What’s in this guide?
- Sample Itinerary
- San Remo
- Phillip Island
- Kilcunda Beach
- Wilsons Promontory National Park
- Raymond Island
- Lakes Entrance
- Mackenzie River Rainforest (highway stopover)
- Continuing on to NSW…
This guide is an overview of the road trip we took of Victoria’s eastern coast.
When we travelled: Jan 4 – 8th, 2021
*Disclaimer: please double check the opening times and costs on their website since they may have changed since we last travelled these places.
The original itinerary we followed was a lot more hectic and disorganized. This is by far not a comprehensive list of everything there is to do (there’s just too much to explore in Australia!), but the places listed are the ones that were highly recommended from my trip planning research. I’ve made this sample itinerary as what I think an ideal trip along the eastern coast would look like, seeing all the highlights. Please double check all the opening times before you travel in case they have changed since we last travelled.
Day 1: San Remo & Philip Island
- Early lunch at San Remo – MUST have the fish and chips at the Fisherman’s Co-op
- Catch the Pelican Feed in San Remo at 12pm (next to the fish and chips shop)
- Explore the small shops of San Remo for some dessert, coffee or walk along the beach/pier
- Drive 15mins to the Philip Island Wildlife Park to get up close with native Aussie wildlife
- Dinner: pack your own, explore restaurants in the main town of Philip Island, or there is a restaurant at the Penguin Parade
- Penguin Parade (15min drive from the Wildlife park) – make sure to arrive 1 hour before sunset to not miss them
- Stay overnight on Philip Island or nearby
Days 2-7: Kilcunda Beach & Wilsons Prom
- Breakfast in town or pack your own
- Brief stopover at Kilcunda Beach (30min drive from the Penguin Parade)
- Wilson’s Promontory National Park (1.5-2hr drive from Kilcunda Beach)
- Spend at least 4-5 days at Wilsons Prom
- Fit in one last short morning hike in Wilsons Prom before getting back on the road
- Stopover at Sale for lunch and to stretch your legs or replenish groceries/snacks (2 hour drive from Wilsons Prom)
- Optional: spend a couple hours at Raymond Island to spot some wild koalas (1 hr drive from Sale)
- Reach Lakes Entrance (1.5 hr drive from Sale)
- Check into hotel at Lakes Entrance and explore the streets and waterfront
- Lots of dinner options in Lakes Entrance
- Visit Griffiths Seashell Museum in Lakes Entrance before leaving (opens at 9am)
- From here on we continued our coastal trip to the next state, New South Wales, stopping at Eden for lunch and the Killer Whale Museum (2hrs 45mins drive). There’s another large national park (Croajingolong) in Victoria that’s near the NSW border but we decided to skip it since Wilsons Prom was already full on with nature hikes during this trip and the views. Toby went to Mallacoota (near the border) as a child and had fond memories of losing the map there and getting lost with his family and came upon a random colony of seals 😅.
San Remo, considered the gateway to Philip Island, is a small coastal fishing town with a few cute shops and a beach. Whenever we’re headed this way, we’ll always be sure to stop by out favourite fish and chips place at the fisherman’s co-op!
San Remo Fisherman’s Co-operative
Address: 170 Marine Parade, San Remo, VIC
We’ve had a lot of fish and chips in our day, but this place always remains one of our favourites. The chips are pretty average, but the battered fish is what we come for – it’s not too heavily battered nor overly greasy, and it’s great paired with their homemade tartar sauce. We usually skip the chips and order a couple of calamari rings, potato cakes, and dim sims (for Toby). Yum!
Address: 170 Marine Parade, San Remo, VIC
Everyday at 12pm, the Fisherman’s Co-op feed the wild pelicans on the beach next to the pier and do a little information talk at the same time about Pelicans. It’s completely free and super cool to see these huge birds up close. The talk lasts about 15-20mins from memory so don’t be late Pelicans are Toby’s favourite bird and it’s pretty cute how excited he gets by them every time.
This is one of the most popular day-trip tours from Melbourne (apart from the great ocean road). The main attraction is the Penguin Parade where you can watch wild penguins emerge from the ocean at night to their nesting spots. The Wildlife Park nearby is also fantastic for checking out the native Aussie animals. There’s also Moonlit Sanctuary that’s highly recommended in some itineraries. Toby has been to both and although Moonlit Sanctuary is more well-organized with a larger variety of animals, Philip Island Wildlife park has more free-roaming animals you can touch and feed.
