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The southern and western coasts of Phillip Island, 140 kilometres southeast of Melbourne, are an Important Bird Area with major colonies of fairy penguins, short-tailed shearwaters and Pacific gulls.

In Phillip Island Nature Park, owned by the state government but a self-funding attraction for the purposes of animal conservation and research, habituated wallabies and kangaroos roam freely among visitors and can be fed by hand. The daily Penguin Parade is the only commercial venue in the world where you can see penguins in their own environment. Little penguins – the smallest species of all – which grow to an average of 35 centimetres high, come ashore in groups. Don’t expect to be alone, though – some 3.5 million people visit Phillip Island each year. You can, however, do an exclusive, small group, fully eco-accredited evening trip into the dunes, kitted out with black overalls, to meet these penguins face-to-face ( photography not allowed). 

At the western end of the island, Seal Rocks is home to Australia’s largest colony of fur seals – as many as 16,000 individuals – with specific areas for seal, dolphin, and shark viewing. In recent years humpback and southern right whales and whales have been making a recovery after many years of commercial whaling by the Soviet Union in the 1970s, aided by Japan, and use the sheltered waters as a nursery. There is also a critically endangered local population of endemic Burrunan dolphins or migratory killer whales. 

Roughly 26 kilometres long by 9 kilometres wide, the island creates a natural breakwater for the shallow waters of the Western Port, and is connected to the mainland by a 640-metre-long concrete (originally wooden) bridge. It has a population of around 10,000, which swells to 40,000 in summer. , The climate is milder than in Melbourne and is tempered by ocean breezes, and more than half of the island is devoted to the grazing of sheep and cattle.

View suggested itinerary

Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: eastern grey kangaroo, little penguin, swamp wallaby, fur seal, short-tailed shearwater
  • Where: Victoria, Australia

Wildlife trips

This wildlife location is featured in the following itinerary:

Penguins, Koalas & Great Ocean Road

This innovative itinerary combines self-drive, a short small group tour and excursions around Melbourne. Visiting the contrasting areas of Great Ocean Road, Phillip Island, East Gippsland and the Wilderness Coast you’ll see the best of Victoria’s wildlife, including many iconic Australian species.

  • When to go: Sep-May
  • Duration inc. flights: 13 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £4,395 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea