Located on Phillip Island’s Cape Woolamai, this two-hour walk allows visitors to experience a beautiful sandy beach, follow the tops of the cliffs, and finally get down to the bottom of the impressive rock formations displaying vibrant colours. It immerses the bushwalker in a seabird and shorebird heaven. Walkers need to check the weather and tides, and possess a good level fitness.
Cape Woolamai, located on the south-east side of Phillip Island, is most famous for its amazing pink granite formations; the best place to admire their beauty is from the Pinnacles. Leaving from Melbourne, it is only a two-hour drive to Cape Woolamai.
The walk starts at the Cape Woolamai car park on Beach Road, where a set of stairs leads to a beautiful sandy beach that is popular with surfers and beachgoers. Access is easier at low tides, and can be limited during high tides, where the water reaches the bottom of the cliffs in some places. A variety of seabirds and shorebirds can be spotted here, including the rare Hooded Plover, which uses the beach and sand dunes to nest. Be careful if you’re lucky enough to spot one, as these vulnerable birds are easily disturbed and it’s always best to avoid getting too close for their protection. After windy days, keen birders are not unlikely to spot petrels and albatrosses from the beach with binoculars. The walk on the beach takes about 30 minutes, and stairs at the end of the beach take bushwalkers to the top of the cliffs.
The path leading to the Pinnacles at the top of the cliff is the best place to observe Swamp Wallabies and occasional birds of prey hunting for their next meal. Breathtaking views of Cape Woolamai Beach are one of the highlights of the walk, particularly at sunset. This part is relatively flat and easy, and from the top of the stairs it takes approximately 20 minutes to reach the famous granite colonnades. Stick to the path, though, for your safety and for that of the birds, as this is shearwater, or muttonbird, territory, and a high number of burrows make the soil unstable. After hatching, chicks are home during the day and burrow collapses can be fatal to birds.
Reaching the tip of Cape Woolamai is a memorable moment as the concealed pink rock colonnades - signs of powerful erosion - finally reveal themselves. A path that is not very well-defined leads right to the bottom of the formations (be careful - this part is slippery and requires runners or hiking boots, and should not be accessed in rough weather). The perspective from here makes the formations appear even more impressive.
The rocks can be slippery because of sea spray but wandering on the beach will not disappoint. I can personally spend hours here, listening to the waves crash onto the rocks and feeling the sea spray on my face surrounded by vibrant colours, the blue-green of the sea contrasting with the pink-red of the granite.
During shearwater season (September to April), the return of adult birds to their burrows is an amazing natural spectacle that Cape Woolamai is also famous for. Clouds of birds start obscuring the sky after sunset as they approach the large colony (more than half a million nests) and land clumsily amongst burrows. There is a bench located along the path on top of the cliffs where observers can sit and wait for the birds’ arrival, but bringing folding chairs and setting them up on the path works well too (remember to bring a torch to be able to safely return to the car park).
The Pinnacles Walk is part of a longer set of walks that surrounds Cape Woolamai, including the Beacon, the Lookout, and the Old Granite Quarry. This walk is approximately a two-hour return; the whole Cape Woolamai circuit is more suitable for adventurous bushwalkers with more time to spare, as four to five hours are necessary to complete the loop.
Have more time on Phillip Island? There are plenty of other wonderful walks to choose from.
- Located on Phillip Island.
- Steep path which is slippery at times.
- Good level of fitness and adequate shoes required.
- Scenic path on top of cliffs.
- Amazing pink granite formations.
- Seabird and shorebird heaven.
- Check the weather and the tides before embarking on this walk.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
EASE OF ACCESSIBILITY
Elodie came to Australia where she recently completed a PhD in seabird ecology at Deakin University, after studying marine biology in Europe. She is passionate about the natural world and its protection. She is also a dive instructor and Emergency Response Operator at Wildlife Victoria.
You can find her on Twitter at @ECamprasse.
Banner image courtesy of Elodie Camprasse.