19 Best Things To Do in Phillip Island with Kids in 2024
Family Holiday to Phillip Island
- ✅ Destination
- ✅ Fun things for the kids
- ❔ Accommodation
Phillip Island - only an hour and a half drive away from Melbourne – is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Victoria all year round. Some of its unique attractions and beach appeal are famous enough to entice families from NSW and Queensland to visit.
Historically, the island became famous as a sanctuary for wildlife and natural habitat through the conservation efforts of the local community. Over time, it has developed to host additional events and adrenaline-fuelled attractions, like the Moto GP race track, helicopter rides, and watersports.
Now Phillip Island is growing a name for itself with a host of farms that are creating a foodie trail that embraces the history of the place and brings a touch of deliciousness. On the island, you'll now find farm stays on active farms, wineries with restaurants attached and hampers full of local produce on sale.
No matter how old your kids are, there is definitely something for your whole family to do when you visit Phillip Island.
Once, you're sold on your trip, see our round-up of family-friendly Phillip Island accommodation and lodging.
19 best things to do in Phillip Island with kids in 2024
Kids playing in rockpools near Cowes Main Beach, Phillip Island (Image: Go Beyond Melbourne)
1. See the Penguin Parade
The Phillip Island Penguin Parade is world-famous – you'll literally meet people coming to Australia just to see the penguins in action!
The Penguin Parade is a daily event that sees the Little Penguins slowly build their ranks in the surf of the water on the beaches in the southwest corner of Phillip Island and make their way onto the beach and into their burrows to feed their young. The penguins will only start congregating in the water as the sun sets in order to avoid being picked off by airborne predators.
The event is super-cute as these tiny creatures first bob in the water just beyond the surf and then develop a critical mass that gives them enough courage to move together onto the sand. Being little, they wobble and move their little feet as fast as they can, so unsurprisingly you see some of them fall over and get back up and join the clusters of running penguins.
As the groups of penguins make it up into the sand dunes, then you hear the young baby penguins call to be fed.
Little penguins at the Penguin Parade, Phillip Island (Image: Wildvik/Wikimedia CCBYSA2.0)
The event ends as the final groups of the penguins make it out of the water and onto the sand and back to their homes. After the parade, you can walk on boardwalks to see the adult penguins regurgitate the fish they've caught for their babies.
2. Get close to koalas and other native animals
Koala Conservation Centre, Phillip Island (Image: Shiny Things/Flickr CCBY2.0)
After the little penguins, Phillip Island is pretty synonymous with koalas, but you may be surprised that the koala population on the island was nearing extinction in the 1980s.
In the 1900s, much of Victoria had a significant decline in koala population as the forestry industry developed and destroyed native habitat, so koalas from Phillip Island and French Island were used to repopulate the rest of Victoria. This unfortunately affected the sensitive balance of the koala numbers on the island, requiring conservation efforts to be put in place on the island itself.
Now, as a result, there are several koala sanctuaries on the island, some of which let you walk up close to the furry creatures. While others even have "close encounter" experiences where you can either hold a small koala or get close to them as they sit in their tree chewing gum leaves.
3. Go out on the water
Phillip Island is surrounded by Western Port Bay to the north and the Bass Strait to the south. The water to the north is calmer and popular for sea kayaking beginners, while the south is closer to the wild waves, big surf and spotting larger sea life.
For a less adrenaline-filled experience, book a seal, a dolphin, or a whale-watching cruise with Wildlife Coast Cruises.
Wildlife Coast Cruises kiosk in Cowes, Phillip Island, Victoria.
Whales are only seen in the winter – if you're super keen to spot one, you can sign up for notifications from the Wildlife Whales app.
Seals at Phillip Island (Image: Es.Que/Flickr CCBYND2.0)
4. Take a bird's eye view
There's no alternative to take in the stunning landscape of Phillip Island other than to see it from above. Phillip Island Helicopters offers scenic tours starting from $125, with routes covering:
Grand Prix Circuit
It's worth noting that children under 3 can go for free if they sit on your lap during the flight.
