Cowes is the focus of all activities on Phillip Island and where most of the residents and visitors stay. It is located on the middle of the north shore of the island, far enough east for its jetties to be clear of ocean swell, and far enough west to be clear of the tidal flats off Observation Point. The town has all the facilities of a thriving summer tourist and holiday industry.A well-maintained foreshore reserve runs along the northern shore of the town, with beaches lying below the 10 m high bluffs. There are two beaches adjacent to the centre of Cowes: Mussel Rocks; and the main Cowes Beach, next to the ferry jetty. Both beaches are relatively short, face due north and receive low wind waves. Mussel Rocks Beach lies between Mussel Rocks and the ferry jetty; while the main Cowes Beach is immediately east of the jetty, with Erehwon Point forming the eastern boundary. At high tide the beaches are relatively narrow and steep; while at low tide, they become exposed with shallow rock and tidal flats extending out toward the jetty.
Burleigh beach is a straight, 2 km long section of sand running between South Nobby headland and the larger Burleigh Heads (Fig. 4.153). The beach is paralleled by The Esplanade, which has apartments and high rise buildings on its western side, with a grassy foreshore reserve located between the road and the beach.
Sharps Beach (NSW 25) runs from Whites Head south for 1.3 km to Angels Flat Rock (also called Sand Point), the latter providing some protection from southerly waves. The Coast Road runs behind the beach with car parks at the northern and southern end. The beach is composed of fine to medium sand, with a boulder beach backing the northern section and a densely vegetated foredune backing most of the beach. It usually has an attached inner bar with up to five rips particularly against Whites Head and the rocks in the surf toward the southern end. Further out is a longshore trough and outer bar. The rips and rocks make it popular with fishers and surfers, but potentially hazardous to swimmers. Lifeguards patrol the northern end of the beach during the summer holidays.Angels Beach extends south of Flat Rock and consists of two parts. The northern section (NSW 25) extends for 900 m southwest to the low Pontoon Rocks, with the southern section (NSW 26) continuing south for 700 m to the northern side of Black Head. The combined beaches have a more southerly orientation and receive waves averaging 1.5 m, which maintain up to seven rips cut across the usually attached inner bar with a deep longshore trough and outer bar usually present. Permanent rips flow out against Flat Rock, Pontoon Rocks (which divides the beach), and Black Head in the south. Reefs extending seaward of Black Head produce both good surf and strong currents. Access is via the northern car park to the Flat Rock camping area, or from the road in the south.