Penguins, chocolate factories and beaches - if you ask me this sounds like one of the best trips of all! Phillip Island was definitely one I was looking forward to, especially since we were doing it independently. Many people go on organised bus trips to the island, but I was keen to hire a car and go it alone so I rounded up a few friends and booked a car. Naturally I went through Budget, my favourite hire car company to use, which cost us around $100 including full insurance for the day - pretty cheap when split between four of us. It takes around three hours to get to Philip Island from Melbourne CBD so you’ll want to set off as early as possible to have a full day on the island to explore. Located down on Mornington Peninsula you can bet there’s plenty of stunning nature to see.
We headed straight for Cape Woolamai when we arrived and with the sun blazing down on us it was the perfect place to be, looking out across Woolamai Surf Beach we watched the waves roll in. Down on the beach fishermen were catching fish right in the surf, while an elderly woman collected seaweed. It was beautiful and stretched as far as the eye could see, and I simply had to go dip my toes in the water. Afterwards we followed the road and stopped off at each beach along the way for more stunning views.
There are endless beach, bush and cliff walks across Phillip Island - use the maps you can find at visitor’s centres on the island, or just stumble across them. The Pinnacles Lookout comes highly recommended but sadly we didn’t make it to that one. We did however take some cute little bush and boardwalks through mangrove forests and bush land leading to lakes which were filled with wildlife including wallabies with babies in their pouches.
We headed to Cowes, one of the main towns on the island, for lunch and a wander along the pier. Like stepping back in time, the town is filled with old ice cream shops, cute little stores and lots of lovely places to eat. We headed for Isola di Capri, which was right on the seafront and overlooked the ocean. Sitting in the window, we had the sun beaming down on us as we enjoyed the view and tucked into a feast of pizza, risotto and calamari. Although out of a usual backpacker budget, we were treating ourselves - it was the last time I would see two of my friends and myself and the other friend had just quit out jobs and were also about to set off travelling again. Plenty to celebrate and how better than with good food and good friends? After lunch we took a walk along the pier to watch the fishermen.
The rest of our afternoon was spent over at the western tip of the island at Point Grant, where The Nobbies is located. Perfect for shark, dolphin and seal watching, the Nobbies ecotourism centre overlooks the huge boardwalk that takes visitors along the cliffs where they can view natural sights including Seal Rocks, The Nobbies and The Blowhole. This area is also home to Australia’s largest colony of fur seals, and if you’re lucky like we were, you may spot fairy penguins! It’s very windy up here so take a jumper with you, but definitely stroll along the boardwalk around sunset, the views are stunning and very photogenic.
Afterwards, of course, you have to head over to the Penguin Parade - the island’s biggest attraction. I had though it was definitely worth a look as you get the cute sight of lots of tiny penguins swimming into the beaches and running up them in time to roost. But to be honest, I was hugely disappointed. As you all know, I’m very environmentally conscious and yet I felt this whole “attraction” was done in a very unsafe way for the penguins. The sheer noise of the onlookers and the floodlights on the beach designed to highlight the penguins places them in more danger for predators and confused the birds. It was the most unnatural natural experience ever and it made me sad afterwards when you could see tourists shining cameras and lights in the faces of the birds as they ran up the boardwalks, they were confused and people crowding them didn’t help. The volunteers did very little to prevent this and instead just seemed concerned with people taking photos and videos as they were already selling these in the gift shop. All in all, I didn’t think this was worth the $20-30 spent and I just felt uncomfortable with the experience. I wouldn’t recommend it personally as I feel it is harmful to the environment and the animals, I actually preferred seeing the penguins over at The Nobbies because they were less crowded.
Overall, I loved Phillip Island, it’s a beautiful place to visit and definitely worth a day trip. But the Penguin Parade left a nasty taste in my mouth and I wouldn’t recommend it. I actually much preferred seeing the penguins at St Kilda because there were less people there and it seemed much more amazing. Plus its free and right on the beach so no travelling time.
Have you been to Phillip Island? What did you think of the Penguin Parade?
There's nothing like a good day trip to break up a holiday, whether you go off to visit another nearby island or just another town, it's a perfect way to experience something totally different during your trip. We were in Santorini for two weeks so we made sure to organise plenty of day trips and activities - like climbing the mountain - to break up our time sunbathing on the beach. One of my absolute highlights of the holiday was a bargain day trip we took from Perissa to explore the nearby active volcano, to swim in natural hot springs and mud baths, and finish the day with a cruise around the Caldera. You'll see this trip on offer a lot when staying on the island in various different forms, but it can be difficult to ensure you don't get ripped off when booking without doing a little research. Luckily for you, I've done the research for you so you can sit back and enjoy the trip!
