Bushrangers Bay; A Link to the Past Sheds Light on the Present.

bushrangers bay on the mornington peninsula is a great bushwalkBushrangers Bay sits in the area known as Cape Schanck on the southern tip of the Mornington Peninsula.  A 5.2km return walk from the Cape Schanck car-park to Bushrangers Bay offers some of the most spectacular coastal scenery that you’ll find in Victoria.  I managed a sunny, child-free day in winter to indulge my appetite for rugged and wild places, and set foot on the trail to this untamed coastal paradise where I discovered more than just sand and water… The walk is well sign-posted.   It begins at the eastern end of the car-park with the Parks Victoria sign easily visible from the road edge.  I can’t believe how lucky I am with the weather, with a sunny 17 degrees forecast for a winter’s day in southern Victoria.  I set of full of energy and anticipation, and am pleased to see the car-park is fairly quiet.  That’s the bonus of getting up a bit earlier, and of living local!bushrangers bay is at cape schanck on the mornington peninsula and is a great bushwalk I step lightly through the Moonah Woodland.  The twisted Black Tea-Tree mingles with the Coast Tea-Tree, creating beautiful curvaceous lines that stretch and curve with sculptural fluidity.  It’s a story-book landscape that has me thinking that something quite elfish might appear fleetingly between shadows and light.  I’m almost disappointed when mythical creatures fail to appear, such is my conviction that I’m walking through a Tolkien landscape.    I allow my imagination to fill the void instead. bushrangers bay is in the mornington peninsula national park The eastern lookout reveals the first glimpse of the cliffs.   Below, I can hear the sound of the waves as they crash onto the rocks that line the edge of the cliff-face, and the smell of salt-water is carried on the gentle breeze of the morning.  There is that unmistakable scent of wild and untamed forces riding in on the whitened crest of the waves, full of energy and power, and ready to be unleashed when least expected. bushwalks on the mornington peninsula at cape schanck I quicken my pace as I leave the lookout.  The vegetation around me is interesting enough, but I am bewitched by the smell of the ocean and the sound of the waves calling me forward.  I race up the steps, two at time and begin to walk faster. bushrangers bay is on the morinington peninsula at cape schanck There are small clearings here and there on the track verge.  Not official lookouts, but clearly used by walkers to get a view down below from a different perspective.  Warning signs have been put in place to reinforce the danger of getting too close to the edge.  These basalt cliffs are steep, and easily eroded by the waters of Bass Strait below, making them extremely fragile, especially to unsuspecting visitors.  None the less, I do not surprise myself at all my going as close to the edge as I possibly can.  What’s with that? bushwalks on the mornington peninsula As I head further eastward, the views become more extensive.  Pulpit Rock is now easily visible, as are the layers of basalt rock in the cliffs, formed thousands of years apart by separate flows of lava that varied in thickness.   In 1802, Mathew Flinders described Cape Schanck as follows;

“a cliffy head with three rocks lying off, the outer most of which, Pulpit Rock, appears at a distance like a ship under sail.”

bushrangers bay at cape schanck on the mornington peninsula As I walk just a bit further around I can make out the lighthouse in the distance, to the right,  as it peaks just above the line of vegetation. cape schanck lighthouse And looking further toward the east, Elephant Rock can be seen, but Bushrangers Bay is still tucked around the corner. bushrangers bay is a good day walk on the mornington peninsula at cape schanck The Tea-Tree scrub converges around me as my hurried footsteps propel me forward.  The wind has shaped them into a strange, wild arbour that makes me feel like I’ve stepped into some weird vortex.  The ground beneath sculptured into a concave dish that mirrors the convex roof line of tree branches overhead.  I get the feeling of Alice in Wonderland as I have to stoop my head to emerge from the other end. bushrangers bay is a great daywalk in the mornington peninsula national park I spy Elephant Rock again through a gap in the tree branches, looming a lot closer! bushrangers bay To my left is farmland.  It seems most out of place so close to this rugged and rocky landscape that plunges down to Bass Strait just a few hundred metres away on my right.  I envy the cows, with their lush green pastures and breathtaking views…

