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Nature images at Ararat Hills Park’s Pioneer Lookout, Philip Island, The Nobbies and Swan Lake Trail

The drive from Halls Gap to Phillip Island is about 400 Km but with Melbourne and its suburbs to negotiate which leaves little time for en-route stops. One option is to take an overnight stop in Melbourne since this is the end point for the figure of eight tour it's better to press onto Philip Island arrive early afternoon and avoid Melbourne's southbound traffic which gets congested when the city empties at the end of the working day.

Worthwhile detours are Pomonal's Wildflower Drive nurseries and Ararat Hills Park's Pioneer Lookout, which is located at the end of One Tree Hill for panoramic views of Ararat and the surrounding mountains and countryside. From the lookout, there are southwest viewing towards the Grampians and easterly views towards Ararat, Mount Langi Ghiran and Mount Cole.

Philip Island

An early arrival at Phillip Island gives opportunities for nature and wildlife photography. The Nobbies at the end of Phillip Island, home to colonies of Silver Gulls (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae) and Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor). Boardwalks pass through the bird colonies and lookouts provide panoramas of the coastal scenery. Near the Penguin Parade Centre is the Swan Lake Trail – an easy 1.3 Km walk to a couple of viewing hides that overlook the lake.

One of the main wildlife attractions on Philip Island is the Penguin Parade – unfortunately, they don't allow photography based on flash causing distress to the birds – I guess with so many visitors a policy of one-size-fit-all is necessary. Granite Island allowed non-flash photography; the visitor numbers are considerably smaller and less touristy than Philip Island. Even though you can't capture images, the Penguin Parade experience was rewarding, take the VIP (research) tour and lean about the penguins and get reserved front row seating in the Penguin Plus stand. On the evening of our tour (2-Oct) about six-hundred little penguins in several batches came ashore right in front of us.

Panorama from Pioneer Lookout at One Tree Hill towards Mount Langi Ghiran and Mount Cole, Ararat, Victoria

Panorama from Pioneer Lookout at One Tree Hill towards Mount Langi Ghiran and Mount Cole, Ararat, Victoria