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Mornington National Park & Cape Schanck Reserve
Mornington National Park & Cape Schanck Reserve
Mornington National Park & Cape Schanck Reserve

Mornington National Park & Cape Schanck Reserve itinerary

Mornington Peninsula National Park is a mere 95km from Melbourne complete with a picturesque Cape Schanck Lighthouse reserve. And the lighthouse still operates. An underrated gem is the extraordinary coastline landforms of the Mornington Peninsula. The Great Ocean Road is stunning yet Mornington National Park is a competitor in the wow moments and it’s just a day trip from Melbourne. Sea formed rock shapes, bridges and caves carved by a millennium of wave action and rock forms painted the characteristic Australian red tinted glow await visitors. While the park is the busiest in Victoria it is primarily locals frequenting the park. Overseas and interstate visitors seem to be unaware there is a coastal treasure conveniently located at Melbourne’s doorstep.

The park covers 40km of a coastal strip encouraging visitors to return for further exploration.

A perfect day trip location for Melbourne locals and visitors alike.

Cape Schanck Lighthouse, Australia

Best time to visit

  • Summer lifeguards on duty, shaded walks and fresh air
  • Autumn a perfect time to enjoy a wild exhilarating coastline
  • Winter wild, rugged coastlines, nature at its most elemental making for great photo opportunities
  • Spring comfortable walks, spring growth and bird watching delight

Weather

Mornington Peninsula Forecast

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Cape Schanck Reserve, cliff landscapes, dramatic views of wave action, rock pools, boardwalk and a historic lighthouse
  • Flinders has a marine sanctuary, rock pools and sheltered sandy beach
  • Sorrento Ocean Beach sweeping ocean views, sand dunes, surf waves, walking trail along cliffs
  • Portsea Ocean Beach panoramic views of sandy beaches and sand dunes, revegetation examples
  • Walking trails with wild kangaroos
  • Baldry Crossing and Greens Bush native vegetation,

TIP: Sunset photographers, selfie moments galore. You can also pick sunrise however for many of us that it is way too early in the day.

Getting around

 

Beach safe Victoria

Safety – Beach in Safety Beach Mornington Peninsula VIC – SLS Beachsafe

Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve & Boardwalk. Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve what to see

The Cape Schanck Lightstation has classic solitary poise above Bass Strait, her traditional light still fully operational. Visitors can tour the lighthouse. The stunning tower has been a beacon for shipping since 1859.

Open: Daily (closed public holidays)

Admission: Fee applies

NOTE: Can explore the exterior of the lighthouse and reserve for free

WALKS

Two bays Walking Track, 8.9 km

The bush trail links the extended 26km route from Dromana to Cape Schanck. Coastal vegetation ranges from eucalypt to grasstree. Grasstree, a stunning oddity in the plant world with its unmistakable grass tufted leaves flourishes in Greens Bush. Grasstree blackened, fire-charred trunk is a true Aussie bushfire survivor. Some grasstrees are long lived, estimated over 300 years. Grasstree is a perfect Dr Seuss plant for imaginative story creation. The grasstree resin was a key Aboriginal ingredient for healing and other uses. Greenbush has stands of coastal tea trees with its glorious twisted curves alive with birds. The walk includes fern gullies and open sand covered in tussocks and coastal grasses.

  • Length: 8.9km
  • Duration: All day as you stop to photograph or simply find your zen moment

Bushrangers Bay trail to Cape Schanck Lighthouse

Spectacular coastal scenery with the track finishing at Bushrangers Bay, a sandy beach formed by Main Creek and surrounded by basalt cliffs. The return walk takes about 2 h
The walk is a study in contrasts with dramatic headlands and cliffs and powerful currents, surges of wave action crashing into the rocky landscape. The finale is the treacherous Cape Schanck, crashing waves where the lighthouse position seems a very good idea. The walk is part of the Two Bays walking track. Swimming is not recommended as the beach is unpatrolled and hazardous due to strong rips and currents. Bushranger Bay rock pools are tempting, low tide only and check Beach Safe for tidal and other relevant safety information. Start this walk at Boneo Road car park

  • Length: 2km
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Grade: Easy / Medium

Baldrys Circuit Trail

A rewarding walk alongside the course of Main Creek through a section of Greens Bush. Sheltered from the wind and shaded, it is an easy walking track. Walkers have to ford several creek beds making for an interesting adventure for new walkers. It is a popular area to sight wild kangaroos. eucalypt forest. Peppermint, Messmate and Manna Gum are the dominant overstorey species. Depart from Baldry Crossing210 Baldrys Road Main Ridge Victoria 3928

  • Length: 3.5km (loop)
  • Duration: 2 hour
  • Toilets: No
  • Facilities: carpark, picnic area

This walk can be done in either direction or as part of the longer 26km Two Bays Trail.

