The Cape Woolamai Circuit – Phillip Island’s Best Day Walk

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In all honesty, I’ve always considered Phillip Island a little overrated. It’s busy, overpriced and you can find better wildlife experiences and just as spectacular (if not better?) coastal scenery elsewhere in Victoria, especially at the nearby stunning Wilsons Prom National Park.

That being said, there’s definitely one activity that I highly recommend doing on Phillip Island if you like walking – the 8.5km Cape Woolamai Circuit track.

Starting at the surf beach, this coastal walk skirts around the highest point on Phillip Island, the Cape Woolamai Peninsula, an easy and wonderfully varied hike for those with average fitness. It shows off towering cliffs, sweeping seascape views, (what I can only describe as magical) coastal woodland and even some local history along the way. 

In my opinion, the Cape Woolamai Circuit is the best thing to do on Phillip Island and a top highlight of a trip to South Gippsland.

So forget queuing up to see the Penguin Parade (did you know you can see penguins for free in St Kilda, Melbourne, anyway?)… Explore Phillip Island’s wonderful Cape Woolamai Circuit track instead!

So here are my trail notes and my guide to walking the beautiful Cape Woolamai Circuit.

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cape woolamai circuit walk
Cape Woolamai Guide
cape woolamai phillip island

Quick Stats about the Cape Woolamai Circuit

Length: 8.5 kilometers (entire circuit).

Walking Time: Approximately 2 – 3 hours at a moderate pace.

Difficulty Level: Grade 3 – moderate (due to some steep sections but overall well formed and signposted tracks, and some beach walking near the end).

Start/End Point: Cape Woolamai Surf Life Saving Club.

Terrain: Sandy beach, steep inclines, rugged cliff tops, and bush tracks.

Key Features: The Pinnacles, old Granite Quarry, highest point on Phillip Island, breathtaking coastal views, and diverse wildlife, including the largest colony of short-tailed shearwaters on Phillip Island.

Best Time to Walk: Low tide. Early morning or late afternoon to catch sunrise or sunset views over the water.

Facilities: Basic toilets and showers available at the start/end point (Cape Woolamai Surf Life Saving Club) and a kiosk serving coffee, drinks and basic hot and cold food like hot chips.

Location of Cape Woolamai

Cape Woolamai is a town and headland to the south east of Phillip Island in South Gippsland, Victoria

It’s a two hour drive away from Melbourne (130km) and 36 minutes (41km) from Inverloch

What’s the Best Way to Get to Cape Woolamai?


The best and easiest way to access the starting point of the walk, the Cape Woolamai Surf Beach, is by driving. There’s a large car park with plenty of space for cars and camper vans, though I can imagine during peak times, it might get pretty chocca.

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Depending on where you’re coming from, there are buses to Phillip Island, such as from Inverloch, Cowes and Wonthaggi. Though expect to walk a couple of kilometres further once you arrive, to access the trailhead. 

Tour Group

If you’re here on holiday and don’t have your own vehicle, there is also the possibility to visit Phillip Island on a group tour which will involve seeing all Philip Islands attractions. That being said, you’ll only visit Cape Woolamai Surf Beach and Pyramid Rock (if it’s on the itinerary – this tour from Melbourne has a stop here) and not get to actually do the walk itself. 

Walking the Cape Woolamai Circuit

After a quick coffee from Magiklands Kiosk to warm us up on a blustery yet clear winter’s day, we set off left (south) along Cape Woolamai Beach, Philip islands’s longest and most exposed beach.

Cape Woolamai Beach

reflections in the sand at cape woolamai surf beach
The golden sand of Cape Woolamai Surf Beach

Aside from the mesmerising gently rolling waves, the beach itself is long, wide and curving, with fine golden sand bordered by a shallow cliff, brimming with attractive green vegetation.

After less than a kilometre, we took the wooden steps to our left up onto the clifftop, turning right to join the path, where the stunning views began.

What struck me instantly was the abundance of a vivid green succulent-like plant that carpeted everything – the ground, rocks, even the bushes. Apparently (according to a Facebook group as my plant ID apps couldn’t help) this is called tetragonia implexicoma otherwise known as bower spinach (which is edible when cooked). Despite being in the middle of winter, the area was vibrant and colourful and with the sun shining making the water seem turquoise, it really could have been the middle of summer.

the path of cape woolamai circuit
The path as you start the walk along the cliffs next to prime shrub habitat for ground nesting birds (and snakes!)

