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Cape Schanck and Bushranger Bay

Home > Melbourne > Beaches | Day Trips | Escape the City | Travel | Walks
by Ian Gill (subscribe)
I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published August 7th 2017
Coastal History Hot Spot
The Mornington Peninsula is one of Victoria's most picturesque regions and high on its list of popular tourist sites is Cape Schanck, named in 1800 by Lieutenant James Grant and renowned for its spectacular coastal views and maritime history.

The Cape, in fact most of the Mornington Peninsula, resulted from the accumulation of sand and shells left behind as the sea level receded during the last Ice Age, combining to form the local limestone.

Victoria Melbourne Mornington Peninsula Cape Schanck Lighthouse Lighthouses Light Station Walking Trails Bush Walks
Built in 1859 Cape Schanck Lighthouse highlights a rugged but very picturesque landscape. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank


Today Cape Schanck is probably best known for its lighthouse, built in 1859 using locally quarried limestone. The lighthouse is 21 metres tall and sited 80 metres above sea level.

Tours of the historic lighthouse are conducted daily 10 AM to 4 PM costing Adults $16, Children (5 to 16 years) $9, and a Family (2A 2C) $42. The ticket price includes admission to the museum.

Victoria Melbourne Mornington Peninsula Cape Schanck Lighthouse Lighthouses Light Station Walking Trails Bush Walks
The rugged coastline in these parts is a magnet for visitors and particularly popular with bush-walkers. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank.


But there's also another story here, that of nearby Bushranger Bay.

In 1853 a small ship anchored in the tiny bay immediately east of Cape Schanck and two men were put ashore.

Patrick O'Connor and Henry Bradley were former convicts turned bushrangers who had terrorised communities along Tasmania's north coast and killed a local squatter. It was there, on September 15th 1853, they came upon a small vessel, the SOPHIA, anchored in the Inglis River at Wynyard. The two armed rogues boarded the SOPHIA and forced her captain to set sail for the Port Phillip district.

Four days later they landed at what is now known as Bushranger Bay and headed for Melbourne, plundering properties at Brighton, Richmond and Prahran on the way. In one raid they shot and killed a grazier, Robert Howe, before being captured at Kilmore. They were tried and finally hanged at Melbourne on October 24th 1853.

The SOPHIA's captain was also arrested and charged with bringing felons into the colony.

Victoria Melbourne Mornington Peninsula Cape Schanck Lighthouse Lighthouses Light Station Walking Trails Bush Walks
The 3 Kilometer walking trail to Bushranger Bay descends about 80 meters to sea level under a canopy of coastal vegetation. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank


Main Creek and a sweeping sandy beach, both at the western extremity of Bushranger Bay, are accessible from the Cape Schanck parking area via a 3km walking track. The leisurely two-hour round trip is a popular diversion with visitors and ideal for the novice bushwalker.

Initially the walk crosses fairly open ground close to the cliff face and provides a number of spectacular views. The grazing land immediately to the north was part of the original Barrabang run, one of two cattle properties established in the 1830's by Charles Campbell.

From the high ground the track descends to sea level and much of the walk is conducted under a canopy of thick coastal vegetation. It ends where Main Creek enters the sea and a broad expanse of white sand stretches several hundred metres to the east.

Victoria Melbourne Mornington Peninsula Cape Schanck Lighthouse Lighthouses Light Station Walking Trails Bush Walks
Bushranger Bay is a mix of rock-strewn shoreline and sweeping sandy beaches. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank


Cape Schanck is an attraction worthy of an extended visit but also one which can easily be covered in half a day or less. 105 kilometres southeast of Melbourne, it's about a 90-minute drive from the CBD via the Monash Freeway, Eastlink and the Mornington Peninsula Freeway.

Victoria Melbourne Mornington Peninsula Cape Schanck Lighthouse Lighthouses Light Station Walking Trails Bush Walks
The highlight of any visit to this part of Victoria has to be a tour of the historic Cape Schanck Lighthouse. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
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Why? Be stunned by magnificent coastal scenery and intrigued by some of Cape Schanck's rich, and sometimes bloodthirsty, history.
When: Cape Schanck Lighthouse is open daily between 10 AM and 4 PM.
Phone: (03) 5988 6184
Where: 420 Cape Schanck Road, Cape Schanck
Cost: A tour of the lighthouse costs Adults $16, Children (5 to 16 years) $9 and a Family (2A 2C) $42. Ticket price includes admission to the museum.
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