San Remo is the eastern gateway to Westernport Bay and shipping operations fired up here around the 1840's.
The township that grew up around the port became a popular tourist spot and in 1888 was renamed San Remo, a la Italian Riviera. Before the suspension bridge was built in 1940 visitors had to rely on ferries for access to Phillip Island between San Remo and Newhaven. The bridge had a limit of only six tons and tourist buses had to unload before crossing. A new concrete bridge was opened in 1969 at a cost of $3,250,000.
Commercial fishing in San Remo began around 1909 when rail links with Melbourne enabled quick transport to city markets. Today San Remo is one of Victoria's significant ocean and bay fishing ports, and the San Remo Fisherman's Co-operative is the leading supplier of fresh fish for the region. Holiday makers can enjoy ocean fishing charters, cruises and maritime tours, located at the jetty.
Today San Remo is a fully operational fishing village with the San Remo Fisherman’s Co-op being the major fresh fish supplier in the area. San Remo is well serviced, with motels, bed & breakfasts, caravan park, restaurants, a shopping centre, medical clinic and community care centre. Children's Beach is a sheltered family beach while Foots Beach has an excellent beach. Barbeques, playgrounds and toilets are located on Marine Parade and Back Beach Road. The San Remo Recreation Hall, tennis courts , squash courts, Bowling Club are all located in Wynne Ave.
Several nature walks allow you to enjoy the scenery and points of historical interest (see my off the beaten path tips). A 15 minute easterly walk from the Lions Park along Back Beach Road leads to Foots, an excellent surf nursery.
The George Bass Coastal Walk begins at the southern end of Punchbowl Road and is a scenic six-kilometre walk to Kilcunda (one way). Another suggestion is a foreshore ramble along Bore Beach where the historic coal bore can be seen, and then on to Shelly Beach, Griffith Point and Quarry Rocks where stone was quarried around 1870 to build banks and business chambers in Melbourne. A short walking track on the foreshore provides good views of black swans and passing fishing boats.
Pelicans are fed daily at 11.30 am. These majestic birds with their waddle and funny eating antics delight many visitors. Pelican feeding is located on the foreshore adjacent tot the fishing Co-Op.
The year was 2012, Casey Stoner had been deprived of a world championship due to a crash about a month before. All Australia knew it would be their last chance to see him in a fully competitive mode. He was the king of Phillip Island and he had the chance to set a record of six consecutive wins on this world famous track. He was virtually unbeatable yet, in practice the day before the race he crashed, on the morning warmup he nearly stepped off, would it still happen.
Australian's got warmed up because an Aussie called Arthur Sissis managed third place in Moto 3, then Anthony West, another Aussie, sensationally snatched second place in the Moto 2, passing third and second placed bikes in the last two laps.
The crownd were baying for more blood when Casey swung his leg over and delivered, in the only way he knew how, by totally demoralising the oppostion. A commentator remarked before the race, "I've been commentation for 32 years and I've never seen anyone as good".
It was an epic day at an epic place and I was there with my two sons - fantastic!
I went down in 2011 to watch Casey win a world title yet again. I still find it hard to believe that it was even colder than previous times I'd visited. Sitting in the Bass Strait Stand with shirt, thick jumper, spray jacket and blanket wrapped around and still being cold was an experience I wouldn't like to repeat. The temperature was 11 degrees with a chill factor of minus 15!
Still, when Casey roared off with the race and the title it sort of tempered the cold just a little.
The Moto2 was the best race, along with the super stock bikes but, if you're planning to go, remember that you need to be fit (or drunk) to survive three days of the weather down there. Other than that, it's an amazing experience.
Phillip Island is filled with great beaches, and lots of fun walks. One of the easier walks is the Pyramid Rock. It was freezing out there in July, and it began raining when we headed out, so we did not stay too long, but the view is beautiful.
One of the things I will definitely recommend to watch out for is that the road is all gravel out to this site, so make sure your car can handle it, or just hire a car (and get the insurance just in case)!
On the far end of Phillip Island, you will find a nature park that is a great place for an afternoon walk. I am sure it would be much more enjoyable in the summertime, since we were very cold with the ocean breeze coming straight in from Antarctica, but we did enjoy the view of the rock formations just past the island. Also, you can view Seal Rocks, which used to be home to 18000 seals. Unfortunately, due to seal slaughters, that number has decreased significantly.
At first the price of $80Au put me off but after talking to a local in St.Kilda (and he explained it was 1.5hr drive there and 1.5hr back) + the different places you visit it was well worth it.You see..
Wine tasting at The Gurdies (the port was sensational, the wine @$20au/bottle),Wildlife Wonderland (normally $12au) to see Koala,Roos,Emus, Dingoes etc (cheers Cory the Ranger & Wilma the wombat),Cowes town,the Nobbies & Seal Rocks then on to Penguin Parade (the "little Penguin" breed come ashore every night to burrow (normally $16au)
An excellent day 1pm t 11pm & sandwiches thrown in too....
Visit the Koala Conservation Centre as they have 2 raised boardwalks which allow you to see these fascinating animals close up.
The Park has more than 6 hectares of bushland and plays a part in conserving koalas and undertaking research.
Stuck out on the western end of the island is arguably the most scenic spot on Phillip Island. I refer, rather obviously, to The Nobbies; a set of eye-catching protruberances beyond the land's end.
They are also a haven for wildlife. Birds and penguins nest in this area and there is a scenic boardwalk that takes you on a circuitous route past nesting holes and has platforms at the best lookouts. Along the way are educational signs to better help you understand the area.
You can also see the awesome blowhole, a spectacular sea cave that thunders during big southern swells.
This is also where Australia's largest fur seal colony resides.
Access to the islands is not allowed.