If you look carefully into these shrubs, it’s clearly a haven for small mammals. You’ll see burrows which are nests for world-travelling short-tailed shearwaters who come here in their millions to breed and raise their young. The dunes and beach are also nesting areas for the endangered hooded plover, which is why you need to stick to the paths and why dogs are not permitted on this walk. 

The Pinnacles & Caves

The pinnacles rock formation on Phillip Island
The Pinnacles rock formation, taken from the lookout

The first point of interest on the Cape Woolamai walk is The Pinnacles, dramatic natural granite colonnades (the oldest granite on the island, according to the information plaque). Many people seem to walk to this point and turn back, but there’s so much more to see along this walk!

After a few photos at the lookout, we continued and the path began to steepen slightly. There was an epic view to our right of a couple of caves burrowed into the cliffs. We stopped here and debated for a while whether they were natural or not due to their large square entrance. But apparently they are! There was a bench to take it all in, but we were keen to press on.

Shortly after, there was another bench with yet another fab view of grassy dunes and an arm of cliff reaching out into the sea behind.

sand dunes at cape woolamai
The view from the next bench after the caves
cliff and cove at cape woolamai
A typical view along this very attractive costal walk

Cape Woolamai Beacon

Cape Woolamai Beacon View
The view from the Cape Woolamai Beacon over the headland, with Phillip Island to the left and San Remo to the right

Still walking at a gradual incline, we traversed through some low-lying shrubs and scrubland where cute wallabies could glimpsed through the bushes, or would jump out on the path ahead of us. 

Then the vegetation disappeared and the scenery became exposed and grassy. Reaching the highest point, we arrived at the Cape Woolamai Beacon at the tip of the peninsula, 112m above sea level. With expansive, 360 degree uninterrupted views, you could see the whole cape from this point, including Phillip Island, San Remo, Kilcunda and beyond. We also spotted birds of prey hovering and gliding on the brisk sea breeze, eyes locked down for any sign of movement to make it their next meal.

Gull Islands Lookout Cape Woolamai
Gull Island Lookout
view from gull island lookout
The view from the Gull Island Lookout

From here, the path meanders down at a gentle decline along the low-lying grasses. To the right is the Gull Island Lookout point with views towards the east of the island where we could see the bridge adjoining San Remo and Phillip Island, which looks way longer than it feels when you’re driving over it.

Coastal Woodland

coastal bush landscape on Phillip Island
Pretty bower spinach draped over the trees and bushes, with some ferns and beautiful grasses

One of my favourite parts of the walk was meandering through the woodland on the east side of Cape Woolamai, as the plant I had admired early on in the walk was draped everywhere, hanging elegantly down tree branches and carpeting pretty much everything else. In summer, this area brims with butterflies and I can imagine it to be quite otherworldly. 

Just don’t get too caught up in the beauty of this section and miss the turn off to the granite quarry to your right (as indicated by a metal sign). Alternatively, if you’re a bit pooped at this point, carrying on along the left track makes the walk shorter as it heads back to the carpark, instead of doing the full circuit.

Cape Woolamai track to granite quarry
Turn right here at this signpost (and don’t go straight) to head towards the beach and granite quarry

Following the path to the right, there was another small intersection shortly after, with some wooden steps heading down between some overgrown shrub. These steps lead down to the remnants of the old granite quarry and a pretty cove.

At the bottom of the steps was the most magnificent magnolia tree I think I have even seen. The picture just doesn’t do it justice – it was huge!

large magnolia tree
A huuuuge magnolia tree (I think?) at the bottom of the steps to the quarry, on the beachfront
Apple of Sodom plant with spikey yellow fruit
The poisonous and very spikey Apple of Sodom plant which I sincerely regret touching!

The Old Granite Quarry

Old Granite Quarry Cape Woolamai
The last remnants of the old granite quarry
remnants of machinery at granite quarry
Evidence of metal from machinery and split granite boulders

As we arrived into the secluded bay, we turned right and scrambled across some rocks to where the main evidence of human activity was. All that remains of the industry here is some old machinery, remnants of poles from the jetty and square slabs of pink granite with lines and holes that indicated how they were once broken apart by a method called ‘plug and feather’.