Fingal Beach Trail

The walk is 2km from Cape Schanck Reserve. Walking tracks lead to nearby lookouts with breathtaking views of the basalt cliffs and Fingal Beach. Walking tracks lead to nearby lookouts with spectacular views of basalt cliffs and Fingal Beach which is exposed at low tide. Access to the beach is via steep steps. The walk continues to the northern end of Gunnamatta Beach

  • Length: 4km
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Facilities: BBQ, Carpark, Picnic Area, Public Toilet

Long Point Circuit

A lovely loop walk in the heart of the Mornington Peninsula, leads you through eucalypt forest with bracken understory, before opening to views across grasslands and gullies of coast banksia and blackwood. The track follows Main Creek with Greens Bush sitting below. This walk is part of the 26km Two Bays Trail.

Access to the beginning / finish of the walk is Long Point Road Cape Schanck.

  • Length: 4km
  • Duration: 1 – 2 hours
  • Grade: Easy
  • Facilities: None (you will need to carry your own water)

Coppins Track

One of the popular walks winding along Sorrento Ocean Beach and cliff tops to Diamond Bay. A snapshot of the impact of human activity is evident. When you meet the T intersection walkers can detour approximately 50 metres to view Portsea Sorrento Artist Trai display of 1871 oil painting of the current views. There are plaques and markers indicating significant sites. Consult Coppins Track brochure (Travel Pack Information for marker details). Walkers will hear bird calls from cliff top inhabitants, view rock platforms, rock pools, arches, stacks and caves. Sorrento Ocean Beach is adjacent to the car park with rock pool exploration at low tide. The beach is popular with local fishing fans, snorkelers, photographers and bird watchers..

  • Length: 3km (loop)
  • Duration: 1 -2 hours
  • Grade: Easy
  • Facilities: Picnic areas, no toilets or water

Farnsworth Track

Another great photography trail with cliffs and ocean and the well known landmark, London Bridge. The track links Portsea Ocean Beach with London Bridge along the cliff tops. The track is 1.5 km long and takes 30-45 minutes to walk one way.

  • Length 1.5km
  • Duration 45 minutes
  • Grade Easy
  • Facilities None

Lifesaving Track

This 11km track was constructed in the 1890s to provide better access to the coast after two devastating shipwrecks. A number of lookouts provide breathtaking views down the coast, with good vantage points at the Bay of Islands, St Paul’s, Koonya Ocean Beach and No 16 (the 16th lifesaving point). Detours to Diamond Bay, Jubilee Point and St Paul’s are well worth the trip.

The Coastal Walk

For walking and tramping enthusiasts, the 26km Coastal Walk which extends from Cape Schanck to London Bridge emcompasses major attractions of the park. From spectacular ocean views, hidden coves, rugged cliffs, tidal rock pools and dense coastal scrub. There are numerous circuit trails indicated by blue markers and signage identifying where you are at any given point. The endangered Hooded Plover (bird), a dune inhabitant is used to identify the Coastal Walk.

BEACHES

Fingal Beach

Located along the Coastal Trail between the Fingal Picnic Ground on Cape Schanck Road and Gunnamatta, this beach is accessed by steps. With more than 400 steps, a visit to this spectacular beach is not for the faint hearted but is worth the visit if you are up for the long climb back to the trail. The walk from Cape Schanck Road to Fingal Beach will take approximately 30 minutes each way. This long sandy beach is not patrolled and the reefs and rocks make this a dangerous beach for swimming and surfing. Dogs are not permitted on this beach or on the Coastal Trail.

Gunnamatta Beach

Gunnamatta Beach in Fingal is an exposed, high energy, 3km stretch of beach with a wide, rip dominated surf zone. It is located in the Mornington Peninsula National Park and is part of the 30km long sandy and rocky coast that extends from Cape Schanck to Point Nepean. Truemans Road runs out through the dunes to the beach, where there is a large car park and the surf lifesaving club.

