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Close Encounter’s At Cape Woolamai

The holidays provide the opportune time to get out and explore. Whether you’re traveling afar or stay-cation (staying at home), there is plenty to discover right on your own back door.

Each year a group of families ventures down to Inverloch for a much-needed decompression from the year that’s been. Most days are spent with the kids at the beach or parents quiet time as the kid’s burn around the gated community of the BIG 4 on their bikes. Whilst this is briefly relaxing, the claustrophobia starts to creep in, so it’s time to venture out.

There are many beautiful places to explore along the Bass Coast Shire, however this particular day we took a short 30 min drive with our 2 youngest girls (9 & 11years old) to Cape Woolamai for the 8.3km circuit with the hope to see some wildlife.

An easy-moderate graded hike we started from the Cape Woolamai Surf Lifesaving Club car park crossed over and started along the track towards Cleeland Bight Beach. The sandy trail ran from Woolamai Beach Road to Norman Hill where local kids would climb the sand dunes with their boogie boards and fly down the hill into the water.

At high tide the beach walk would hug the dunes, making the walk impassable; however low tide exposes the rocky enclaves and shells for fossicking.

The walk continued along Cleeland Bight beach for a few kilometres, exposed rock pools and heavy seaweed soon gave way to the old Granite Quarry. The boulders offered a playground for the energetic girls who ambled and played, exploring the crack and crevices with inquisitive minds.

A steep, short staircase led off the beach away from the Quarry and beach into a coastal shrub alive with native animals. The hard, compacted path allowed easier walking for the girls who had found the sandy trails and beach walking strenuous. The girls were quickly distracted with wallabies that bound in front along the path; searching the shrub to either side, wallabies were cautiously moving away and the girls were in awe.

At the junction of Woodland and Quarry tracks we came across the friendliest echidna we’ve ever seen. Disregarding his onlookers, he carried on foraging for food before leaving us with the most Insta-worthy shot. The girls were amazed, never seeing an echidna in the wild nor as close.

As the gentle hills rose above the tree line, the landscape gave way to windswept grasses with 360c views to San Remo, Westernport Bay and along the Bass Coast. Passing fellow hikers they warned of Brown snakes along the path a short distance ahead. The girls cautiously close to our sides, we soon came across them sunning themselves in the grass just a metre off the path. With only their eyes following us (and vice versa), we swiftly moved passed them.

The educationalists in us, Shan and I drew upon the opportunity to reinforce the message of respecting snakes, among other creatures, as we are in their environment. As a qualified first aider with snakebite training, I reminded the girls that if bitten it’s critical that you remain still and calm as to reduce the venom spreading quickly through the body. Alert and aware, we moved up the gradient hill to Gull Island lookout before the final climb to Beacon Hill.

The girls were buzzing with a mixture of fright and amazement having a close encounter with the brown snakes and the questions and lessons were flowing. A blue tongue lizard was spotted by our youngest that realizing it had legs, was happy to stick around this time for a photo.

We continued our descent from Beacon Hill along the rugged coast to the Pinnacles. It was alive with seabirds and from May to October, the wild oceans home the Southern Right and humpback Whales.

The lookout at The Pinnacles transports you to another world, with the towering rock formations that jut out of the sea into the sky. Similar to the Lord of the Rings epics, the ridges and cracks that form within the structures and the pounding of the waves is breathtaking in magnitude. The energy was palpable with the girls remarking that they could ‘feel’ the surge of water 100m below.

The trail continued to wind along the exposed headland with epic views of the rolling waves of Woolamai Surf Beach. Inland of the trail there were a number of bird enthusiasts prying through binoculars at the various species of birds that call the coastal shrubs home. A staircase a few kilometres into the trail gave access to walking the final 1km back to the car along the beach.

The 3.5hour walk through the cape had given us all the respite we needed. The expansiveness of the space allowed the girls to roam free and experience the natural world with all its magnificent creatures. A truly immersive experience that carried many lessons, offering the perfect opportunity to explore the trails of our backyard; the girls haven’t stopped talking about all the wondrous things they’ve seen.

Where are you exploring these holidays?

Amanda x


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