Philip Island Wildlife Park
Address: 2115 Phillip Island Rd, Cowes VIC 3922, Australia
There are a ton of zoos and wildlife parks around Australia but this place is all about native Australian animals and for the relatively cheap price of admission, they have quite a lot of animals. At first glance this place didn’t seem like much on the outside, but there’s actually a decent amount of space and tons of free-roaming animals that will come up to you for some feed that you can purchase for $2 at the entrance. If you’re a tourist and you want to get an up-close encounter with native Aussie wildlife, this place is a good option!
Address: 1019 Ventnor Rd, Summerlands, Victoria 3922
Cost: $27.50/general adult ticket
This was one of the first things I did when I moved to Australia 7 years ago. It has changed a LOT since then so I’m not sure what to expect anymore, but this is the best place to see the tiny fairy penguins in Australia. This is the main attraction of Philip Island and there are always tons of tour busses here. It’s $27.50 for a general ticket but there are a lot more viewing options available on their website if you want to get a closer view. When I was here 7 years ago, we were all ushered to a viewing area on the beach set up like bleachers (bring warm clothes, a blanket, or even a poncho if it’s wet because it’s completely outdoors). If you paid extra you could get a seat closer to the edges with a cushion to get a better view of the penguins. They start off with a staff member doing a talk about the penguins and then we all wait quietly as the penguins emerge from the ocean and make their way across the beach to their nesting site. You can take photos, but no flash photography. It was definitely a neat experience and super cool to see these adorable tiny wild penguins up close!
The penguins arrive at sunset every evening and it is recommended to get there 1 hour beforehand to settle yourself in and find your seat. Check the penguin calendar on the website for arrival time depending on time of year.
Toby came here a couple times when he was young and he wanted to do a quick stopover on our way to Wilson’s Promontory. We almost didn’t stop because the weather wasn’t the greatest, but I’m so glad we did! At first glance it was like any other beach, but then we came upon these really cool rock formations by the water. It made a pretty good photo-op especially with the gloomy weather.
Wilsons Promontory National Park
Wilson’s Promontory is a huge national park roughly 3 hours drive from Melbourne and 1.5-2hrs from Kilcunda Beach. It sits at the most southern point of mainland Australia. There are so many different hikes in this amazing park that you’ll want to stay at least 4-5 days here to get the best of it. There are coastal views, mountain views, beaches, tropical hikes, sand dunes, and even plenty of Aussie wildlife! This national park is hugely popular and accommodation gets booked out fast so plan ahead. Apart from the Great Ocean Road, this place is probably the second most popular jewel of Victoria’s natural wonders but it can be a bit full on when trying to plan a trip here.
There’s just so much to cover that I’ve written a comprehensive guide of our experience in Wilsons Prom in a separate post here: https://polyphagicabby.com/2022/09/12/wilsons-promontory-national-park-the-prom/
Sale is a large town with plenty of shops. There’s not much “to do” here in terms of tourism, but it’s a good place to stop to stretch your legs and replenish your groceries or road trip snacks. There’s also plenty of cafes and lunch options here too. This was our first stop after spending 3 days hiking in Wilsons Prom and we were glad to be back in a busy town again with food options. We passed by a massage place in the mall and got a 30 min massage of our tired hiking legs while they played Moana in the background.
Disclaimer: We visited Raymond Island in 2018 while I was on a student vet placement in Bairnsdale and completely forgot about it until I was going through my photos recently. This island was not part of our recent road trip in 2021 but if you’ve got time to spare, it’s worth spending an hour or two on this small island to check out the koalas.
Raymond Island is a small island located off of the town of Paynesville. This island is known for its large population of wild koalas. In fact, there’s actually not much to do there other than to walk the koala trail which takes about half an hour that leads you through the neighbourhoods of the island. Toby and I made a game out of it to see who could spot the most koalas – I think in the end he won, spotting about 16 in total. The only way to get on the island is via a ferry. It’s free for pedestrians, but if you want to take your car it’s $13/car and more for trucks. As I mentioned, there’s not much else to do on the island other than spotting koalas so we just parked our car by the dock in Paynesville and strolled onto the ferry.
