Cape Schanck is about an hour and a half from the Melbourne CBD, and is easy to get to. The Cape has two main drawcards – its lighthouse, and perhaps more dramatic, Pulpit Rock. Pulpit Rock is an igenous monolith that stands off the edge of the coast. It is separated from the mainland by a channel that has been cut away by the rushing waters of Bass Straight – though in low tide, it is possible to wade across (though I would not recommend it).
Location and how to get there
The Google Map above shows the location of car park for Cape Schanck (marked with a “P”) and driving directions from the Melbourne CBD. The route is composed entirely of sealed roads and highways, and is easily drivable at any time of the year and day. As with most destinations outside cities in Australia, when driving in the general area during the early hours of the morning or around sunset, watch for local wildlife – particularly wallabies. Cape Schanck is popular with recreational fisherman, and with tourists who come here to see the lighthouse. There is ample parking for about 60 vehicles at any given time. The location is well sign-posted an is easy to get to. It is located in a National Park; no pets are allowed here. The park has decent toilet facilities open 24 hours a day. Pulpit Rock beyond the end of a boardwalk which is approximately 800m from the car park. It is a gradually descending boardwalk with some steps, but an easy hike for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. To get close to Pulpit Rock, one needs to disembark at the end of the trail and walk a further 200m along the rocky beach on the south-western side of the boardwalk. This walk can be challenging in overcast conditions, as the rocks can tend to be very slippery when wet. At the end of the trail, Pulpit Rock will be directly in front of you. The hike takes about 15 minutes in each direction.
Best times to visit
The location is open all year round. The best time to shoot here is in the summer when the weather is warm, though one will also do well on a clear winter morning. As with most landscape photography locations, the best times to shoot here are at sunrise and sunset. Pulpit Rock looks a lot better in the sunset than it does in the sunrise – just because of the local topography. The weather here is constantly changes, and will frequently turn from fine to inclement (or vice versa) in a matter of minutes .
As with all outdoor locations along the coastline, it’s a good idea to check on the weather and the tides. It is also worth checking on the times for sunrise and sunset. I recommend always having a buddy when attempting to do this trail on your own. This is to ensure your safety. While the walk is mostly easy, it’s not too difficult to roll your ankle on the uneven rocks on the rocky beach. There is safety in numbers in a location such as this. Mobile phones do not work at the edge of the cape, so consider keeping a pair of walkie-talkies handy to keep in communication range among your group.
- Given that you are on the coast, your camera lenses will probably take a beating from the sea spray. I recommend that you carry a towel and some microfiber cloth to keep your lenses clean.
- Tripods are essential.
- Your choice of lens would typically be a wide-angle lens. You may be inclined to shoot from a distance, as there are a range of different compositions in the ear. Lenses with focal lengths in the ranges of 12mm to 200mm would be the preferred selection.
Non Camera Gear
- If you’re planning an early morning or late evening shoot, be sure to carry a flash-light with you.
- While one can negotiate this trail while wearing a pair of sneakers, I recommend wearing a pair of good, solid hiking boots, though you probably will not need hiking poles on this hike.
- Always dress in layers. The weather and temperature constantly changes in this area, and its very easy to suffer from exposure to the elements. As with most of Australia, in the summer, it is imperative that you have sunscreen on you.
- Walking this trail and taking photographs here will take one around an hour to an hour and a half, so plan on having some food and water to keep you going while you are here.