The unique Nobbies Trail, Philip Island

Take the family on a coastal trail walk and explore the Nobbies, the ultimate opener before the famous penguin parade.

When Victorians think of local holidays, they think of weekends away at Phillip Island. I’ve had many weekends away to Phillip Island growing up and one of my main stops is The Nobbies boardwalk trail. Even as an adult, I am still in awe of its natural beauty.

One of the highlights of Philip Island is the beloved and internationally renowned Penquin Parade. Only catch is, the penguins don’t arrive until sunset, which leaves visitors thinking, what else shall I do today?

The Nobbies boardwalk is stones throw from the Penguin parade and the perfect way to build up anticipation for the penguins. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot a few penguins before the show!

Waves crashing around rocks, the nobbies trail
Waves crashing around rocks, the Nobbies trail.
Getting there

The Nobbies boardwalk are at the Western Most point of Philip Island, which is a 90 minute drive from the Melbourne CBD. From Philip Island’s main township of Cowes, the Nobbies trail is a quick 10 minute drive, just past the Summerlands. There is very little public transport on Philip Island, getting to the Nobbies will need to be done by car, taxi or tourist bus. Experienced cyclists may enjoy riding to the Nobbies trail.

Known as a popular walking trail, there’s plenty of free flat gravel parking available. The best things in life are free and this trail is one of them.

The trail is a very short one, approximately 500 metres each way which is great for young families and people building up their fitness. The main track is wheelchair accessible but some of the trails smaller paths involve steeps which may restrict people with mobility issues. Because of it’s small number of paths and sturdy barriers, the Nobbies boardwalk is ideal for large groups.

What to bring

There’s plenty of birds and wildlife to watch. Spare yourself from squinting and bringing a pair of binoculars or some coins to purchase time with the fixed public binoculars. Take a camera to shoot some fantastic coastal shots. Bring sunglasses on a sunny day to prevent squinting from the glare.

For those prone to the cold, a jacket to keep the cool breeze off your skin is ideal. Be weary with hats on windy days, to ensure the sea breeze doesn’t blow them away! My uncle’s lucky cap was blown off from the sharp ocean breeze and being the family runner, guess who had to chase it down the boardwalk? Lucky, I got it back before a bird used it as part of its nest.

Take as long or as little as you want

The Nobbies, Philip Island are one of those places you can dash through in 20 minutes, or spend a couple hours. Take some time to soak in the rugged views and spot the wildlife. You can even enjoy for a barista made coffee from the nearby café. Turn the trip into an educational experience for both kids and adults by visiting Antarctic Journey the Nobbies centre.

What exactly is the nobbies trail?

Good question. The Nobbies are actually known as Round island and is a giant uninhabited dome island. Thousands of years of constant barging waves have carved the beauty in what is today seen as the Nobbies. The Nobbies trail is only a few hundred metres from the lookout so you get to see fine details in the island including the cracks of the cliff and the wildlife that sometimes inhabits it

Waves crashing around Round Island, The Nobbies trail
Close up view of waves crashing around Round Island, The Nobbies trail
The epic scenery

Enjoy the rugged coast lines and have pole position of Bass Strait ocean. The Nobbies volcanic rocks and moss green surroundings remind me of the Scottish Highlands and Irish coastline. Stop and inhale the salty sea air and prepare to be slapped by the coastal breeze.

Coastal grass, the Nobbies trail, Philip Island
Grassy terrain at the Nobbies

The sturdy boardwalk has been carefully designed to consider the foot traffic of tourists without upsetting the wildlife.

Make sure the kids don’t veer off the path and they learn to appreciate the wildlife from a distance. Take a moment every now and then to stop and acknowledge the birds nesting alongside and even under the board walk. In the past, I knelt down to peer through the cracks in the boardwalk to discover nesting penguins!

The blowhole is another of the key features of the trail. Take a moment to stop and inhale the crisp air and mindfully watch as the waves crash against the cliffs and anticipate the WHAM of water spraying from the blow hole.

The wildlife

The Nobbies boardwalk is great way to glimpse the native Philip Island wildlife in their natural habitat. Most of the animals have adapted to the ongoing visitors and if you keep your eyes peeled, you can see them lurking under the boardwalks and returning from their nests.

Some native wildlife includes gulls, snakes, fairy penguins. From the Nobbies lookout, you can see Seal Rocks which is home to thousands of local fur seals. At the right time of day, you may see some seals lounging on the rockfaces. May to October is whale migration time and if you are lucky to travel to Philip Island during the winter months, you may be rewarded with the sights the humpback and southern whales swimming along the Victorian coastline.

It’s about family

What I love about the nobbies, is it is accessible for everyone. The solid boardwalk makes it hard to lose people. You can stop and start as much as you want and it’s a great way to teach the kids a thing or two about conservation.

Coming back to Philip Island every few years, it’s just as enjoyable as when I was young. There’s a bit more to do now like visit the Nobbies centre and drink coffee like a grown up but the salty sea breeze never gets old. There is a lot more of a conservation and education focus now.

Skipping along the Nobbies boardwalk trail with my own family makes me want to bring them back again.

Like the trail? For more trail trips by this author, click here.

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