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When is the best time to visit Phillip Island?

phillip island

Check out our guide to the seasons and wildlife to find out when is the best time to visit Phillip Island.

Just under 2 hours drive from Melbourne, Phillip Island is a nature and wildlife lovers paradise. The island is home to many different species of wildlife, the most famous of which is the Little Penguins. 

Phillip Island is home to the largest colony of Little Penguins. There are tens of thousands of the birds nesting on the island. Each night thousands of them can be seen at Summerland Beach returning from a day fishing in the ocean. 

Throughout the year there is a lot of action on Phillip Island, from nesting birds to motor racing and the busy summer holidays. Check out our guide to the seasons at Phillip Island so you can plan your visit!

When is the best time to visit Phillip Island?

Summer 

Months: December, January, February

Many Melburnians consider summer the best time to Phillip Island. The warmer weather and summer school holidays, mean it is an ideal time to visit the island. There are many beaches to relax on and explore. There’s also plenty of outdoor activities and the warmer weather is a great time to do them.

Nature-wise, summer is breeding season on Phillip Island.

The Little Penguins have usually made a first attempt at breeding by the time summer rolls around. So at this time of year it’s common to see chicks in the nest. The parents take turns incubating eggs and then looking out for the chicks. The other parent will head out to sea to feed. 

In summer, with daylight savings, the sunset is later in the day. Often around 9pm in the peak of summer. This means the nightly Penguin Parade occurs later as the penguins will wait until sunset to return from the ocean. Before sunset you may see penguins in the sand dunes, close to their burrows. After dark these penguins may venture outside to wait for their partners to return from the ocean.

The short-tailed shearwaters may not be the most famous of Phillip Island’s birds, but they are just as endearing. In summer these migratory birds have completed their journey from Alaska to Phillip Island. Now it’s time for them to renovate their burrow and mate. It’s also the time when these birds take an epic two-week feeding trip to Antarctica. They do this to fatten up before the female lays an egg. It’s then the male turn to incubate the egg first. Both parents will take turns over the eight week incubation period.

Autumn

Months: March, April, May

In Autumn the weather cools down, bringing clearer days and chilly nights. It is a quieter time on the island – except for the Easter school holidays when the crowds will be back again. The Moto GP is also held each year in March, bringing crowds to Phillip Island. 

The clearer skies make it a perfect time for stargazing. So if you are outside in the evening (on tour at the Penguin Parade perhaps) make sure to peer upwards to see beautiful constellations. 

Autumn is the time when many migratory birds leave Phillip Island. Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Short-tailed Shearwaters and Eastern Curlew leave the island for their long journey to feeding grounds in the northern hemisphere.

The Little Penguins however are here to stay. They nest year-round on Phillip Island and so can be seen each night of the year returning from the ocean. By the time Autumn rolls around most chicks will have already grown enough to leave the burrow and go to sea.

For the adults, if the breeding has finished, it’s time to begin the annual moult. During the moulting period they need to double their body weight. This is in order to spend 17 days on land fasting as they grow a completely new set of waterproof feathers. This gives them the fresh layer they need to make it through the cold months ahead.

Winter

Months: June, July, August

Winter is a quiet time on Phillip Island. The cold and often windy days often mean the beaches are empty. However there is still a lot going on for the animals on and around the island.

For the Little Penguins winter is a time to work hard. With their new coat of feathers they are ready to head back out to sea to catch fish. However, in winter they often need to swim longer distances to find food. This means they are gone from the island for longer periods of time.

Towards the end of the winter months they will spend more time on the island in order to build their nests. They’ll also start to pair up with a mate for the next breeding season. 

The fur seal colony at Phillip Island are also busy during winter. The seal pups start to swim more and practice catching their own food. Female seals are still feeding their pups, while catching their own food at sea. During winter, the males remain out at sea and are starting to put on body condition for the breeding season ahead.

Winter is also a good time to spot whales off the coast of Phillip Island. Humpback and Southern Right whales make the migratory journey from Antarctica each year and can be seen in waters surrounding the island. Some years in winter there have also been reported sightings of orcas off Phillip Island as well.

Spring

Months: September, October, November

The warmer days in Spring bring life back to Phillip Island. Sunny days are followed by cooler nights and the build up for summer is on. 

For wildlife lovers, spring is an exciting time because it is the breeding season and because many migratory birds reach Phillip Island. 

Pacific gulls bring their chicks to Phillip Island to feed. Insects become more active and the air is alive with the sound of crickets and cicadas.

Short-tailed shearwaters can be seen flying overhead in the evenings as they return to Phillip Island to renovate their sand dune burrows. Possums have young in their pouch. 

Snakes and lizards emerge to bask in the sun. Southern right whales pass by the coast on their migration back down south.

For the Little Penguins breeding season is in full swing. A visit to the nightly Penguin Parade will reveal a lot of noise, and perhaps even a little action in the sand dunes!

 

Written by: Leah Furey – Digital Content Coordinator @gowest.com.au

 

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