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March 5, 2016 3:17 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to put together an itinerary for my parents who will be spending a week in Melbourne before my partner and I arrive. My mom really wants to see the penguin parade and I booked tickets for her - before looking into transportation to/from the island. Oops. Now I'm wondering if there's a way to fix this.

I'm normally better at booking things and making arrangements but trying to plan things that will interest and entertain my parents, my partner, and myself, and having no previous travel experience in Australia meant that I got annoyed with things and just put everything off... and now I'm in a pickle.

My parents will be staying in Melbourne (CBD). They would like to visit Phillip Island to see the penguin parade. I booked them tickets for a Tuesday evening (penguins should arrive around 8 PM) in late March. I can't make sense of the V Line timetables and am wondering if they would even be able to get back from Phillip Island if they were to leave there after the penguins do their penguin thing (8:30 PM? 9 PM?).

My Dad also mentioned wanting to see Warrook Farm and because that too is outside of the city, I am wondering if there's a way to make a day of it so my parents don't spend 2 hours on a bus to see the penguins and then spend another 2 hours on the bus to get back (if coming back at night is even an option).

So, ideally I could figure this out for them:
- Transportation from somewhere in Melbourne to Warrook Farm at some time during the day
- Transportation between Warrook Farm and Phillip Island in the late afternoon/early evening
- Transportation back from Phillip Island to Melbourne after the penguin parade

Options I may have to consider if the above doesn't work out:
- Encouraging my parents to hire a car (my dad is a capable driver but I worry about him switching to the other side of the road; I think this would overwhelm my mom way too much)
- Finding somewhere for them to stay (?) on Phillip Island if there's no bus back at night
- Eating the cost of the tickets and planning something else for them that doesn't involve long bus journeys

Melbourne MeFites or Phillip Island visitors, can you help? Is there a way to get my parents to/from the Island, and possibly the farm, that doesn't involve 23 hours on a bus?
posted by gursky to Travel & Transportation around Melbourne, Australia (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Looks like there is a tour you can do that covers them both:
Kind of expensive though, and I guess you'd have to eat the cost of the tickets you already have.

There is a fairy penguin colony at St Kilda Pier, which is very close to the CBD. You can just wander down any evening and spot plenty of penguins. Nothing to pay or book as it's in a public space.
posted by procrastinator_general at 3:43 AM on March 5, 2016

It looks like the V Line ends service from Philip Island before 7, so getting them back to Melbourne by public transit the same night isn't an option.

Philip Island is a vacation destination, so there are places to stay overnight. I can't recommend any of them, but here's a start.

Taxi on Philip Island, for getting to and from the Parade: 03 5952 2200

As far as trying to execute your ideal itinerary, it looks doable through a combination of transit and taxi, but there's not a lot of room for error due to the infrequency of service. (Did you find the PDF of the timetable [list here]? It's less confusing to me than the Web interface.)

There looks to be an express bus from Southern Cross to Koo Wee Rup that takes about an hour (departures at 9:15 and 11:15, any later and I think they'd be very rushed at the farm). The farm doesn't list any transit options, so I assume they'd have to get a taxi between it and Koo Wee Rup. Back in Koo Wee Rup, they can get the bus to Philip Island - 16:26 departure, and about an hour to Cowes.

I've seen the penguins at both Philip Island and St Kilda pier, and while it's neat to see them in an urban setting, the Philip Island experience was more impressive (less stressful for me, too, because visitors are better monitored and they're not getting right in the penguins' faces with flash cameras or setting themselves up to take a fall by climbing where they're not supposed to). But it is a fair bit of time in transit in two days (Cowes back to Melbourne is about a 3 hour trip), depending on your parents' tolerance for bus travel.

I hear you on the annoyance factor - I have been tour director for others twice in a row now, and am beginning to understand the appeal of package tours. Good luck! Melbourne is a really great city, and I hope you have a wonderful visit that makes up for the stress now!
posted by EvaDestruction at 5:49 AM on March 5, 2016

Ask your dad about hiring a car. Plenty of people do it and are perfectly fine and it will be one million times less stressful than navigating infrequent bus services in the middle of nowhere and the possibility of there not being a cab around at the right time etc. Hire a car, drive down to Phillip island, stay over night, drive back to Melbourne via Warrook farm. They'll have a great time.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:52 AM on March 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Catching public transport to Phillip island is not a common approach, and so I would imagine that it will be pretty crappy. If you google 'ptv journey planner' it will take you to the combined public transport service website which would show you options. But I can almost guarantee they'll be crap. Phillip island is pretty rural, so get your parents on a tour or (my suggestion would be the latter) get them a car. This is def the most common approach and they could check out local wineries, the knobbies (a deal/shark lookout) and the koala place too if they want to get more from the area.

Staying overnight is also v common and popular. Best of luck :)
posted by jojobobo at 12:15 AM on March 6, 2016

Thank you for all of the input. I've marked everyone as best because each answer helped me to think it through and consider what might be best for my parents. I appreciate your help!

I presented all of the options to my parents and they've said with other day trips planned they're happy enough to see the penguins at St Kilda Pier and avoid another long day of bus/train travel. They would rather not hire a car.

EvaDestruction: thanks so much for the encouragement! Now that the bulk of the planning is over I'm less annoyed and very excited. It looks like it will be a great trip!
posted by gursky at 8:28 AM on March 7, 2016

Just a quick follow up in case anyone comes searching for information about Phillip Island: my parents found a few different tour companies that offered day trips including Phillip Island as part of the itinerary. I don't know how I missed that in my searching/planning (probably because I was just looking for transportation only) but there are full-day packages available.
posted by gursky at 11:16 AM on April 22, 2016

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