Phillip Island means two things to me: adorable penguins and the Hemsworth brothers. The area is famous for both – some would argue one less so than the other but then, those people obviously don’t appreciate Thor without a shirt on.
Personally, seeing both the penguins AND the Hemsworths in their natural habitat is on my bucket list so you can imagine how thrilled I was to be able to tick one of them off recently.
We were invited to be a guest of Phillip Island Nature Parks for the day and check out some of the many attractions in the area. Harlow was just on the eve of her 2nd birthday and I hadn’t planned to do anything specifically so thought we could turn our trip into an overnight stay to celebrate. We don’t get away very often and so it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
All of your presents are belong to me
We began the day with presents for the birthday girl. After that, planning to arrive at 12:30pm for lunch, we packed ourselves into the car at around 10:30am and began the ninety minute journey. Except that it didn’t take 90 minutes. Now I’m not sure what starting point the ninety minutes is calculated from but I guess if it’s Melbourne city, then I should have known coming from the north would tack on around another 30-40 minutes. And I also don’t know if my sat nav was playing me for a fool but we didn’t arrive in Phillip Island until after 1:00pm. It was during this long car trip (and the emergency stop to deal with the crying birthday girl) that I began to recall exactly why we don’t go away very often. It was a little tense.
But then we saw the water. And doesn’t that do something to you!
“Look, kids, the water!” we cried, maybe with real tears, as we could finally answer the question, “Are we there yet?” with a triumphant, “YES!”
I was immediately struck by how gorgeous the landscape was, and as we approached the bridge that would take us to Phillip Island, there was much excitement in the car.
No sooner had we crossed the bridge to Phillip Island, did we cross another which took us to Churchill Island. We parked in a large paddock and as soon as Luca hopped out, he just ran. In every kid’s bones is the need to run in wide open spaces but city living restricts this kind of freedom. Seeing my kids take off, grass beneath their feet and stretched out ahead, is such a simple and wonderful pleasure.
By now, it was a little past one o’clock so we headed straight to the café where the best table on the veranda was reserved just for us. The view was gorgeous.
Bren drank his coffee like it was the nectar of the gods and I may have drank my Coke in a similarly reverent fashion. The meals were fabulous – I had the Greek lamb salad, Bren had a burger which impressed him so deeply that he spoke at length about the way the cheese had gone all melty over the crispy bacon. The kid’s meals were HUGE with loads of salad. Naturally, they barely touched the green stuff but I always appreciate when a place incorporates that element on the plate – I think it helps concrete these foods as normal and eventually, someday, the kids will eat them.
We headed over to the farm where daily activities like cow milking, sheep shearing and whip cracking can be observed. Again, it is always hilarious to see city kids on a farm. They love the close proximity to the animals, the freedom to tear around from one thing to the next. Luca loved the whip cracking and when our Akubra wearing instructor opened up the floor to audience members wanting to try their hand, Luca was desperate to have a turn. Sadly, six-year-olds and whips are not allowed and just as well. We saw some people almost remove their own heads. But the pride when they did manage to split the air with an almighty CRACK! was awesome to watch.
Later we headed back to the café to have cupcakes and sing Happy Birthday to our 2-year-old.
By now, it was late afternoon so we checked into our accommodation (highly recommend Ramada Resort Phillip Island – we scored a good rate via Wotif.com), got rugged up and headed to the Penguin Parade.
Anticipation was peaking as we enjoyed a quick dinner in the café. As the light was beginning to fade, we made our way down to the viewing platform and waited. We were lucky enough to have Penguins Plus tickets which meant that we were very close to the path the penguins would be taking. The ranger chatted us through what we could expect and before too long, we began to glimpse little bodies popping out of their burrows. It was quite dark by this stage but the flash of white was still thrilling to behold. And then, our little sea-faring friends made their return back from the ocean where they had been searching for food for a day or more. I can’t express the level of cute as these fat little darlings (average 30cms tall!) waddled directly past our viewing deck. We were in the second row from the front so the penguins were literally a metre away, walking up the well-worn, lighted path back to their homes.
The whole idea of the Penguin Parade is that we observe them going about their normal activities so with this in mind, you need to prepare to wait patiently until they do their thing. But it is so worth it. All three of the kids (ages 6, 4 and 2) handled the wait well and loved seeing the Little Penguins. We rugged up but it was a reasonably mild night with no wind or rain.
