A one-and-half hour leisurely drive from Melbourne is all that takes you to get to Philip Island, one of the most charming islands of Australia and home to the famous Penguin Parade. From enjoying local wildlife to surfing to plenty of other outdoor activities, there is never a bad time to get here for that unique touch with both nature and the sea.
Named after the first Governor of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip, the island has, however, more to offer than just penguins. And as the rest of the world ushers in winter, I hug the onset of summer with a perfect weekend getaway to Philip Island.
Arriving at four in the afternoon on a Friday, the receptionist at the All Seasons Philip Island Resort has a busy shift. Tourists are in queue to get their bookings sorted. The resort is a four-star accommodation featuring 211 rooms and spread over a 65 acres of undulating countryside. The first taste of the rush summer holidays. After checking in, we find ourselves heading to the Noddies Centre just before the Penguin Parade at 8:15 pm.
The Noddies is Australia’s newest marine attraction. You are greeted by the sea gulls the moment you step out of your car. They fly just an inch above your heads at times. Excited tourists take their cameras out amid squealing children and old couples holding each other. There are big warning signs for snakes too that make the trail on the peninsula exciting! We saunter our way into the long wooden walks. The view is breathtaking – shades of green, miniature flowers in all colors enveloped by the blue, green sea. You could view the seals, sharks and dolphins through unique cameras that allow you to zoom in and out on these marine creatures which live 1.5km offshore.
By 7:30 pm, we are well on our way to the beach to find a perfect seating spot to watch the Penguin Parade, one of Australia’s most popular wildlife attractions. As the sun sets, hundreds of little penguins emerge from the sea, their stomachs full, and waddle across the beach to their sand dune burrows. The guide tells us that the penguins are only about 33 cm tall. Weary of predators, they move in groups to cross the beach. Phillip Island is home to one of the largest little penguin colonies in the world. The little penguin is the world’s smallest penguin species and the only penguin permanently found in Australia.
The next morning, the cloudless sky seem just perfect for our trip to the Koala Conservation Centre. The centre is a vast expanse of natural bushland spread across six hectare and home to koalas, birds and wallabies. As we get into one of the tree top boardwalks, we get up close with a koala sleeping in a tree hugging her baby. They are unperturbed by tourists clicking their pictures away.
Interestingly, the koala gets its name from an ancient Aboriginal word meaning “no drink” because it receives over 90 per cent of its hydration from the Eucalyptus leaves (also known as gum leaves). The koala is the only mammal, other than the Greater Glider and Ringtail Possum, which can survive on a diet of eucalyptus leaves.
After about two hours at the Koala Centre, we head off to the Churchill Island Heritage Farm. This farm is a step back into time. First walked by Bunurong Aboriginal people, the island has an important place in the history of European settlement in Victoria. It boasts a historic working farm with ‘hands on’ farming demonstrations reminiscent of a bygone era. Sheep shearing, cow milking, blacksmithing and working dog demonstrations are some of the daily activities. There are lovely gardens with ancient Moonah trees and you can easily spend few hours just soaking in the beautiful surrounds.
After a tour of the farm, we’d planned to step into Panny’s, the Philip Island chocolate factory. As expected it turns out to be an addictive break as we learn to make our own designs and have a free taste of the samples. I see children enamoured by the thunderous chocolate waterfall and a chocolate village complete with working trains. As the day wanes, we leave Philip Island with a sweet taste in the mouth.
90 miles from Melbourne
Get there by own vehicle or bus services that run from the city
But three parks pass that allow you entry into Penguin Parade, Koala Conservation Centre and Churchill Heritage Farm
Stop at Panny’s chocolate factory
By Indira Laisram
Hat Trick Tour
There are two things that ties India to Australia – one is the shared love for cricket and the other, a more a recent trend, is tourism. About 12 000 Indian tourists visited Phillip Island Nature Parks during 2010-2011. That was a growth of 14% above the 2009/10 financial year.
To celebrate the Indian cricket team’s tour of Australia this summer, three of Victoria’s most iconic attractions have teamed up to offer discounted entry plus the chance to win Shane Warne cricket memorabilia. Called the ‘Hat Trick Tour’, the journey will take travellers round to the Penguin Parade, Eureka Skydeck 88 and the National Sports Museum at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
Panny’s Amazing World Of Chocolates
Working for almost 15 years in Papua New Guinea in cocoa plantation, Kondanapanny Letchumanan learnt to experiment with cocoa beans and how to make chocolates without, of course, all the complete ingredients. After he moved to Australia in 2000, he was looking to buy a business and ended up buying a chocolate manufacturing business in the Gold Coast. This, of course, gave him a complete understanding about the business of making and selling chocolate.
Thus In 2005, when the Malaysian born engineer of Indian origin bought a run-down coffee shop in Philip Island and converted into a chocolate factory, it became one of the tourist attractions of Philip Island in no time. Today, Pannys, both the chocolate brand and the man himself, and has become a key destination for chocolate lovers.
The secret behind the best chocolate is the blending of ingredients and the tempering process, says Panny, adding “I don’t consider myself a chocolate expert.” His signature chocolate is a white truffle, a sample of which is given to each visitor as they enter the building.
Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate is a fascinating, interactive and educational celebration of all things chocolate. Visitors move through a series of display spaces, each dedicated to a facet of chocolate, where they are invited to get “hands on” in the process. Chocolate in history, chocolate in advertising, chocolate in art and chocolate in play are all explored in this unique and wondrous world. The chocolate factory can also be observed in action, with the entire production facility on full view with Panny’s team creating chocolates non-stop.