beach

Kitty Miller Bay

Located in the south-west of Phillip Island, this walk follows the shore and leads to the top of a cliff, from which visitors will have an amazing view of the SS Speke shipwreck and the ocean side of the island. This walk requires a good level of fitness, as parts can be steep and sometimes slippery.

Phillip Island has many interesting walks for nature lovers to experience, but to me this particular one stands out as it not only offers spectacular ocean views, but also a glance at history. On February 22 in 1906, the SS Speke, heading from Peru to Geelong, crashed onto the reef east of Kitty Miller Bay due to faulty navigation, forcing its crew to abandon the ship. More than a century has passed, but remains of the ship close to the shoreline remind the walker of the unfortunate accident.

   
  
    
  
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  SS Speke, Kitty Miller Bay.  Image: Elodie Camprasse

SS Speke, Kitty Miller Bay. Image: Elodie Camprasse

The walk starts at the Kitty Miller Bay carpark. From there, the walker needs to journey down to the beautiful horseshoe-shaped, sandy beach that surrounds the Bay and head east. At the end of the beach, a path in-between the rocky shoreline and an open grassland gradually leads to the top of a cliff.

It is only at this point that the shipwreck finally becomes visible, or at least what remains of it. Part of the bow lies on its side on the rock shelf. The SS Speke was one of the biggest ships of its kind, over ninety metres long, but the elements disintegrated most of it shortly after the crash; only a few other pieces of debris remain scattered along the shore. As well as these remnants of the past, spectacular ocean views will not disappoint.

   
  
    
  
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  Cape Barren Geese in the open grassland adjacent to the path that leads to the wreck.  Image: Elodie Camprasse

Cape Barren Geese in the open grassland adjacent to the path that leads to the wreck. Image: Elodie Camprasse

Reaching the wreck at ground level can prove challenging at times. A steep path that is not always well defined leads to the beach and can be slippery, especially after rain, so adequate shoes are required to reach the beach. The curious visitor will gather more information on the wreck’s specifications, and its tragic ending, thanks to the interpretive signage at the bottom of the cliff. Access is easier at low and mid tide, where the rest of the beach also remains accessible for a stroll or a picnic. Seabirds are often spotted here and beach wanderers will spot all kinds of marine treasures – shells, sponges, cuttlefish bones, driftwood. However, high tides offer great photo opportunities of the wreck as well.

The rocky shore of Kitty Miller Bay.  Image: Elodie Camprasse

The rocky shore of Kitty Miller Bay. Image: Elodie Camprasse

The whole walk is about two kilometres in length, and takes around 1 to 1.5 hours depending on fitness level and on how far along the beach the walker wants to venture. It is always advised to check the weather and the tides beforehand. Although it can be challenging, this walk remains one of the most unique on Phillip Island. Kitty Miller Bay is also a great snorkelling spot, so depending on how much time you can spare and on the tides and weather, it is also worth a splash.

Have more time on Phillip Island? Read about some other wonderful walks here.

SUMMARY

  • Located on Phillip Island.
  • Steep path which can be slippery at times; good level of fitness and adequate shoes required.
  • Beautiful ocean views.
  • SS Speke shipwreck.
  • Check the weather and tides before embarking on this walk.

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

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EASE OF ACCESSIBILITY

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WILDLIFE

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SCENERY

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OVERALL

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Elodie Camprasse

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.

Phillip Island Pinnacles Walk

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 of fitness.

An aerial photo of Cape Woolamai featuring the Pinnacles on the left-hand side.  Image: Elodie Camprasse

An aerial photo of Cape Woolamai featuring the Pinnacles on the left-hand side. Image: Elodie Camprasse

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.

A clifftop view of the Pinnacles at Cape Woolamai.  Image: Elodie Camprasse

A clifftop view of the Pinnacles at Cape Woolamai. Image: Elodie Camprasse

Cape Woolamai Beach and the Pinnacles in the background.  Image: Elodie Camprasse

Cape Woolamai Beach and the Pinnacles in the background. Image: Elodie Camprasse

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. 

On the way to the Pinnacles, a curious Swamp Wallaby watches passer-by while a bird of prey soars in the background.  Image: Elodie Camprasse

On the way to the Pinnacles, a curious Swamp Wallaby watches passer-by while a bird of prey soars in the background. Image: Elodie Camprasse

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. Make sure you stick to the path at all times.) 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 while surrounded by vibrant colours, the blue-green of the sea contrasting with the pink-red of the granite.

The Pinnacles from the top of the cliffs.  Image: Elodie Camprasse

The Pinnacles from the top of the cliffs. Image: Elodie Camprasse

The Pinnacles from the shore.  Image: Elodie Camprasse

The Pinnacles from the shore. Image: Elodie Camprasse

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.

SUMMARY

  • 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

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EASE OF ACCESSIBILITY

download 2.jpeg

WILDLIFE

download+(1)+(1).jpeg

SCENERY

download+(2)+(1).jpeg

OVERALL

download+(1)+(1).jpeg

P1220178_cropped+2.jpg

Elodie Camprasse

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.

Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve

Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve consists of an impressive 50 hectares of wetlands, open grasslands, a saltmarsh and a mangrove conservation area, providing an ideal haven for up to 120 bird species that frequent the area. Equipped with beautifully laid out boardwalks and bird hides, this reserve is a must for any budding naturalist or bird enthusiast.  

Situated in Williamstown alongside Jawbone Marine Sanctuary (the closest marine protected area to Melbourne's CBD) lies Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve. Just minutes west of Williamstown beach, and eight kilometres from the heart of Melbourne, this reserve is often overlooked due to the lack of signage as well as its seclusion from the main attractions of the area. The reserve has various access points via the Bay Trail; however, I recommend walking alongside the Esplanade, westwards from Williamstown Beach until you stumble across the reserve itself.

Upon entering, you will find yourself walking along the shore that lines the 30 hectares of Jawbone marine sanctuary. The sanctuary has been fenced off for 80 years and is an oasis for native marine and bird life. It boasts the largest occurrence of mangroves in Victoria as well as the only ones that grow on a basalt coast in Victoria. Due to the unique collection of habitats here, the distinctive biodiversity of the area becomes increasingly apparent as you meander across the sand toward the reserve. 

As we walked toward the boardwalk along the foreshore, we spotted Australian pelicans diving for fish and black swans feeding on aquatic plants in the shallows of the bay.

Scores of rock pools lead the way, showcasing gorgeous micro-ecosystems within each one. The sand is littered with tell-tale signs of animals that occur in the sanctuary but cannot be seen unless you are submerged in the bay. Sea urchin endoskeletons, shells of various molluscs, and sea jellies are amongst the many items we spotted scattered across the sand.

Once you approach the boardwalk, you will see it has adjoining pathways that lead you through the entire reserve. The boardwalk helps in the preservation of the reserve, allowing visitors to approach the unique habitats up close without having a negative impact on them. Informative signs are dotted along the walk, touching on the reserve history, geological makeup and complex ecosystems within the area.

Here, you have the opportunity to get up close to the reserve saltmarsh (one of the very few remaining in Port Phillip Bay). A sea of salt-tolerant beaded glasswort spreads across the saltmarsh where it evidently thrives. Now recognised as significant ecosystems, saltmarshes act as nurseries for marine life, and in turn are vital feeding grounds for bird species that frequent the area. There are conveniently placed bird hides with identification signs joined to the boardwalk that allow you to view the amazing diversity of bird life without disturbing them.

Lastly, there is a trail that leads you to the Jawbone Arboretum where Friends of Williamstown Wetlands have planted an impressive collection of native plants, each labelled with informative biological facts. The arboretum is a fantastic place to school yourself on indigenous plant diversity, as well as experience alternate views of the lakes and Port Phillip Bay.

SUMMARY

  1. ONLY 8KM FROM MELBOURNE'S CBD

  2. BOASTS A VARIETY OF HABITATS

  3. 120 DIFFERENT BIRD SPECIES HAVE BEEN SIGHTED HERE

  4. LARGEST OCCURRENCE OF MANGROVES IN VICTORIA


LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

EASE OF ACCESSIBILITY

WILDLIFE

SCENERY

OVERALL RATING


Tanya Rajapakse

Tanya holds a strong passion for the conservation and preservation of local ecosystems. She recently completed her Masters of Science, focusing on the biodiversity of fauna in Port Phillip Bay and its relationship with seagrass meadows.

 

 

 


All images courtesy of Tanya Rajapakse. 


Coolart Wetlands

Not far from Balnarring, this relaxing boarded walk winds its way through the coolart wetlands, where several bird hides give excellent viewing of our native waterbirds. 

Pied Cormorant (  Phalacrocorax varius ) sunning itself at the wetlands.

Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius) sunning itself at the wetlands.

Review

More a garden stroll than a real bush beat, this easy-level walk is great for those looking for a relaxing, yet exciting activity for a morning or afternoon.

Starting at the historical, Coolart House, one can find enjoyment in viewing the well maintained gardens and old homestead before descending the a hill to the wetlands. Here, a number of tidy bird-hides offer superb and rare viewing of native waterbirds.  

Following the path will eventually lead you to some open woodland where you may chance upon some swamp wallabies or echidna.

From here you have the option to take a short walk across a tranquil estuary to the beach where you can dip your toes in Western Port Bay.

In reality, this walk should take no more than one hour to complete. However, the potential for encountering wildlife is so high, in so small an area, that the keen naturalist is soon and frequently distracted.

Anyone looking for a relaxing, yet intriguing weekend activity, should consider the drive to Balnarring and the Coolart Wetlands.

Level of Difficulty 

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Ease of Accessibility 

Wildlife

Scenery

Overall Rating

Summary

  1.  Easy walk

  2. Several bird hides

  3. Close to beach   

  4.  Lots of wildlife

Location of Coolart Wetland

Location of Coolart Wetland