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Cape Schanck Walk To Pulpit Rock (Plus 2 Trail Extensions)

Cape Schanck Walk To Pulpit Rock (Plus 2 Trail Extensions)

Cape Schanck is easily one of the most picturesque and scenic parts of the Mornington Peninsula. And, there’s one standout way to experience this little slice of rugged Victoria. It’s by doing the quick and simple walk from the Cape Schanck Lighthouse to Pulpit Rock, along the wooden boardwalk.

In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to visit Pulpit Rock from Cape Schanck. We’ll also include two longer route variations to Bushrangers Bay and Gunnamatta Beach, should you be interested in seeing a little more of this beautiful coastline, which you definitely should consider.

For nearby coastal walks, read our Wilsons Prom Hiking Guide

About Cape Schanck

Cape Schanck, also known as Tunnahan to the Bunurong Aboriginal people, is a picturesque area of the Mornington Peninsula, forming its southernmost tip. The interesting rock formations around Cape Schanck, including that of Pulpit Rock, are shaped by the wild waters of the Bass Strait. Indeed, Cape Schanck is constantly battered by strong winds and crashing waves, making this area feel rugged and remote, despite its proximity to Melbourne.

Surrounding Cape Schanck, as well as beginning from Cape Schanck, are numerous coastal trails and clifftop walks. Indeed, this is one part of the Mornington Peninsula that you won’t want to miss. Including, that is, a visit to its famous lighthouse.

Cape Schanck Lighthouse

The Cape Schanck Lighthouse is a tall column of bright white that has proudly stood in this landscape since 1859. Next to the lighthouse is the Cape Schanck Museum. Both of these buildings fall within the Cape Schanck Scenic Reserve in the Mornington Peninsula National Park.

If you’re interested, tours of this historic monument are available. But, you should check for any recent closures or restoration work taking place before visiting.

Where Is Cape Schanck?

Cape Schanck is located at the southern tip of the Mornington Peninsula in the state of Victoria, Australia. At just 100km away, Cape Schanck is within easy reach of Melbourne, making it a great day trip or overnight stay.

To help get your bearings, please click on the image below to access an interactive map of the area on Google Maps.

Cape Schanck map
Map of Cape Schanck

Cape Schanck Walk Overview

This loop walk from the Cape Schanck Lighthouse to Pulpit Rock along the boardwalk can be walked in either direction. So, beginning from the Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve Car Park, you can first visit the Cape Schanck Lighthouse, before continuing the trail down toward the tip of Cape Schanck and Pulpit Rock. Or, vice versa.

The Cape Schanck walk to Pulpit Rock is a wonderful short track that provides fine views of the southern point of the Mornington Peninsula. After we’ve described this trail, we’ll briefly detail two extended walk variations.

Best Cape Schanck Viator Tour

Cape Schanck
  • Cape Schanck Lighthouse
  • Bushrangers Bay
  • Mornington Peninsula hot springs

Cape Schanck Walk to Pulpit Rock

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 2km
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 140m
  • Difficulty: Grade 2
  • Trailhead: Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve Car Park
  • Map: AllTrails
The Cape Schanck walking trail map

Cape Schanck Boardwalk to Pulpit Rock

Either from the car park or after visiting the Cape Schanck Lighthouse, the trail joins a beautiful boardwalk of long planked platforms including wooden steps and ramps. The walk is open and picturesque as it descends down to Black Rock Beach and Pulpit Rock beyond.

In wet weather, this boardwalk can be extremely slippery. And, we should know! I’m not sure we could have experienced worse weather. If you need to resort to a little comedy shuffle to reach the bottom of the Cape Schanck boardwalk, then just go with it. Certainly, we weren’t the only walkers out enjoying the Cape Schanck walk in the rain.

The views are outstanding as you descend the Cape Schanck boardwalk toward Pulpit Rock. The impressive rock structure which protrudes so abruptly from the crashing sea looks ridiculously impressive. Its pulpit shape looms large to the right as you follow the walking trail down Cape Schanck.

The brilliant greens and burnt oranges of the rocky cliff faces are vibrant and almost unnaturally colourful. It’s quite amazing. In fact, the background canvas of a moody sky really helps to elevate its lushness. So, don’t be afraid to walk Cape Schanck to Pulpit Rock in rainy weather.

At the end of the Cape Schanck boardwalk, you’ll find access to a small pebbly cove at the foot of Pulpit Rock. The landscape feels volcanic. You can head across the black pebble beach to get closer to Pulpit Rock. But, bear in mind, that you’ll need to be aware of tidal times and the weather, as unpredictable and crashing waves are not uncommon around Cape Schanck and Pulpit Rock. Rest assured, Pulpit Rock still looks magnificent from the safety of the pebble beach and lower steps of the Cape Schanck boardwalk.

Cape Schanck walk to Pulpit Rock

Return Walk to Cape Schanck Lighthouse

Navigating the steps and boardwalk back up to the trailhead is straightforward. Although again, take care if it’s been raining and the path is wet. For Dan and I, passing other visitors in the rain was mildly amusing as we slid by one another.

At the top of the Cape Schanck boardwalk, you’ll rejoin a sandy trail. Take the trail to the right to complete a loop back to the Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve Car Park. The path here ducks in and out of tree cover, playing peek-a-boo with the views out across to Angel Cove.

Cape Schanck viewpoint along the walk

Extended Cape Schanck Walks

Certainly, taking the boardwalk down to Pulpit Rock at Cape Schanck is one of the best short walks to do on a visit to this part of the Mornington Peninsula. But, it’s possible to extend the Cape Schanck walk to see more natural attractions in the area. Below are two of our favourite extended routes.

Cape Schanck to Bushrangers Bay Walk

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 7km
  • Time: 1.5–2 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 130m
  • Difficulty: Grade 3
  • Trailhead: Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve Car Park
  • Map: AllTrails

The Cape Schanck to Bushrangers Bay walk begins from the same Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve Car Park. You can either follow the above Cape Schanck to Pulpit Rock Walk at either the start or end of the walk.

From the Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve Car Park, it’s an easy path to follow and a popular track to Bushrangers Bay. The official walking trail for this section of the Cape Schanck to Bushrangers Bay walk is the Two Bays Walking Track. You’ll find the trailhead located next to the public toilets in the car park.

The trail is around 3km to Bushrangers Bay, following an extremely picturesque clifftop walk. The walking trail can be a little muddy if it’s been wet. As the trail begins to descend towards Bushrangers Bay, you’ll detour onto some wooden steps leading down to the golden sand.

Bushrangers Bay is a lovely beach to hike to. It feels rough and rugged around the edges. In fact, for us, it perfectly suited the stormy weather we experienced. Navigating Main Creek, which is a small estuary of water at the entrance to the beach, you can wander across the beautiful sandy beach towards the Bushrangers Bay rock pools.

The tidal rock pools at Bushrangers Bay are some of the most exquisite in Victoria. Flanked by volcanic rock formations and towering cliff walls, certainly they’re the perfect place to relax after a walk from Cape Schanck to Bushrangers Bay.

Simply return the way you came back to Cape Schanck to complete the walk.

Bushrangers Bay and Cape Schanck Walk Variation

The Bushrangers Bay Track to Cape Schanck can also be started from the Bushrangers Bay Parking Area on Boneo Road. This 12km out-and-back walk to Cape Schank via Bushrangers Bay is a wonderful longer walk variation, passing through a eucalypt and banksia forest. Click here if you’d like to see the trail map for this longer Cape Schanck and Bushrangers Bay walk.

Bushrangers Bay walk in Mornington Peninsula
Bushrangers Bay in Mornington Peninsula

Cape Schanck Walk to Gunnamatta Beach

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 16km
  • Time: 3.5–4 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 270m
  • Difficulty: Grade 4
  • Trailhead: Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve Car Park
  • Map: AllTrails

The Cape Schanck walk to Gunnamatta Beach covers a section of Mornington Peninsula’s well-known Coastal Walk. So, if you don’t have the time, or inclination, to walk the full 30km one-way track, then walking from Cape Schanck to Gunnamatta Beach is the perfect section to experience a slice of this fantastic walk.