Phillip Island from the air (Image: Gerard Reinmuth/Wikimedia CCBYSA4.0)
5. Visit a heritage farm from the 19th century
Brown horse at Churchill Island Heritage Farm, Phillip Island, Victoria.
On the eastern side of Phillip Island, just north of Newhaven is Churchill Island. The 57-hectare island is accessed via a narrow bridge from the main island and is home to a small collection of farm buildings dating to the 1800s.
A restored room from the 19th century at Churchill Island, Phillip Island, Victoria.
The footpath around the island is used by the Phillip Island Park Run and has great views of the island, as well as common views of black swans.
Once you're inside the farm, then you'll get to wander around the various farm buildings and meet (and pet some of) their inhabitants, such as the cows, the horse, ducks, sheep, and more.
Donkey at the Churchill Island Heritage Farm. Phillip Island, Victoria.
The volunteers on the farm run regular events, including animal feeding, cow milking and sheep shearing.
Calf feeding from a cow at Churchill Island Heritage Farm, Phillip Island, Victoria.
To pick up some fresh produce, come to the island on the last Saturday of the month for the monthly Farmer's Market.
Playground at Omaru Farm. Phillip Island, Victoria.
On the other side of Phillip Island is another working farm that welcomes visitors – Omaru Farm. Omaru is located in the hot hills of Ventnor with a climate similar to the Mediterranean, so it's no wonder that it's perfect for growing olives. Stop by the farm shop to pick up the delicious chilli jam and olive oil and then have a pause outside as you take in the panoramic views of Western Port and the Nobbies for the on-site playground.
Cows in the field with the water in the background at Omaru Farm, Phillip Island
6. Catch a wave or learn to surf
Lifesaving station at Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island, Victoria.
The many monitored surf beaches on Phillip Island are the perfect place to safely enjoy learning to surf and practising your skills. The following surf beaches are patrolled on weekends from December to February and during summer school holidays:
Indigenous artwork at Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island
Cape Woolamai beach, Phillip Island, Victoria.
Additionally, while YCW Beach isn't patrolled it's great for beginners, while the water at Cape Woolamai requires experienced swimmers.
The surf coming into YCW beach. Smiths Beach, Phillip Island, Victoria.
For those with kids new to surfing or looking for some lessons, visit The Big Wave Surfing Complex, where you'll find several options for booking a class that's at the right level. While you're here, don't forget to catch a pose in the Big Wave and Combi Van attractions in the car park.
For those with smaller kids, there's a great playground just off the main road at Newhaven, after you cross onto the island from San Remo.
Richard Grayden Memorial Reserve playground at Newhaven, Phillip Island, Victoria.
7. Spend your days splashing around and swimming
Eastern section the main Cowes beach. Cowes, Phillip Island, Victoria.
One of the most appealing aspects of visiting Phillip Island with kids is being able to find a beach to swim on almost every day and for kids of all ages; from toddler-friendly shallows to open-yet-calmer waters of Western Port Bay, to adventuring in the surf.
The most popular beach is Cowes Main Beach – just in front of the town centre, but you don't need to limit yourself just to this beach because the beaches on the northern shore stretch almost the entirety of this side of the island.
Picnic benches behind the Cowes main beach. Cowes, Phillip Island, Victoria.
Cowes Main Beach is the only non-surf beach that is regularly patrolled by lifeguards on weekends in December-February and during the summer holidays.
Despite that, the following are also great for kids:
Ventnor Beach (also has red rocks)
This surf beach is shallow with a popular walk to the sea caves. Note: there are many steps to get to the beach over the sand dunes.
This great kids beach is at San Remo near the Lions Park Playground.
Red Rock Beach between Cowes and Ventnor on Phillip Island, Victoria.
8. Play some mini-golf
When you're on a long beach holiday, it's great to change things up and have some semi-indoor experiences. Mini-golf is a great way to involve all of your kids, from tots to teens.
