Travelling (Almost) Waste Free at the Gluten Free Fest in Preston

What I love about The Food Truck Park in Preston is its themed food weekends. Food trucks and mobile food vendors travel across Melbourne to park their vehicles so travellers can feast away in confidence. The Food Truck Park’s Vegetarian and Vegan weekends are incredible, in the sense that local favourites and new makers on the block sell their culinary creations for those needing vegetarian and vegan options.

The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia

Earlier this month, the Preston Food Truck Park decided to host a Gluten Free Fest over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. Gluten-intolerant and/or coeliac Melburnians could travel here and feast on favourite food truck foods without worrying about becoming sick. Another bonus of the Gluten Free Fest was that vegan vendors, and vendors with vegan options, featured on the day.  Savoury and sweet options were available for those wanting a bit – or a lot – of both.

When I travel for an eating trip to a food truck park or market now, I'm starting to cringe at the amount of single-use rubbish that ultimately accumulates. Thankfully, vegan food vendor Woking Amazing decided to take an initiative. They invited travellers to bring their own containers and cutlery to the Gluten Free Fest. It was a brilliant way to reduce my waste without compromising on serving size and taste.

The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia
The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia
The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia

When Woking Amazing is around, tasty and inventive 100% vegan, Asian-style street food is always prepared, though the gluten-free options are a little slim.  At the Gluten Free Fest, I wanted to try all their options – all gluten-free – and it was easy for the coeliac in me to do so when I packed multiple containers in different sizes into my bag.

The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia woking amazing
The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia woking amazing
The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia woking amazing

Just the simple joy of eating amazing meal choices without caution made my day – pulled ‘porkies’ pulled mushroom roll with crunchy slaw, a side order of smoky, zesty chunky chips, and crispy sweet ‘honee’ soy ‘chickn’ chicken-style morsels topped in spring onions and sesame seeds aside fluffy steamed rice. Even a sample of their mock fried ‘calamari’ dusted in zingy spices and dipped in a vegan mayo dressing, all with a wedged of lime squeezed throughout was enjoyed. At the same time, I was grateful for Woking Amazing to take the plunge and allow customers to use their own containers.

To put it into perspective, this small initiative saved me from using four single-use containers, biodegradable cutlery and serviettes. Woking Amazing use biodegradable packaging, yet to eliminate this waste in one day was ethically empowering for both vendor and customer. Imagine the power of all of us who attended the Gluten Free Fest if we were all invited to bring our own containers? It’s a rhetorical question, especially when I re-assessed the impact when it was time to purchase sweet treats.

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From the gnocchi doughnuts rolled in cinnamon sugar from The Gluten Free Gnocchi Bar to the scrumptious vegan chocolate crackles and chocolate cupcake drizzled in toffee syrup from Sweet Forbidden Journey. Using BYO containers at those moments wasn’t an option. Some vendors are reluctant to do so, as they can’t control potential cross-contamination or it might be tricky at busy times for example.

The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia sweet forbidden journey
The Food Truck Park in Preston vegan gluten free food travel melbourne australia sweet forbidden journey

Sure, they’re valid reasons. But there comes a time when travellers need to assess their impacts and start to minimise said impact they are exerting onto the world. Give travellers the option to BYO, create a conscious action in which travellers can minimise their impact, give customers the choice and our world will become a cleaner place through which to travel. Small scale events such as the Gluten Free Fest are the ultimate starting points. Start with small steps, to create a healthier habit that barracks for a better world. Ground level is where such change can thrive.

So, I ask you – have you been given the opportunity to bring your own containers to a festival so you can eliminate your waste? What are some of the barriers have you faced when you decided to BYO anyway? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

The Food Truck Park in Preston runs themed weekends as special events throughout the year. Entry is free and food/drink prices are as marked by each vendor.
518 High Street, Preston Victoria, Australia 3072.

Justine de Jonge at Fire & Tea paid for all food items herself and attended the Monday of the Gluten Free Fest long weekend in June with her own containers, cutlery and napkins.

Best 3 Capital Cities in Australia to Travel Vegan and a GPSmyCity giveaway!

One of the problems facing travelling vegans is choosing a suitable destination. The food aspect for vegans will almost always dictate the decision on where to travel. Travelability is crucially important for vegans. When travelling to, or within, Australia, the capital cities are the key focus, and the best capital cities in Australia to travel vegan are Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne. These are the best three Australian capital cities where you can feel confident in finding vegan food, culture and experiences.

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Adelaide in South Australia
Adelaide falls in South Australia, voted as one of the planet’s Top 10 regions by Lonely Planet this year.  Adelaide is also well-known throughout Australia’s vegan community as one of the best capital cities in the country to reside or travel to. No wonder Adelaide is sometimes referred to as ‘RADelaide’!

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Just by staying within the city’s fringes will lend you to Adelaide’s ever-growing list of restaurants and cafes. Some of the best places to travel vegan in Adelaide for delicious meals and sweets and treats are Nagev, Pollen 185, Vego n Loven It, Zenhouse Vegetarian Teahouse, and Two Bit Villains Soda Bar. If you need location for groceries, then Everything Vegan has you covered.

When travelling to Adelaide during November, there’s a strong chance the city’s Vegan Festival is happening. Keep informed on the date, then book your Adelaide visit to coincide with the festival. Just make sure there are enough days on each side of the festival to explore the eateries that are booming during Vegan Festival time.  Also consider hiring a car to get around easily and explore the city’s fringes, too. You may want to explore some of Adelaide’s sanctuaries such as Freedom Hill Sanctuary in the Adelaide Hills. 

Melbourne in Victoria
Melbourne, my beloved hometown, was voted as the most liveable city in the world in 2016 for the sixth year. Recently, I argued that Melbourne is the most liveable city in Australia for vegans and here's why. Melbourne has a restaurant and café culture that underbellies the city’s vegan multi-cultural food experiences. There are food truck parks hosting vegetarian and vegan weekend, and streets dedicated to food culture. Just a wander down Brunswick Street or Victoria Street, for example, and you’ll uncover vegan restaurants or restaurants with vegan options scattered throughout. Inner city hubs are the best when uncovering vegan food spots, from Smith & Daughters and The Fox Hotel in Collingwood, to Fina’s on Brunswick Street, and Loving Hut on Victoria. The Cruelty Free Shop is a hub in its own right, selling over 2,500 vegan products and groceries (now in Sydney, too). The Cruelty Free Shop hosts their annual Vegan Day Out; a vegan self-guided walking tour of Brunswick Street. For specialty items, shoes, bags and belts can be found at Vegan Wares.

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The city also hosted its first Big Vegan Market this year, bringing in the queues of people vying for vegan products available on the day, not to mention a sub-hall filled with food stalls. You can also plan your visit around World Vegan Day so you can celebrate the day at Melbourne’s World Vegan Day festival-style day out. Want to experience a tour of one of Melbourne’s most well-known sanctuaries? Take a roadtrip to Edgar’s Mission Lancefield. Need to stay and experience an all-vegan bed and breakfast? Another excuse to hit the road and travel regional to a vegan B&B. Head to Bed & Broccoli in Elphingstone, The Beet Retreat in Warrandyte or Forest Haven B&B in Beaufort.       

Sydney in New South Wales
When travellers think of Australia, they think of Sydney and the icons associated with it – the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. There’s no excuse for travellers not to think about Sydney as a top Australian destination in a vegan light. It’s easy to travel to Sydney, almost always the gateway into the country for those flying in from faraway. It’s easy to ‘pitch your tent’ – booking an apartment – in inner city Sydney and walk to many eateries for more brilliant vegan food. Bliss & Chips for vegan fish and chips, Golden Lotus for all vegan homestyle Vietnamese food, Gelato Blue (an all vegan gelato bar) and raw kitchen Sadhana Kitchen are a handful of spots to try for Sydney vegan cuisine.

vegan food travel Sydney Australia New South Wales travel tips

One stop that can’t be overlooked is all-vegan traditional pizzeria Gigi (you have to try the cannoli!) Sydney exudes a food culture that’s stemmed from its worldly influences, much like Melbourne sans the bitterly cold weather. If you do need to head out of town from the hustle and bustle, sanctuaries to travel to include Where Pigs Fly and Peanuts Funny Farm that welcome their travelling vegan friends.    

Now, here’s a little giveaway for you thanks to GPSmyCity especially if you’re planning your own vegan tour of Sydney!

You can upgrade the GPSmyCity app with ‘Mapping Out a Vegan Foodie Tour of Inner City Sydney’ for free. This giveaway is valid now until Friday, June 23.

This offer is currently only available through iTunes.

Is Melbourne the Most Liveable City in Australia for Vegans?

I was reading the latest issue of Vegan Life Magazine, and travelled through the pages to an interview with Dixie Wills. He is a writer, a vegan who took his vegan journey from when he was a carnivore and is now a vegan nomad of sorts. In this interview, he talks about the best ways to travel as a vegan, which compelled me to publish my travel article about my beloved city of Melbourne and whether it’s liveable for travelling or resident vegans.  

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In August 2016, Melbourne was voted the world's most liveable city for the sixth consecutive year. The Economist Intelligence Unit scored and ranked 140 cities globally in accordance to ‘liveability’. These cities are scored out of 100 (being the ideal score) on indicators grouped into five broad categories – stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, infrastructure. So, how does Melbourne fair in its liveability for vegans? At a national level, is Melbourne the most liveable city in Australia for vegans?

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According to the Vegans Australia website, ‘the number of vegans in Australia exceeds 480,000’. Yet, to uncover research to suggest where vegans reside around the country is difficult. At the time of writing this article, not one statistic could be found. The closest was a study conducted by Roy Morgan on where Australia’s vegetarians live. In 2016, 11.3% of Australian vegetarians lived in Victoria – third behind New South Wales (12.4%) and Tasmania (12.7%). Still, let’s look at those key liveability categories. Let’s discover whether Melbourne is the most liveable city in Australia and how it’s catering for a potentially rising vegan population.    

Category 1: Stability

What do people consider when choosing a city in which to live? Is it a choice made by our parents (e.g. where we were born) or is it a conscious decision made by ourselves? Intrinsically, a city needs to offer security for our basic human needs – food and water, and shelter. Equally, a city needs to offer safety and/or refuge. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s report states that ‘global instability’ is growing and violent crime, for example, ‘is on an upward trend’. Victoria alone has experienced an ‘increase in crime rate in three consecutive years’. So, what’s the relevance here for Melbourne’s vegan population? As long as sources for vegan food sources and vegan housemates or partners with whom to live are on the rise, Melbourne does offer a stable location for living. Vegetarian Victoria offers its Vegan Options Available program for participating eateries, both non-veg and vegetarian establishments alike.

vegan life magazine melbourne australia vegan food travel

What about safety? Australia’s National Day of Kindness on November 6 each year allows Melburnians to instill a sense of a connectedness and social responsibility annually. Regular vegan events and volunteering efforts across Melbourne are a chance to create lasting bonds within the community. Currently, up to 126 events across Victoria are visible on the Vegan Australia website, a close second only to New South Wales. The act of coming together for common causes while advocating the safety and refuge for vulnerable animals, such as farmed animals, is one of Melbourne’s strengths. There’s a high amount of ‘save’ groups flourishing online thanks to social media and Nup to the Cup is a permanent fixture on the Melbourne horse-racing calendar. On Melbourne Cup Day each November, the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses holds its annual family-friendly, cruelty-free BBQ picnic near Flemington Racecourse. Its aim is to raise awareness to those going to the Melbourne Cup ‘about the cruelty they are indirectly and unknowingly supporting’. A visit to the Animal Liberation Victoria website offers an ever-updated supply of volunteering avenues, protests and vigils to be a part of locally as well.

Category 2: Healthcare

Australia, thankfully, boasts one of the best healthcare systems in the world and was reflected by Melbourne’s perfect 100 score in the liveability stakes. In 2015, Australia was ranked fourth by The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that conducts independent research into the world’s healthcare systems. Just to give you an idea, Australia has one of the higher number of doctors per 1,000 people, and we benefit from Medicare and private health insurance. In the world of a vegan lifestyle, myriad studies are now emerging to underscore the benefits of a whole food plant-based; showing where illnesses are reversed or prevented. While it’s still widespread to go to a mainstream health professional, the rise in vegan health services is steadily increasing. A valuable resource for Melburnians seeking vegan and veg-friendly health professionals can be found at the Vegetarian Victoria website, ranging from naturopaths, to doctors and dentists, without forgetting veterinarians for our fur-babies. Another resource on the site is a list of vitamin and mineral health supplements for those of us seeking vegan alternatives.

health vegan healthy food plant based wholefood vegan life magazine

But what does this mean when we want to see mainstream acceptance of a vegan lifestyle? If we look at the United States of America for example, Kaiser Permanente is one the country’s largest managed care organisations. Publically, Kaiser Permanente promotes a plant-based diet as treatment to prevent and reverse disease. Kaiser Permanente provides nutritional updates via journal articles on plant-based diets to their physicians. Reported by the Forks Over Knives website in 2016, Kaiser Permanente recommends to over 17,000 physicians in its network the benefits of a plant-based diet. Prescribing a plant-based diet is ‘the most powerful, yet least-used prescription’ for patients. Hopefully, it’s not long before health insurance providers can start to re-enact similar health initiatives for their physicians and incentives for clients who observe a vegan diet – here in Melbourne, and Australia for that matter.  

Category 3:  Culture and Environment

If we investigate Google searches, as reported on PETA’s website last year, Australia is topping the charts in vegan searches. Australia has achieved a rapid trajectory in vegan searches over the last ten years. The search engine’s Top 8 list of countries searching the word ‘vegan’ is headed by Australia. Surprisingly, Melbourne was found only to be eighth on the list when Australia’s Top 10 cities were measured by their ‘vegan’ searches. This somehow doesn’t seem to reflect Melbourne’s food culture and seemingly insatiable appetite for vegan food and vegan products. For example, The Food Truck Park in Preston holds vegan and vegetarian food truck days a couple of times a year, wellness and organic stores are popping up across Melbourne with vegan supplies, not to mention The Cruelty Free Shop that stocks ‘over 2,500 vegan and cruelty-free products’. Melbourne hosted its first Big Vegan Market, attracting about 20,000 people (as quoted by event organisers).

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Melbourne is also home to Shakahari Restaurant – the oldest exclusively vegetarian restaurant (with vegan options), established in 1972. As a fun side-note: the word ‘shakahari’ is Hindi for vegetarian. You can type in ‘Melbourne, Australia’ into Happy Cow’s search tool where you can yield a staggering 429 results (vegan, vegetarian and veg friendly included). Then do the same for Sydney, Australia’s largest capital city: a mere 249 results emerge. Additionally, this may be indicative of a lack of options available beyond Melbourne. Globally, the vegan/vegetarian category scored the highest in a list of observed global trends in health and eating; measured by Euromonitor International in 2013 (in excess of 50% compared to other categories, actually).

vegan life magazinevegan food travel nature melbourne australia

Melbourne’s city grid is nestled within the city’s many national parks when getting back to nature is needed. Melbourne has been known widely as a garden city, and the amount of parklands, botanical gardens and native bushlands are alive across Melbourne and suburban outskirts. The best part is that you don’t have to pay an entry fee to much of these; it’s free to experience Melbourne’s native flora. All of these aesthetics not only allow for easy exploration, they provide a practical landscape for protests and rallies to take place. One recent rally, the March to Close All Slaughterhouses, attracted in excess of 800 participants. This democratic ability and freedom to stand up for our beliefs, and the injustices in our world, is a key element of Australian culture. Melbourne’s population affords the numbers required to deliver and emphasise such strong messages to the decision-makers from street level. The activism doesn’t stop there – a regular roll of documentary screenings at independent cinemas, fundraising evenings, one-off lectures given by prolific local and international vegan activists are constant. Venturing tothe outskirts of town to volunteer at places like Edgar’s Mission or even staying at a vegan B&B are within driving reach, too. There’s a true sense of speaking up and living your beliefs through a vegan lifestyle that underpins Melbourne veganism.         

Category 4: Education

Around 2014, the Victorian State Government changed the slogan on Victorian license plates to read Victoria – The Education State. Furthermore, the government’s aim is to build ‘an education system that produces excellence and reduces the impact of disadvantage’. Melbourne helps to achieve this by being home to some of the most esteemed universities in the country and the world. Melbourne’s vegan community can strive to learn and can thrive in the opportunities available – from tertiary education, short courses and one day-classes. Education facilities throughout Melbourne are available to host such courses and opportunities to learn. The University of Melbourne’s Animal Protection Society hosted We Animals, a free lecture delivered by award-winning photographer and animal advocate Jo-Anne McArthur. Dr Melanie Joy graced The State Library of Victoria stage in conversation on the topic of Carnism; The Hidden Belief System we’ve all been Fed’. A two-day workshop was available to local vegans in March this year on effective vegan advocacy, hosted by Animals Australia.

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There’s no end to the many documentary screenings happening around Melbourne, and the city’s independent cinemas like the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in the CBD, Cinema Nova in Carlton, Cameo Cinemas in Belgrave, not to mention authorised screenings hosted by Melbourne-based vegan meet-up groups around town, champion the communication of knowledge through film.  At a culinary level, vegans in Melbourne have a platter of vegan cooking classes available to them, from raw food cooking classes run by some of Melbourne’s well known raw vegan kitchens (the website Eating Vibrantly has an extensive directory of classes for raw foodies), cooking courses taught by the Centre for Adult Education, to even a Melbourne vegan and vegetarian cooking class that can be purchased through Redballoon.  

Category 5: Infrastructure

What makes a liveable city geographically interconnected? One obvious way is its public transport system. Public transport is a key factor that makes Melbourne run efficiently. Melbourne has had its fair share of network upgrades in recent years and the disruptions experienced by the community are kept as minimal as possible, for example buses replacing affected train services. As Public Transport Victoria’s website claims: ‘Every bit of construction gets us closer to a better train network’. Though, populations are rising so Melbourne is experiencing a correlation in packed trains along its network lines during peak times. Such ‘construction’ is perceived to be a necessity. Still, train travel is one of Melbourne’s most relied upon services, especially for those who prefer a more environmentally sound way to travel. Melbourne’s iconic tram system is an identifiable trait in Melbourne’s inner city landscape; another reliable and preferred mode of public transport. The majority of Melbourne’s suburbs are covered by public transport and regional areas are connected to Melbourne via its V-Line regional services.

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For shorter trips Melbourne’s Bike Share system is another way to get around through the inner city at a nominal fee. According to the Bicycle Network, ‘Victoria continues to lead the way with people travelling by bike’ and men dominate in numbers when riding to work is concerned (73% of commuters!). This then emphasises that Melbourne has an extensive bike-riding system complete with pathways, allowances on the road and external bike racks being installed on buses across four routes around town as part of a 12 month trial started last year by Public Transport Victoria. Keen bike-riders can download bicycle maps from the VicRoads website, whether they ride for work or wellbeing. An interconnected system such as this in Melbourne makes it easier for Melbourne vegans who may not have a car to get to work, attend rallies and vigils, go to restaurants and meet up with friends and family. If you do find yourself driving along one of Melbourne’s many motorways, you can take a pit-stop at one of Victoria’s ten locations for Oliver’s Real Food, the world’s first certified organic fast food chain offering vegan options; the most in any state in Australia.     

I do hope you can travel to Melbourne as a vegan and enjoy its liveability. If you're already here exploring, I'd love to hear about some of the vegan secrets you've uncovered for yourself.

Vegan Life Magazine travel Melbourne Australia

You can now get a copy of the June 2017 issue of Vegan Life Magazine if you need some vegan inspiration! Subscription and subscription packages can be purchased, too.

Disclaimer: I was supplied with a free digital copy of Issue 27 of Vegan Life Magazine.

Discovering the Wild Side of Phillip Island’s Wildlife (Part 2)

It all started in the 1920s on a deserted stretch of Summerland Beach. Bern Denham, Bert West and Bert Watchorn, equipped with flashlights, led small groups of curious tourists along a lumpy, sandy shoreline only to perch in the dunes and wait as the sun sank at the horizon. Before long, the waddling would begin – little penguins (their actual name!) emerging from the crashing waves, shaking the salty sea off their backs before clumsily waddling along the crevices in the sand, back to their nests to feed their nesting babies who know it’s dinner time. Little balls of grey fluff brave the elements to stand outside the nests, crying out for mum. Each one’s cry is individual and mums are swift to reunite with their baby balls of fluff.

As the years rolled in, so did the visitors and their wonder to witness the nightly spectacle for themselves. Was it true that this innate act of nature could attract the masses? It eventually did – tourists from all over Australia and the world flock here by the busload every night during the Australian summer. Now, the visitors sit in a grandstand to give the penguins the clear passage they need to tend to their young; a busy causeway during the peak hour of the Penguin Parade. Rather than the grandstand, the pathways and viewing platforms can be accessed to witness the penguins in full speed. To begin the evening, I recommend purchasing tickets for the tiered seating – it’s smaller, less imposing size-wise and a closer view with less flood-light. Photography isn’t allowed during the experience (another bonus) so as to avoid scaring and blinding mothers on the move.

Nature is left to its devices here, even in the ever-present reminder of that ‘survival of the fittest’ theory. I watch one baby, eagerly wandering within the boundary of the nest, chirping wildly. Each mother who passes edges close before turning away: ‘no, you’re not my baby’. As each mother passes, the baby’s cries heighten in intensity, not wanting to give in to the possible reality that his mother may not be coming home after feeding out in the vast ocean all day. Anyone who experiences this sight at the Penguin Parade hopes with all their heart that mum does return, but leave with a lingering cloud that she may just not. That’s part of the ‘wild side’ to nature.  

Melbourne Phillip Island penguins seals penguin parade Australia

The final side to the wildlife on Phillip Island involves a trip to the headland – The Nobbies on Point Grant, within minutes away from the Penguin Parade. Broad sweeping boardwalks and all-encompassing views over the Southern Ocean can be experienced again. Manoeuvre your way through the visitor centre to be unleashed onto the wooden path to take in the panoramic views (a deviation can take you further to the blowhole for more natural beauty). Seal Rocks emerge from the ocean, like beacons for these silky smooth mammals slipping in and out the salty water in between stretches of sunbaking throughout the afternoon. This is Australia’s largest Australian Fur Seal colony and Victoria is blessed by nature to serve home to these boisterous and fun sea mammals.

Melbourne Phillip Island penguins seals penguin parade Australia

There is the opportunity to book a boat tour out to Seal Rocks, departing from The Esplanade in Cowes, such as the one available from the Bass Coast Visitor Information Centre. A 2.00pm seal watching cruise heads out to experience these majestic creatures for two hours yet this is where your preference for adventure weighs in. Taking a boat ride out to Seal Rocks is fun, though you need to think about the environmental impact to the natural surrounds that a motorboat has on the area. Taking a trip out to The Nobbies by car then walking along the boardwalks may be a less-impacting option? The boat isn’t too imposing (you do get close to the rocks to watch and listen to these majestic creatures) so the choice is yours.             

Experience Phillip Island’s Penguin Parade at 1019 Ventnor Road, Summerlands, Victoria Australia 3922.There are a variety of ticket levels for all ages. Visit the ticketing website for full package descriptions and prices.

The Penguin Parade is accessible by car and car-parking is free. Public transport is limited to Cowes via V-Line bus from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne CBD (does not go to the Penguin Parade).

Taxis are available via Phillip Island Taxis on 03 5952 2200.

Penguins arrive at sunset every night of the year. Check for times on the arrival calendar and it’s suggested to arrive one hour beforehand. 

Seal Rocks at The Nobbies is Australia’s Largest Fur Seal Colony. View this incredible colony during Australia’s summer months from The Nobbies Centre, Nobbies Centre,
1320 Ventnor Road, Summerlands, Victoria 3922 Australia. You can also view the colony via a boat cruise through a wildlife cruise

All the nature experiences across Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series has focused on Phillip Island Nature Parks – all not-for-profit and all for conservation.