Ferry Timetable and Cost: https://www.eastgippsland.vic.gov.au/community/raymond-island-ferry
Lakes Entrance is a seaside town that is a popular place for fishing, located 2.5 hours from Wilsons Prom. It’s aptly named due to all the surrounding lakes that converge in this one area and flow out to sea. Many Victorians will come here to vacation along with their boats or hire fishing charters to take them out. Toby has a few childhood memories here with his dad fishing. 😊
Apart from fishing, the town centre has a good selection of restaurants and shops that are quite busy during the peak holiday season. There’s also a beach and foreshore you can explore.
We only stopped here for one night and honestly, unless you’re planning on doing some fishing and a lazy beach day, one night was enough for us. We arrived in the early evening and checked into our hotel then spent a couple hours at the local fair, had dinner at a lovely restaurant with fantastic Thai food, and visited the seashell museum. I’ve highlighted the things we did here.
Nick’s – Thai & Japanese Restaurant
Address: 251-269 Esplanade, Lakes Entrance VIC 3909
I usually won’t include restaurants in my guides unless we found them to be really impressive and worthwhile visiting. We came upon Nick’s on the main street by the foreshore. From the outside (pictured), it didn’t seem like much. The decor didn’t give any hints as to what kind of food they served, but when we got closer and read the menu we realized it was a Thai and Japanese restaurant. I didn’t have high hopes for authentic Thai food this far away from a major city, but we arrived during dinner time and also COVID times so we didn’t have many options to eat. I’m glad they were able to fit us in because all of the food was actually REALLY GOOD. We couldn’t decide which mains we wanted so we ordered three and an appetizer. If we’re ever in the area again, we’ll definitely be coming back to Nick’s!
Chant’s Family Carnival
Entry: Free to enter but rides and games cost money
Location: Lakes Entrance Foreshore (just follow the lights and the ferris wheel)
Time: Usually only operates late December to January
This is a small country carnival with a few rides and games. It’s nothing special from any other carnival and it’s not especially big. It’s not even a “must-do” for this area but given the lack of things there are to do at night in Lakes Entrance (other than restaurants/pubs), it’s definitely a good way to spend a few hours. I would recommend going on the ferris wheel though. Since the carnival is situated on the foreshore, you get a beautiful view of all the lakes at the top of the ferris wheel. We happened to go right at sunset so it was even more magical. 😊
Griffiths Seashell Museum
Address: 125 Esplanade, Lakes Entrance VIC 3909
Hours: 9am – 4pm daily
This place had a few mixed reviews – mainly positive, but some people called it dated. We decided to visit anyway and we’re glad we did. It’s a small shop on the outside, but on the inside there were shelves and shelves of SO many seashells, many of which we’d never seen before. Some had background stories on the original owners that passed on their collection to this museum. Although I will agree that the decor seem a bit outdated but who cares when there are so many beautiful shells from all over the world to appreciate! We spent a good hour or so in here just looking through it all. There were also a few murky fish tanks on display that weren’t the greatest and also a strange room of a huge model train set up that was out of place – maybe the owner just wanted some place to show off his hobby? In any case, just come for the seashells and you won’t be disappointed. There’s also a gift shop where you can buy a few of these funky shells to take home!
Mackenzie River Rainforest (highway stopover)
This isn’t really a place to stop but I thought I’d include it in this post anyway because of the significance of the massive forest fires in 2020. As we drove towards the border of New South Wales, Toby pointed out the funky-looking trees on the side of the highway and we realized that we were driving through one of the hotspots of the great Australian bushfire at the start of last year (wow, has it been a year already??). The funky appearance of the trees were a result of the trees recovering. The main tree trunks were all black and charred but they were all sprouting small branches with plenty of leaves making them look “fuzzy” from afar. It was surreal driving through it all and realizing how far the fire had spread and how big it must have been. It‘s amazing how much the trees have already started recovering and their resilience. Mackenzie River Rainforest was just a random highway stopover rest spot that we pulled over to get a better look at the trees up close. As I’m writing this post in 2022, I’d imagine the trees probably look somewhat back to normal now.
Continuing on to NSW…
From here on we continued our coastal trip to the next state, New South Wales, stopping at Eden for lunch and the Killer Whale Museum (2hrs 45mins drive). Check out the NSW road trip page to continue following our trip!
If you want to explore more of Victoria’s eastern coast, there’s another large national park (Croajingolong) that’s near the NSW border but we decided to skip it since Wilsons Prom was already full on with nature hikes during this trip. Toby went to Mallacoota (near the border) as a child and had fond memories of losing the map there and getting lost with his family and came upon a random colony of seals 😅.