Cowes is the main township on Phillip Island in the Gippsland region of Victoria, Australia. The town was originally known as Mussel Rocks. In 1865, a government surveyor Henry Cox returned from a holiday retreat in England. He renamed the town after the seaport town of Cowes on the Isle of Wight, England. It is less than 2 hours drive from Melbourne and can also be reached by ferry from Stony Point on the Mornington Peninsula. At the 2001 census, Cowes had a population of 3,494.
Cowes is located on the northern side of Phillip Island and faces towards French Island and the Mornington Peninsula.
In recent years Cowes has seen a rapid expansion in its size. Many estates and apartments have been built in and around the town on what was previously rural farmland. An estimated 70% of houses are owned by absentee owners, most of whom live in and around Melbourne.
The main road of the island (Phillip Island Road) leads into Cowes and becomes the main road of Cowes, Thomspon Avenue. A distinctive feature of the road is the 1km lining of Golden Cypress trees which were planted in the early 20th century. Further into town, the road begins a gradual descent before it terminates with a T-intersection at the waterfront. As the road approaches the waterfront, density of restaurants and general retail outlets increases. Cowes Jetty was built at the end of Thompson Avenue in 1870 and remains a focal point of the town. It is flanked by sheltered beaches which are a popular attraction for families. An annual fireworks event is held at 9pm on New Year’s Eve. Occasionally a container ship can be seen from the waterfront heading to or from the port at Hastings which is located to the north.
Traffic tends to be heavy and accommodation may be scarce during holiday periods and large events at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit.