This ride takes you on a circuit around the island. It is good for the exercise through rolling farmland and also passes several of the islands' attractions if you want to be a cycle tourist. With a height difference of about 60 meters between the lowest and highest points, there are no challenging hills to ascend and the roads are generally smooth and wide. The start and finish is in Cowes where you will find necessary services including accommodation and a bike shop which hires bicycles.
The island currently attracts some 3.5 million visitors each year, which makes it the most popular single tourist destination in Australia. Its large little penguin colony and other natural features (such as Churchill Island, Seal Rocks and the Koala Conservation Centre) are the major attractions. This ride passes the penguin parade (which you might have to come back to as the penguins come ashore after dark), the seal colony at the Nobbies and the Koala Conservation Centre.
The islanders have tried a number of agricultural pursuits including growing chicory, a coffee substitute, of which the only reminder now is the occasional derelict chicory kiln. But the real development of the island occurred in the 1920s with the establishment of an access track to the penguin colony. Tourism was stimulated with visitors accessing the island by means of the ferry service at Cowes where a number of grand guesthouses were built. From then on its prosperity has been well and truly tied to tourism and its attractions and amenities have developed accordingly. The little penguin colony is easily accessible, hence its world wide popularity. Everyday bus loads of tourists stream on to the island to take in the experience of these little creatures emerging from the surf in groups after sunset and marching up the beach to their burrows.
These small birds, which average only about 33cm in height, can stay at sea for weeks feeding on small fish. The natural experience of seeing this nightly parade is dampened a bit by having to share it with hundreds of others, but you can pay more for a “private viewing.” Whichever way you see it, the experience is worthwhile, particularly if you have kids with you. Nearby the Nobbies Centre provides an insight into the fur seal colony on the rocks just offshore. Another attraction on the island which you pass on this ride is the grand prix motor racing circuit which is the popular venue for world championship motorcycle racing. History of motor racing on the island extends back to 1928, well before the first bridge to the island in 1940. There are displays at the circuit detailing this history.
Cowes, on Phillip Island, is less than two hours from Melbourne along South Gippsland and Bass highways, then taking the San Remo turnoff. The town is at RACV VicRoads State Directory map reference 95 E9. There is all-day parking in Bass Avenue behind the bicycle shop in the main street (Thompson Street). By public transport catch the Stony Point train from Frankston station then the ferry to Cowes.
Food and Drink
A wide variety in Cowes, the start and finish point. There is also a general store at 5.4km and a café at the Nobbies Centre.
Combine with ride in the road loop to Rhyll. Take in the displays and look out at the Nobbies Centre to learn more about fur seals, or stop at the grand prix circuit to see the displays and have a blast on the go-karts.
- 0.0 Start ride in car park at Cowes Pier. There are toilets next to the car park. Bear right out of car park, then ride straight on past the main street (Thompson Ave). Follow road around the coastline.
- 0.6 Turn right at Beach St.
- 1.2 Turn right at crossroads into Church St.
- 2.9 Turn left at Justice Rd.
- 3.2 Straight on at crossroads.
- 4.2 Turn right at T-intersection, signposted the Nobbies.
- 4.9 Straight on at crossroads.
- 5.4 General store on right.
- 7.2 Straight on.
- 10.1 Straight on. If you don’t want to stop at the Nobbies turn left (this is the intersection at 19.4km).
- 10.7 Straight on at roundabout.
- 11.7 Straight on at roundabout, signposted the Nobbies, then ride past the entrances to the Penguin Parade.
- 14.7 The Nobbies Centre. Return back along same road when leaving.
- 17.8 Straight on at roundabout.
- 18.8 Straight on at roundabout.
- 19.4 Turn right, signposted Melbourne.
- 22.9 Straight on at roundabout.
- 29.3 Turn left, signposted Cowes. The road will be busier from here, so use sealed shoulder and marked bike lane into Cowes.
- 35.0 Straight on at roundabout.
- 35.8 Straight on at roundabout.
- 36.3 Straight on at roundabout.
- 36.7 Turn right at T-intersection then bear left into car park.
- 36.8 End of ride.
36.655 km / 22.777 mi
381 m / 1,249 ft
381 m / 1,250 ft
61 m / 199 ft