Once I pass Burrabong Creek, I know I am almost there.  As I begin the 160 metre descent to Bushrangers Bay, I photograph the following sign. bushrangers bay on the mornington peninsula is a great place to walk In my last blog post I grumbled about people bring their dogs into National and State Parks, so I was very pleased to see this uncharacteristically bright Parks Victoria sign. The 160 metre descent is completed.  I have arrived face to face with another warning sign, the brightness of its colour rivalling the previous one, tenfold. bushrangers bay I make a mental note of the warning and head off to explore.  I am stunned.  The place is magnificent.  Strong, powerful and full of untamed beauty, it is a place possessing extremes of temperament.  On a calm sunny morning, it appears friendly and enchanting, and I get the feeling I could linger here for ages discovering shells among the rocky alcoves, and making sculptures with the rocks. I could while away the hours until they slipped by almost unnoticed. cape schanck and bushrangers bay But I have been here before.  I have seen this place under a barrage of strong, relentless winds that force huge waves to smash onto the sand, hurling seaweed and debris in piles on the shoreline.  I know what it is capable of, and I remain on guard despite the calm appearance of the water at the moment.  I walk around the bay to my right, keeping high up on the rocks and savour my solitude alone on the beach. bushrangers bay at the mornington peninsula national park in victoria When I can go no further I turn back and head further east.  Huge drifts of seaweed lie in piles on the shore-line, like miniature-mountains spewing forth ribbons of coloured fettuccini. bushrangers bay

I am standing close to the water photographing the seaweed when a roaring sound, like a train gathering momentum, cuts through my concentration.  I look out toward Bass Strait in time to see a huge swell building, and make a run for it just in time.  Within minutes a rogue wave has crashed onto the shore with amazing intensity, and gushes up on the sand several metres further in from where the previous waves were lapping the shore-line.  It is now that I begin to understand the dangers of the surf, and I vow to remain ever more vigilant. The cliff faces are near vertical and taper only slightly as they touch the waters’ edge.  Shallow rock pools converge in circular patterns that spread out before me like a lunar landscape.  The cliff walls of the shore-line jut out with ragged edges that contrast strongly with the smoother contours of Elephant Rock. bushrangers bay bushrangers bay bushrangers bay at cape schanck I wander the pockets of sandy shores between the cliffs and discover a world of sea-sponges and alien-looking seaweed ‘antlers’.

After devouring all the food I have in my backpack I decide it’s time to leave.  As I jump over Main Creek to get back to the path, I follow a set of Kangaroo paw prints etched clearly in the sand. bushrangers bay on the mornington peninsula is a great bush walk bushrangers bay in the mornington peninsula national park The tracks disappear over the dunes and into the distance.  I follow them only a short way, and discover an Aboriginal midden in the sculptured contours of the sand. bushrangers bay at cape schanck is a great place to bushwalk bushrangers bay I turn and look out towards Bass Strait and Pulpit Rock.  With the Aboriginal midden in the foreground, I stand in quiet reflection as I ponder the lifestyle of the original people of this land.  This would once have been a meeting place for the tribes, a place where they gathered food sourced from the land, creek and sea, and shared it amongst themselves in the soft sandy dunes tucked away from the wind.  It is quiet here along the creek-line with the sand-grass and vegetation absorbing the sound of the surf, and in the stillness the presence of these tribal people is almost tangible, as though it lingers in the air like an invisible mist. bushrangers bay For reasons I don’t quite understand I am drawn to this spot and stay awhile lost in silent contemplation.  Something begins to awaken within, but I cant put my finger on what it is.  I can picture myself standing next to the men and women and watching as they cooked their food by the fire with the sound of the distant surf pounding the shore-line and the Kangaroos and Wallabies coming down to the creek to drink.   I begin to feel the strength of these people who possessed such a powerful identity, and who lived such a simple and dignified life that was rich in meaning and tradition.   And I realise how much we have lost, by all that we have ‘gained‘ since those days of living as one with the land and understanding the value of life in a primal state of existence. bushrangers bay near cape schanck Days later while walking my usual track through the bush I suddenly begin to understand a little more about what my experience at the midden has revealed to me.  It’s as though the water on the surface of the pond has stilled enough for me to see the rocks below.  I grasp the realisation that on some level I seek to connect with life on a more primal level.  That it is only by releasing myself from the modern world and submitting myself to the natural world, will I be able to understand who I am, where I came from and what my place is in this world.  This fragment of understanding goes only part-way towards answering the question that I take along with me every time I go in search of the wild;

“Why am I so drawn to wild places?”

