Onto our final destination of the road trip, Phillip Island. Whilst the main town, Cowes, was to be an over visited tourist stop our chosen accommodation was so cool. A couple of kilometres out of town, if you walked up the beach, it was set in a wooded area on a road that only served to access adjoining properties and a minutes walk from the beach.
And what a beach!
Kilometre after kilometre of golden sand in both directions, so much so that even on a busy weekend the beach seemed underpopulated. Unlike the Great Ocean Road beaches there were no surf waves as we were facing the Victoria coastline just a kilometre across the water. So we walked the beach, sat and meditated, went into the water and generally kicked back.
To Polie’s and my absolute delight 5 minutes walk along the tree strewn road we discovered Silverleaves General Store which is actually a gem of a coffee shop. Someone on Trip Advisor said they served the “best french toast in town”. They certainly weren’t lying. We’d go further and say it was the best we’d ever had. The experience was so good we were up and ready to go in the mornings. Well not Chris but that would be no surprise to regular readers. Smashed avocado on sour bread toast, crispy bacon, home made muesli, fruit breads. Why wouldn’t we get our shorts and sunnies on and get out? Then the beach. Only the absence of surf waves would have made us think twice about staying longer.
That said, on the opposite coast, which is 15 minutes drive away, are Surf Beach and Cape Woolanai which is a national surf reserve. Not a 5 minute walk like Torquay but maybe the best of both worlds. Anyway we were content with the beach we could walk to and the evenings spent on our deck with local wines and the sound of the waves.
Cowes, the main town was a disappointment and seemed geared to the coach loads of tourists who we saw disembark. The restaurants were mostly offering the same menus and spoke of a dependency on passing trade. A restaurateur back home recently said to me that the city centre restaurants did not need to maintain a high level of cuisine or change menus as they could rely of the volume of passing trade whereas the eateries away from the centre had to attract customers who often travelled to be there. So their offering needed to be better. Our experience tells us that this is true.
There is an exception on the main shopping strip and that is Cafe Lugano. Again, excellent coffee, really good food and the staff were so very nice, especially the proprietor who had a wicked sense of humour, initially refusing us a second cup of coffee with a serious face saying: “Your only allowed one a day”, then breaking into laughter at us standing dumb struck and making flat whites for us all. Also Polie collected more coffee wisdom.
One special trip we took time out to make was to spend an evening sitting on the edge of the beach at the Phillip Island Nature Park. Here we sat as dusk descended over the sea and waited for a nightly event to occur. As the light faded, from the surf appeared several Little Penguins, named because of their height of a foot or less, and stood on the water’s edge. For several moments they stood scanning the beach and the scrub land beyond before determinedly waddling across the sand and heading towards the dunes beyond where their burrows were to be found. Excited sounds emitted from the birds as they meet their mates. Some, left in the surf started the journey only to scurry back into the water when frightened by something. Others, moving as fast as they could waddle ended up face planting in the sand. Surprisingly their companions would wait for the fallen to right themselves before continuing the dash.
We watched as literally hundreds of these little birds emerged from the sea and journeyed into the dunes. Eventually the cold of the sea breeze and darkness brought the evening to an end. But what a unique experience.
So that was Phillip Island and from here we returned to Melbourne and a flight home.