by torchlight to see the penguin’s nightly arrival. Now there are up to 3,500 visitors each evening (pre-COVID) and operations are managed by Phillip Island Nature Parks, a self-funded not-for-profit organisation. This is a unique conservation organisation whose responsibilities include the management of 25% of the land on Phillip Island, as well as wildlife management and the operations of a range of ecotourism experiences. Their goal is to protect nature for wildlife and inspire people to actively protect the environment.

Phillip Island

Koala Reserve

Phillip Island

Churchill Island

Phillip Island

Antarctic Journey

The main eco-tourism experiences which are managed by Phillip Island Nature Parks are the Penguin Parade, the Koala Reserve where you can see koalas up close via the tree-top boardwalks, Churchill Island which offers farm activities and historical grounds and the Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies Centre which is designed to entertain and educate about the southern ocean and Antarctica. The 3 parks pass bundled ticket with an upgrade to Penguins Plus is the most popular and recommended booking choice. Profits generated by these main attractions are invested into conservation, research, ecotourism, environmental and educational initiatives within the Nature Parks.

 

Phillip Island

Pyramid Rock walk

So, every visitor contributes…

As a result of these contributions Phillip Island Nature Parks have scored many great conservation wins. The island is now the largest inhabited island in the world that has eradicated the European red fox and remains free of this introduced predator. That is good news for the penguins and other native wildlife! Other efforts and conservation programs focus on the care of the habitat with many new native plants in the ground that provide food and shelter for wildlife, removal of invasive weeds, wildlife rescue of seals from fishing lines, examining images from motion detection cameras to identify any pest animals, as well as the all-important wildlife research and monitoring.

Phillip Island

Seal Rock – Phillip Island

But back to the main event. With international borders currently closed, and a second pause to visitation of the Penguin Parade due to a Coronavirus uptick, the Nature Parks have concentrated on keeping things as normal as possible for the stars of the show. That means many nights of no crowds with the lights still flicked on so that the waddling stars experience no difference to their environment. Such strange times!

Time to put on a smile on your face…

Even in these quiet times the penguins still draw attention. The respected Scottish BBC sport commentator Andrew Cotter, whose voice is well known to fans of international golf, tennis and athletics, has narrated the antics of Phillip Island’s most famous residents as they waddle from the shoreline, across the sand dunes to arrive safely at home, in their burrows. Please enjoy the Facebook video here.

Phillip Island

Cowes Foreshore

Phillip Island Nature Parks is a not-for-profit conservation organisation, committed to the protection of wildlife and its habitat, funded through the operation of its ecotourism experiences. Make sure to support Phillip Island Nature Parks and enjoy the penguin parade when you next visit Victoria, Australia.

Good to know:

Phillip Island

Island Surf School

Phillip Island

Phillip Island Chocolate Factory

Phillip Island

 

Phillip Island is only a 90 minute drive south-east of Melbourne and is easily one of the most popular spots to visit in Victoria for many good reasons. The island offers stunning coastal scenery, beaches to explore and many wildlife encounters. Well worth a 2-night stay, make some time to catch the large colony of Australian Fur Seals on a seal watching cruise, feed the wild pelicans at San Remo, visit the Chocolate Factory and then burn off all the sugar at Amaze n Things. Finally, don’t forget to take the kids go-karting on the scale replica of the famous Grand Prix circuit!

Healesville Sanctuary

Stories from our backyard: Healesville Sanctuary


Top of mind when visiting Australia for many is to meet the local residents…which of course is not the human variety but the native animals. This is not surprising as our native wildlife are unique and simply a huge drawcard for admirers of all ages! And for those of us visiting the Melbourne region, this means a must-visit is to make the one-hour journey from the Melbourne CBD to Healesville Sanctuary in the stunning Yarra Valley.

Healesville Sanctuary

Couple with kangaroos at Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuary | Zoos Victoria

Healesville Sanctuary

Meet an Echidna, Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuary:

Healesville Sanctuary is all about our native wildlife and is not your ordinary zoo. It is a bushland haven for Australian wildlife and a delight that demands a full day adventure. Wander along the tracks and meet some iconic Australian animals like Koalas, Kangaroos, Platypus, Dingoes, Wombats and Emus. Take in some Keeper talks to get to know your favourite animal and how the Keeper’s care for our furry, fluffy, and even scaly friends. Have your photo taken in front of a Koala or Kangaroo and watch our strangest animal friend, the Platypus.

