The ultimate guide to Phillip Island Nature Parks

A group of little penguins on the shore at Phillip Island

Nicola Dowse

Posted July 17, 2023

Discover Phillip Island’s famous Little Penguins, plus koalas, seals and more at one of the island’s four ecotourism nature parks. 

Phillip Island has long been a favourite holiday destination for Victorians thanks to its proliferation of wildlife. One of the best ways to discover that wildlife is with a trip to one – or all four – of Phillip Island Nature Parks' attractions. Located across the island, these ecotourism attractions not only provide fun and educational experiences for all ages, but help protect native wildlife too.

RACV Members save on Phillip Island Nature Parks tickets.

A couple patting a pony on Churchill Island, Victoria

Churchill Island is full of history, not to mention fun farming activities. Image: Visit Victoria.

Everything you need to know about Phillip Island Nature Parks

What are the main attractions at Phillip Island Nature Parks?

Phillip Island Nature Parks manages four eco tourism experiences, as well as a wildlife cruise run in partnership with Wildlife Coast Cruises. 

Phillip Island Penguin Parade

The best-known attraction on Phillip Island is arguably the Penguin Parade. Every night the world’s largest Little Penguin colony waddles out of the ocean and up the shore to their burrows and you can watch the phenomenon from the Penguin Parade’s purpose-built viewing platforms.  

Watch from the tiered general entry grandstands overlooking Summerlands Beach, the up-close Penguin Plus grandstand, or book a spot in the underground viewing area to see the penguins face to face. The Penguin Parade also offers nightly guided ranger tours, adventure tours and family tours (run Fridays and Saturdays as well as nightly during school holidays).  

Because the penguins return at sunset each day, the exact time can vary throughout the year. You can find out the daily expected penguin arrival time via the Penguin Parade website.

Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies Centre

This joint venture between Phillip Island Nature Parks and the World Wildlife Foundation is all about educating visitors about Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. It’s an interactive experience where you can compare your thermal image to that of an Emperor Penguin, listen to wildlife calls from the depths of the Southern Ocean and check out specimens under microscopes.  

The Nobbies Centre also has 500 metres of boardwalks overlooking Bass Strait to explore, with the chance to spot some of Phillip Island’s famous seals as well as whales during May through October.  

Churchill Island

Phillip Island’s little sister is Churchill Island, a site full of history brought to life through fun daily activities. Like Phillip Island, Churchill Island is the land of the Boonwurrung/Bunurong people as well as the the location of the first European garden in Victoria.  

The island has been continuously farmed by European settlers since the 1850s with many of the historic buildings and lands now a drawcard for tourists. There’s more to do than just look though – Churchill Island has an exciting schedule of daily agrarian events including cow milking, blacksmithing, sheep shearing, whip cracking and working dog displays.  

Koala Conservation Reserve

See one of Australia’s cutest native animals in their natural habitat at Phillip Island’s Koala Conservation Reserve. There are two tree-top boardwalks to explore (each roughly 20 minutes) that provide ample koala spotting opportunities. You might even spot a wallaby or echidna on the ground below, not to mention plenty of birdlife!

There are also six hectares of bush nature trails to wander in addition to the raised boardwalks, plus an interactive visitor centre and nature play area for children.

Seal Cruise

If you love seals, you’re going to enjoy seeing thousands of them on the Phillip Island Seal Cruise. The two hour journey takes you to the aptly named Seal Rocks where the boat drifts just metres away from one of Australia’s biggest fur seal colonies.  

The cruise boasts an average of more than 5,000 seals seen per trip, with seabirds and dolphins also regularly spotted. As Bass Strait can get quite nippy, the cruise vessel sports a warm, undercover viewing area and includes morning or afternoon tea.

Two little penguins waddling past the underground viewing area at the Phillip Island Penguin Parade

Little penguins waddle right past the underground viewing windows at the Penguin Parade. Image: Visit Victoria.

Can I see all four Phillip Island Nature Parks attractions in one day?

Technically yes, if you’re very keen. Churchill Island, the Koala Reserve and the Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies Centre each open at 10am and close at 4.30pm each day, while the Penguin Parade opens at 4pm.

