It might be best known for its penguin parade and bountiful beaches, but Phillip Island is thriving in other ways too.

Low-key local breweries and wineries are punching above their weight, and new restaurants and bars continue to pop up in the area. Explorers could devote a week to the rugged coasts and far-reaching lookouts.

This winter, interstate visitors arriving at the island (and booking two nights accommodation) can register for a $250 voucher to be used on the island or nearby San Remo, from July 1 to August 31.

With that in mind, here are some choice picks to get you started on your trip. We’ve even included a couple of suggestions for memorable stops along the way.

STOPS ON THE WAY

Bassine Speciality Cheeses

A family-operated dairy farm complete with cows grazing on spacious Bass River frontage, Bassine produces a variety of artisan cheese, milk and cream on-site. Visitors can sample cheese platters against a picturesque backdrop, or peer through double-glazed windows at the cheese-making process, while sipping a milkshake sourced directly from the 235-acre farm. No fewer than 10 different styles of cheese are available, from brie and camembert to haloumi and ricotta. The feta, topped with lemon myrtle and chilli marinades, is especially popular.

2125 Bass Highway, Glen Forbes

Australia Garden at Cranbourne

Just 20 minutes drive from the eastern edge of Port Phillip Bay, Cranbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens are open daily with no entry fee. The bushland includes walking and cycling tracks as well as family-friendly amenities like playgrounds and barbeques. Most unusual, though, is the Australian Garden, housing more than 150,000 plants from thousands of individual varieties. You can stroll via self-guided walks or join open-air bus tours that also show you the wider landscape. Note that dogs aren’t permitted at the garden, and allow time to browse the botanical-themed shop and the Boon Wurrung Cafe, overlooking the Red Sand Garden.

Ballarto Road and Botanic Drive, Cranbourne

EAT

Wild Food Farm & Café

Native ingredients shine at Wild Food Farm & Café, a farm, homestead and storefront that showcases native Australian herbs and spices. Explore a native food trail and winding parklands before diving into the on-site cafe, which is currently open five days a week for breakfast and lunch. They serve up the farm’s own homemade muesli, tea, curries, bush rubs, jams and sauces. That paddock-to-plate philosophy guides the cafe’s changing seasonal menu, where you can taste your way through Gippsland burgers and beef pies or local barramundi, using ingredients like aniseed myrtle, warrigal greens and native limes. The indoor rainforest garden is a draw too, hosting live music among the ferns on Saturdays.

30 Rhyll-Newhaven Road, Rhyll

Hotel Phillip Island

This waterfront bar and restaurant has been an island staple for two decades, and not just because of its dream location, right on Cowes Esplanade. Drink offerings range from colourful cocktails to cold jugs of beer from Mornington Peninsula brewery Jetty Road, plus a long wine list that heroes local favourites. The kitchen is serving up pub classics, pizzas and oysters (raw or Kilpatrick). The seafood is a big draw, particularly the chilli mussels and kingfish ceviche. Look out for the occasional live music too. With the sun overhead and the water stretching out beside you, you’ll be in no rush whatsoever to move along.

11-13 The Esplanade, Cowes

DRINK

Ocean Reach Brewing

A DIY venture that quickly expanded beyond its home-brew origins, Ocean Reach Brewing is named after a surf break at nearby Cape Woolamai. Selection-wise, the beers offer the best of both worlds, between a dependable core range and seasonal outliers like a chocolate fudge stout and a West Coast IPA. They’ve also done limited releases with artist-designed cans, with styles running from an imperial smoothie sour to a hazy triple IPA. Located just a couple of blocks from the Cowes ferry terminal, the brewery also hosts a food van slinging a compact range of burgers (including a house-made veggie patty) alongside fish and chips and kids’ meals. Swing by at knock-off time on a Friday for happy hour prices on schooners and wings.

47 Thompson Avenue, Cowes

Phillip Island Winery

Gippsland grapes and produce are on abundant display at Phillip Island Winery, a scenic destination that’s in high demand for weddings and other milestone events. The cosy cellar door offers no shortage of varieties to sample, including the bestselling pinot noir. There are also open fires in the coolest months and classic cocktails sitting alongside a seasonal menu including oysters, a grazing board (all items locally sourced) and a catch of the day right from the Bass Strait. Expect live music on Sundays, plus a dog-friendly vibe that means a whole little section of menu items especially for your furry friends. This is a spot to kick back and ignore the clock.

414 Berrys Beach Rd, Ventnor

DO

Wildlife Coast Cruises

Take your pick of animal encounters with these coastal cruises. There are specific trips centred on whales, dolphins and seals (depending on the season), as well as sunset and Cape Woolamai cruises and a full-day jaunt to Wilsons Prom. Beyond the extensive commentary from your guides, you’ll receive lunch and have access to a full bar and hot drinks. Departing from four different jetties around the island, Wildlife Coast Cruises combines local history and natural wonders for an experience that’s also nicely customisable, depending on your group.

Phillip Island Helicopters
If you’d rather take to the skies, that’s an option too. This airborne tourism operator offers a suite of helicopter flights showing off the island from above. That might mean seals and penguins or the sweeping Cape Woolamai, as well as a tour of the entire island. They’re not too time-consuming either, so you can pack in all the highlights from a bird’s eye view and still keep the day open for further adventuring on foot.

STAY

Five Acres

Five Acres is home to three luxury cabins on a working micro-farm outside of Cowes, flanked by Phillip Island Nature Park and views of Western Port Bay. Beaches are close by, but you can also stay put and enjoy the spacious rural backdrop. The three themed cabins are ideal for couples, with one bedroom and luxury furnishing. Warm up with the indoor fireplace or stretch out in an outdoor concrete bath, all accompanied by views of the sea or rolling paddocks and a ripe cross-section of local wine and produce.

46 McHaffies Lane, Ventnor

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Visit Phillip Island. Interstate visitors can register for a $250 voucher between July 1 and August 31 for use on the island or San Remo, if they book two nights accommodation. Register here.