Healesville Sanctuary

Koala being treated for bushfire injuries

Australian Wildlife Health Centre:

But most importantly, Healesville Sanctuary is also home to the Australian Wildlife Health Centre, a hospital which treats more than 2000 sick and injured native animals every year. The vets and keepers from the Australian Wildlife Health Centre were part of the bushfire emergency teams that staffed a number of triage centres across Victoria during the recent summer bushfires. They tended to injured wildlife on the frontline, and several Koalas have been brought back to Healesville Sanctuary for rehabilitation with the hope that someday they will be released back to the wild.

Healesville Sanctuary

Koala treated for bushfire injuries

Bushfire Relief Fund:

The recent bushfires were horrific. Scientists estimate billions of animals have perished in the vast bushfires that have torn through millions of hectares of forest across Australia’s south-east. Up to 100 endangered species have lost most of their living areas. As a voice for wildlife, Healesville Sanctuary is devastated by the impact of the Australian bushfire crisis on precious species and their habitat and is determined to assist in all aspects, including through raising much-needed emergency funds. Healesville Sanctuary and Zoos Victoria have set up a dedicated Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund for donations. You are welcome to donate here.

The goal of the Bushfire relief fund is to work towards establishing long-term plans to ensure our native wildlife, including endangered species, can recover from these heartbreaking and ongoing fires. Healesville Sanctuary is internationally renowned for its work saving endangered Australian species and offers a memorable day where you can meet and enjoy the local residents as well as see the important work in the Australian Wildlife Health Centre. So, make sure to add this to your must-visit list when next visiting Melbourne, Australia!

Good to know:

Whilst you are visiting Healesville Sanctuary take time to stay awhile as there is plenty to do in the stunning Yarra Valley!

Yering Gorge Cottages, the Yarra Valley

Dining at Domaine Chandon winery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay in a villa with local wildlife visiting you at dusk. Explore the Yarra Valley by visiting the local wineries (including Domaine Chandon), cider & gin distilleries, don’t miss the farmgates or the magnificent Coombe Gardens, do a day hike through Kinglake National Park and catch the Puffing Billy steam train through the nearby Dandenong Ranges. Read more on the Yarra Valley

Puffing Billy Steam Railway

Cheese on display at the Healesville Harvest cafe

Dolphin Swims

Stories from our backyard: Sea All Dolphin Swims

For a hands-down most fun thing to do with your family make sure to do the Dolphin & Seal Swim. Just 30 minutes from the start of the Great Ocean Road and 1.5 hours from Melbourne, Sea All Dolphin Swims operates from the historic town of Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula. This is a nature-based experience that you simply won’t forget!

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

But here’s a warning… this is not a Seaworld attraction experience. All animals are completely wild, and the experiences are totally impromptu…

Dolphin Swims

Dolphins at play

The swim tour:

Takes 3.5 hours, and you get to meet the local residents of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park… most notably colourful fishes, Australian Fur Seals and of course, the Burranan or Bottlenose Dolphins. You can do as much or as little as you like in these shallow and protected waters. Learn to snorkel, then swim with both the Seals and Dolphins or simply watch from your spot on the boat or the boom net if you prefer…

Dolphin Swims

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

Australian Fur Seals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I gotta tell you it’s a lot of fun sitting in the boom net watching the dolphins & humans at play !

Dolphin Swims

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

Since a recent ban on commercial fishing in the Bay has been introduced you can expect a 95% success rate with Dolphin sightings. Sea All Dolphin Swims offer a nice small group with a maximum of 35 guests onboard. If you are wondering about your young ones swimming, then let them decide. They will be well coached and supported on the day. Swimming is open to all ages.

Dolphin Swims

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

The Dolphins:

Dolphin Swims

The dolphins are the stars of the show and they love to frolic in the boat’s wake. They are both social and intelligent, and it is SO much fun to be with them in the water. Sea All Dolphin Swims prides themselves on ensuring that their guests have an engaging and altogether unforgettable experience. So, make sure to add this to your wish list!

Good to know:

The swim tour is based at Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula. Queenscliff is a port with a car/passenger ferry which connects one side of the Bay to the other.

