Mornington Peninsula Feb.25-March 4, 2021

B-walker’s perspective.

Covid had hit hard and, of the initial sign-up of some 55 persons, only 13 hung in there, crossed their fingers, watched their deposit evaporate and then made a dash for the Victorian border. The problem wasn’t Victoria as such but the fact we would have to quarantine on our return to SA. So most of us arrived by ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento as ‘Greater Melbourne’ still required facemasks in public places and that restriction reached right down to Sorrento.

So our little band settled into Kangerong Holiday Park, Dromana, most in cabins. All the facilities we needed were within 2 blocks and Port Phillip Bay just a Cooee away.

By Day 1 we had sorted ourselves into B and C walkers with the idea to walk the same distance but at different paces, opposite directions. First we assembled at the base of the privately owned gondola to leave some cars and drop off B walkers who, in true ARPA fashion, ignored the gondola and enjoyed the easy hike uphill to (almost) Arthurs Seat at Eagle Summit. (During the car shuttle back we stopped here for a coffee and view). This north/south direction was known as the Two Bays Walk where we contoured around through bush and forests of shady Manna Gums on well-marked trails. We touched on the outer suburbs of Rosebud South with a little street and reserve walking before continuing on to where the Cs had left cars at our day’s finish, Baldrys Crossing car park.  A comfortable 15.4kms. We were also happy to hear, as of that midnight, the restrictions into SA had thankfully been lifted. 

Day 2 was also mostly in quiet shade under eucalypt trees with abundant undergrowth of chest-high ferns, some grasslands and gullies, and little blue wrens and fantails. As we approached the south coast we could hear the ocean rollers crashing on the beach. Our lunch stop was a little detour down to Bushrangers Beach. Soon we had tantalizing peeks of Cape Schanck, the end point for the Bs. We spent some time here descending the wooden staircase to the rocky platform with a good many other tourists. There is also a lighthouse to check out. It had been 17.2kms this day.

Now we were on the ocean side of the Mornington Peninsula walk, also known as The Coastal Walk, with our car shuttles a little further and more planning involved. As we approached our start next morning, some 600m from the Capes carpark, we couldn’t figure why there were so many cars parked on the road and down a small dirt lane and into a tiny turn around point. The path here was well used with a web of gnarly tree branches above us like a cathedral. Easy walking and very lovely. We could hear the wild surf rolling in but it was sometime before we had quick views of the ocean. Then some surfers passed by, finishing up an early morning surf – which explained all those cars!  It was at the top of a ridge that we got our first full spectacular view of beautifully spaced rollers slowly forming into curlers and groups of tiny black figures grouped waiting for that perfect wave (they all looked perfect to us). This day we also had a detour inland of a few kilometers due to closed unstable trails and parts of the trail had sandy sections but was still interesting walking. As the day wore on we had some basalt outcrops to negotiate but it was the 7kms of beach walking that proved a challenge in soft sand on a warm day. The colours of the ocean were spectacular and the waves crashed onto low brown reefs that caused quick little waterfalls to drain before the next wave. Most of the Cs had shortened their day to do less beach walking but 2 had left cars for the finish of the Bs and had hoped to catch up with their group. It was a very tiring but the Bs finished at Number 16 Beach (how original) after 17kms. 

The rest day was timely. Some did washing and shopping. Some went further afield to wineries/gardens/or out to Point Nepean (Port Phillip Heads) as this was not included in our walking plans. We were lucky in that the weather was perfect in low 20s with cloud cover during our whole stay.

So began Day 4 with lots of beautiful little bays of jagged limestone over sandstone and a great, smooth, wide shelf joining all the bays together. All very well used by the holiday crowds of Sorrento and Portsea. The cliff tops and ridges showed a wild ocean coastline and the history signage of the Life Saving Track to assist shipwrecks.  This day had only 2kms of beach walking on firmer sand. At the end was the Portsea Life Saving Club, a rather sinister building when approached from the SE as it jutted out from the sand cliff but it was obviously designed to withstand whatever the Bass Straight could throw at it. There were many carpark access points to this section and the C’s were able to pull out at intervals and wait for the B vehicles to collect them.  Bs in the meantime continued onto ‘London Bridge’ passing paragliders working a small updraft from the ocean. The walkers then turned inland on a service track towards the Quarantine Station used in the late 1800s to ‘protect the colony of Melbourne from ship borne diseases’  (sound familiar?). 17kms covered.

Days  5 & 6  were easy walking, 17 and 15 kms resp.  From Portsea to Sorrento were many stately homes with short sections of walking paths on the Port Phillip Bay side but not encouraging a walk through. It was easier to simply walk along the beach which most did – all the way towards Dromana. The water here was calm, beautiful, with lots to see. On the ocean side the waves had been 3m high but here were barely 3cm ripples.  Small craft were tethered in the water, the ferry traveled in and out, people walked dogs, there were piers, small sailing clubs and of course the colourful, expensive but tiny boathouses. If one got tired of that view then the group could always move into the foreshore trees and bushes where a haphazard arrangement of campers and caravans dominated any barely flat spot. Some locations had taps and power, some had only taps and some had nothing. This arrangement continued much along the Bay Trail. We stopped at Rye East, the beginning for the last section on day 6. About 2.5kms short of Dromana, the trail turned away from the bay, up a long flight of steps, over the freeway via the Flinders Bridge footbridge and back to the very first start point of the week –  just to be purists and to complete the whole circuit. 

Well done, all. We did have a great time, loved the scenery and challenge. A very big THANK YOU to Elaine and Andrew for all their dedicated work in organising this camp. They now have a heap of information to pass on to Stuart for the proposed repeat in November for all those who obtained credit for their accommodation & ferry cancellations. May they have as much fun and pleasant weather as we did.