But I know that each time I slip away from the every-day and into some form of wilderness, answers will come to me that will help to define the person within.  For as John Muir so famously said,

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out until sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

Where:  Bushrangers Bay, Mornington Peninsula National Park.  Start from Cape Schanck car-park. Distance:  5.2 km return walk. Time:  Allow a minimum of 2 hours, but definitely longer to linger!


14 thoughts on “Bushrangers Bay; A Link to the Past Sheds Light on the Present.

  1. Leah, this is such a lovely recollection of your walk. I love the diversity of the scenery, especially the tunneled trees and the seaweed/kelp piles on the beach. Your writing is, too, captivating. Perhaps those elves will appear on your next hike!

    1. Thanks for your comments Daniel. It’s always nice to hear positive feedback on a post, especially when a lot of effort goes into it. I enjoy the writing up of my walks as much as I like the journey itself, as it enables me to reflect upon my experience on a deeper level. Thanks for reading! 🙂 Leah

      1. How strange you should say that; just the other day I pulled out my diary and wrote a few words: ‘Recording an adventure by pen will add breadth no less rewarding than the experience itself.’

        As for your post, it was so enjoyable to read that effort barely played a part. I will keep reading.

  2. The tunneled tree image is such a wonderful low perspective shot. I am a bit jealous of your beach and shoreline. I will blog about ours soon, but it is nothing as visually wonderful as yours. You can never go wrong quoting the wise old man John Muir himself.

    1. Thankyou 🙂 Your thoughts make the reward even more worth it. I have to agree that we do have pretty awesome coastal scenery over here in Victoria, and it’ nice to be able to share it via a blog post to anyone who cares to have a look. I look forward to seeing what your beaches look like in your future post. Thanks for reading 🙂 Leah

  3. Nice report of a place I’ve been going to for over 30 years. Don’t laugh, but I’ve specified in my will that my ashes are to be spread off Elephant Rock! Tough for whoever has to do it. They need low tide and have to walk in. With those conditions, I’ll probably end up in stored in a cupboard or similar!

    1. Hi Greg, I agree that your request could be a tough ask, but none the less well worthy of the undertaking. A fine location indeed to spread your ashes, as I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful coastal location in Victoria! I think that anyone prepared to release your ashes had better watch out which way the wind is blowing on the day, otherwise they might end up with a mouthful of ‘Greg’ :). Thanks for reading and sharing your comments 🙂 Leah

  4. My favourite picture is the tea-tree scrub. A magical shot. There are some spectacular coastal areas of Victoria. I don’t know why my home state of Queensland gets so much attention for its beaches. I guess it’s the sunny skies. Your photos show what great coastline exists south. And it doesn’t look to be crowded! This is a beautiful write up of your walk and gorgeous photos. It is true that in some areas we have lost more than we have gained in the name of “progress.” We have a great deal to learn from Indigenous cultures.

    1. Hi Jane, thanks for your lovely feedback, as always! I always have preferred rugged coastal scenery to the tame golden beaches of QLD. Of course to me it shouts more loudly about being wild and untamed. I was so lucky on my walk to only encounter about half a dozen people on the beach, and because I lingered, I had it to myself a fair bit of the time, which lent itself to my feeling all the more engulfed in its loveliness and timelessness. I was also very lucky to have had such a lovely sunny winter day to showcase it all in my photos. I will go back though, on a day with some ominous skies and photograph it all again for a different mood. Thanks for reading my post 🙂 Leah

  5. I love the quote you’ve used at the end – I’m sure so many of us can relate to it! Your photos of the tree branches do look wonderfully Tolkien-esque. It must be great to have that type of countryside on your doorstep!

    1. You’re not wrong about being lucky to have such amazing scenery at your doorstep. And the best thing about that is that I can zip off into the wilds whenever I get the chance 🙂 Leah

  6. Hi Leah, this looks like an energising walk! You are blessed with great coastline. Excellent photos and I like what you’re doing with those quotation boxes. I might have to look at that myself when I next get the urge to start tweaking and fiddling. 🙂

    1. Thanks David 🙂 I have been tweaking and fiddling a lot lately on my blog site, ever wanting to make my site work for me the way I want it to. I’m happy one minute then realise that there is something not working the way I want, and off I go in search of another theme….. Good luck with your endeavours 🙂 Leah

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