Queenscliff-Sorrento Ferry

The ferry is an excellent way to connect your stays on The Great Ocean Road to Phillip Island or the Yarra Valley and beyond. But whilst you are in Queenscliff take time to also explore the wider Bellarine Peninsula by visiting the local wineries, farmgates and the Koala & Wildlife Sanctuary at Barwon Heads. Read more on the Great Ocean Road

The Whiskery on the Bellarine Peninsula. Chris McConville

Wine from Jack Rabbit

Seafood on the Bellarine Peninsula

Great Ocean Road

A local’s top tips on the Great Ocean Road

The spectacular Great Ocean Road enables an experience of nature in all its wonder on an 244km epic adventure. This dramatic coastal road begins in Torquay and winds its way westward, hugging the rugged cliffs and beaches of southern Australia through seaside villages and national forests & parks. The start is less than a 2-hour drive from Melbourne, and you could easily allow 3 nights to explore the delights of this world-famous stretch of coastline.
The Great Ocean Road pays homage to serviceman lost in World War 1, and the thousands of returned soldiers who carved the route from rocky cliffs. It is most famous for the Twelve Apostles, the limestone stacks rising out of the Southern Ocean, situated within the Port Campbell National Park right near the end of your journey.

Great Ocean Road

Twelve Apostles, Roberto Seba | 2014

Witness the power of the Southern Ocean as it continues to shape this stunning coastline. You are in for a treat with some magnificent surf and swimming beaches. This is where you will find the home of such iconic surf brands as Ripcurl and Quicksilver. The Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach is where the world’s best surfers compete each Easter in the longest running surf competition in the world.
Do some short walks through the Otway Ranges amongst tall trees, ancient plant life and lush green ferns. Walk among giant tree ferns at Maits Rest, make sure to see the glow worms at Melba Gully, enjoy the impressive Triplet Falls or experience the full beauty of this rainforest paradise on the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk or Zip Line tour.

Great Ocean Road

Great Otway National Park

Native animals abound with opportunities to easily spot the big Red Kangaroos on the Anglesea Golf Course and the colonies of wild Koalas on the Kennett River Koala Walk. Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is an inactive volcano that offers self-guided nature walks and plenty of wildlife viewing.

Great Ocean Road

Juvenile Eastern Grey Kangaroo

The Great Ocean Road is more than a drive, it is a feast of magnificent nature that is not-to-be-missed. Here are some of the key things to visit & do:

Torquay:

The home of the surfing industry and the iconic surf-brands, Rip Curl & Quicksilver. If you are keen on getting the latest in surf gear, then make sure to visit the Surf City precinct where you will find all the surf brands latest retail outlets. Pop around the corner to grab a bargain at the Surf factory outlet stores selling last season’s discounted stock. Take a surf lesson, enjoy a tasty lunch or coffee at Café Moby or try out the local ales at Blackmans Brewery.

Great Ocean Road

Rip Curl, Torquay

Anglesea:

11km before you hit Anglesea make a pit-stop at the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery. A definite foodie delight! A must-see is to visit the Anglesea Golf Course to view the large group of kangaroos that call it home. Best seen in the morning or late afternoon.

Lorne:

Wander this charming seaside township with its picturesque beach and huge gum trees lining the bay. Lorne has a range of cafes, restaurants and boutiques. Take a walk to the back of town where you will find Qdos Arts Gallery. Situated amid lush rainforest, explore the sculpture garden, contemporary gallery or simply enjoy a light meal at the café. Catch a new-release movie at the grand Art Deco Theatre that shows daily in Summer. A great short walk is Erskine Falls, a 30-metre cascading waterfall just 10km inland from Lorne.

Great Ocean Road

Lorne vista

Kennett River:

Make sure you do the Kennett River Koala Walk – one of the all-time favourite activities on the Great Ocean Road. Relax and enjoy the peace and beauty of the bush as you wind your way along the Grey River Road through Koala popular gum forest and into the dense Otway Rainforest. A great place to see koalas in their natural habitat.

Great Ocean Road

Koalas, Kennett River

Port Campbell National Park:

Discover this remarkable stretch of coastline which includes the extraordinary collection of wave-sculptured rock formations such as the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and London Bridge. Stunning at sunset.

Great Ocean Road

Twelve Apostles at sunset

Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve:

Meet Koalas, Emus, Kangaroos and many species of waterbirds roaming freely in Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, which sits inside an extinct volcano. There are plenty of short walks to explore this ideal place to experience the Australian bush, enjoy magnificent scenery and get up close and personal with some of Australia’s most iconic native birds and animals.

Great Ocean Road

Tower Hill Nature Reserve

The Great Ocean Road is a must-visit destination for those of us that enjoy the great outdoors. It is a triple win of magnificent beaches, pristine rainforests and getting up close and personal with the native wildlife. Ask us to include the Great Ocean Road in your Australia holiday itinerary…

the Yarra Valley

Why the Yarra Valley should be on your must visit list!

Working out where to travel in Australia is tough…. as there are so many diverse and superb choices… but consider adding the Yarra Valley to your must visit list!