This is where you come to see the penguins (pic 2).
The Penguin Parade happens every evening at dusk. It takes under an hour from the time the world's smallest penguins emerge from the ocean and cross the beach to their burrows in the soft soil.
Make sure you dress in warm clothing - Phillip Island is exposed - and it can get very cold waiting without shelter.
On a busy night up to 3000 people can be watching the penguins so make sure you get there early.
Prices start at $17 for adults. The dearest is $60, but this is limited to only about 10 people. You are taken by a ranger to a different spot, away from the main group of tourists, where you sit directly on the sand, and watch these gorgeous liitle penguins waddle right past you.
Check out the various tourist guides as they usually have a discount coupon to buy your tickets cheaper.
The Koala Conservation Centre is a chance to see koalas in their natural habitat. There is a visitor centre and rangers on hand to answer any questions but the centre is not like a zoo. There are raised boardwalks among the trees for you to walk along to spot the koalas high up in the trees. Keep your eyes peeled! If your camera has a good zoom its definitely worth using it.
The Nobbies Centre has a cafe and a childrens play area and is an ideal place to relax for a bit on Phillip Island. We didn't spend too long here as we'd already eaten but we watched some children playing with the cameras that are zoomed in to Seal Rocks.
Seal Rocks, as the name suggests, are home to a colony of over 20,000 Australian Fur Seals. They aren't really visible to the naked human eye, hence the cameras which display the footage on large television screens. Its quite a sight!
Phillip Island is home to the world famous Penguin Parade where every night the little penguins make their way up from the sea to their burrows on Summerland beach. There are several different options and price ranges for viewing the penguins, we went for the Penguin Plus Viewing Platform but I don't know how much it cost because my lovely aunt and uncle paid ;-)
We weren't at the front of the viewing platforms but as the groups of penguins made their way up the beach, groups of people made their way back to the gift shop, so it pays to be patient as we made our way to the front eventually and had penguins passing us no more than a metre away (although we were in a fenced off area). We managed to stay until the last group of penguins appeared and it was well worth it.
The staff are very informative and on hand to answer questions. If you go during a busy season I would book early. We went in May and did not need to book. We did need to wrap up warm as the beach is quite chilly on a May evening.
One more thing, NO PHOTOGRAPHY. The flash is dangerous for the penguins eyes. You won't get away with it as a ranger is there at all times. If you do want a photo of the penguins then the gift shop is fairly reasonably priced (the souvenir brochure is quite good).
If you enjoy nature and the life it has to offer in marine, bird & wildlife, you will love Phillip Island especially the variety of in the wild in comfort experiences, my favorite was getting out on the cruises to Seal Rocks, amongst what we are told is the largest colony of Australian fur-seals in the world at Seal Rocks. We took a Seal Watching Cruise with the locally owned, Wildlife Coast Cruises, who are sold and reccommended throughout the Island, and we now know why, as everything from the boat to the captain to the crew are hand picked for this job, and great to deal with and be with onboard. On this cruise you are actually manuvouring within about 10 mtrs from the Rocks with Seals around everywhere, the sound, waves crashing, seals calling, gulls squawking, the movement, Seals swimming & jumping, even the smell all added to a fantastic atmosphere that is hard to describe, a great experience. We even got a yummy cake on the return trip and my son got to help the Captain drive back to the Jetty, certainly a must do on Phillip Island.
I took my eldest son (pictured) to the Nobbies, just to show him. Turned out to be yet another crappy day but it made for atmosphere.
I also learned that since they've put the board walk there that the bare earth (caused by people walking on it) has now been covered by plant life again and the oh-so-noisy seagulls have returned in numbers (pic 3). Around nesting time in spring, it is literally like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" (pic 2).
Though we had warm clothing on it was still freezing.
The scenic yet rugged coastline stretches eastward from the Nobbies (pic 5) but one really interesting piece of rock is in pic 4.
A lady was taking a picture of her beau and it wasn't until it was developed that she realised that there, on the rock behind, was a man who was about to be drowned. Along with 3 others he was washed off the rock but they survived.
The photo and the full story of how she agonized over whether to publish the photo or not (her priest said it might save someone else's life) are all on display in the Nobbies Centre where you can also read stories of shipwrecks and marine life.
On your way on to Phillip Island, just past San Remo or, like myself and my son, just on our way home and just before San Remo, there is a walk.
It's located on the southern (ocean) side of the road and is a lovely way to spend half and hour or more, depending on how far you want to walk. It's called the Forrest Caves Walk.
There are sea caves 300 metres down the beach but I would suggest you don't get too excited by them and just go to enjoy the seaside experience. The scent of salt in the air as the onshore wind drifts in from the Southern Ocean. Of course, you will often need some warm clothing because Phillip Island can get positively freezing.
There is also some beautiful colours on this walk, the red stained tuff rocks, the grey boulders, the green tussock grass, the blue of the sky, the green of the ocean and the golden sands. It really is a bit special.
In case people outside of Australia hadn't heard, Casey Stoner is an Aussie who has a Moto GP World Title under his belt. In fact, three Aussies are in the top ten, the other two are Chris Vermeulen (my favourite) and AntWest (Anthony West, but no one calls him that any more).
Come race day, the first after Casey had won his title at the tender age of 21, the fans were there in force. It was the biggest aggregate crowd ever, 115,000 plus over three days, and they were loving it.
From practice day one, Stoner was on fire. Not only was quickest but looked it as well. Though, through a quirk of fate he missed out on pole and started third on the grid but they'd only gone a couple of lengths when he hit the front and rode away from the world's best and, bear in mind, there were at least five world or ex-world champions in this field. No wonder his home town crowd was excited.
Here are some shots of the action.