By Oceana Setaysha
September 7, 2020 | 4 minute read
Phillip Island’s reputation as Melbourne’s castaway retreat means that sometimes it is hard to get away from the hustle and bustle created by the island's popularity. Luckily, Phillip Island has a few hidden gems up its sleeve, and the Cape Woolamai hike is one of them.
* At the time of writing, activities and places mentioned in this guide are at varying stages of recovery from COVID-19. Please check government and business websites for specific details on opening times and any restrictions before you travel.
Cape Woolamai and the Phillip Island Nature Park are often forgotten by visitors and perhaps that is for the better. A 760-acre reserve, Cape Woolamai is a regular stomping ground for visiting and local surfers looking to catch a wave. However, for others there’s value here too: four hikes that can be undertaken in one 8.5km loop that offer a ‘walk-by’ of the key attractions the Cape has to offer. Cape Woolamai is the highest point on Phillip Island and rewards hikers with views and wildlife galore.
The Cape Woolamai loop starts at the information shelter the local Cape Woolamai Surf Lifesaving Club car park. The trail can be hiked in either direction, leaving from the beach or from further inland, but both start with strolling along the sand. This does means that the hike is not always accessible at high tide, so plan ahead!
If you do choose to leave from the surf beach, meander gently along the coast to the left, listening to the chorus of natural percussion in the waves breaking in booms against the shore. There’s a set of stairs at the end of your beach stroll that wind their way back up to the mainland, where you’ll find the trail begins in earnest.
These stairs end in a field of grass, signalling the start of a twisting trail that wanders along the curves of the Cape. There are wallabies in abundance here, often sticking their little heads up to see what the commotion is just metres from where you are standing.
There’s a true feeling at Cape Woolamai of being on an island, listening to the sea crash up against the cliffs as you look down from above. The first stop on the loop is an unusual formation on the cliffs: The Pinnacles.
Stunning orange sea stacks that look something like columns rising from the sea, they are a wonder at sunset when the colours are even more delightful. Take the time to sit on one of the viewing benches for a while and soak it all in.
With The Pinnacles in the distance, the hike takes walkers next to the highest point on Phillip Island, where the majesty of the location is truly apparent. The Cape Woolamai Beacon, perched on a 112m elevation, offers panoramic views backwards of Phillip Island and over the sea at the Victorian mainland and George Bass Coast. There’s a fantastic lookout slightly further on that properly juts out from the cliff face, allowing hikers to look down at the sparkling and inviting sea below.
Of course there’s no chance of a swim from the top, but you might be tempted once you make your way back down and around Cape Woolamai to the Old Granite Quarry. The now abandoned Quarry site still shows the remnants of its mining past, with large marble slabs scattered along the beach and even old mining equipment left to be reclaimed by the sea.
This is the last section of the hike, heading back along the beach opposite where you first began. The sand curves lusciously along this section of coast, and it’s the kind of location that begs you to walk barefoot in the sea. It’s almost a bother to reach the end of the trail and realise that it’s back to life as usual. Amazing how in just 8.5km the Cape Woolamai Trail truly offers an immersive experience that no Phillip Island visitor should miss.
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