When thinking and planning your first big trip to Australia it is important to get that perfect mix of destinations. Seek out what is special and iconic about Australia. Try to get that mix of outback, beach, city & country (weather and time permitting of course). That way you get a bit of everything and get a real feel of Australia.

The Yarra Valley ticks the “country” box. And my what a beautiful bit of country it is!

the Yarra Valley

Tarrawarra Estate

The Yarra Valley:

is a world-class wine region, and only 60 minutes from Melbourne. The valley has crisp clean air and spectacular views of the valley to the Dandenong Ranges beyond. This is a natural location with plenty to do, or you can simply relax and enjoy the gourmet food and wines of the region. But it does deliver so much more!  Be inspired with the natural beauty of the towering Eucalypt forests which are great for walking off all the food and wine. This is where you can stay in a country cottage in a natural bush setting with plenty of native animals around at dusk when you are enjoying a glass of wine on your balcony.  Spend a day at the Healesville Sanctuary and get up close and personal with our Aussie native animals… your children will love it whether they are 2 or 21!

Here are some of the things to do in the Yarra Valley…

Healesville Sanctuary:

Meet your favourite Australian animals. The Sanctuary features unique experiences with Australian wildlife amongst the sights, sounds and scents of the stunning bushland surrounds. Do not miss the Health Centre where they treat the sick/injured or orphaned wildlife. The Koala Forest is another must do and finally the spectacular Birds of Prey show which runs twice a day.

 the Yarra Valley

Kangaroos at Healesville Sanctuary

Wineries/Gourmet Food:

The Valley is home to over 80 cellar doors, sumptuous fine-dining restaurants and artisan producers of magnificent cheeses, elegant chocolates and an ale/cider trail. Go knock yourself out and attempt to try them all!

the Yarra Valley

the Yarra Valley

Yarra Valley Dairy, Photography by Roberto Seba

National Parks:

Set out for a leisurely walk past tall trees, clear creeks and fern-fringed waterfalls at either Kinglake National Park or Yarra Ranges National Park.

Golf:

The Yarra Valley delivers spectacular scenery and a relaxing region to enjoy your golf. There are many courses to choose from such as the Eastern Golf Club, Yering Meadows Golf Club, The Gardiners Run & the Yarra Valley Country Club.  

Other Attractions:

Take a breathtaking early morning hot air balloon ride over the valley, visit and wander the meandering Alowyn Gardens, make sure to visit Coombe which is a garden, restaurant and gallery or go further afield and enjoy a Steam Train ride through the Dandenong Ranges on Puffing Billy.

the Yarra Valley

Vineyard in the Yarra Valley

The Yarra Valley is a great stop for 2-3 nights, and only a quick trip from Melbourne city. It really is a beautiful region that does deliver that country feel in pristine surrounds. Make sure to ask us about the Yarra Valley. We are happy to help with your planning to make sure your Australia Holiday is your best ever!

Melbourne attractions

Australia: Visit Melbourne

Visit Melbourne by Vicki Baensch

Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, has regularly been voted one of the world’s most liveable cities. It is a city of 4.1 million people and is renowned for its sense of style and elegance. It boasts glamorous festivals, Australia’s best shopping, a lively passion for music, eating and drinking, and a flourishing interest in the arts. Melbourne is the place with something for everyone!

Shopping in Melbourne

Shopping:

Get your retail therapy fix in chic fashion stores at the Melbourne Central complex or the bustling Queen Victoria Market. There are numerous grand arcades filled with boutique stores and unique quirky shops in the laneways – you will find Melbourne is a shopper’s paradise. Discover boutiques and more in Melbourne’s hidden laneways or visit Chadstone which is a mecca for luxury and indoor shopping.

Dining:

The Melbourne weather is conducive to hanging out in cafes or trendy bars, and enjoying a romantic dinner in one of Melbourne’s many restaurants. Discover alleys leading to opulent bars, exclusive restaurants hiding behind non-descript doors and cafes/clubs in Melbourne’s laneways.

Entertainment:

Melbourne is famous for catching a game at one of the big stadiums – typically Australian Rules Football/Cricket at the M.C.G or the Australian Open Tennis at Rod Laver Arena. Take time to shop and play at the Crown Casino complex or enjoy a walk in the Botanic Gardens. Visit a museum or see a theatre show.

