bush walking

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.

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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.

Mount Oberon Summit

This is a guest post by Monique Winterhoff.

There is nothing quite like the challenging climb of Mount Oberon, where the summit rewards avid walkers with breathtaking views across Wilsons Promontory National Park and over some of the outlying islands.

This incredibly popular walk begins at the Telegraph Saddle carpark, a four-kilometre drive from the Tidal River campgrounds and approximately a three-hour drive from Melbourne. It is a relatively steep 3.4-kilometre track. For the most part, the walk is on a wide, compacted gravel track used by management vehicles until you reach the stair section just before reaching the summit, which consists of some steep steps.

Along the track are glimpses of the view to come and a wonderful walk through the outstanding flora and fauna that the Prom has to offer.

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After making the final ascent, walkers emerge out onto enormous weathered boulders and have 360-degree views across the Prom and Bass Strait. Even in summer, the weather at Mount Oberon can be windy, cloudy and cold, so be sure to check weather conditions ahead of time.

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SUMMARY

  • A relatively steep 3.4-kilometre track.
  • Spectacular views of Wilsons Promontory.
  • A variety of local flora and fauna.
  • Be sure to check weather conditions.

Tim Brown of the Wild Melbourne Productions Team reveals the breathtaking views from the Mount Oberon Summit in this short video.

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Monique Winterhoff is a MSc student at the University of Melbourne studying blood parasites in small mammals on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. One of her interests is the combination of art and science, using art as a medium for communicating scientific research.


All images courtesy of Monique Winterhoff.

Breakneck Gorge

This is a great half-day walk for locals or visitors to the Daylesford and Hepburn Springs area, giving you a good taste of the surrounding bushland in a peaceful gully.

The walk begins in Bryces Flat Reserve, which is easily accessed from Bald Hill Road in Hepburn. You will come to a bridge; cross it, and the turning to Bryces Flat is on the left, where parking is available. 

Image: Alex Mullarky

Image: Alex Mullarky

Set out following the signs to the Blowhole, taking the footbridge over Sailors Creek and following the track up. You will cross back over Bald Hill Road before reconnecting with the path on the other side, which will lead you up into the trees and over the hill to the gully on the far side. Forming part of the 210km Goldfields Track, the path is always clear and well signposted. 

Following it for half an hour will bring you to the Blowhole, a good place to stop to refuel. The Blowhole is a remnant of the gold rush, created to expose gold in the water, and after heavy rainfall it appears to shoot water. Unfortunately, the viewing area is currently closed due to a recent rock fall. 

From the Blowhole, follow the signs towards Breakneck Gorge. The Dry Diggings Track temporarily joins with an unsealed road before turning off to meet the riverbed, currently dry. If in doubt, just follow the yellow signposts. 

Image: Alex Mullarky

Image: Alex Mullarky

The trail becomes trickier here, negotiating a few more hills and with some rocky spots to navigate. The slope becomes quite steep to your left in some places and it’s best to walk carefully. Small lizards are common along the path on a warm day and the odd swamp wallaby can be spotted down in the leafy gully. 

It takes around an hour from the Blowhole to reach Breakneck Gorge: a deep, tree-filled gorge that appears suddenly around a bend. It’s a great place to watch some birds in the treetops below. And if you’re not feeling too worn out, the walk can easily be turned into a return trip, back along the same path.

Image: Alex Mullarky

Image: Alex Mullarky

SUMMARY

  • A 4km route from Bryces Flat in Hepburn to Breakneck Gorge.
  • Opportunity to continue along the Dry Diggings Track which leads into Daylesford.
  • Spectacular scenery and seclusion not far off the beaten track.
  • See the Daylesford area from a different perspective.

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Alex Mullarky

Alex Mullarky is a writer and environmentalist from the UK who has called Melbourne home since 2014. She is a graduate of English Literature and is particularly interested in the connection between language and landscape.
You can find her on Twitter at @saesteorra


Originally published on Walking Maps.

Banner image courtesy of Alex Mullarky.

Tarra-Bulga National Park

Tarra-Bulga is one of the lesser known temperate rainforests we have in Victoria, tucked away in South Gippsland in the Tarra Valley. Even the drive to the park feels magical. As you wind your way through the tall cliffs of the valley, water cascades down through the rainforest into the Tarra River, which runs beside you. As the car creeps upwards, the air becomes crisper and you leave the rushing sounds of the river – and the rest of the world – behind you.

There are a number of different trails to explore at Tarra-Bulga, as well as picnic and camping areas if you wish to make a day (or two) of it. The Tarra Valley Rainforest Walk is a short and easy stroll to Cyathea Falls, which is a small but beautiful waterfall that you could very well have all to yourself.

Images: Ella Kelly

Images: Ella Kelly

Image: Ella Kelly

Image: Ella Kelly

If you have a bit more time, make your way to Corrigan’s Suspension Bridge – head out from the Visitor Centre Carpark via the Lyrebird Ridge, Ash, and Wills Tracks. This secluded suspension bridge gives you a fantastic view, allowing you to take in the sights from above and get a different perspective of the forest canopy. (And if you’re super lucky, it may look like this.)

But possibly the thing I enjoyed most at Tarra-Bulga was simply wondering along the rainforest paths. You will feel dwarfed by the towering mountain ash trees as you wind your way through the thickets of ferns and fallen logs that make up the crowded understory. The air is filled with the sounds of male lyrebirds calling to attract mates, and if you go quietly you may even catch a glimpse of one running across the path – they are everywhere!