The Cape Woolamai Granite Quarry was established in 1981 to provide material for buildings in Melbourne, especially on Collins Street. It’s been recorded that there were 49 trips made from here by seven vessels, however the quarry closed only a couple of years later after a vessel carrying granite and wool called Kermandie went missing in bad weather, and all the crew died. 

This part of the walk will probably only be available to access at low tide, as the water line from high tide was right up to the top of the beach. In the case of high tide, come back the way you came up the stairs, and continue on the path to your right, which runs parallel to the beach.

Back Along the Beach

After this rather sombre reading, we walked the final stretch of around 1.5km along the wide open beach, beach-combing and finding interesting animal bones and shells washed up on the shoreline.

We then saw a small path to the left which directed us back to the Lifesaving Club car park which you need to keep an eye out for, as it’s easily missed between the shrubs. 

A short uphill section though some coastal trees spat us out at the top rear of the car park, completing the very attractive and super interesting 8.5km Cape Woolamai Circuit.

Tips for Walking in Cape Woolamai:

coastal scrubland phillip island
  • Beware of snakes – This landscape is absolutely prime snake territory and I can almost guarantee you’ll see snakes in the warmer months. Always carry a snake bite kit (and know how to use it!). I also highly recommend wearing leg gaiters.
  • Phone reception – there’s no issues with phone reception here. It’s a very popular walk close to civilisation and you’ll have good reception throughout the route.
  • Toilets – the only toilets on this walk are at the start/finish at the Cape Woolamai Lifesaving Club. Make sure you go before you set out (like I did not and regretted half way through the walk!!)
  • Stick to paths – not only will you disturb wildlife (including poisonous snakes!) there are many exposed and steep cliff faces. Caution must be taken with small children on this walk.
  • No dogs – dogs are absolutely not permitted due to the abundance of wildlife at Cape Woolamai.
  • Low tide – aim to visit at low tide so you can walk down to the granite quarry. If not, you will have to skip this part and instead follow the path to the left at the intersection with the wooden steps.
  • Bring binoculars – if you’re a birdwatching and wildlife nerd, make sure to bring binoculars to spot some pretty amazing animals.
  • Swimming – generally the beaches on this walk are unsafe for swimming due to strong rips and currents.

Where to Stay Nearby

Although the Cape Woolamai Circuit makes a great half day walk, you may want to stay nearby for a weekend or a longer holiday, either on Phillip Island itself or somewhere like Inverloch or Cowes. Here are a couple of suggestions of where you could stay:

Phillip Island Accommodation:

Cowes Accommodation:

  • Amaroo Park – with a solar-heated swimming pool, 500m from the beach and modern villas, houses and bedrooms to choose from, Amaroo Park will suit all budgets.
  • Rural 5* Villas – for something a little luxe and further away from the crowds, with a gym, pool, hot tub and more, these two or three bed villas will totally enhance any holiday to South Gippsland.

Inverloch Accommodation:

  • Messmates Luxury Eco Suites – with a view over the wetlands and a top-notch finish, these suites offer a wonderful getaway in awesome Inverloch.
  • Beachy Haven at Sails – a gorgeous hidden haven 200m from the beach and surrounded by thick vegetation, this beachfront apartment offers great value for money.

Heading to Australia soon? Don’t forget these essentials!

Flights: compare and search using Skyscanner

Accommodation: hotels to hostels, glamping to apartments I always use

Tours: to search and compare the best group tours and activities worldwide (with up to 20% off), use Viator

Visa: don’t forget to check the entry requirements for Australia on the government website for the passport you are travelling with

Inspiration: Lonely Planet’s guide to Australia or for your next trip, how about Lonely Planet’s Guide to the World?

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5 thoughts on “The Cape Woolamai Circuit – Phillip Island’s Best Day Walk”

  1. Hi Tammy,
    Before reading this I never heard of this place before in Australia! These tips for a day exploration at Cape Woolamai Circuit were really helpful and I hope I can visit one day!

  2. The views on this coastal walk are fabulous. I like that you could pick out this hike to do even amid all the touristy stuff to do there.

  3. You’re right about the vegetation being so bright! The trail looks gorgeous with all the greenery and the cool rocky landforms. Great recommendation, especially since it’s only a few hours it’s very doable 🙂


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