By Tupur Chakrabarty
“You’ve never been to Phillip Island? How long have you lived in Melbourne?” We lost count of how many times we’d heard that in the past 16 years! So Easter 2022 was phinally the time we went to Phillip Island!
Phillip Island that lies just off Australia’s southern coast is ione of the most popular day trip from Melbourne.
Our three-day itinerary was uncharacteristically laid-back, but that was okay since our main aim was to see some of the attractions (which we pre-purchased our tickets for), eat good food, and relax.
It took us about an hour and a half to reach San Remo, the last town on the mainland. We’d planned to have fish and chips at San Remo Fisherman’s Co-op and then watch the pelican feeding. After a quick meal of grilled gummy flake and chips, we went to the foreshore. Four pelicans had already arrived, in anticipation of lunch, I’m sure! In the early days, the pelicans were thrown the fish offcuts no one wanted, but the structured daily feeding at 12 noon started 37 years ago, in 1985.
Since our check-in in Corinella was at 2:00 pm, we had enough time to visit the Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies Centre. It’s amazing how much information about climate change, marine life and conservation is packed into the small space! And the videos of magical and majestic creatures and landscapes playing on the quirky screens downstairs are breathtaking! I thought even the lighting throughout the museum resembled the soft blue glow of the frozen continent.
Next was the Nobbies Walk. The staff at the Nobbies Centre shop said if we were lucky, we’d see some of the fairy penguins that call this part of the coast home. We spotted the wooden boxes dotted around the boardwalk and even saw the residents of some of those homes. We thought they were the young, but the ranger said they were all adults, going through a ‘catastrophic moult’, during which they shed all their worn feathers and are stranded on land until the feathers are replaced and their body is waterproof again. Even though the penguins spend days out at sea eating up in preparation for this land confinement, being trapped in a burrow or box for 18 days has a high risk of starvation and dehydration. Later we saw several moulting penguins under the boardwalk – they looked scruffy and sick – it was heartbreaking to see.
We made our way to the end of the boardwalk, the very tip of the peninsula. By now the sun was out and the waves were a gorgeous turquoise green laced with white as they crashed on the rocks. It was beautiful!
About 20 minutes’ drive from the Nobbies Centre is the Forest Caves. The wooden stairs from the parking area take you to the beach and then the rock formations are only a kilometre away. The sea looked calm between the vast expanses of the beach and sky.
The tide was low, so one could easily go inside the caves. The porous rock, created by consolidated volcanic ash, is known as the ‘tuff’, The rich colours of the ‘tuff’ were mesmerising as they caught the afternoon sun.
Day One was done. We were ready to check into our accommodation in Settlers Court, Corinella.
Corinella is a quiet little town on the mainland. There’s a General Store, which we didn’t visit, but from what we gathered from our host’s welcome folder, the General Store was a bit of a one-stop shop for most things one would need during their stay, including hot food! We visited the jetty though, which was about one and a half kilometres from our accommodation. The high trail ran along the shoreline. The beach below was the first of its kind we’d ever seen – there were mangroves, mud flats (, which seemed to be quite popular among ibises), and rocky platforms. We saw a dead fox on the way and were convinced that it didn’t die from natural causes. We arrived at the foreshore reserve. The smell of fish was strong near the boat ramp, but it was left behind as we came around to the jetty, The sun was warm, the wind fresh. We sat on the jetty, watching the boats go out.
After a filling breakfast at BEANd San Remo, we were off to the main attraction of day two: the Koala Conservation Reserve. We spotted ALL the koalas – ALL EIGHT OF THEM – but only four were within photo range, and one even within an arm’s reach! The incredibly accurate descriptions of each of the koalas led us to believe that the rangers spotted the animals every morning and changed the descriptions around. Since the cuddly marsupials probably rarely moved from their spots throughout the day, the details of who they were, what their personalities were like and what they were doing at any given moment remained unchanged all day!
From the Koala Conservation Reserve, we drove to Cowes. The town was bustling! The Saturday market was on – there were food stalls, countless artefacts on display, live music, a happy crowd, and the bay glistening under the autumn sun.
After a long walk through the market, and snacking on swirly potatoes and fairy floss, we stopped at Cohiba Bar for a drink. The cocktails didn’t disappoint! …Google tells me Cohiba Bar has closed permanently.
Day Two bid us goodbye in style. We spent the evening in our accommodation, preparing dinner together and playing charades.
Our final day started with a lovely breakfast at the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory cafe. We had hot chocolate, of course, chocolate on chocolate cake and samosas with chips and salad, which were all excellent.
But the most exciting part of our breakfast wasn’t the food – it was the robots that served the food!
The smaller yellow robot brought the drinks and desserts, and the larger white one carried the meals. It was great to share the wonder on every patron’s face, regardless of their age, as the robots brought the orders.
Our next and final destination: Churchill Island Heritage Farm. We were keen to see the cow milking, sheep shearing, working dogs and whip cracking, but as soon as we found out that there was a guided tour at 1:30, we knew we’d join even if that meant missing the cow milking and sheep shearing!
Our guide was Graeme. He knew the Island and all its stories. As he led us on the Northern Loop trail, he told us the story of the Moonah tree.
Two Bunurong children – a boy and a girl – were friends. They would play together for hours on end and skip stones at the beach. But when they became adolescents, they were no longer allowed to play together. The girl could play only with other girls, and the boy with other boys. Then one day, when both girls and boys from the tribe were at the beach, the boy and girl saw each other and started skipping stones together, as they used to do when they were children. The elders saw that and warned them not to see each other or talk to each other ever again. The girl was to be married off to another indigenous tribe, while the boy was to marry a girl from a different community. But they were so much in love that one night, completely ignoring the elders’ warning, they ran away to the forest. They were captured, however, and the elders were furious. They used their magic to turn the girl into a tree and the boy into the whirlwind that swirls on the sea. They still couldn’t be kept apart. The wind came ashore and embraced the tree, twisting its trunk and branches. The Moonah was born.
Churchill Island has been a safe haven for native flora and fauna for years. It gave us goosebumps to hear that the bandicoot, previously extinct in the wild, was brought here so they were safe from foxes and feral cats. As their numbers grew, they were reintroduced to the wild and delisted from extinction.
As soon as the walk ended, we ran back inside to see the working dogs followed by whip cracking. I completely underestimated the power and nimbleness the wrist would need to make an ear-splitting crack. Having a go at it in front of an audience was a little embarrassing but a whole lot more fun!
For the rest of our time there, we walked around the stable, blacksmith’s shop, the barn…
From Churchill Island, we drove to Cowes to pick up dinner. It was all from the Indian takeaway restaurant Cowes Curry Club (they were super quick!), but Rakesh was very pleased when he got the Wagyu Brisket Burger from the Cheeky Goose Cafe as a special treat! Cheeky Goose Cafe has closed temporarily, but I do hope it comes back with a bang.
The rain started soon after we got back to the accommodation and continued all night, We woke up to a very wet and grey Easter Monday.
We left Corinella a little before 10:00 and were home by 11:30. Phillip Island was checked off the long list of places we’d like to visit one day.
This article was first published in the blog Travels That Make Us and has been republished here with the kind permission of the author.
Contributing Author: Tupur Chakrabarty is an education manager. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and daughter and dreams of endless travels in wondrous lands.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The Australia Today is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts, or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of The Australia Today and The Australia Today News does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
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