For this trip, we decided to omit driving along the famed Ocean Road as we were not sure if the children would enjoy the long ride to see the ocean scenes/rock formations.
Instead, we included a 2 night stay at Phillip Island which is about 2 hours drive from Melbourne city. Turned out to be a good choice except that it was raining for both evenings. We had a spacious, cosy stay at an apartment booked on Airbnb (waterfront @ Waves). It faced the sea and has an outdoor playground right in front. There are shops nearby within walking distance though we used the car mostly since we rented one.
What’s on the island? The first place we went to was the Visitor Centre in the centre of the town. It is useful to pick up brochures and check estimated time for the daily penguin parade. The volunteers/staff in these Visitor Centres are mostly very helpful and gave good advice on places to check out and shared other useful tips.
Another tip to share: It is difficult to find free wifi on the island. But the kind folks at the visitor centre directed us to the nearby public library where we asked for free access to check out our plans for the next leg. The library has a little corner for children and even some toys. We were the only (Asian) tourists in the small library and the librarians were getting ready for a reading session for the locals. Honestly, we didn’t felt too “welcomed” and thus left quickly after thanking them for the use for free wifi. Maybe on a better day or if your kids were not too rowdy (like mine), they might be more friendly.
We picked 2 key activities for the 2 days in Phillip Island:
1) Panny’s Chocolate Factory
Though it is a touristy place, the kids enjoyed this place. What’s there not to like about chocolate anyway?! 😀 It is about 30 mins drive from where we stayed. At the entrance, there is a little souvenir shop which sold different varieties of chocolates. We didn’t buy any as prices were really expensive. There are definitely far better chocolates sold in Melbourne city. But the “factory” tour is interesting enough. Some educational stuff on how chocolate is made and there are interactive displays too.
There are some displays of chocolate figurines and models of places complete with music and interactive parts (such as opening and closing of doors). It is more interesting for the adults than the children as they wished they can bite off some pieces instead. 😛
There are some amusement type of games which proved to be more fun for the adults than the children as there were too young to score anything. In the end, yours truly played at every game and yes, won all! (multiple tries though!). You can redeem for some free chocolates on the way out of the factory for winning some of these tokens.
This little mechanized penguin picks up chocolate pennies and dispense them to you. How cute! And how yummy! haaa..
You can “squirl” anything on this machine as it churns out chocolate sauce! Wait at the end of this machine for a taste of your creation! Yumz!
It is a decent place to visit if you have young children. The whole tour didn’t take too long; we finished in 1.5 hour, leaving you time to explore other parts of the island or head back to the hotel for a quick nap (which Eizac was still taking then).
More details on Panny’s website here: https://www.phillipislandchocolatefactory.com.au/
2) Penguin Parade
We had wanted to head out to see the penguins on the first night but there was a threat of heavy rain and so we spent the evening exploring the town and shopping at Coles (as usual!).
On the second evening, it was drizzling a little but we travelled so far to see the penguins and just couldn’t stay in the hotel anymore. It was still freezing cold in Sep, so we bundled up well before heading out. There is an estimated time for the penguins to arrive everyday. Do check the website or with your hotel/visitor centre for the daily timing.
Thankfully the drizzle stopped in time when we arrive at the Penguin centre. They have a strict policy of no photo-taking after you step onto the boardwalk towards the stands to wait for the penguins, so we didn’t take any photos of the little penguins hobbling across the sand and into the various little burrows built specially for them. We have to keep really quiet during the moments the penguins arrived so they won’t be afraid to cross over. Thereafter the crowd disperse quickly as everyone started walking back to the boardwalk to catch a glimpse of the little penguins waddling to their burrows.
Travel tip: If you are going during cold weathers, do remember to pack some hot water/drinks and snacks for the children. We even cooked some porridge for Eizac in a thermal flask so he can be quiet while we waited. We purposely didn’t go in too early as we were afraid Eizac might start kicking up a fuss for waiting too long. Thankfully he was happy with the porridge. 😛
I found the entry prices a little on the higher end (AUD$24.50 per adult and AUD$12.25 per child). There are family packages available as well. Is it a worthwhile trip to see the penguins? Well, yes, if you haven’t seen any in your life and if your child is really into animals. But no, if you are not into such fleeting moments. It was dark by the time the penguins arrived and all we saw were small little dots. The boardwalk is helpful to see more of the little creatures but that’s about all this penguin trip entailed. Unless of course, you want to pay more for the ranger guide and to sit even nearer to the penguins (though I don’t think that is necessary for young children).
More details on their website: http://www.penguins.org.au/
Some of the many other activities we didn’t get to experience in Philip Island:
Koala Conservation Centre (We visited koala at Moonlit Sanctuary instead)
Churchill Island (We almost went for this but read that it is too commercialised and opt to visit another farm in Melbourne)
Nobbies – We wanted to do this, but bad weather forbid so.
Fishing, boating, cycling, walking and more.
This is the last installation of our family’s Melbourne holiday in Sep 2014. Some of the places we visited but I didn’t blog about. Not that they are not good places but I didn’t have the time to. :
Melbourne Museum – suitable for young to old. The little ones can play at the children corners while the older ones will enjoy the various exhibits.
Collingwood Children Farm – worth a visit if you don’t want to travel too far from the city. You will see pigs, horse, cows and goats. But my boys only enjoyed the free tractor ride.
Abbotsford Convent – located just next to Collingwood Children Farm. Small grounds but there happened to be some band playing music at the grass patch on the timing we went. The kids enjoyed rolling on the grass!
The rest of our Melbourne travelogue: