Rush hour on Summerland Beach

2 10 2011

Leaving A Maze’N Things, it looked like we might be in for a cold, wet and windy evening, as we headed towards what would be the evening’s rush hour on Summerland Beach – that of the daily frenzied (if you can call it that) procession of individuals in black and white suits back from their day in the office. The rush hour is one that is one that certainly isn’t a pain to be caught up in – that of the Little Penguins of Phillip Island, returning from their daily duties in the office that is the cold waters of the Bass Strait.

A detour en route to the rush hour on Summerland Beach - a drive by the Nobbies with the promise of stunning views of the rugged western coastline of Phillip Island facing the Bass Strait.

With a wee bit of time to spare before we need to make our way to catch Summerland’s evening crush; we were able to take a short detour to the wild, wild, west of Phillip Island. It is on the western tip of the island where we find the rugged geographical features known as the Nobbies that overlook the rough white waters of the Bass Strait breaking over the rocks that dot the coastline. The stunning views we were treated to standing on the high windswept cliffs that are the Nobbies that evening were made even more dramatic by the storm that appeared to be brewing – the precipitation in the atmosphere painted a spectacular rainbow that seemed to promise a lot more than a pot of gold. It wasn’t just stunning views of the coastline that we got as we made our way to the intended destination – the heads of several wild wallabies on their evening’s forage through the tussock grassland that surrounded us were very much in evidence.

The stunning geographical features of the south western coastline of Phillip Island known as the Nobbies.

The spectacular view of the white of waves breaking on rocks to the setting of the sun.

The Nobbies and the wind tossed tussock grassland on the high cliffs.

The breaking of waves over the rocks that dot the coastline.

The rainbow over the Bass Strait that the precipitation painted.

View of the coastline on the approach to Summerland Beach.

Sunset greeted our arrival to the Phillip Island Penguin Parade’s visitor centre, as did signs prominently displayed that reminded drivers to look below their parked cars for penguins when they were eventually prepared leave after getting their fills of the evening’s procession. We were soon armed with a cup of hot chocolate and an MP3 player – an audio guide included with the tickets for Penguin Plus that provides commentary with information on the penguins, their habitat and their habits, and ready to brave the stiff breeze that brought a chill to the boardwalk that led us to the beach.

Sunset greeted our arrival at the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre.

The grey of the incoming storm mixed with the fading light of sunset.

Signs reminding drivers to check under the car for penguins.

Several options are provided to allow visitors to get up close and personal with the penguins – Little Penguins that at 30 centimetres high are the smallest penguins in the world. Penguin Parade provides general viewing from tiered seating on stands by the beach. The option which we got – Penguin Plus, allows a more private viewing at an area where more penguins come up the beach – this is limited to 150 people each evening. More private viewing options are also available. The popularity of viewing penguins at Summerland Beach has increased substantially since the initial viewings were organised in the 1920s (now attracting over half a million visitors each year) – and steps were put in place to minimise human impact and damage to the habitat in the 1960s with fences and boardwalks constructed, which today boardwalks allow visitors to get close enough to the penguins to be able to observe them at arm’s length. Photography in any form, with or without the use of flash is not permitted to protect the penguins.

The procession of Penguins takes place every evening on Summerland Beach (photo courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Parks).

Getting up close allowed us to observe the habits of the penguins that waddled up in waves in the safety of numbers, with tummies full of the day’s harvest of fish that would be regurgitated to feed nestlings. Sensing danger the scout penguin pauses – preening with oil from glands to keep their feathers waterproof – the penguins in the parade behind the lead penguin doing the same. Despite the rain that came down as darkness fell and the stiff cold wind that blew across the beach and the boardwalk behind it, it was a wonderful experience getting that close to the adorable little creatures in their natural habitat – I had only previously come close penguins separated by the thick glass panel of the zoo enclosure.

The boardwalks allow visitors to get up close to the penguins without disturbing the penguins or their habitat (photo courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Parks).

To bring a wonderful day out on Phillip Island to a close, from Penguin Parade (after checking for penguins under the car), we made our way to Taylors Waterfront Restaurant where the scrumptious treat of a huge seafood platter that included oysters, lobsters, king prawns, mussels, octopus and calamari awaited. The restaurant is one that is situated on cliffs that overlook the Bass Strait and must provide spectacular views in the day time – the view that we got that evening was no less spectacular, with the full blast of the stiff wind from the sea sweeping over the cliffs driving the rain that was falling horizontally to the huge window panes as we dined to the sound of the weather cock spinning furiously on the roof. A couple of us – Pete and Valyn were crazy enough to brave the wind and the rain and take a walk around on the outside. The coffee and ice-cream that we finished with also brought to a close what was a long but thoroughly enjoyable day out on Phillip Island – a must visit for anyone visiting Melbourne.

Taylors Waterfront Restaurant by night.

The huge seafood platter was a wonderful treat!

The force of the wind coming from the sea over the cliffs blew the rain horizontally against the windows of the restaurant.

Two mad bloggers braving the wind and the rain outside Taylors - the cliff drop was just beyond the edge of the grass that you see.

Phillip Island Nature Park

The Phillip Island Penguin Parade, the star attraction of the Phillip Island Nature Park, has been delighting visitors for many years with little penguins making their way up Summerland Beach each night at sunset. Over 500,000 visitors make the Phillip Island Penguin Parade the third largest visited natural attraction in Australia.

Phillip Island Nature Park
Summerland Beach, Ventnor Road
Phillip Island VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5951 2879
Fax: (03) 5956 8394

Taylors Waterfront Restaurant
5 Phillip Island Tourist Road
Phillip Island VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5956 7371
Fax: (03) 5956 6540

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.


Delusion and illusion on Phillip Island

1 10 2011

A visit to Phillip Island provides one with the opportunity to live out one’s delusion, as well as have one’s mind stimulated (or confused) by some very smart optical illusions at a curious attraction, and this was just what we did after that lazy but refreshing after lunch stroll around the Phillip Island Heritage Farm. We first found ourselves at a Grand Prix Circuit – the Phillip Island Circuit, one that hosts a series of events each year which include a Superbike World Championship and the MotoGP and provides some rather spectacular views of the of the rolling hills in the area and of the Bass Straits that it faces. It is here that those of us with delusions of being a race car driver could imagine what it is like to be one by getting behind the wheel and racing down the circuit – well almost – it is on a 760 metre scale replica of the circuit in a Go-Kart.

The delusions and illusions offered by Phillip Island may have got to some of the bloggers.

That was just what four deluded bloggers did – Pete, I guess was the most deluded of us all – zipping down the track immediately out of the pit at a breakneck pace, lapping all of us at least twice in a ten-minute frenzy, completing nine laps. For the rest of us it was a little closer, Valyn, despite spinning out of control and hitting the tyre wall and Eric, both completed six laps and I completed seven.

A rainbow greeted us at the Phillip Island Circuit.

Tearing down the track - well almost.

Lap time print-out.

The next stop after getting a speed fix was where we stepped into a world where the mind finds it hard to comprehend what the eye sees. Stepping into the Illusion Rooms of A Maze’N Things – a curious but delightful attraction created by Mr. Geoff Moed, one’s perception of reality and what one sees is put to the test – nothing’s quite what you see here – Valyn for one looked a lot bigger than we thought she was and some of us looked like we flew. This was certainly one time that I thoroughly enjoyed being confused and one place that I would certainly be back to if I pass by the same way again. Besides the Illusion Rooms, A Maze’N Things offers visitors a chance to get lost in an outdoor maze with two kilometres of passageways (which takes an average visitor 45 minutes to complete) and several other activities. For more information on the Phillip Island Circuit and A Maze’N Things do visit the respective websites found in the information below.

It wasn't just Pete ... it seemed to get to Valyn too! Just what was she, and Pete in the first photograph doing? Scroll down to the last photograph on this post to find out.

A giant Valyn in the Shrinking Room (photo courtesy of Amaze'N Things).

Off the vertical? Han Weiding of, Valyn and Pete.

A dainty dish?

Painted illusions.

The answer to what Pete and Valyn were up to - drinking from a magic floating tap.

Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit

With a history of action on the track dating back to 1928, the Phillip Island Circuit offers visitors the chance to re-acquaint themselves with all aspects of motor racing, as well as get a glimpse of life on the island in times gone by. The island is hosts stages of the World Superbike Championship, the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix and V8 Supercar Championship. When no races are being held, anyone can enjoy the thrill of go karts or hot laps in a HSV Holden.

Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit
Back Beach Road
Phillip Island VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5952 2710
Fax: (03) 5952 3160

A Maze’N Things

At A Maze’N Things you can marvel at the mental confusion of objects defying gravity, rooms flooding without getting wet, a huge magic tap floating in mid air, or giant people shrinking into tiny versions of their former selves.

A Maze’N Things
Cowes VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5952 2283

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

Amess next to Phillip

29 09 2011

Crossing over a bridge over wetlands that line the eastern tip of Phillip Island to tiny Churchill Island, one is transported back in time to a delightful world that existed at the end of the 1800s. It is a place that is significantly from a historical perspective being the first place in Victoria where European settlers first began farming in the 1850’s. There exists today a working heritage farm – an ideal place to pause en route to the attractions of Phillip Island and perhaps grab a bite at.

Churchill Island Heritage Farm is a delightful place to stop by on the way to the other attractions of Phillip Island.

A family of Black Swans seen at the wetlands on Phillip Island on the way to Churchill Island.

The passage over the road bridge provides magnificent views of the wetlands on both sides. Once on Churchill Island, one is welcomed by the greenest of meadows where highland cattle (no kidding!) and sheep are seen grazing. The cattle and several game animals that included rabbits, quails and pheasants were introduced by a certain Samuel Amess to the island to “maintain fond memories of the land of his birth” – the land of his birth being Scotland. Amess was a very successful stonemason and builder who became the Mayor of Melbourne. In 1872, Amess purchased Churchill Island, building a homestead as a seaside holiday home as well as maintaining a farm on it. The house, Amess House, has since been conserved along with the farm and is well worth a visit.

A road bridge connects Churchill Island to Phillip Island.

Highland cattle were introduced to Churchill Island by Samuel Amess.

A lamb chasing after its mother on Churchill Island.

For us, the visit started with the all important food stop at the café (which uses organic produce from the farm) where I had a good plate of fish and chips and a good warm cup of hot chocolate. And, while waiting for food to be served, we ventured down to a scented patch of purple – a plot of lavender that danced in the wind. The meal and the wide opened spaces must have got to some of us. First Eric Lim was spotted chasing a goose around the well-manicured gardens adjoining the heritage farm and then Peter, hilariously attempted to confuse a chicken that he was one of the gang! Fortunately for the chicken and probably for us, he failed miserably and we could continue on our tour of the farm.

A plot of lavender on Churchill Island.

Fish and Chips I had for lunch.

Eric chasing a goose down one way.

The terrified goose.

And up the other way.

Pete doing a chicken dance.

Amess House, left in a condition that it might have been in when it was first occupied in 1872, provides a good idea of the comforts of an upper class home of the era. Based on information provided at the house, it was occupied by three generations of Amesses, Samuel and his son and grandson, before being sold, passing through four other hands before the Government of Victoria purchased it in 1973.

Inside Amess House.

A child's bedroom.

Around the house and several other heritage buildings, the farm, which looks very much like it could have been used as a set for Little House on the Prairie complete with not just animals but farming implements of the day, is arranged. Sheds at the far ends of the farmyard include a blacksmith’s workshop and a sheep shearing station and it is here, that visitors to the farm are able to watch a host of farming activities such as cow milking, blacksmithing, sheep shearing, and working dog demonstrations. The farms also hosts a collection of farm animals and visitors get to meet clydesdale horses, highland cattle, sheep, ducks, chickens … and even non-farm animals such as peacocks. It is also possible for visitors to take a short horse drawn wagon ride around the farm.

The Churchill Island Heritage Farm is a working farm with chickens and other livestock.

