The Rhyll Wetlands along the North side of the island are the domain of mangroves and mudflats. Boardwalks loop through the mangroves, saltmarsh and mudflats.
Wading birds fly thousands of kilometers to spend the Summer along the Rhyll Wetlands. You’ll regularly find Spoonbills, Oyster Catchers, Herons, Egrets and Cormorants here.
It’s best to start at Conservation Hill and you can choose to follow the green arrows for a 1.2k easy walk or continue along the track to the seaside fishing village of Rhyll, 4 kilometers away.
A seedling mangrove in a field of pneumatophores – roots of the mangrove tree that extend into the air to absorb oxygen because the mud is oxygen deficient.
Spoonbills open their mouth and sweep it side to side in the water to catch crustaceans, insects or tiny fish.
SUMMERLANDS DRIVE – THE BLVD
The BLVD is a dirt road that runs along the cliff top between the Nobbies and the Penguin Parade. This is a beautiful and rugged coastline. You can either walk the road or drive your car. If driving, start from the Nobbies because a portion of the road is one way and only accessible from the Nobbies entrance.
Wallabies and echidnas are commonly seen along the road. During the winter months, whales pass by the island frequently and can easily be seen from along this road.
Seagull rock – looking back toward Seal Rocks and the Nobbies Centre.
A wallaby poses for the photo opp. There are no kangaroos on the island and the wallaby, the black swamp wallaby, is a distinct sub sepcies with a white tip on the tail.
SUNRISE NEWHAVEN YACHT CLUB
If it’s going to be ‘one of those’ sunrises, then quickly get yourself over to Forrest Ave (right off Phillip Island Rd – just after you cross the bridge on to the island) above the Newhaven Yacht Club.
Best sunrise spot on the island … bar none!
TWO CAVES AT GOLDEN HOUR
Two Caves can be found up along the Cape Woolamai Track, just past the Pinnacles. When the sun is throwing too much glare over The Pinnacles to get a decent shot, head up the track to Two Caves. Two Caves Cliff side faces the Western sun and turns a beautiful gold color with no glare. You’ll get great shots and just as the color fades, you’ve got enough time to hike back down to The Pinnacles and get some even more killer shots.
Rounding the corner to Two Caves just before golden hour.
Golden hour at Two Caves. I was told that in the old days, school boys would canoe into these caves and pick up a few bats and then release them in the movie theatre in San Remo during a Dracula movie – true story!
SUNSET ON WOOLAMAI BEACH
If I had to pick one sunset spot, this is it. Every night is a stunner and when the surf is pumping, you can put surfers in the frame with the golden sky for a magical shot, catch a killer silhouette or the reflections of the clouds in the wet areas. There’s always something happening at Woolamai Beach to keep your shots interesting each time you return.
Lone paddle boarder on an unusually calm night at Woolies.
It’s not always surfers who provide the photo opportunities at Woolies.
The beach at low tide slowly drifts back into the surf providing a very wide wet platform for some awesome reflections.
SUNRISE AT PANHANDLE FLATS
Sunrise is always tricky around the island. In most locations the sunrise is blocked from view and the aspect is less than scenic. However, down at Panhandle Flats (see the Trek on how to get there) the sunrise can be spectacular.
Combine the sunrise with a big swell or high tide and you get the combination of massive crashing waves and gorgeous colour in the sky. Don’t miss this opportunity!
Looking directly East.
Just before the splash hit. I recommended weatherproof gear if you get in this close. Also, always watch the conditions for big unexpected waves.
SUNSET AT CADILLAC CANYON
And to make a day out of it, just across from Panhandle Flats, on the opposite end of the beach is Cadillac Canyon. From this vantage point you look straight into the rock canyon out to the setting sun. The sun sets behind Cape Woolamai but if there’s colour in the sky, it results in very dramatic shots.
Be careful of the conditions here. The best shooting location along the Canyon is also right in the middle of the splash zone. If you get knocked off these rocks, you’ll be in dire straights. Never take your eye off that swell coming into the Canyon.
This was taken just off the Cadillac Canyon rocks.
MILKY WAY AT THE S.S. SPEKE
The S.S. Speke is a fantastic place to shoot at any time. The bow of the old iron sailing ship sits on the limestone reef pointed up at the sky as a last act of defiance before being consumed by the sea.
But, to get to the Speke at low tide, on a night of a new moon when the core of the Milky Way is visible, is beyond belief! To get the shot, you’ll need to do some serious preplanning.
First check the tide conditions for a low tide during the night. To check the tide for the current month for Kitty Miller Bay, try this link http://tides.willyweather.com.au/vic/gippsland/san-remo.html . Remember you want the low tide to occur at the time you plan to be there. As the tide increases, water surrounds the Speke and you may end up with cold wet feet!
Then check the moon phase. A new moon will allow you to get more stars and a better shot of the Milky Way but you can also get some killer shots on the full – the full moon provides light to get more detail and colour out of the old iron wreck. Here’s a link to get the moon phase for any date in the current month http://moonphases.willyweather.com.au/vic/gippsland/san-remo.html
Then, finally, check where the Milky Way will be during the time you are out there. The Milky Way moves through the sky during the night and it’s core is not visible during summer months. You can track the Milky Way through the months, nights and hours using the Photographers Ephemeris iOS and Android APP or using the desktop interface here http://photoephemeris.com/tpe-for-desktop
This wreck looks amazing in most any light.
BLUE HOUR AT THE PINNACLES
This is the island’s Photography Holy Grail – just after sunset with a sky on fire and the majestic Pinnacles rising out of the water. It really doesn’t get much better than this and it’s such a unique location. There’s really not much more that can be said, a picture speaks more than words here.
The Pinnacles can only be reached by a 30 minute hike along the Woolamai Track from the Woolamai Beach car park. See the Pinnacles Trek to get more details on how to get there.
RETURN OF THE SHEARWATERS – MAGICLANDS
The number one shot on the island may surprise most. It’s rarely talked about and even more rarely captured in images.
The Short-tailed Shearwaters are residents on the island for six months. About a million arrive around the 28th of September from Alaska and the Bering Strait. They nest in burrows along the south coastline of the island. In Cape Woolamai, there are hundreds of thousands of them. So many that along the Woolamai Track, the ground looks like the surface of a golf ball with so many shearwater burrows next to each other. They cover almost the whole of the tip of the cape.
During the Summer months, the Shearwaters exit their burrows just before sunrise and venture out on the ocean and spend all day feeding on krill. At the end of the day, just after sunset, they return en masse to their burrows filling the sky like a black cloud.
The best shot of the returning Shearwaters can be taken at Magiclands, that’s around the stairs that lead up to the Woolamai Track at the far end of the beach (Southeast end of the beach). Wait on the beach until sunset and you’ll see them approaching on the horizon. After the sun sets, they be up in the air and all around you. They are very difficult to capture after sunset because they fly very fast and there is little light.
Please be careful around the Shearwaters and their burrows. Stay on the Woolamai Track if you are on it. If you get off the Woolamai Track there is a very high likelihood you’ll put a foot through the roof of a burrow and crush or injure birds. Also, do not use flash photography because this will overly stress the birds. Some think the penguins are the feature critter on the island but I would argue that the returning Shearwaters are equally, if not more impressive, residents on the island which is why they are my number one.
This is a local surfing legend. I asked him on this night if the Shearwaters ever get close to him while he is on the wave. He said they ‘surf’ the air just above and behind the wave and he often thinks he is about to collide with one – they zoom past his head so close he can feel them rush by. It’s one of the many quirks of surfing at Woolies.
All images by Dale & Cecilia Rogers – Photo Rangers