Day 10, May 5, 2022
Phillip Island -Melbourne
It rained quite heavily overnight so it was a pleasant surprise to find that this morning the sun was out amongst the dark cloudy skies.
Our destination today was Phillip Island m, which neither of us had visited before. The only thing we knew about it was that an annual motorcycle race was held there and that it was a place you could see Fairy Penguins at night.
A bridge joins the island to the mainland. We travelled anti-clockwise, with the first stop ar Cape Woolami. The sea was up and there were some strong riptides in actions. The sun shining behind us illuminated the beautiful green, greys of the dune vegetation. Soon a rainbow started to appear amongst the dark clouds over the ocean. Windswept, deserted and quite beautiful.
After stopping briefly at the small township of Cowles we drove out towards the tip of the island – Summerland.
We had expected to be passing another residential area but were pleasantly surprised to find that the area was wild and natural.
Large grey birds, we thought were some kind of duck, wandered across the road unconcerned about the car. Their numbers increased as we moved further along the peninsula. We later learnt that they were Cape Barren Geese, which along with the penguins and a variety of other seabirds are resident here.
Summerlands is now a wildlife sanctuary which was saved from housing development. The road grid and house plots had already been laid out and some houses built before the Victorian Government stepped in to buy the site and remove the existing houses.
We spent most the day wandering this incredibly windswept and wild peninsula. Fringed by volcanic rocks, ocean waves crashed to shore. It was hard to see how the penguins can make it out to sea to hunt. We won’t get to see them come ashore later at dusk.
The Summerlands headland has a number of boardwalks to keep visitors away from penguin burrows which dotted the hillsides.
There were signs around the boardwalk warning about the presence of Copperhead snakes – one of the few deadly snakes whose bite has no an anti-venom treatment.
It is a rugged coastline One of the islands off-shore is home to 500,000 seals. Which is a big improvement on the approximately 200 seals which survived the seal hunts of the late 19th century.
Summerland area is home to the penguin parade. There is a grandstand on the beach where people gather on dusk to watch the penguins walk home to their burrows. This tourist attraction raises important funds for penguin conservation but also allows the rookery on the steeper cliffs to remain undisturbed.
We could have spent more time on this wild part of the island but the clouds threatened.
We had a brief look at the Grand Prix circuit which is one of the premier race circuits in Australia. It is on a surprisingly small area of the island sandwiched between the nature reserve and farmland to the north.
Before reaching Melbourne we detoured through the Mornington Peninsula, stopping at Portsea and Sorrento at the tip of Port Phillip Bay. A cold windswept day with not many holiday makers around.
It was then a relatively uneventful trip through Melbourne traffic to our accomodation while listening to an interesting podcast series called West Cork – highly recommend.