How to Spend a Cosy Weekend Away on Phillip Island
Escape the city hustle for fireplace-adjacent relaxation, leisurely strolls along rugged coastlines and dining with panoramic ocean views.
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When you think of Phillip Island, you probably think of penguins (not that we blame you — they're adorable). But this remarkable setting offers so much more than just our furry friends. Whether it's the outstanding dining possibilities — think fresh seafood, seasonal produce, top-notch wines and killer views — or the coastline that features some fascinating rock formations and the opportunity to spot some migrating sea life, at less than two hours' drive from Melbourne's CBD, Phillip Island is an awesome place to spend a cooler weather getaway.
We've found the best spots to eat, play and stay on a weekend away if you want to escape our big island to find a smaller, cosier one.
From pristine beaches and bountiful wine regions to alpine hideaways and bustling country towns, Australia has a wealth of places to explore at any time of year. We've partnered with Tourism Australia to help you plan your road trips, weekend detours and summer getaways so that when you're ready to hit the road you can Holiday Here This Year.
While regional holidays within Victoria are now allowed, some of the places mentioned below may still be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check websites before making any plans.
EAT AND DRINK
Although surrounded by water, Phillip Island isn't a tropical isle where you sip on coconuts. It's wild, rugged and full of cosy eateries and bars to stop at and escape the cold. And, just because you're leaving behind Melbourne for the weekend doesn't mean you have to give up the coffee that you know and love. Start your Phillip Island getaway at The Store, which is where you'll find the best cup of java to kickstart your trip. There's also a selection of flaky pies and steaming hot toasties that'll help rid you of the daybreak chills.
Now that you've had your morning pick-me-up, what better way to dive into the pleasures of Phillip Island than by taking a quick drive south through the picturesque plains to the Phillip Island Winery? From here, you'll experience stellar panoramic views from the winery's vantage point — make the most of them by sitting outside next to the roaring fire pit and sipping a shiraz alongside a cheese platter. Once you've sampled enough of the island's top wines, you'd be remiss if you didn't give the beer the same opportunity. Fortunately, Ocean Reach Brewing's mellow brewpub is only ten minutes away. Start with a tasting paddle, which will give you four flavourful offerings from the core range.
By now, the morning is probably done and dusted and it's time to figure out your lunchtime plans. The Cape Kitchen is a popular choice with its sincere dedication to locally grown ingredients. It serves up hearty dishes of seasonal produce — think Mornington black mussels with red curry sauce, and parmesan and thyme gnocchi. Set right on the Newhaven coast, the restaurant offers wonderful views stretching along the rocky coastline and across the Southern Ocean (where you might even spot a whale or two). Another option is Saltwater, a laidback eatery situated on the most eastern tip of the island. Here, you'll be tucking into woodfired pizzas, charcuterie and, unsurprisingly, plenty of seafood while overlooking the wild sea.
When the sun goes down, we recommend getting cosy with another glass of red at Grenache Wine Bar. Alongside an extensive wine list, featuring both local and international drops, it also has a great reputation for beautiful meals that wouldn't be out of place at a trendy inner city spot. The relaxed, intimate atmosphere pairs perfectly with a belly-warming feast that could entail grilled chorizo oysters with balsamic glaze or snapper with pepperberry hollandaise.
Phillip Island undoubtedly offers some incredible gastronomic options, but the scenery is just as good. From striking clifftop hikes to astounding whale watching spots, there are plenty of things to see and do to keep your weekend away lively. One of the island's most popular adventures is the Cape Woolamai Circuit. Starting from the island's southern point and travelling up to its highest peak, this trek combines three separate walks that range in length from four to almost seven kilometres long. Each section is a rather easygoing walk with no prior hiking experience required. You'll probably want to rug up — you'll be battling the elements, after all. But you'll be rewarded with moody ocean vistas and stunning rock formations, including the Pinnacles Lookout and the Old Granite Quarry, which highlights a bit of local history — much of Melbourne's building materials came from here in the late 19th century.
Any weekend escape to Phillip Island needs to include a visit to Kitty Miller Bay — the 500-metre long stretch of sandy dunes is one of the prettiest in the region. There's also the remains of the SS Speke, which ran aground in 1906, and is now a popular spot for surfers and snorkellers in warmer months. In cooler months, stay dry (and warm) while whale watching. If you head to Pyramid Rock, you'll find yourself at one of the best places to catch a glimpse of the humpback whales and orcas that cruise by heading to warmer waters. Take a stroll down the boardwalk and experience the rugged coastline from the excellent viewing platform.
To up your chances of seeing whales, the self-guided Bass Coast Whale Discovery Trail is your insiders' map on where you need to go and it advises you on the bays, headlands and beaches you have to hit. Even if you don't witness the majestic creatures this time around, these incredible sights are still worth a visit. If you'd prefer someone to lead the way for you, Wildlife Coast Cruises offers a variety of tours. Consider the Winter Whale Cruise, which takes a tour of four whale watching hotspots or go in search of the island's resident fur seals with this two-hour cruise.
After a day of exploring this charming island in all its windswept glory, you're going to want somewhere cosy to retreat to and thaw out — preferably in front of a fireplace with a glass of red. Our first pick is Cape Cabin, a mud-brick and timber home that boasts direct beach access and sweeping views across Bass Strait and Cape Woolamai. Hidden among native plant life, it's ideal for big groups as it sleeps up to nine guests across five large bedrooms. There's loads of space to spread out, with fully equipped indoor and outdoor kitchens, plus massive entertainment and living areas.
For those looking for a more rural retreat, the Five Acres farm stay offers just that, while remaining easily within reach of Cowes. From here, your deck showcases sprawling views across Western Port Bay, while a fireplace makes for snug evening warming back up. Or, you could opt for an even more rustic approach with a stay in one of The Sheltered Glamping Co's luxury glamping tents. The largest, Emperor Safari, even comes with an outdoor tub to soak in.
Meanwhile, if style is the name of the game, then the Anglers Shack likely wins. Owned and decorated by prominent stylist Simone Haag, this chic beach cabin on Sunderland Bay shows off some of her best work. Enjoy the ocean views and the skate ramp — if that's your kind of thing. Down the road in the lush community of Smiths Beach, the five-bedroom Beachwood Luxury Villa will have you within close proximity to a wealth of restaurants and parks. The balcony is great for celebrating, plus you can get a glimpse of Pyramid Rock and the nearby beach, all from the comfort of your weekend home.
Whether you're planning to travel for a couple of nights or a couple of weeks, Holiday Here This Year and you'll be supporting Australian businesses while you explore the best of our country's diverse landscapes and attractions.
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Published on July 03, 2020 by Hudson Brown