The beach faces south-west, exposing it to high westerly winds and waves. The waves average 1.9 metres and combine with the medium sand to produce a 150 metre wide single bar surf zone. The bar is cut by strong rips every 300m, together with additional permanent rips next to major reefs and rocks. Gunnamatta offers the best surf breaks on the Mornington Peninsula. Good breaks are found down the beach past the surf club, in front of the first and second car parks, and up the beach at the Pumping Station. Deep rip holes and gutters, together with rocks and reefs, are a permanent feature of this beach and make it a popular spot for beach and rock fishing. This is a very hazardous beach for swimming with usually high waves and strong rips close to shore. Stay between the flags, on the bar and away from the rips, rocks and reefs.

Koonya Beach

Another untamed surf beach popular with surfers and shore fishing fans. A short loop trail from the car parks to the beach has stairs and a ramp to the shoreline. For photographers there is a lookout near the car park with excellent ocean views. A beach walk is varied as there is varied landscape from a sandy foreshore, rocks and reefs with the occasional intrepid surfer offering breathtaking views of the ocean competing for dominance.

Facilities: Two car parks, lookout, and a toilet block at the end of Hughes Road. Swimming is not recommended as the beach is unpatrolled and can be hazardous due to large waves, strong currents and submerged rocky reefs.

TIP: Mobile phone reception is either non-existent or spotty. Download any maps required before departing on your day trip.

Bushrangers Bay

A picturesque beach framed by basalt cliffs making a great photo composition with the brooding headlands, wild ocean and sandy beach. Bushrangers Bay access is along Main Creek from the Boneo Road car park and picnic area (2.5km). This section of the Two Bays Walking Track provides fine views and passes through shady banksia and low lying native scrub. Another route is the 2.6km Bushrangers Bay Track from the Cape Schanck car park.

Sorrento Ocean Beach

A local favourite due to its proximity to the shops and cafes of Sorrento. Explore the rock pools at low tide, fishing from the beach or strolls along the beach people watching and enjoying the sea breezes.

“Facilities at the site include a large car park and picnic area with toilets. A café and kiosk is available year round and also caters for functions and weddings.

A short 0.5km circuit track from the lifesaving club to the lookout rotunda provides excellent views along the coast. Add a 1.2km loop to Sphinx Rock.Coppins track, which starts at the kiosk, is a three kilometre guided historic walk that winds along the cliff tops to Diamond Bay tracing the history of the area over the last 100 years. The track follows sections of the original 1800s limestone paved footpath.”  National Park resource.

Portsea Ocean Beach

Another popular beach close to Portsea Quarantine Park is characterised by a sandy beach and rugged cliffs.

Facilities: Lifeguards in summer, large car parks, toilets, lookouts. A mobile kiosk sets up shop during peak holiday periods.

Rye Ocean Beach

Experienced surfers frequent the beach due to the reef breaks along the 4km stretch of coast. Swimming is a hazard due to the rolling surf, rips and submerged rock outcrops. The beach is well known for the endangered hooded plover. The camouflaged shorebird feeds in the intertidal zone. Plovers nest directly on the foreshore sand dunes. A sign you are close to vulnerable nests is the plover darting in your vicinity masking the presence of a nest with action away from the actual nest site. Look for claw tracks and avoid soft sand near the dunes.

TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION

The landscape is dominated by nearshore basalt reefs, high cliffs and headlands, sand dunes and surviving rock formations. Coastal outcrops of older volcanic basalts occur. The hard bluish black rock is the result of lava flows millions of years ago. The massive rock lava basalt stacks have survived erosion from the relentless waves and wind to form sculptured rock stacks and headlands such as Pulpit Rock. Spectacular stunning geological features such as Angel Cave, London Bridge are recognised as of state significance.  Another feature are the high sand dunes, coastal vegetation and the dynamic nature of the dunes offers a glimpse into the nature of change in a coastal environment. Pleistocene dune limestone is the basis for the high sand dunes.

  • OCEAN

Water is the artist sculpting the current landscape. It is dramatic watching the regular cycle of powerful wave action carving rock pools using sand particles as an abrasive to scour depressions in rock platforms and cut new shapes into the rock.  Water carries eroded particles and tides build long sandy crescent beaches.

The journey is worth it.

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