The Pinnalces at Cape Woolamai
Cape Woolamai is a good 2 hours drive from the Melbourne CBD, and is technically not in Melbourne, but just outside it. Its a popular surfing beach, but it is also a spectacular location for landscape photography. At the tip of the cape are the Pinnacles – a set of weathered limestone stacks that stand out on the edge of Bass Strait, and are a very impressive subject to photography at both sunrise and sunset.
Location and how to get there
The Google Map above shows the location of car park for Cape Woolamai (marked with a “P”) and driving directions from the Melbourne CBD. The route is all sealed roads and highways, and is easily drivable at any time of the year and day. When driving in the general area during the early hours of the morning or around sunset, watch for local wildlife – particularly wallabies.
Cape Woolamai is a popular destination for surfers, and during the day, there is likely to be a decent number of visitors. Nonetheless, there is ample parking for about 80 vehicles at any given time. The location is well sign-posted an is easy to get to.
The Pinnacles are at the end of a trail approximately 2.25km away from the car park. While the trail is general flat and mildly undulating, it is a physically challenging one. The first half of the trail is over sand that gives way with every step and is exhausting to walk on. The second half of the trail is on rocky but somewhat rough terrain. It’s fairly easy to roll your ankle on this path (as I did). At the end of the trail, the last 50 or 60 metres involves a descent down to the bottom of the pinnacles along a trail that is mostly soft soil held together with loose vegetation. Once at the bottom of this trail, the pinnacles will be directly ahead of you on the edge of a rocky boulder covered beach. The hike takes about 40 minutes in each direction.
Best times to visit
While the location is open all year round, the best time to shoot here is in the summer when the weather is warm. As with most landscape photography locations, the best times to shoot here are at sunrise and sunset. The weather here is constantly changing, so it’s not uncommon for an amazing day to turn inclement in a matter of minutes, only to give way to spectacular conditions a few minutes later.
As with all outdoor locations that are a good hike, it’s a good idea to check on the weather and the tides. This part of the coast has constantly changing weather patterns, and it is not uncommon to go from bright and sunny to miserable and rainy in a matter of minutes. It is also worth checking on the times for sunrise and sunset.
Never attempt to do this trail on your own. This is to ensure your safety. The terrain is very soft and it’s not too difficult to take a bad step and a bad fall. Having companions with you on this hike will provide a sense of safety in the event that one of you gets hurt.
Mobile phones do not always work at the edge of the cape, so consider keeping a pair of walkie-talkies handy to keep in communication range among your group.
Given that you are on the coast, your camera lenses will probably take a beating from the sea spray. I recommend that you carry a towel and some microfiber cloth to keep your lenses clean. Tripods are essential. Your choice of lens would typically be a wide-angle lens. You will probably not shoot anything at a focal length of beyond 60mm, so I recommend leaving the zoom lens at home.
If you’re planning an early morning or late evening shoot, be sure to carry a flash-light with you.
The ground that you will have to cover is will vary from being soft with little support, to being rocky, hard and uneven. My recommendation is to wear a pair of good, solid hiking boots. I strongly recommend using hiking poles on this hike.
Always dress in layers. The weather and temperature here constantly changes, and its very easy to suffer from exposure to the elements. In the summer, it is imperative that you have sunscreen on you.
Walking this trail and taking photographs here will take one at least an hour and a half. It is a good idea to have some water and snacks on hand to keep you going.