For my first trip out of Melbourne city, I hopped on a bus tour out to Phillip Island. It was a full-day kind of thing, with lots of stops on the way.
It started with a trip to Moonlit Sanctuary, a wildlife conservation park boasting natural areas with all kinds of Australian wildlife! They have a large, fairly open area with kangaroos and wallabies, a pond with tons of birds, and some smaller animals in little exhibits. I thought they did a really good job of making it a sanctuary, and not a zoo. I loved seeing all the unique animals!
There are some optional photo ops (an extra charge from the park admission) that were well worth it- I got to meet Louie the koala as he snacked on his eucalyptus leaves, and I got to pet a kangaroo as it ate special kangaroo food out of my hand! I was surprised that their fur was actually really soft.
If you want to shy away from the cute and cuddly, the Sanctuary also has a large python. I chose not to hold it though! 😛 The dragons were pretty cute though…
Our group had a nice picnic lunch at the sanctuary (there is a large covered picnic area with grills), too. I think this would make a great place for a fun outing, and you can listen to the parrots as you eat your lunch!
After that, we headed down to Phillip Island. Along the way are loads of small beach towns (San Remo and Cowes), which make great stops for some sand, pretty views, and fish ‘n chips. The main attraction at Philip Island (penguins) doesn’t really get going until after dark, so I got to enjoy the sunset from the small beaches we stopped at along they way.
So what’s the big deal with Phillip Island you ask? Every evening, the penguins swim in, and make their descent up the land to a nice area where they burrow and sleep for the night. It’s a spectacular natural phenomenon as the penguins, usually in groups, trudge and waddle up the hill. Because it’s so popular, they have to institute some pretty tight controls of the tourists. No photography/videography/cameras of any kind are allowed, since the rangers don’t want the flashes of thousands of cameras to scare the penguins away. Of course some people sneak some photos while the rangers are not around, but in general, most people respected the rules. Everyone gathers around a raised walkway to see the penguins swim up onto the beach. And then, it’s a few minutes wait as all the penguins make their way to their sleeping spots. Once they are near the walkways, you can get really good looks at them as they wander around, looking for a place to sleep, often traveling in small groups.
Overall, it was a great day, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to see some of Australia’s very unique wildlife. Everything was relatively close as well- Phillip Island is only about a 2 hour drive from Melbourne city proper, and well worth the trip!