You can also see all four attractions at a more leisurely pace if you opt for a 4 Parks Pass ticket. This includes booked entry to the Penguin Parade, plus open-dated entry to the other three parks for six months from the date of purchase. The 4 Parks Pass is also more economical than buying separate tickets for each experience.  

Can I take photos at Phillip Island Nature Parks?

Photos and videos are not permitted after sunset at the Penguin Parade to avoid harm to the penguins. Guests are welcome to download photos free of charge or to take photographs at the other attractions.  

Are Phillip Island Nature Parks suitable for children?

Yes, each attraction is well set up for families with children. Paths and boardwalks throughout include ramps and are wide enough for prams. Pram parking is also available at key locations, such as by the Penguin Parade grandstands and farm activities on Churchill Island. Nature trails are made from smooth, hard-packed gravel.  

Keep in mind tickets are required at Phillip Island Nature Parks for all children, including infants (children aged zero to four receive a complimentary ticket). 


Families watching Antarctic scenes on a huge screen at the Antarctic Journey experience at the Nobbies Centre

Learn about the icy world of Antarctica at Antarctic Journey. Image: Visit Victoria.

Are Phillip Island Nature Parks suitable for guests with accessibility needs?

Yes, paths and boardwalks throughout the parks include ramps and are wide enough for guests using a wheelchair, with dedicated areas for wheelchair users at all the Penguin Parade viewing locations.

Phillip Island Nature Parks are also sensory certified. Staff are professionally trained to help guests with additional sensory needs, and you can borrow sensory bags (featuring noise-cancelling headphones, fidget tools and verbal cue cards) by leaving your ID with staff.

Certified assistance animals are welcomed at the parks, so long as they remain restrained and on the path. 

Is food available at Phillip Island Nature Parks?

There are dining options available at each of the Phillip Island Nature Parks, except for the Koala Conservation Reserve. 

How do I buy tickets for Phillip Island Nature Parks?

It is recommended that you pre-purchase your tickets for Phillip Island Nature Parks either online or over the phone. RACV Members can also access discounted tickets, including 4 Parks Passes. 

Does Phillip Island Nature Parks help with nature conservation?

Money raised from tickets sold across Phillip Island Nature Parks goes back into the parks’ conservation, research, education and wildlife rescue efforts.

A koala on a branch at the Phillip Island Koala Conservation Reserve

You can see koalas (plus wallabies and more) in the wild at the Koala Conservation Reserve. Image: Visit Victoria.

How do I get to Phillip Island Nature Parks? 

Driving to Phillip Island from Melbourne takes roughly 90 minutes to two hours. The four attractionss, plus the seal cruise, are located at different sites across the island and you will need a car to drive between them. Both Phillip and Churchill islands have bridges connecting them by road.  Use the free arevo journey planner app to find the most efficient route to Phillip Island.

If you need a set of wheels for the trip, RACV Members can save 15 per cent off the daily rate through SIXT. If you don’t drive, there are a number of tour operators providing Phillip Island and Penguin Parade experiences.  

What else is there to do on Phillip Island? 

There's plenty to do for tourists on Phillip Island. Outdoorsy types can try the Cape Woolamai hike or exploring the Western Port wetlands, while those who like an adrenaline hit can give the Phillip Island Go Karts a whirl or even live out their Grand Prix dreams at one of the Phillip Island Ride Days held at the Phillip Island Circuit.  

For a tasty getaway, stop by Phillip Island Winery or Phillip Island Chocolate Factory (free samples included). Kids are well catered for as well thanks to the kooky A Maze’N Things theme park. 

Can I stay overnight on Phillip Island? 

Accommodation options are available across the island, with many located in the main township of Cowes.  

RACV Inverloch Resort is also just a short drive from Phillip Island and offers diverse accommodation options including hotel rooms, villas, cabins and caravan sites, plus the onsite Radius Restaurant which has a big focus on ingredients from the local regions.


RACV Members save on Phillip Island Nature Parks tickets
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