There are two main mini-golf venues, the first Grumpys Crazy Golf is in Cowes, so you don't even need to get in the car if you're staying in the town.
While the other, A Maze'N Things, is in the middle of the island but is much more than just a mini-golf venue. A Maze'N Things aims to keep your kids entertained for hours with puzzles, illusions, mini-golf and mazes.
9. Enjoy a day out with the pelicans at San Remo
Pelican feeding at San Remo near Phillip Island (Image: Becky Tregear/Pixabay)
San Remo is a great place to stop on the way to and from Phillip Island, or even as a day trip when you're staying on the island. The most popular tourist activities are to get some fish and chips from the San Remo Fishermans Co-Op, followed by watching the pelicans get fed at noon each day on the beach just outside the chippy, near the jetty.
Pelicans at the daily feed and health check at San Remo beach. San Remo, Victoria.
A metal sculpture of a pelican at San Remo foreshore. San Remo, Victoria.
San Remo Fishermans Co-Op. San Remo, Victoria.
Just like the southern coast of Phillip Island, San Remo boasts several great beaches that are just perfect for kids. The first one is San Remo Children's Beach, just around the corner from the Co-Op and the other is the San Remo Back Beach further along the shore.
Childrens Breach at San Remo near Phillip Island
On the other side of the Co-Op is a good – although unshaded – playground at San Remo Park Playground. The play equipment is suitable for toddlers and pre-teens.
10. Explore the mangroves and bush tucker at Rhyll
Mangroves at Rhyll Inlet. Phillip Island, Victoria.
Rhyll is a small village in the northeastern part of Phillip Island. It sits on a part of the coast that features truly unique vegetation and views. The best place to take in the sights is to go on the Rhyll Wetlands Boardwalk up to the Rhyll Inlet Lookout. On this journey, you'll see the mangroves that are a unique – and protected – feature of this part of Victoria. Looking out, in the distance, you'll catch a glimpse of French Island and the tip of the mainland at Sandy Point.
Rhyll Wetlands Boardwalk takes you through Rhyll Inlet State Wildlife Reserve – the Conservation Hill to Rhyll walk takes about an hour one way. Most of the path is either boardwalk or compacted gravel, ie friendly to prams, although some degree of suspension is required.
Swamp Wallaby at Phillip Island (Image: J Phillipp Krone/Flickr CCBY2.0)
On your walk, you're likely to see wallabies that visit the adjacent farm fields.
When starting your walk, or taking a break at Rhyll, it's worth making a plan to visit the Wild Food Farm and its cafe. Here, you'll enjoy meals with a distinct bush tucker twist. The lunch menu has kid-friendly options and babycinos for the smallest among us. Out back near the cafe seating, you'll come across Robbo's aviary – the sulphur crested cockatoo is about ~85 years old.
11. Spot wallabies and swans at Summerlands
Venturing your way to the west of the island, towards the Nobbies and the penguin centre, you'll find Swan Lake. The lake has a walking trail around it and features a set of bird hides with stunning views.
Swan Lake, Phillip Island (Image: Swan Lake, Phillip Island)
Your walk along the wooden boardwalk to the hides is immersed in the sound of geese honks and pobblebonk frog bonks. Once you're in the bird hide and open up the viewing window, you have a panorama of the lake with hundreds of swans, geese and waterfowl. If you're lucky and patient, you can spot swamp wallabies sitting on the edge of the lake and having a drink.
The walk on the trail is 15 mins return (1.7km), so it's perfect for little legs and impatient little humans.
View from bird hide of wallaby taking a drink at Swan Lake, Phillip Island
12. See the whales and seals at the Nobbies
From May to October, whales migrate through the waters south of Phillip Island on their way to several whale nurseries around the Great Ocean Road and Warrnambool. This annual journey makes the Nobbies reserve a great place to spot the whales in the distance.
The walk, including the boardwalk, at the Nobbies Centre is a flat 1 km, 20 minutes return, so it's pram and kid-friendly.