Discovering the Wild Side of Phillip Island’s Wildlife (Part 1)

Phillip Island on Victoria’s Bass Coast is a weekend destination under a two-hour drive from Melbourne. It’s where a torrent of waves from Bass Strait collide into craggy cliffs stretching the breadth if the island. Phillip Island is naturally staged for a weekend nature adventure, furnished by wild and wondrous bushland and inhabited by unique wildlife spotting opportunities including the world-famous Penguin Parade.

Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan

Collectively, the Koala Conservation Centre, Seal Rock and Penguin Parade are three of the most popular nature areas that make up much of the Phillip Island Nature Parks, a self-funded organisation that’d dedicated to the conservation of wildlife that live here. Phillip Island Nature Parks’ tagline is simple but effective – ‘discover your wild side’ Wild is how Phillip Island prefers its wilderness, especially for the conservation of those species who call this area home.

Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan

Vegans will tell you they are opposed to the exploitation of animals for the sake of human gain. Yet, there are vegans in the community of Melbourne who are unopposed by experiencing these three nature experiences found at Phillip Island. The conservational benefits this non-profit establishment affords are evident, focusing on the ecology for these native stars of such a lush and diversity-rich area. Just take a detouring wander through the bushland trails nearby for a snapshot. Overall, each experience provides vegans (and non-vegans) travelling to Phillip Island the opportunity to witness koalas, seals and penguins in their natural habitats, with as much non-interference from visitors at each stepping stone as possible.

Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan
Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan

The open air, tree-top boardwalks circumnavigating the Koala Conservation Centre lead visitors around a concourse of eucalypt trees. Fluffy koalas can be found sleeping in the forks of branches and it’s as if visitors here are ‘walking with’ these adorable Australian marsupials; the koalas themselves climb lazily as they’re tempted by young, fresh eucalypt leaves to munch on. On occasion, it’s a beautiful setting to spot a mother and her little joey clinging confidently to her back. Though, these ‘mum and bub’ sightings can be a little far and few between, depending when you visit. Given their sedentary lifestyle, koalas are big-sleepers and often sleep up to 18 hours a day. This is because their diet of eucalypt leaves is low in energy.

Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan
Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan
Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan

Upon my visit to the Koala Conservation Centre, one tourist was keen for a photo and was a little eager, to put it lightly. He discovered a sleepy koala in a low baring bough and the poor creature was shaken awake by the tourist who rattled the branch that was within easy-reach. More often than not staff are wandering the boardwalk to supervise. Yet it was at this moment that timing was futile for the koala. I took it upon myself to tell the tourist to stop, reminding him that his actions were detrimental to the wildlife. He composed himself and proceeded to wander the boardwalk amidst unsavoury glances from other tourists.

Phillip Island Melbourne Victoria Australia koalas penguins seals nature travel vegan

The point here is that while the Koala Conservation Centre aims to conserve koalas in their natural habitat, an unruly tourist is always going to appear at any moment and it’s up to us to take the initiative and educate. This is especially important, in this age when urbanisation, land-clearing and loss of habitat are real issues wildlife face regularly. It’s ultimately our role to conserve what is left so Phillip Island doesn’t its priceless treasures – the wildlife.         

You can experience the Koala Conservation Centre for yourself. 1810 Phillip Island Road, Phillip Island, Victoria Australia 3923. The Koala Conservation Centre is open 10am to 5pm daily and extended hours operate in the Australian summer months of December through to February.

    Adult (16 years+) tickets cost $12.80, child (4-15 years) $6.40, family (2 adults and 2 children) $32.00 and Australian Pensioner (ID required) $8.95

The Koala Conservation Centre is accessible by car and car-parking is free. Public transport is limited to Cowes via V-Line bus from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne CBD (does not go to the Koala Conservation Centre). Taxis are available via Phillip Island Taxis on 03 5952 2200.

Be sure to look out for Part 2 where you'll learn more about the wildlife on Phillip Island: The Penguin Parade and an EcoBoat ride for seal-watching.