Undoubtedly, the best walk to do on Phillip Island is the Cape Woolamai Circuit Walk. The rugged headland in the southeast of the island is home to one of the most famous surf beaches in Victoria, now declared a National Surfing Reserve. Yet, if you venture beyond the sand and waves, the spectacular trail takes you on a journey around the bluff and up to the highest point on Phillip Island, Woolamai Hill.
Despite there being various shorter options, I opted for the full 8.5 km circuit, including all the viewpoints and beaches along the way. Despite the south coast wind daring to knock me off the cliffs, it really is one of the best day hikes in South Gippsland.
I highly recommend for anyone heading down to Phillip Island to pack their walking shoes and stop in at Cape Woolamai. This quick guide will detail all the information you need to know about tackling the full circuit, as well as the shorter walking options.
Quick Facts About the Cape Woolamai Loop
- Trailhead: Cape Woolamai Beach Carpark
- Distance: 8.5 km circuit
- Time: 3 hours
- Total ascent: 171 m
- Difficulty: Moderate (easy to follow, wide formed trail, gentle hills and beach walking)
- Respect: Cape Woolamai is on the Traditional Land of the Bunurong People, who originally named the area Wollomi after the snapper fish
- Dogs: No dogs allowed at any time
*The official walking maps in the brochures don’t show the full circuit trail including Cape Woolamai Beach, but it is signposted on the trail as the full circuit.
How to Reach Woolamai Surf Beach
Melbourne to Cape Woolamai: 130 km or 2-hour drive via M1
There is a huge, sealed carpark at Cape Woolamai Beach, with toilets, and a café/kiosk. This is the start and end of all the trails, so it’s the perfect spot to park up while you explore the surf beach and headland.
Cape Woolamai town has a small set of shops, including a supermarket, take-away shops, surf shops, and a pub.
Where to Stay Nearby
If you’re heading down to Phillip Island or nearby for the weekend and looking for some accommodation inspiration, then here are a few suggestions for places to stay near Cape Woolamai.
San Remo: Black Dolphin Waterfront Apartment
Read next: 10 Best Places to Stay on Phillip Island
Trail Notes from the Cape Woolamai Circuit Walk
I had a relatively clear day for my walk around Cape Woolamai, except for the fact that it was blowing a gale. It’s quite often windy down on Phillip Island so I decided to head out for the walk anyway.
I didn’t start the walk until after lunch, as I’d been busy sightseeing at other beaches on Phillip Island. I headed down the ramp to the golden sand of the Woolamai surf beach and turned left to follow the beach along towards the southern tip of the cape.
After just under a kilometre, you’ll see stairs to your left up to the clifftop, take these. There’s a sea-facing seat there and I stopped to put on sunscreen, because it was a surprisingly warm autumn day.
I continued around to my right as the wide track followed the cliffs up towards a lookout over the Pinnacles. This is a common short walk that people do out and back, so it was a little busy. I stopped to take some photos and then continued around the loop. I didn’t see anyone else for the rest of the walk.
The trail meandered along the cliffs and then slightly more inland, as it slowly climbed up towards the highest point on Phillip Island. This stretch was the most beautiful with spectacular views along the cape and back towards the surf beach in the distance (I also saw 2 snakes in this stretch of trail, about 15 minutes apart!).
Once I made it up to the trig point at Woolamai Hill, I stopped to take some photos and enjoy the panoramic view across Phillip Island and the Bass Coast. It really is an incredible lookout, although the wind was obviously at its most prolific there.
I continued down on the trail to another little viewpoint over the east coast of the cape and Cleeland Bight. Then, the trail headed inland a bit through coastal scrub. I came to an intersection, where a shorter loop can be made to the left by heading back to the surf beach, or the full circuit can be done by heading right to the old quarry. I headed right.
It was just a short 900m to the beach and Old Quarry, which was definitely a bit more overgrown than the rest of the trail I’d used but still easy to follow. I walked down the steps onto the beach and then came out at where the quarry had been. All that’s left are the large square blocks strewn across the sand there.
From there, it was still low tide, so I turned left and walked along the beach for 1.6km until I came to the turnoff on my left back to Woolamai Surf Beach. You have to keep an eye out for this turn off, because otherwise you’ll end up walking into Cape Woolamai township.
It was just a short 400m walk back to the road and then down to the carpark. 8.5km Cape Woolamai walk complete!
Shorter Cape Woolamai Walk Options
While this post is aimed at completing the full circuit walk, there are options for various other shorter walks instead. If you prefer, you can simply go out and back to certain points, like the Pinnacles Lookout for example.
There are connecting trails between points enabling you to make a shorter walk or smaller loop than the full circuit. They still all begin and end from the same carpark at Woolamai Surf Beach, so you can make your mind up when you get there.
Some of these shorter walk options from the carpark, include:
- Pinnacles Walk Return 4.5km
- Woolamai Hill Loop Walk 7.5km
- Old Quarry Return 6km
Essential Information for Cape Woolamai Circuit
Here are some helpful tips and safety information for your walk, so you’re fully prepared for everything to expect on the trail.
- Snakes are common on this stretch of coastline, it’s likely that you might come across one on the trail, particularly on a hot day. I saw two copperhead snakes on a sunny but cool day in March, so be aware
- Keep to the track as some of the steep cliffs are not stable with very long drops into the ocean and no barrier
- Beaches along the walk are generally considered unsafe for swimming due to rips and strong currents, but it’s one of the best surf breaks in the state
- The trail is quite exposed to the sun, so even on a cloudy day you should still wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses
Read next: What to Pack for a Day Hike
Other Walking Tips for the Cape Woolamai Circuit Walk
- There is good phone reception for the entire walk along the coast
- From October to April each year, the cape is home to a million shearwaters
- It gets incredibly windy at Cape Woolamai, which can make walking a bit difficult, so check the weather and be prepared accordingly
- The walks are always described as going anti-clockwise, beginning with the walk along Woolamai Surf Beach. But you could do it in either direction you like
- If you want to complete the full circuit, it’s best to aim for low tide as this will make walking along the beaches more safe, especially Cape Woolamai Beach (Cleeland Bight) which can be impassable at high tide (if you do happen to do it at high tide, you could skip the old quarry and just head back to the carpark forming a shorter loop)
- If you walk in winter (between May and October), you’ll likely be able to spot Southern Right Whales or Humpback Whales off the coast along the trail, which makes it a great time of year to do it
Other Things to Do Nearby
- Phillip Island: There are so many other things to do on Phillip Island, from stunning beaches to incredible walks and cosy cafes, read about the best things to do on Phillip Island here
- George Bass Coastal Walk: An 8km one way walk from San Remo to Kilcunda along the Bass Coast, find my guide here
- Kilcunda Trestle Bridge and Anderson-Wonthaggi Rail Trail: Grab your bike and cycle the rail trail while crossing the beautiful trestle bridge in Kilcunda