Short Drives:

If that’s not enough, it also offers easy access to areas such as the Yarra Valley- wine, Phillip Island – penguins and the coastal scenery of the famous Great Ocean Road. All of these areas offer magnificent countryside and many nature based experiences to be enjoyed by all ages. Australia’s unique animals are heavily featured also! This is where you can see koalas, watch penguins in their hundreds waddle up the beach of an evening, learn to surf, swim with wild dolphins and seals, walk and be amazed by the wonderful ruggedness of the rock stacks and blowholes on the Great Ocean Road, hike in the Otways Rainforest and enjoy some magnificent wine from the Yarra Valley. Victoria is a small state and all these places are an easy 1-3 hour’s drive out of Melbourne.

Phillip Island 12 Apostles Great Ocean Road

Allow at least 2-3 nights for the city and consider an extra few nights to get out of the city. Melbourne and Victoria are definitely a must-see for any visit to Australia as the area delivers iconic and unique Australian experiences that make for an unforgettable holiday!

 

Facts:

  • Melbourne weather can vary dramatically in a day. You can expect average daytime temperatures ranging from 14 degrees in winter to 28 degrees Celsius in summer. Perfect weather for all activities.
  • Air China, Air Asia, China Eastern and China Southern are the international airlines that fly direct. Direct flight time is approx. 12 hours. Plenty more airlines fly into Melbourne via their own transit hub.
  • Melbourne is +2 hours ahead of Shanghai time.

 

Recommended Restaurants:

Izakaya Den, Cutler & Co Dining Room & Bar, Mamasita, Attica, Circa, The Prince Hotel, Spice Temple, Dandelion, Café Di Stasio St Kilda, Lau’s Family Kitchen St Kilda, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Flower Drum, Jacques Reymond, Ladro, Golden Fields St Kilda, Chin Chin CBD, Newmarket Hotel St Kilda, Vue De Monde CBD

 

Major Events:

Melbourne hosts some major events year round. Some of the best include:

  • January – Australian Open Tennis
  • March – Australian Motor Grand Prix
  • March – Melbourne Food & Wine Festival
  • April – Melbourne International Comedy Festival
  • August – Melbourne International Film Festival
  • October-November – Spring Racing Carnival
  • December Historic Boxing Day Test Cricket Match

 

Recommended Activities/Tours: This is a short selection. There is so much you can do!

Take a walk through the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens and enjoy any number of their tours including Aboriginal Cultural Experience or Heritage Walk

Watch the Orang-utans face-to-face at the amazing Melbourne Zoo

Go diving with the sharks at Melbourne Aquarium

Enjoy a fun day out with family at the Melbourne Museum and IMAX theatre

Do the Gallery circuit including NGV International, Ian Potter Centre, State Library, The Australian Centre for contemporary art, Heide Museum of modern art

Shopping/Food:

Enjoy all the foodie delights & shopping at the Queen Victoria Markets (closed Monday & Wednesday):

Join a walking a shopping trip which will help you find all those fantastic places…

Stroll along the Yarra River and dine at one of the many restaurants at Southgate then stroll to the Crown Entertainment complex home to shops, cinemas and the Crown Casino

Visit Chadstone Shopping Centre which is home to 530 stores including the most significant collection of luxury brands under one roof boasting Australia’s first dedicated luxury precinct

Great Ocean Road:

Great Ocean Road Day Tours: Enjoy a full day tour with the aboriginal centre, twelve apostles and enjoy the beach

Drive the 250km stretch of road hugging the coast with amazing views

Visit the Twelve Apostles the giant rock stacks rising from the Southern Ocean. View at sunset & you may see penguins as well! Can also book helicopter flights to fly around these majestic rock stacks

Zip lining & tree-top walk at the Otway Fly in the Otways near Great Ocean Road is not to be missed

Learn to Surf near Bells Beach, which is part of the World Surfing Championships every Easter. Plenty of surf schools abound in this area:

Swim with wild dolphins & seals at Queenscliff

The small hamlet of Kennett River on the Great Ocean Road is one of the best places in Australia to see koalas in the wild. Turn into Grey River Road, off the Great Ocean Road, and between one and two kilometres along the road you will be guaranteed to spot koalas in the gum trees.

You can also do the Great Ocean Walk, a 91km walk which begins in Apollo Bay and ends at the Twelve Apostles

Phillip Island (2 hours south/east of Melbourne): Great for nature & wildlife lovers!

Phillip Island Day Tours: Enjoy a full day with wildlife, wineries and ending with the famous Penguin Parade

Must not miss is the nightly Penguin Parade

Experience wild koalas in their natural habitat

Step back in time… meet the farm animals, relax in the cafe, enjoy the water views, and stroll amongst heritage buildings and lovely gardens