Recently, I visited Phillip Island with only the vaguest idea of where it was (somewhere south-east of Melbourne) and what to expect when I arrived: a grand prix circuit (I’m too old to be a rev-head), penguins (cute), and a chocolate factory (never say no to that). So I was pleasantly surprised to find, as well as these day-tripper attractions, a bonus of spectacular seascapes, deserted beaches, cattle and sheep farmlands, and peaceful villages.
This relaxed feeling was reinforced when we arrived at our ageing but comfy rented house with its spacious verandah overlooking the back yard trees. I looked forward to sharing drinks round the BBQ and feeding the birds, whose copious calling cards were spattered underneath the railings. (As events turned out, the birds kept to their trees – they mustn’t have liked my cooking). But back to the ‘major’ attractions, and it was natural to visit Panny’s chocolate factory at Newhaven first. Here, for an entrance fee comparable to that of any tourist area, the art and history of chocolate making can be explored. I thought the charges a bit steep for 3 adults and a child, but the day-tripper’s mantra swung into place, namely, ‘we may never pass this way again’.
Then it was off to find the penguins and on our way, drove past the Grand Prix circuit. I must say that it blended into the surrounding landscape unobtrusively and it was only the stationary line of traffic coming out against us that presaged its popularity. I wonder why a racetrack was built so far away from its fans – and with only one access road to the island. Then we arrived at Penguin Parade, and discovered that the penguins didn’t arrive until dusk. However it was free to look around the facilities which included the biggest souvenir shop I have seen anywhere. However after 4pm when we could see a penguin, the tourist prices kicked in, which were even greater than the chocolate factory. I hope the penguins are getting their cut of the takings. Outside, we came across a pair of large Cape Barren Geese – and we didn’t have to pay anything to look at them! We shouldn’t have to pay to watch wildlife in their natural habitat. All too soon, it was time to join the line of cars returning to Melbourne, but I resolved to return for a week next visit. A weekend was just not long enough.