Being the tourist that I still am, I decided to check out the tour bus that brings you to the famous holiday spot, Phillip Island. In Australia, instead of using the word “vacation”, people say “holiday”. So, most of the houses in this area were just summer homes. We began our journey by hopping into a van rather than a bus because our group was more intimate than usual.
Our first stop was the Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park. This was probably my favorite stop of the entire trip, though we only had an hour to explore (which seems like a lot, but it flew by much too fast)! Moonlit Sanctuary is about 50 miles south-east of the city of Melbourne, on the top of Mornington Peninsula.
As we got out, our tour guide explained to us that the wallabies will be your friends, but if you buy a $2 pack of food, they will be your best friends.
So, I fed about 20 new best friends that day. The wallabies were kept in an open area that really was not fenced in at all, and they pretty much had the freedom of roaming wherever they wanted to in the sanctuary. Among these wallabies were also 4 kangaroos, which were significantly larger than the wallabies and a bit intimidating when they hopped toward you–cue the flashback from 2003 of Kangaroo Jack jump-kicking Anthony Anderson.
Though these critters were probably the best part of the sanctuary, there were tons of other animals there, like the Tasmanian devil, wombat, dingos, emus and koalas. The koalas were extremely huggable and you could get your picture taken with them for $20. I say with because in Victoria, they have actually banned people from holding koalas unless they have a certification. So, if you actually want to get that instagram-worthy picture, you’ll have to travel outside of Victoria.
Our next stop was on the water’s edge in the town of Cowes to grab some dinner. Though most of the other people did just that, I am sure, we headed straight to the brewery for happy hour and appetizers (way cooler). Here is where I probably encountered the hottest jalapeño poppers of my life, but they were also the best tasting, so I cut my losses. Shortly after, we hopped back in the infamous van for some sunset sight-seeing.
The view here was absolutely breathtaking and I could not seem to take my hands off of my camera. We saw many wallabies hopping in the bushes and seals basking out on the giant rocks, but, at this time, most of the penguins were out fishing in the water, not to return until sunset. However, we did see the odd (or perhaps lazy) penguin every once in a while peeping out of its home.
On to the last stop: Phillip Island. We began our descent down to the beach, where we would be able to spot tiny penguins returning from the water once it was dark and safe out and waddling up the grassy hills back to the comfort of their homes. As the sun began to disappear, the rangers informed us that no photography of any kind was allowed, which was a bit disappointing, but I suppose we wouldn’t want to stress out the little creatures.
Watching the penguins appear one by one onto the sand, waiting for their mates to reach the safety points that they had (maybe after getting wrecked by a few waves on the way up) was so much more phenomenal than one could even imagine. They truly did seem to know exactly when to come home and exactly where their numbered house was, though we did have to stop on the boardwalk a few times for some babies taking the shortcuts across the path.
I did happen to sneak a picture of some penguins standing near one of the boardwalk lights on the way back, and, as you may be able to tell, the woman next to me who said, “They just look so confused all the time,” just about summed it up.
This was such an amusing day trip and I recommend it for anyone who is visiting Australia or looking to see more of their wildlife/ scenic routes, as the drive to our destinations was just as exciting as the destinations themselves.