Little Penguins have sensitive eyes so photography is forbidden which was ultimately a positive thing because instead of trying to ‘record’ the moment, we just lived it. So many times we miss things because we are too busy looking through a lens.
Photos courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Parks
We returned to our accommodation happily exhausted. We all slept well.
The following morning, Good Friday, we enjoyed a buffet breakfast during which I was peculiarly Zen, saying yes to the kids’ requests for Cocoa Pops and hardly batting an eyelid as drinks got spilled. In some complete alternate universe, I had managed to find ‘holiday mode’ even with three kids in tow.
It was a rainy old day but we were determined to see the koalas so we pulled our hoods up and ventured out along the boardwalks where we saw furry bodies curled up tight against the rain and cold. The kids were just as excited as they had been about the penguins. I was concerned that they might whinge about the weather but for them, it just increased the sense of adventure. Most of the koalas were sleeping but we were lucky enough to spot a big fella munching on some leaves and then climbing higher into the tree. I don’t know what it is about native animals but seeing them just makes me feel quite emotional. Gorgeous creatures, they are. And thankfully, their eyes can handle photography. Click!
Oh, and we caught Harlow on film saying 'koala' for the first time. Special.
Our last stop was Nobbies Centre. Entry is free and you can enjoy a meal while overlooking the coastal scenery of Bass Strait. The weather by now was pretty crazy and Harlow had fallen asleep so we didn’t have a chance to wander the boardwalk and try and glimpse the fur seals but it was a good opportunity to let the boys have a run in the kids’ playroom before we made the journey home again.
As we drove away from Nobbies along the rugged coastline, I noticed a windsurfer and asked Bren to pull over while I took some pictures. What a crazy breed surfers are. It was a cold day but windy, I guess that makes for perfect surfing conditions and I stood watching quietly for a while. I may have thought about the Hemsworths…..
Our getaway to Phillip Island was such a joy and I admit, that was unexpected. Three kids and being far from home is often a recipe for disaster but I realised our family is heading into that next stage where trips away are not so difficult. As the kids get older, especially Harlow who is less and less a baby, these adventures are more doable. And far more enjoyable.
It’s lovely to be only (allegedly) 90 minutes from home but feel like you’re in a brand new world. One night away meant we packed light and the whole thing just flowed quite easily. And Phillip Island is inarguably gorgeous. We saw some of the absolute highlights but this represents a fraction of the activities available. Next time we head back, we’re getting a babysitter and heading out to dinner. Apparently there are a host of great restaurants to choose from.
And as a lifelong Victorian, I am so pleased to be able to finally say that I have seen the Penguin Parade. It was worth the wait.
WIN A PHILLIP ISLAND NATURE PARKS 3 PARK FAMILY PASS!
On behalf of Phillip Island Nature Parks, I am so thrilled to be able to give away a 3 Park Family Pass to one lucky reader.
About the prize:
- The 3 Park pass includes entry to the Penguin Parade, Churchill Island Heritage Farm and the Koala Conservation Centre
- Family pass admits 2 adults and 2 children
- Valued at $101
- Leave a comment below with your best tip for enjoying family getaways
- If you’re not already, follow me on Facebook.
- If you’re not already, follow Phillip Island Nature Parks on Facebook.
Conditions of entry:
- Entrants must leave a comment below (not on Facebook) and be contactable via email. One entry per person. Australian residents only – sorry!
- Entries close: Saturday 17 May 2014 at noon.
- Winners will be chosen by random.org, notified by email and announced on this blog post.
- The prize will be distributed by Phillip Island Nature Parks.
- Prizes are not redeemable for cash.
- Prizes are not transferable.
- The Promoter is not responsible for prizes once they have been dispatched to the winner but please shoot me an email if you do not receive your prize within two weeks so I can investigate for you!
Promoter: The Little Mumma, PO Box 159, Montmorency, Victoria, 3094
Best of luck!
Disclosure: As mentioned, my family were guests of Phillip Island Nature Parks who generously provided us with entry to their parks as well as our meals. I sourced and paid for my own accomodation. I was not paid to write this post and wasn't that silly of me – I've been editing photos for DAYS! I know you know this but all the opinions above are belong to me. 🙂