Private tidal rock pools hidden amid a surreal volcanic landscape.
The eastern side of Port Phillip is probably most famous for its bluechip towns, Portsea and Sorrento, yet they are hardly a complete representation of what the Mornington Peninsula has to offer. A closer look reveals the true identity of this hook-shaped piece of land to be slow-paced and down to earth. The landscape is dominated by rolling hills, organic farms and some of the state’s best wineries. Quality is a unifying theme around here, so it should come as no surprise that Bushrangers Bay is a top-shelf swimming option.
This basalt coastline is quite unlike anywhere else in the area, or even the state. Volcanic black rocks emerge from clear blue water. Deep pools are filled at high tide and slowly warm throughout the day. It has a distinct look and feel, so you can imagine how our eyes popped out of our heads when we saw this secret spot featured in the 2009 film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. Indeed, it seems like a natural place for a wild rumpus, and you will see lots of kangaroos if you arrive early in the morning.
We start our trip from the Cape Schanck Lighthouse carpark, from where it is a 3-kilometre one-way walk to Bushrangers Bay. Good snacks being essential, we often stop for supplies at Hawkes vegetable and farm store on our way down. Follow the well-defined track along the top of cliffs and through tunnels of coastal banksia. The trail eventually emerges onto the beach to reveal a storybook landscape of hulking, dark headlands. Don’t be surprised to see waves exploding onto the beach, as it is exposed to a constant barrage of swells from the south. We prefer the safety and beauty of the nearby tidal rock pools.
Follow the beach east towards the rocky headlands. The most prominent feature is Elephant Rock and the best pools are distributed around its base, on the left-hand side. Water is always clear here and often a few degrees warmer than the ocean – Victoria’s version of a spa bath. Remember, this is a low-tide-only spot, so take a moment to make sure that rogue waves aren’t crashing into the pools before jumping in.Otherwise you may suddenly find yourself inside a washing machine or heading out to sea.
It is easy to spend the day exploring these pools and climbing the headlands. We feel like we discover a new swim or rock arch every time we visit. Natural baths come in many shapes and sizes, some small enough just for one, but all with million-dollar views – after all, we’re on the Mornington Peninsula. All wild things welcome.
Best time to visit
Low tide on a hot summer’s day when a north-easterly wind is blowing
How to get there
From the Cape Schanck Lighthouse carpark (420 Cape Schanck Rd, Cape Schanck), follow signs to Bushrangers Bay. Walk east along cliff-tops for about 3km before dropping down to the beach.
Easy. It’s a 40-minute walk along a well-defined path to the beach. Rocks are sharp, slippery and uneven once you get to the tidal pools. Be careful of your footing and take it slowly.
Cost of entry Free
Kid friendly Yes
Dog friendly No. Flinders foreshore is the best nearest option.
Water temperature Cool
Open 24 hours
Facilities Toilets and picnic tables at Cape Schanck Lighthouse
Lunch, and lots of water. It can get stinking hot among the black rocks and you will be amazed at how much water you can drink.
Low tide only. I know we emphasise this a lot, but the last thing we want is for you to make the effort to get out here only to find the whole place under water. Try to arrive while the tide is still dropping so you can enjoy your swim for as long as possible.
This is an edited extract from Places We Swim by Caroline Clements and Dillion Seitchick-Reardon, published by Hardie Grant Travel RRP $39.99 and is available in stores nationally.
Photography by Dillion Seitchick-Reardon