Sheep at the farm.

A peacock in the heritage gardens.

Buildings within the Churchill Island Heritage Farm.

Heritage farm buildings.

Heritage farm buildings.

Visitors are able to take a horse drawn wagon ride on the farm.

The blacksmith's shed.

Valyn wandering around the farmyard.

With all the activities that await one at the farm, a visit there will be a treat not just for the children, but for everyone else – it was certainly one for me, and judging by the smiles on the faces of the other bloggers – it must have been one for them as well. More information on Churchill Island Heritage Farm can be found on the Phillip Island website.

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

A chocolate waterfall on Phillip Island

28 09 2011

The second day of the bloggers’ trip to Melbourne, made possible by Tourism Australia, Jetstar and, looked to be an exciting one, even for the less adventurous ones who decided against going on a helicopter ride or hurtling down the snow lined slopes of Mount Buller. There was the promise of penguins of course – but what was to start a visit to Phillip Island, a two-hour drive south-east of Melbourne was a visit to a chocolate waterfall near Newhaven. At the start of the trip, the wet and wild morning that was very evident threatened to give us a real waterfall instead as heavy rain pelted on the windscreen of the rental that Tourism Victoria’s Media and Trade Relations Coordinator, Tony Poletto, drove us in. The grey skies accompanied us throughout the drive up to the point that we reached San Remo, from where a bridge connects the mainland to Phillip Island and what welcomed us to the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory were bulls and brilliant blue skies.

The brilliant blue skies that greeted our arrival at the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory.

The overhead lines of the trams seen against the backdrop of the grey skies through the rain pelted windscreen of the car as we started the journey.

The coastline close to San Remo on a wet and wild morning.

Stepping inside, we were greeted by Panny Letchumanan, whose brainchild the chocolate factory and Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate is. Panny who hails from – would you believe it – Klang in Malaysia, after a short introduction, led us through a corridor lined with mock chocolate into his Amazing World of Chocolate, but not before we were reminded not to lick the very real looking mock chocolate lining.

A reminder not to lick the walls.

Inside, we first came to an educational exhibit of the steps in the chocolate making process from the harvesting of cocoa to the finished products we see on the shelves, which anyone, chocolate lover or not, would find interesting. Further in, we were greeted by some amazing chocolate creations. These include an eye-catching 12,000 piece chocolate mosaic of Dame Edna Everage – a popular Australian TV character, a huge one tonne block of chocolate, and a miniature village crafted completely out of chocolate complete with working model trains. It is also in Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate, that we encounter Phillip Island’s chocolate waterfall. Some 400 kg of molten chocolate flows over what should really be called a chocolatefall once every three minutes – an amazing sight!

The 'chocolate waterfall' over which 400 kg of molten chocolate flows once every three minutes.

A wheel indicating when the chocolate would fall over.

A mock cocoa tree at the Educational Exhibition section.

A mosaic of Dame Edna created entirely out of chocolate.

A miniature chocolate village.

We were also able to try our hand at our own creations – which we could eat. Valyn, of the Best Fashion Blog fame tried her hand at something better – a weird combo of wasabi and cola flavoured chocolate made at the press of a few buttons and the pull of a lever at Panny’s Amazing Chocolate Machine. One bite of that was certainly enough to clear the sinuses! As we walk through there is also a section where we are able to see chocolate being moulded and it was at this juncture that the short but thoroughly enjoyable tour of Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate ended and it was time to say our goodbyes after a quick look around the retail shop and Pannys Chocolate Café.

Valyn making her cola-wasabi bar at Panny’s Amazing Chocolate Machine.

Chocolate making.

The Retail Shop.

Phillip Island Chocolate Factory
930 Phillip Island Rd
Newhaven VIC 3925
Tel: (03) 5956 6600
Fax: (03) 5956 6823

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

Brief history of Pannys and the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory

A tin shed on a busy road may not the ideal spot for the next big thing on Phillip Island, but Panny Letchumanan has been able to turn an underperforming coffee shop into a stunning tourist attraction in just a few short years. The Phillip Island Chocolate Factory at Newhaven is home to Pannys, both the chocolate brand and the man himself, and has become a key destination for chocolate lovers.

Panny has led a fascinating life. Born in Malaysia of Indian heritage, he trained as a Mechanical Engineer and worked extensively in his chosen field throughout the coconut and cocoa plantations of Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. He moved to Australia in 2000 to join his family, who had relocated earlier, and purchased a chocolate manufacturing business in Queensland.

The brand Pannys was born. In November 2005 he relocated the business to the tin shed in Newhaven and commenced his relentless evolution of his business.

A true mechanical engineer just cannot leave something alone. Panny started to tinker with the chocolate making as soon as he bought his business, driven to perfect the process.

The secret behind the best chocolate is the blending of ingredients and the tempering process and Panny was keen to crack the formula. Tempering is where the fats naturally found in cocoa are crystallised through gentle heating. If the blend is right, and the tempering process achieves the right type of crystallisation, the chocolate becomes glossy, firm and snaps crisply. It also tastes superb.

Once Panny had perfected the art of chocolate tempering, the ideal fillings were the next challenge. His signature chocolate is a white truffle, a sample of which is given to each visitor as they enter the building. Its name is a bit of a misnomer, as it is neither white nor a fungus. It is a milk chocolate bud with a soft and gently sweet filling that cannot be described. It is only after tasting one can you learn how skilled Panny has become as a chocolatier.

Pannys offers a range from traditional bars through to chocolate truffles in a wide range of unique designs and flavours. There is a vast assortment of hand made delicacies, ranging from traditional creams through to the exotic. A favourite for those in the know is a chilli infused truffle that starts sweetly and finishes in a warm, spicy sensation.

Pannys daughter, Nithia, is the custodian of the chocolate truffles and spends many hours lovingly creating tray after tray. She also sculpts chocolate creations that are works of art in their own right. Currently there are six chocolate people on display, one of which is an accurate replication of Panny himself, a range of houses, and a collection of designers shoes that should get every fashionable girl in a bit of a tizz. Should they eat the shoes, or start collecting the full range?

The tinkering hasn’t ended with the chocolates. Panny’s passion is to develop an A to Z chocolate experience, the first stage of which open last December. Pannys Amazing World of Chocolate is a fascinating, interactive and educational celebration of all things chocolate. Visitors move through a series of display spaces, each dedicated to a facet of chocolate, where they are invited to get “hands on” in the process. Chocolate in history, chocolate in advertising, chocolate in art and chocolate in play are all explored in this unique and wondrous world. The chocolate factory can also be observed in action, with the entire production facility on full view with Pannys team creating chocolates non-stop.

The self guided tour concludes with the opportunity to make your mark in chocolate on the Swirl machine and design your own combination of flavours using Pannys Amazing Chocolate Machine. With flavour combinations of milk, white or dark chocolate coatings and fillings that can consist of any and all combination of strawberry, cola, vegemite and wasabi, there is the chance to see if you have the flair to create a signature chocolate.

Pannys team includes two other leaders of their industries. Geoff Moed from Amaze N Things and Keith Tucker from Megafun have partnered with Panny to develop the Amazing World of Chocolate. In a highly competitive market it is refreshing to see businesses working together, proof that a joint venture can provide a greater result than the sum of the individuals.

Pannys current focus is the re-engineering of his café and retail outlet. Pannys Chocolate Café has recently been extended and reopened with much acclaim. A new menu of chocolate desserts combined with ever popular favourites can now be enjoyed in a bright and airy café. The deck has been extended, providing the chance to enjoy the fine Phillip Island weather when enjoying a fine Pannys feast. And every coffee is served with Pannys white truffle, making it even more tempting to stay for a feed. The retail area is the next focus, and is about to be doubled in size.

Panny is not about to slow down. His vision for The Chocolate Factory has many more stages ahead of it, although for the next twelve months the focus is on building the skill of his team and delivering the ultimate chocolate experience to his customers.

Pannys is open 7 days a week from 9:00am and is located at 930 Phillip Island Rd Newhaven. Ph 03 5956 6600 or email info @