Sunday, 9 February 2014

Phillip Island Nature Parks

Phillip Island Nature Parks was established to conserve the natural beauty and historic and archaeological history of Phillip Island. 

The Park is part of the UNESCO Western Port Biosphere Reserve with wetlands, woodlands, wildlife sanctuaries and coastal areas. The area is rich in bird life with significant populations of little penguins, shearwaters and hooded plovers and wildlife including koalas, swamp wallabies and Australian fur seals.

Swamp Wallaby

The Park Service manages a number of tourism attractions including the Penguin Parade, Koala Conservation Centre, the Nobbies and Churchill Island Heritage Farms.  The profits generated are used to invest in conservation, research, ecotourism, environmental and education initiatives within the Nature Parks. 

The most cost effective and best way to enjoy the range of activities of the Nature Park is to purchase a 3 Parks Pass as it allows you to attend the Penguin Parade, visit the Koala Conservation Centre and learn about Victoria's early farming history on Churchill Island Heritage Farm.

Penguin Parade

Most people are drawn to Phillip Island to see the iconic Penguin Parade where you can watch the little penguins make their way across the beach heading towards their nesting areas after spending their day hunting in the ocean.

This is a fascinating experience as you watch and wait in anticipation of the sun setting and the little penguins arriving. It often feels like they will never come and then it seems that a sole little penguin emerges from the sea. Maybe this is a scout as shortly others follow. Sometimes they stop and some will scurry back as if they are too frightened to leave the ocean but slowly crowds of them appear and wander into their nesting areas.

At one stage you could sit on the beach in the evening and the penguins would wander past quite close to you.  It was an amazing experience, but as crowds grew the need to protect the penguins and their habitat meant viewing platforms and walkways were constructed. 

Today there are a range of experiences that you can purchase including having a Park Ranger guide you to a private area to view the penguins on the beach (Ultimate Experience) or enjoying the penguins in the comfort of a Sky Box (VIP Experience) where you'll also have fantastic views across the beach and help the Ranger count the penguins as they return for the night. Another option is the Research Tour where a Ranger shows you how researchers collect data and you'll see the weigh bridge where penguins that cross are weighed. You'll also visit the Sky Box before seeing the Penguin Parade from front row seats at the Penguins Plus viewing area.

You can download a free Penguins App which provides interesting insights into the penguins, statistics on their return from the ocean, pictures and a game. 

Koala Conservation Centre

At the  Koala Conservation Centre you can wander along an elevated boardwalk and see these amazing furry mammals in their natural habitat. You can get fairly close and sometimes you may be lucky if one climbs down the trees and settles very close (like the one in this picture). 

You may also see  koalas with a joey (its baby) clinging to its mother. Rangers wander the board walks during the day providing you with an opportunity to ask questions about the koalas and their habitat.

The Visitor Centre is interactive and you can learn all about the koala and purchase gifts from the gift shop.

The Nobbies 

The Nobbies Centre showcases Australian fur seals and the marine life of the Southern Oceans.  From the centre and board walks you can look across to Seal Rocks; a breeding ground for over 20,000 Australian Fur Seals.  

There are binoculars set at strategic points where you can get a closer view across to the Rocks. 

If you want to see the Seals up close its a good idea to organise a boat tour of Seal Rocks from a range of operators. 

Entry to the Nobbies is free and there is a large cafe. information centre and gift shop.

Churchill Island Heritage Farm

Churchill Island Heritage Farm provides insights into what life was like living on a farm in the early 1900’s.  The 57 heactare Island was originally inhabited by the Bunurong people with the first European inhabitants finding remains of canoes and fires.

European settlement started when Lieutenant James Grant sailed the Lady Nelson to the island in 1801. He planted seeds he'd been provided, felled trees and built a hut making this the first European agricultral pursuit in Victoria.

The farmhouse has been beautifully restored and furnished with antiques. There are also a range of interesting outbuildings that give the impression that you’ve travelled back through time. 

You can see a range of farm animals and experience some of the farm activities like shearing, whip cracking and wagon rides.

There are also beautiful views across to the mainland. For more information see our blog on Churchill Island Heritage Farm

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