Booking the trip
We booked our trip at a Perissa travel agency after checking out several to compare prices, it's always worth comparing at least three and seeing if they can offer you a discount for group bookings. A few euros doesn't sound much, but it makes a huge difference to your pocket if you have a big group of people. We booked our trip with Star Travel, on the main street, who were great - they offered a full day trip with all three attractions for the same price other companies were charging for a half-day experience. At around 20 euros per person, we could be picked up from the agents in the morning and taken to hike up the active volcano, we would swim in the hot springs then break on the nearby island of Therissa where you can enjoy a peaceful lunch before heading home and cruising around Oia and the famous Caldera. A pretty busy day, but one worth experiencing. Not only do you get to tick some pretty amazing sights off your Santorini bucket list, but you also get to do it at a steady and enjoyable pace.
Climbing the active volcano
An amazing experience to see the volcanic, bare landscape set against a background of ocean and Santorini coastline. Just out in the bay from the island, it's just a short 5-10 minute boat ride before you land here and prepare to climb the volcano. I wore running shoes but you can easily do it in sturdy sandals, I saw some in flip-flops but I wouldn't recommend it. You have to pay a few euros each for entrance to the volcano, then it's off up towards the crater. The hike takes less than half an hour and isn't too strenuous but it is hot - make sure you have water and sunscreen - and be aware that it is at least five degrees hotter at the top. The walk up is incredible - take a second to appreciate the stark landscape - and when you reach the crater it's amazing to walk around. Annoyingly you will be surrounded by boat-loads of tourists and plenty of selfie sticks, but it is still worth a visit and it is possible to find a quiet spot. Listen out for your tour guide talking about the history of the volcano, it has an interesting past, and then stroll around the crater taking in the 360 degree panoramic view of ocean and island. Watch out for our pal Walle who sits up there 24/7 monitoring volcanic activity and serving as an early warning for the island to be evacuated in case of emergency.
Swimming in hot springs
Back on the boat and we cruise round the volcano and off towards the hot springs which sit in the shadow of a nearby island. As you approach, you'll see further in where the water changes colour to a deep rusty, brown colour, where the mud carries no end of minerals. The boat stops around 15-20 metres away from where you will be able to touch the ground but you do have to jump off and swim for it - if you're not a confident swimmer stay on the boat. A short swim across and you can swim/walk across the rocks to enter the hot springs, feeling the water warming your skin. It's only just above body temperature but you can feel the difference and it's lovely to sit there in the water. I recommend rubbing the mud all over your skin - everyone thought Mum and I were mad for doing this but it makes your skin incredible soft. I was aiming for five years younger but I don't know if I quite reached it. We have just half an hour to enjoy the mud baths before heading back to the boat, but it's the perfect amount of time as we were starving by this point. Swimming back you definitely feel the cold hit you as you leave the hot springs but luckily the clear sea water washes off any remaining mud before you climb back on board.
A relaxing lunch on Therissa Island
Next our journey took to to the island of Therissa, a step back in time to the Greece of years ago. You can walk up to the main village but it is a very steep climb and we weren't sure we would have time to squeeze that in with lunch. Instead we pottered along the shoreline to one of the restaurants and sampled the stuffed vegetables and freshly caught calamari - I've become addicted to calamari over the last few weeks. It was a perfect relaxed lunch with a beautiful view of all the boats and the crystal clear waters. All of the restaurants serve the freshest of fish and for roughly the same prices so choose any and enjoy the setting. After we ate, we decided to wander along the shore to the windmill at the other end of the beach so we could check out the views and shops along the way. It was a lovely little walk and with two hours there we had just enough time to see everything we wanted to see before heading back to the boat to get a good spot at the front for our Caldera cruise.
Oia and Caldera Cruise
How better to finish the day than with a peaceful cruise around Oia - a chance to finally view it from the ocean in all its splendour before making our way along the Caldera by boat. I'll be posting about my day spent in Oia at a later date - but you must without a doubt experience Oia from the ocean, within the town during the day and of course, at sunset, to get a real feel for the town. It's spectacular in all its forms and not at all overrated, every time I was in awe of the beauty and the magic of this stunning location. And of course, a boat cruise around the island in the afternoon sunshine is a perfect way to experience Santorini. There's something so peaceful about being out at sea, perhaps it's the mermaid in me but it just soothes my soul every time. Clear, endless waters, overlooked by centuries old white windmills - that's what Santorini is all about and that's what this trip will give you. All those dreamy island views you've been stalking on Instagram in the months leading up to your trip.I can't recommend the trip we went on enough - it gave us everything we wanted and more. You get to see a whole different side to the island, a natural and raw side to the landscape that often isn't associated with the more manicured beauty of Santorini. It's a perfect way to spend a day during your holiday to the island.
Have you been on this trip - what was your highlight? Do you love boat trips, where was your favourite one?