Hiking the Cape Woolamai Circuit: Phillip Island
Regular readers of Free Two Roam know that we really enjoy a good hike. Whenever we visit somewhere new, we’ll always check to see if there are any good hikes to tackle. When we recently visited Phillip Island, we managed to finally walk the entire Cape Woolamai Circuit track.
We had visited Phillip Island a few times in the past, mainly on day trips with friends or visiting family members. But we never had time to complete the whole Cape Woolamai circuit. We always rushed to quickly check out the Pinnacles, before heading back to see the famous Penguin Parade. But on this occasion we had the whole weekend to ourselves, giving us plenty of time to check out some less touristy attractions on the island, including the Cape Woolamai Circuit.
Where is Cape Woolamai?
Cape Woolamai is found on the south-eastern tip of Phillip Island, a couple of hours drive from Melbourne. The island is easily accessible thanks to a bridge that joins San Remo on the mainland to Newhaven on the island. Cape Woolamai is only a few minutes drive from Newhaven, so it should be the first stop on your visit to Phillip Island. On arrival, you can park in the Cape Woolamai Lifesaving Club’s carpark.
What is the Cape Woolamai circuit?
Cape Woolamai has a few walking trails to choose from, namely the Pinnacles walk (4 kilometres), the Old Granite Quarry Walk (6 kilometres) and the Cape Woolamai Beacon Walk (6.6 kilometres).
The Cape Woolamai Circuit is a combination of all three walks. It offers views over the entire cape and across several miles of coastline. It is an easy 8.3 kilometres round trip and takes between two to four hours to complete, depending on your level of fitness, or how often you stop to take photos while admiring the incredible views (that was very often in our case!).
You can walk around the circuit either clockwise or counter-clockwise. We went counter-clockwise. The first part of our hike was a five hundred metre walk down Woolamai beach, making our way to a set of wooden stairs that led us up over the sand dunes and onto the cliff top.
Woolamai Beach is one of Victoria’s most popular surfing beaches and it’s the best place on the island to watch surfers catching a wave. The surf break is consistently strong, even more so in winter when we visited. It was amazing to see the waves come crashing in, but we certainly weren’t tempted to go for a swim! It looked really rough out there, but the surfers were having a blast.
Woolamai Beach has lovely golden sand with a spectacular backdrop of ancient pink granite. It’s truly beautiful, so even if long walks are not your thing, you should at least take a stroll on the beach. Depending on the time of the year it can either be packed with people or totally empty. On an early winter’s morning, we had the place all to ourselves!
As we walked up the stairs to the cliff top, looking back gave us a view of the entire length of Woolamai Beach. It’s hard to appreciate just how long it is until you see it from above.
As we walked the path towards the Pinnacles, we stopped for many, many photographs. Every section of the track offered more and more stunning views back across the beach and the rest of the island.
The highlight of Cape Woolamai is a set of naturally formed colonnades known as The Pinnacles. Formed by years and years of volcanic activity and erosion, the Pinnacles are a striking rock formation. There’s even a handy park bench placed just off the path for you to sit down and enjoy the view before you continue!
The path heading to the Beacon continues at a steady climb, taking you past more spectacularly scenery, such as sea caves and large granite formations. At 112 metres above sea-level, the Beacon is Phillip Island’s highest point. From there, we had 360 degrees views over the entire cape, parts of the island and even over to the mainland.
The Old Granite Quarry
A few minutes walk downhill past the Beacon, is another lookout point that overlooks the dazzling blue sea and the mainland. The trail then heads inland and halfway down branches off to the Old Granite Quarry. The Old Granite Quarry was established in 1891 and provided stones for Melbourne’s buildings. The operation only lasted two years. At low tide, you can still see the remnants of the old jetty and some drill holes in the large granite pieces.
From the Old Granite Quarry, the trail follows the coastline on the Cleeland Bight beach for approximately one and a half kilometres. It then heads back inland through a forested area for another three hundred meters, before finishing at the Cape Woolamai Lifesaving Club carpark. We were pretty tired at the end of the hike, but we were glad we finally got to enjoy the complete circuit.
Some tips for hiking the Cape Woolamai Circuit
- It’s important to check the tide before starting your hike. The circuit can only be completed at low tide. One section of the Cleeland Bight Beach has no access at high tide.
- The trail is quite even, so sneakers are fine. There is really no need for hiking boots on this hike.
- The track is quite exposed, so if you tackle it during summer avoid starting in the middle of the day. Bring lots of water, use sunscreen and wear a hat. The Australian sun is extremely strong!
- You are quite likely to see wildlife on this trail, so bring a camera with a zoom if you have one. Although we only saw birds on this particular day, in the past we’ve seen an echidna crossing the path on our way to the Pinnacles. You’ll also frequently see Kangaroos and Wallabies in the area.
- Cape Woolamai is the largest shearwater rookery. Between October and April, the area is home to thousands of shearwaters (mutton birds). If you visit at sunset you’ll see them circling the sky, before returning to their burrows. If you love birds, try and visit during that period.
- From May to October, you might spot some Humpback or Southern Right Whales as they pass by, migrating from Antartica to the warmer waters up north. They can sometimes be seen frolicking off the Bass Strait coast. Remember to bring your binoculars.
It seems like Cape Woolamai is often overlooked by tourists to the island. That’s a real shame as it’s arguably the most beautiful part of the island. Unlike many of the other attractions on the island, it’s also completely free. After reading this post I hope you decide to check it out on your next visit to Phillip Island. If you do, don’t forget to bring a camera!