Image: Ella Kelly

Image: Ella Kelly

Summary

  • Towering mountain ash forests

  • Quiet and easy walks; wide paths with some stairs and steep inclines

  • Highlights include Cyathea Falls and Corrigan’s Suspension Bridge

  • Abundant local wildlife, particularly lyrebirds

  • Fantastic atmosphere - a real escape from the world!

 

 

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Ella Kelly

Ella is a PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne, where she spends a lot of time thinking about why some quolls don’t eat cane toads (if only she could ask them!). She also enjoys talking and writing about science, and would ultimately love to have an actual impact on the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity.

You can find her on Twitter at @ecology_ella


Banner image courtesy of Ella Kelly.

Big Rock Track, You Yangs

Just over an hour’s drive southwest of the northern suburbs, you can find yourself surrounded by the eerily beautiful granite peaks of the You Yangs. Feel like you’re worlds away as you meander through these geographical formations formed during the Devonian Period, and experience the wildlife that thrives here.

Reaching 360 metres above the Werribee Plain at its highest point lie a series of granite peaks that make up the You Yangs. As you enter the regional park, you will be presented with five different trail options. I recommend you decide upon which trail before leaving home, as they all lead in different directions, have different track difficulties and offer different experiences.

We chose the Big Rock Track, which can be accessed from the car park near the park office. The 3-kilometre walk takes you along a dirt path with a steady incline that eventually loops you around the Big Rock and back. Being the driest part of Victoria south of the Great Dividing Range, you are presented with the opportunity to witness some incredible and unique low woodland flora and fauna.

Looking along the Big Rock Track.  Image: Tanya Rajapakse

Looking along the Big Rock Track. Image: Tanya Rajapakse

Lining the long dirt track are tall yellow and manna gum eucalypt trees, with thinly distributed undergrowth of native shrubs at their base. This pathway is best taken slowly, keeping a keen eye out for the rich diversity of bird life that flits among the tree branches, as well as the reptiles that frequent the ground below. I set out on this journey with the wish to see a shingleback skink, and with patience came my reward. Being a slow-moving lizard, they are not hard to observe, and are not particularly shy either. The park boasts over 200 bird species and is also home to 30 species of orchid. Although we did not see any orchids on this particular track, we did come across many Australian ravens, sulphur-crested cockatoos, noisy miners, common bronzewings and a scarlet robin!

A confident shingleback lizard peaks through the undergrowth.  Image: Tanya Rajapakse

A confident shingleback lizard peaks through the undergrowth. Image: Tanya Rajapakse

To the left of the dirt track is a spectacular view of the Werribee Plain, presenting a typically Australian bushland backdrop. The silence is a welcome change from the daily grind and allows you to hear bird calls from near and far. At the end of the dirt track you will find a plateau of grassland with an area that has been sectioned off for picnics and barbecues. A steep and winding path will lead you to the Big Rock, offering staggering views of the woodlands that lie beneath. From here, you can sit and watch predatory birds circle the area as they scan the premises for a good feed, whilst taking in the astounding view. I suggest that you venture off the given path if you feel the need to! This is how I spotted the elusive and swift scarlet robin, which was such a welcome sighting. However, always be wary of snakes and do not move too far from the track if possible.

From here, you can continue on the looped track to the car park through some gorgeous landscapes laced with towering eucalypts, including some sulphur-crested cockatoos scattered amongst them. A highly recommended location and track for a much-needed dose of fresh air and a welcome change of scenery!

One of Australia's most iconic bird species: the sulphur-crested cockatoo.  Image: Tanya Rajapakse

One of Australia's most iconic bird species: the sulphur-crested cockatoo. Image: Tanya Rajapakse

SUMMARY

  1. DIVERSE AND UNIQUE FAUNA

  2. SPECTACULAR VIEWS

  3. CLOSE PROXIMITY TO NORTHERN SUBURBS


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Banner image courtesy of Tanya Rajapakse


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.

Olinda Falls & Cascade Walk

Known as one of Melbourne’s closest waterfalls, Olinda Falls is an easily accessible and ideal spot to visit for those who would love to immerse themselves in the dense rainforest of Olinda’s wetter gullies. 

Just over an hour’s drive from the northern suburbs of Victoria, you can suddenly find yourself in the incredibly thick, temperate rainforest in the Olinda area of the Dandenong Ranges.

This walk is ideal for keen-eyed wildlife enthusiasts and accommodates people of varying fitness levels. From the car park, a 300-metre sloped path lined with giant Mountain Ash trees will guide you to a junction. Here you have the option of visiting the upper or lower falls, both of which have viewing platforms facing the waterfall. The Upper Falls Track is a lot easier than the Lower Falls Track; however, the latter is lengthier and much more beautiful. If exploring both tracks together, it will only take you a little over 30 minutes, providing you don't stop to look at the stunning flora and fauna (which I highly recommend you do!). Remember to look up at the variety of gum and ash trees that dwarf you as you walk by.

For a bit of a challenge, you also have the choice of attempting the more rugged Cascade Walk, located near the entrance to the Upper Falls Walk. Here, you will get a greater sense of the untouched rainforest in its natural state. Surrounded by ferns and trees that soar to heights of about 85 metres, this walk is serene and ideal for listening out for a wide variety of bird calls. If you're patient, I've been told you might even see a lyrebird, a wedge-tailed eagle, a swamp wallaby or a short-beaked echidna!

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SUMMARY

  1. JUST OVER AN HOUR'S DRIVE FROM VICTORIA'S NORTHERN SUBURBS
  2. WALKING TRACKS FOR PEOPLE OF VARYING DEGREES OF FITNESS
  3. HOME TO SOME OF VICTORIA'S TALLEST TREES
  4. PERFECT FOR RAINFOREST ENTHUSIASTS

All images courtesy of Tanya Rajapakse