Red Rock Beach

Bass Strait Tourer 21st and 22nd April – 2012

Participants:
Colin, Margaret & Kerri Ritchie
Wayne & Christine Scholes
Tom Sebastian
Michael & Jan Martin (2nd day)

Day 1

Margaret Ritchie reports:

With a very grey start to the day, we all set off from the bakery (where else) at Granville and travelled down the highway towards Phillip Island. The day was designed to be very relaxing looking at some of the interesting sights and finding some of the fauna and flora around Phillip Island.
We took a short detour just before San Remo to admire the view from the top of a hill overlooking Westernport Bay. Due to fog and mist, this was a bit of a fizzer, but a good view of Cape Woolamai could be seen. It was then in to the back of San Remo and across the bridge to Newhaven, where we were to pick up our volunteer guide for the day. My daughter Kerri has lived on the Island for some time and was a ranger with the National Park for many years, so she has a good knowledge of the area.
A short trip across the road from the Information Centre is the Chocolate Factory. Too much to choose from and a little pricey, but we had been told their curries are very good. From there we made a quick stop at the Koala Conservation Centre, where Kerri told us a bit of the history of some of the original vegetation still standing there. She also spoke of the koalas on the Island and why their numbers are declining.
Cowes was next and we had a short drive down the main street, then walked out to the end of the jetty.
By then it was time for lunch, so we were on the move again to Red Rocks Beach. This spot is only a short distance from where Kerri lives, so Colin and I know this beach very well. It is a very good picnic area with toilet facilities and amazing views across to the Mornington Peninsula. We had the whole area to ourselves and got the cameras clicking.
Red Rock Beach
After lunch, a walk along the beach was a must. As we were walking, we could hear gunfire from the Naval Training Academy (Cerberus) just across the bay. Luckily, they weren’t pointing our way! Following this very relaxing lunch stop, we headed off towards Swan Lake. This is the only freshwater lake on the Island and abounds with birdlife. While the others walked into the lake, I waited in the information area. Even in that small area, I saw wrens, spinebills, honeyeaters, thornbills, red browed finches and the list goes on. There were birds everywhere.
When the others returned, they reported they had spotted many different birds, including one which required homework as no-one could identify it.
(Later that night, Colin and Kerri and a bird identification book, decided it was a white fronted chat, a bird not usually seen in the area.)

After Swan Lake, it was a short drive down to the famous Nobbies for a stroll along the boardwalk.

Most of the nesting birds had left the area at this time of the year and unfortunately, there were no late chicks left to see. We spent some time in the Nobbies Centre watching the seals out on the rocks via cameras placed out there. Their gift shop also attracted our members.

From the Nobbies, we followed a little known road around the coast that cuts through the old Summerlands Estate. The Government has been gradually buying back these lots for more than twenty years and has finally removed the last house from the penguin colony. The work being done to re-introduce the penguins to the area is obvious, with new nesting boxes and grasses planted everywhere. From the cliff overlooking Summerland Bay, where the penguins come in every night of the year just after sunset, Kerri gave us some information on the Little (or Fairy) penguin. Did you know that they always swim west towards Phillip Bay from Phillip Island? Or that they can stay at sea for up to three weeks and that they mate for life?
There is a count done by the rangers of the penguins as they come ashore each night. The count for the night before was 1,156. The count is done from the minute the first group of five or more penguins crosses the beach and the count lasts for fifty minutes. Why fifty minutes? As Kerri explained, most of the birds come ashore within that time. All across the area, there are many thousands of penguins coming ashore on any night, but only those at the parade stands are counted. From this count, the rangers are able to assess whether there are any problems with the colony.
The view from above the Penguin Parade is quite spectacular. One can look back along the coast towards Cape Woolamai and Pyramid Rock in the distance.

Back on the main road, we passed the famous and very beautiful Phillip Island Grand Prix Motor Racing Track. There were races taking place, but we were unable to stop and watch as it was getting a bit late in the day and tents still had to be erected.
We said our goodbyes for the day at the Newhaven Information Centre and took our guide back to her car.
Wayne, Chris and Tom were all staying at the caravan park in Newhaven, so they didn’t have far to travel. Colin and I headed home to Wonthaggi, about thirty five minutes away.
By the way, if you have ever wondered why some of the dead kangaroos along the side of a road have a pink cross on them, it is to tell others that their pouches have been checked to make sure there are no live young in them. If a young joey is found alive, it is taken to a volunteer wildlife shelter and, hopefully, reared to adulthood whereupon it is released back in the area where it was found.

Day 2

Christine Scholes reports:

Sunday morning started for us at about 5.00am with a huge thunder clap right over the top of us. It was followed by heavy rain. Great! Now we would have a wet tent to pack up. By brekkie time, the rain had eased back to a light drizzle. But we still had a messy pack up, so much so, that we were a bit late for our meeting time.
After meeting the others at Bass, where Michael and Jan Martin joined the trip, the group left at 10.30am, which wasn’t too bad all things considered.
Kilcunda Beach Our morning trip took us to the new desalination plant, then on to Kilcunda Beach, the trestle bridge and finally to the State Coal Mine historic No.20 shaft.
Here, in 1937, thirteen miners were killed in an underground collapse. (After living in the area for many years, this was the first time our trip leader Margaret had been there.)
From there it was on to the Wonthaggi Information Centre and then collected Molly, Colin and Margaret’s dog. She joined us for the afternoon. Our lunch stop was at the State Coal Mine picnic area, a pleasant relaxing stop.
After lunch, we went through the museum, which was most interesting (and free!) and saw the most amazing vegetable garden and chicken run. I wish it was mine! It was then back on the road and off to Eagles Nest to view the coastline from Venus Bay to Inverloch. We left the coast and travelled north through the most beautiful rolling green hills through Kongwak, Glen Alvie and on to Kernot. Here we stopped for afternoon tea among the quaint inhabitants of Gnomesville, Frog Hollow and Fairy Dell.
During our break, Margaret received a phone call from Kerri with the news that a heavy thunder storm was heading our way. We quickly decided to call it a day and head off on our separate ways home. It was a disappointing end to what had been an interesting and great day.

Thanks to Colin, Margaret and Kerri (and Molly) for a well planned trip.