Sunday, June 24, 2007

Australia Report #4: Phillip Island

One of my favorite places back home is Phillip Island. It's a small resort-type island that lies about 1.5 hrs drive south-east of Melbourne. As it lies outside of the main bay that Melbourne sits on (Port Phillip Bay), it is surrounded by cleaner water and less settled environs. Its major town is called Cowes, which is full of souvenir shops, pubs and fish and chip places. It's home to the Aussie motorcycle grand prix circuit, and has a nice combination of surf and gentle beaches around its coastline. Being winter, it's relatively calm and quiet and is nice to wander through. We had a great fish and chip lunch there (I enjoyed "flake" which is actually a type of shark) and bought some cheap Melbourne Formula One Grand Prix t-shirts. Brilliant!!

On the western side of the island is a fabulous rocky coastline, part of which is named "The Nobbies". There are some neat boardwalks that you can navigate around to get great views of this dramatic coastline, and we spent quite a bit of time there. From most vantage points, you can see Seal Rock, home to a 10,000 strong seal colony. Through decent binoculars you can actually see the seals on it. Dad bought his Meade astro binocs which did the job quite nicely! During the summer time, it attracts a fair few sharks including great whites... Above is a picture of the main part of the Nobbies, with Seal Rock in the background.

At the entrance to the island is a town named San Remo. Smallish town, mostly a fishing village really. We got there around 11:30, which is when the local fish and chip shop feeds leftover fish remains to the pelicans which apparently gather there each day, without fail, at the same time! We watched the feeding today and it was pretty neat - the shop owner seemed to enjoy throwing the large amount of fish remains out to the collection of pelicans, making sure each one got a bite or two at least. While we were waiting for the feeding frenzy itself, the pelicans got a little antsy and started nibbling on some of the spectators, including my son! He got start a start when one rather large bird nipped his arm that even five minutes after the event I could feel his heart pounding through his jacket!

We also took the kids to a wildlife reserve on the island. It was full of kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and the like, most of which you could actually hand-feed and pet. The kids had an absolute blast at this place. My daughter had no problem whatsoever walking right up to the Roos (even the larger males) and feeding them without fear or hesitation, rubbing their backs when she could. My son was more cautious but enjoyed the park nonetheless.

All in all, a fun day out! The week ahead will be a combination of spending time in the city of Melbourne, driving around the nearby mountain range (The Dandenongs) and catching up with some college buddies.

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