It’s no surprise that Phillip Island is one of the most popular destinations in Victoria. The island off the South Gippsland coast is home to beautiful beaches, rugged coastal landscapes, incredible wildlife encounters and wholesome cafes and dining experiences. However, of all the best things to do on the island, exploring on foot is severely underrated.
While it might not be home to challenging hikes, there are plenty of trails to discover with outstanding views. In this post, I’m going to detail the best walks to do on Phillip Island, from the well-known Cape Woolamai Circuit Walk to shorter boardwalks at The Nobbies. If you’re looking to stretch your legs on your weekend away, keep reading for six of the best walks on the island.
Why You Should Hit the Trails on Phillip Island
I obviously love exploring any destination on foot. But, Phillip Island is actually one of the most beautiful places in Victoria and most of that beauty is best seen on the walking trails. While you might be heading to the island for a beach holiday, I highly recommend hitting one of these walks below for a morning stroll.
From exploring a ship wreck to one of the best coastal walks in the state, Phillip Island has a wide variety of walking trails. Some of these are family-friendly and relatively easy, while others cross sandy beaches and uneven ground and are more moderate graded. Still, going for a walk on Phillip Island will showcase the diversity of the coastline and offer incredible views across the ocean.
The Cape Woolamai Circuit would definitely be my top pick, but don’t underestimate some of the other lesser known trails. Keep reading for the best six walks to do on Phillip Island.
Best Walks to Do on Phillip Island
If you’re looking to stretch your legs on your weekend away, here are some of the best Phillip Island walks to do on your next visit.
Cape Woolamai Circuit
Distance: 8.5 km
Time: 3 hours
Trailhead: Woolamai Surf Beach
Undoubtedly the best walk on Phillip Island is the Cape Woolamai Circuit. This incredible trail takes you right around the headland and up to the highest point on the island at Woolamai Hill. While there are some shorter options on the cape, I recommend doing the full circuit of 8.5km. Few people do the complete circuit as most simply head to the Pinnacles and return, meaning the rest of the walk is usually pretty quiet.
Beginning at Woolamai Surf Beach, you’ll find a large carpark there. The walk is well signposted, as you head across the beach first before taking the stairs up and along the headland towards the Pinnacles lookout and Woolamai Hill. If you do decide to complete the full loop then you’ll also get to visit the old quarry and Cleeland Beach on the return to Woolamai Surf Beach.
It’s best done at low tide when the beaches are safer to cross, especially Cleeland Beach towards the end of the circuit. The incredible views on this walk make it one of the best coastal walks in the state, with panoramic views from the top of Woolamai Hill in particular. For more details, read my guide linked below.
Read more: Guide to the Cape Woolamai Circuit Hike
S.S. Speke Ship Wreck at Kitty Miller Bay
Time: 45 minutes
Trailhead: Kitty Miller Bay Carpark
This is a short walk to the most prominent ship wreck on the island. Starting from Kitty Milly Bay carpark, turn left on the beach and head around to the edge of the bay. You’ll see a path climbing up and over the headland, which takes you to the main viewpoint. At the edge of the cliff, you can look down to your left where you’ll see the bow or nose of the ship on the rocks of the cove.
To get down closer, you’ll see a fainter trail heading down to the rocky beach. This is only ideal at low tide, when you can actually see the ship wreck safely up close. Otherwise, simply stick to the upper lookout which is easy enough.
The SS Speke was originally a huge three-masted steel ship built in Wales in 1891, and was one of the largest in the world at the time. In 1907, a navigational error led to the ship running aground. One passenger drowned, but the rest of the crew survived and made it to the island safely. The ship was cracked in two by the strong waves, so it was left to wreck where it still lies today.
Pyramid Rock to Berrys Beach Walk
Distance: 5km return
Time: 1.5 hours
Trailhead: Pyramid Rock Lookout
After Cape Woolamai, this is definitely the next best walk to do on Phillip Island. This beautiful coastal walk starts from Pyramid Rock Lookout which is a popular viewpoint on the southern coast of the island. It looks out over the pyramid-shaped rocky outcrop off the coast, a distinct landmark that can be seen from many other places, like Cape Woolamai and The Nobbies.
The walk gently follows the coast from there to the west, as it climbs along the clifftops on a wide, grassy trail. There are plenty of great views along the way, including a lookout platform about 1.3km in at Red Bluff, which can make for a shorter out and back option for those short on time.
Otherwise, if you continue to Berrys Beach, you’ll get a beautiful view over this sandy bay that is a popular surf beach. You can also drive to Berrys Beach and do the walk in the other direction too, if you prefer.
