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Cowes is the largest town on Phillip Island, linked to the Mornington Peninsula by a ferry service to Stony Point and by road to the mainland via a bridge at San Remo.

The commercial centre of Cowes extends along Thompson Avenue, which is lined with golden cypress trees and recognised by the National Trust of Australia, then down to the waterfront boulevard of The Esplanade. It caters well for the busy holiday crowds with a selection of restaurants, cafes, gift shops, hotels and supermarkets.

Across the road from the commercial centre is attractive Cowes foreshore which stretches between Mussel Rocks and Erehwon Point. The foreshore consists of wide expanses of lawn shaded by a mixture of native and cypress trees, complete with BBQ areas, shelters and pathways. The sloping foreshore extends down to the clean golden sands of the beach, with the inviting waters popular with swimmers. On the beach, opposite the Isle of Wight Hotel (which was built in 1870), is the Cowes Jetty. An outdoor cafe is located at its entrance, while the T-shaped jetty structure is suitable for fishing and is the departure point for several ferries and tourist boat cruises.

Further west along the coast is the Cowes Yacht Club, a two lane boat ramp and kiosk at the end of Anderson Street, and the interesting red rock formations at Penguin Point, located at the northern end of Red Rocks Road.

The coast east of Erehwon Point consists of quiet beaches fronting a bushy foreshore and residential areas, extending all the way to the secluded community of Silverleaves. Visitors can either enjoy a long walk on this stretch of beach or use the Lovers Walk foreshore track and unsealed Stradbroke Avenue to enjoy beach views from this shady alternative route through areas of tea trees, banksias, jacarandas and pines.

Cowes has a number of recreational facilities including a golf course on Coghlan Road and sporting facilities at both Dunsmore Park and Blue Gum Reserve, located on Dunsmore Road.

Cowes makes an ideal base to explore Phillip Island's many attractions. It is 12 kilometres from the famous Phillip Island Penguin Parade at Summerlands, 14 kilometres from the scenic Nobbies rock formations and visitor centre, 6 kilometres from the Phillip island Grand Prix Circuit, 7 kilometres from the Koala Conservation Centre and 9 kilometres from the peaceful fishing village of Rhyll.