An even better way to get close to the mammals is to go on a whale and seal watching cruise. Seals can be seen throughout the year, but whale cruises only operate in winter. The official tour partner for the Phillip Island Nature Parks is Wildlife Coast Cruises.
When the weather isn't up to scratch for a boat trip, then you and your kids can learn about the wildlife south of Phillip Island and all the way down at the Antarctic, as well as about how the environment is being conserved. The Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies Centre includes imagery, interactive experiences and immersive video of penguins, seals, whales, and sea birds.
13. Take the ferry to French Island
French Island, similar to Phillip Island, has historically been a place where koala populations thrived and remained undisturbed. Unlike Phillip Island, French Island became almost entirely managed by Parks Victoria and therefore a sanctuary for wildlife, rather than an island for development.
As a result, the human population on French Island is approximately 100 people and the primary ferry routes to the island are passenger ferries.
Once on the island, you can walk around the island and its beaches. Foot based (ie no vehicles) camping is permitted at Fairhaven Campground. The main nature walks on the island are:
Old Coast Road Track – 5km, 1.5 hours one way
West Coast Wetlands Walking Track – 9.6km, 3.2 hours return
Fairhaven Northern Beach Walk – 4km, 2 hours return
Western Port Ferries only operates 3 to 5 ferries from Cowes to French Island each day. The weekends have the most runs between the islands.
14. Discover Cowes
The jetty at Cowes Main Beach. Cowes, Phillip Island, Victoria.
Cowes is the largest town on Phillip Island, and home to the main council facilities. It's named after Cowes on Isle of Wight, England, of which it is a formal sister city. The town is the busiest during the Australian summer school holidays where it sees its population grow five-fold.
During the rest of the year, retail is far less busy and so shops, cafes and restaurants tend to maintain only the necessary hours to serve the local resident population of around 7,000 across the whole island.
The main activity on the island centres around the Main Cowes Beach and jetty – which is popular for fishing and occasionally spotting a seal. The beach is reasonably shallow and popular with families as it's the only beach on the northern coast of the island that is regularly patrolled by lifeguards.
During a part of the summer school holidays (usually end of Dec to end of Jan), Cowes is home to the Island Summer Carnival. The carnival is a bit of a tradition and has been operating for over 50 years. It features all of the rides you'd expect at a funfair, including dodgem cars, fun houses, "extreme" rides and sugary treats like toffee apples, cinnamon doughnuts and candy floss.
Isola Di Capri restaurant frontage. Cowes, Phillip Island, Victoria.
The following cafes and restaurants have children specific menus at lunch and/or dinner:
North Pier Hotel, Bar, Bistro & Accommodation
Upstairs at North Pier, there are games rooms featuring inflatable obstacle courses and a cinema room.
15. Get full at the chocolate factory
Panny's Amazing World of Chocolate – Chocolate Factory in Phillip Island, Victoria.
Panny's Phillip Island Chocolate Factory is home to the world's largest chocolate waterfall and a whole range of chocolate-themed interactive games, as well as being a place to get delicious chocolate treats.
Phillip Island Chocolate Factory building, Phillip Island, Victoria.
Your adventure starts with an edible chocolate bar and includes the chance to create a bar of personalised chocolate, among other delicious experiences.
Entry for under 4s is free, so it's worth making the most of having small kids!
16. Zoom around the race track
Every year, Phillip Island hosts the Australian Moto GP event at the Phillip Island Circuit. The high-octane race fills the island with visitors from across the country and abroad.
Outside of these dates, the circuit entertains other race days, including classic cars, motorbikes, and supercars.
Alongside the main race track is a miniature replica 750m long that lets you hire go-karts to take on the course. The views from the Phillip Island Go Karts track are spectacular as you see the Bass Strait in your periphery.
17. Get the genuine foodie experience
Down at the bottom of the island, at Cape Woolamai, you'll find the highest points on the island with views of sheer drops onto the beach and water from the dramatically shaped coastal landscape.