Conservation Hill to Rhyll Inlet
Distance: 7km return
Time: 1.5 hours
Trailhead: Conservation Hill Reserve
For a peaceful wander through wetlands and an important bird sanctuary, head to the old fishing village of Rhyll on the east coast of the island. The Rhyll Wetland and Bird Sanctuary is an important habitat for migratory waders and resident birds, so it’s a great spot for bird watchers and all round animal lovers.
There are a couple of walks and boardwalks to explore in the sanctuary depending on how long you want to walk. The full trail from Conservation Hill to Rhyll is 7km return, or you can just do the mangrove boardwalk from Conservation Hill for 1.2km return.
It’s basically flat the entire way with very well-kept and wide trails, that are also wheelchair accessible. Conservation Hill is a nice place for a picnic, or you could stop in Rhyll for a meal at the Wild Food Farm Cafe or fish and chips from Tides of Rhyll.
The Nobbies Boardwalk
Time: 15 minutes
Trailhead: The Nobbies Centre (Home of the Antarctic Journey)
At the far southwestern point of Phillip Island, you’ll find this rugged landscape referred to as The Nobbies. Overlooking the Bass Strait where there’s nothing across the sea until Tasmania, this is as wild as the coastline gets on the island. Located past the Penguin Parade, The Nobbies is home to the Nobbies Centre – Home of the Antarctic Journey, which has a paid entry ticket to its museum. But you can access the boardwalk of The Nobbies for free.
Although short and easy to access, the boardwalk takes you across the fragile ecosystem of windswept rock formations, blowholes, and caves, home to seabirds and little penguins. Beyond, you should also be able to see out to Seal Rocks, home to Australia’s largest fur seal colony.
Distance: 1.5km return
Time: 30 minutes
Trailhead: Forrest Caves Carpark
A not-so-hidden-gem, the Forrest Caves are unique sea caves which have been created over thousands of years of coastal erosion. The entry to the carpark is just before Surf Beach on the island. From there, you simply head down to the beach, turn left and walk along the sand to the caves.
It’s best to visit at low tide, as this is the only time that the inside of the caves can be accessed. But there’s plenty of other interesting corners and rock formations to explore around the beach as well. It’s very popular with families and photographers, making it a nice and easy stop on your way to Cowes.
Churchill Island Walks
Distance: 4.5km loop
Time: 1.5 hours
Trailhead: Churchill Island Visitor Carpark
Churchill Island is an island off an island. The small island was known as Moonar’mia by the Bunurong People, however, it was turned into a farming and holiday retreat for Europeans after Lt. James Grant disembarked there from Lady Nelson in 1801. It’s now a popular family activity on Phillip Island, with Victorian gardens, farm animals, a cafe, and other activities.
However, the walking trails are completely free and there’s a couple of options for a gentle stroll around the coast. The full Churchill Island Loop is 4.5km on a well-formed track, otherwise, you could also just do the North Point Loop which is 2km for a taste.
Along the way, you’ll enjoy views of Phillip Island and say hello to the farm animals roaming the fields.
Tips for Walking on Phillip Island
- Look out for snakes on the trails as the island is home to a significant copperhead population. I saw two on the Cape Woolamai Circuit on a cooler autumn day, so they are definitely out and about. Give them plenty of room and they’ll move out of your way.
- Keep to the tracks as some of these walks have steep cliffs which are not stable and with very long drops into the ocean with no barrier. In particular, watch children carefully.
- These trails are mostly quite exposed to the sun, so even on a cloudy day you should still wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.
- If you walk in winter (between May and October), you’ll likely be able to spot Southern Right Whales or Humpback Whales off the coast, which makes it a great time of year to head off on a walk on Phillip Island.
Phillip Island Accommodation
Phillip Island has hundreds of choices when it comes to accommodation, thanks to many of the houses and apartments being holiday homes that people rent out. Check out these places to stay:
Seahorse Motel Cowes: Located a few minutes walk from the beach, this motel offers comfortable rooms for a relatively good price. Check availability here.
Anchor Belle Holiday Park: A laid-back caravan park a couple of kilometres from Cowes Main Street, they offer a range of caravan sites, cabins and villas. Check prices here.
Glen Isla House: Set inside an old homestead, this stunning holiday house is set back from the beach near Cowes offering an indulgent stay. Check prices here.
Read next: 10 Best Places to Stay on Phillip Island
Other Walks to Do Nearby
If you’re searching for other places to walk around South Gippsland, then check out some of these posts:
- Guide to the George Bass Coastal Walk
- Walks and Waterfalls in Tarra-Bulga National Park
- Complete Guide to Wilsons Prom National Park