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Phillip Island - a haven for Australian wildlife

Gavin from Australia

It's a pleasant two hour drive from the centre of Melbourne to Phillip island, one that takes you through the city and then around the banks of Westernport Bay to the mainland town of San Remo, where you cross the bridge to the island town of New Haven. The moment you cross the bridge, it starts to become apparent why Phillip Island is such a popular tourist destination, attracting over three-and-a-half million people every year. The quaint and established towns have every convenience a tourist would want, and the resident population of 7000 people go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome. The lush inland serenity is complemented by 97 kilometres of coastline that is the perfect basis for watersports of all descriptions. You will never be bored on a holiday on Phillip Island, and the mild, temperate climate ensures your stay will be comfortable no matter what time of year you visit.

Often referred to as Nature Island, Phillip Island is something of a haven for Australian wildlife of both the aquatic and land based varieties! The most popular nature attraction on the island, and one of the most popular in Australia, is the Penguin Parade. A large colony of Little Penguins has made their home on Summerland Beach for many years now, and every evening the penguins return from their fishing escapades in the waters and waddle up the beach to their sandy burrows. It's an amazing and somewhat comical sight watching these cute birds march up the beach in large numbers- a sight that has firmly put Phillip Island on the tourist map. A Nature Park has been built around the beach, and there is a viewing platform where you can watch the parade without getting in the way of the penguins. A marine centre, Nobbies, has been built in the park, which has fun and interactive displays on the ocean and the animals that live in it.

The island also has a very large koala population, and a slow stroll through the woodland trees of the Oswin Roberts Reserve will produce numerous sightings of these laid back icons of Australia doing what they do best - relaxing! The towering gums of the Koala Conservation Centre also provide a safe home for the chilled out creatures, and at the visitor centre there is a closed viewing area and a tree top boardwalk. If you want to see more animated wildlife, then head over to Seal Rocks at the southwestern tip of the island. A colony of 16,000 fur seals has made their home here, one of the largest colonies in Australia. Enjoy watching the seals dart through the water after fish, clumsily walk across the rocks or frolic with their young in the water. At the Nobbies marine centre you can really get up close to the seals via state-of-the-art camera technology that allows you to zoom right up to them!

The Phillip Island coastline isn't just reserved for seals and penguins, however. The quiet and sheltered beaches on the north of the island lie next to the calm waters of Westernport Bay, which are perfect for safe swimming. These are especially popular if you have young kids. But, if you want waves and a bit more excitement, then the southern, ocean-facing beaches are for you. The surf here is globally recognized as being consistent and reliable, although you must be careful of the strong rips and currents. Woolamai and Smiths beaches are two of the most popular surf beaches, and both are lifeguard patrolled during the summer.

Phillip Island was discovered over 200 years ago, and as such it has a rich culture and history. Its heritage is evident in many of the old buildings in the towns, but it is on Churchill Island where it is most striking. Accessed by bridge from the mainland, this tiny island of 57 hectares is an historic working farm complete with its original homestead dating back to 1872! Visitors can explore the ancient buildings on the farm, stroll among the orchard trees and the traditional gardens, and watch rangers demonstrate traditional farming techniques. A day here is a fun and educational outing that will help you and the kids get a better understanding of our agricultural history.

Author: Author's Notes: Gavin Wyatt is a journalist with a passion for travel. Originally from Zambia, he has traveled around the world to end up on the sunny shores of Australia. Gavin is a travel writer with Discovery Rentals (Australia Car Rental)

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