The Cape Woolamai beach is famous for its large surf and is one of the few monitored beaches on the island. For small kids, there's the Woolamai Park Playground, which is not a destination in itself, but a good stopover point for toddlers and pre-teens.
Further north along the shoreline, you'll find The Cape Kitchen. Standing along the cliff tops overlooking the Red Rocks, the restaurant is a fine dining marvel serving seafood that perfectly accompanies the panoramic views.
After a gastronomic indulgence, you can enjoy a walk along the clifftops on one of the Cape Woolamai trails. The Pinnacles walk with green markers is the most suited for those with kids – this track is the shortest at approximately 4 km (2 hours return), definitely bring snacks and water; this path is not suitable for prams.
18. See the pyramid and relax at the winery
You get the best views of Pyramid Rock from the Pyramid Rock Lookout – you head down the gravel track south down the appropriately named Pyramid Rock Road. From the car park, the lookout is only a short walk (800m) that takes you to a beautiful view of Pyramid Rock. Along the way, there is a mid-way lookout which you can reach with a pram, but thereafter there are steps and relatively flat, but pram inaccessible paths.
A very short drive away – literally the next road along, albeit 8 minutes in the country – is Phillip Island Winery. The winery has been gaining renown on the developing foodie trail on Phillip Island, with a winery cellar door, restaurant and shop that stock great local and regional produce from Victoria.
As you'd expect, the restaurant has a rotating menu featuring the best of seasonal and locally sourced food, fashioned in an inspired Australian menu. There are options for kids and even delicacies for doggies.
19. Don't let the holiday end
Nobody likes a holiday to finish, so why let it? On your drive back home from Phillip Island, stop at the State Coal Mine at Wonthaggi for a quick bit of history and to stretch your legs. The mine, which operated from 1909 to 1968, runs a tour into the mine's tunnel network where you can see first0hand how the work was done. The tours run for about an hour and require everyone to wear a helmet.
As of writing, the coal mine tour is unavailable due to major maintenance works at the mine.
Also at Wonthaggi, check out the Bass Coast Paintball, where your kids (9 and over) can enjoy a game of Splatmaster, and you can enjoy knowing they won't get any bruises. The Splatmaster version of the paintball game uses a spring-loaded marker, rather than compressed air which is enough for the paintball to fly, but not cause pain and bruises.
6 best things to do in Phillip Island with kids when it's raining
Climb all day long at Clip 'n Climb Phillip Island.
Get a turkey at Phillip Island Tenpin Bowling.
Lick your lips at the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory.
Learn about the past at The National Vietnam Veterans Museum.
Visit an art gallery:
Kelly & Gemelli - Art & Design, San Remo
Phillip Island Gallery
Immerse in the Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies Centre.
11 best things to do in Phillip Island for free with kids
See the cute little penguins along the boardwalk at the Nobbies Centre.
Play on one of the many beaches.
Walk on the Cowes beach jetty.
Visit the birdlife at Swan Lake.
Practise surfing at YCW beach on the southern coast.
See the rare-to-Victoria mangroves at Rhyll (Rhyll Wetlands Walk).
See the pelicans at San Remo Fishermans Co-Op.
Walk the shops at Cowes.
Enjoy the Oswin Roberts Reserve Walks (bushland walk).
See the whales in winter from the cliffs on the southern shore of Phillip Island.
Take to the Cape Woolamai Trail - at least for a bit of it.
5 best things to do in Cowes
Cowes is the biggest town on Phillip Island and has a great set of activities for families and places to brunch and dine.
Play and relax at the beaches in Cowes. The main beach to the left of the pier is the most popular, but there are beaches stretching in either direction for miles.
Enjoy pizza from Pino's Trattoria on the beach foreshore.
Have a few rounds of mini-golf at Grumpys Crazy Golf.
Jump on the rides at the Island Summer Carnival.
Walk the huge range of shops on Thompson Avenue.