Similar to the Bushrangers Bay walk, you can either take the boardwalk to Pulpit Rock at the start or end of the walk. But, given the length of the Cape Schanck to Gunnamatta Beach walk, you might prefer to keep them as two separate walks, which is exactly what we did.

Because of the length of the trail, any elevation gain feels minimal, which is nice. The path is mostly dirt with the odd sand section, obviously making hiking a little tougher at times.

Cape Schanck to Fingal Beach

From the Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve Car Park, head north back up Cape Schanck Road, before joining the Coastal Walk trail on your left. This stretch of the Coastal Walk ducks in and out of the tree cover, revealing stunning viewpoints down the Mornington Peninsula coastline. Certainly, you might even make out Gunnamatta Beach in the distance.

After around 2km on this trail, you’ll reach a fork in the track from where you can either head left and down to Fingal Beach, or stick right and continue along the Coastal Walk toward Gunnamatta Beach. If you decide to head down to Fingal Beach, you can either visit as a quick out and back, to simply scope out the beach. Or, alternatively, you can continue the Cape Schanck walk to Gunnamatta Beach along Fingal Beach. But, be sure to check the tide times to ensure there’s access around the headland joining the beaches together.

Personally, Dan and I decided to stick to the Coastal Walk from Cape Schanck to Gunnamatta Beach.

Cape Schanck to Gunnamatta Beach coastal walk
Cape Schanck walk to Gunnamatta Beach

Gunnamatta Beach

The Coastal Walk from Cape Schanck eventually winds down to sea level and emerges at the southern end of Gunnamatta Beach. From here, you can explore as much of the beach as you like. Indeed, you can even walk all the way to the northern end of Gunnamatta Beach to visit the Gunnamatta Surf Life Saving Club. Certainly, it’s convenient to make use of the toilet facilities there.

Gunnamatta Beach is vast and beautiful. The fresh ocean breeze and golden sandbanks surrounded by the forest make for a lovely mid-point attraction of the walk from Cape Schanck. The seafront around the surf club is patrolled, so it’s perfect for a quick swim. Or, just lie out on the sand and watch the resident surfers do their thing.

To return, simply rejoin the Coastal Walk track back to Cape Schanck. Alternatively, if the tide is low, walk to Fingal Beach and pick up the Coastal Walk from there.

Dan and Beck enjoying Gunnamatta Beach in the rain

Useful Things to Know Before You Go

So, now you know about the Cape Schanck to Pulpit Rock walk and two excellent extended route options, let’s look at a few useful things to know before visiting.

How to Get to Cape Schanck

The easiest way to get to Cape Schanck is to drive there yourself. From Melbourne, you’re looking at around a 1.5 hour drive. So, this makes a day trip to Cape Schanck for the walk to Pulpit Rock very easy to do. You’ll need to follow the M11 south, all the way to Rosebud in the Mornington Peninsula, before heading left along the C777. From here, you’ll follow this road all the way to Cape Schanck, before heading right on the Cape Schanck Road.

There is no public transport that goes to Cape Schanck and the lighthouse to begin the walk. So, if you don’t have access to your own vehicle, we recommend hiring one.

Car Hire

If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.

To find out more about renting a car with Discover Cars, read our Discover Cars review and Discover Cars Insurance review.

Cape Schanck Parking and Facilities

You can park at the Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve Car Park for all of the walks mentioned above. There are spacious public toilets here too, which also double up as changing rooms.

How Many Steps Are There at Cape Schanck?

In case you’re wondering, there are 439 steps to walk down to reach Pulpit Rock from Cape Schanck. And of course, you’ll need to walk back up them too.

How Long Is the Cape Schanck Walk?

The Cape Schanck boardwalk down to Pulpit Rock and back shouldn’t take longer than an hour.

Cape Schanck clifftop views

Other Mornington Peninsula Walks

The Mornington Peninsula is a stunning part of the Victorian coastline in Australia. Certainly, there are plenty of walks to choose from, and below are a handful of our favourites.

  • London Bridge Lookout: enjoy a short and easy stroll to a wonderful lookout over the fantastic London Bridge rock formation in Portsea, Mornington Peninsula.
  • Coppins Track to Diamond Bay: a fantastic historical walk, tracing the history of the area, running between Sorrento and the beautiful Diamond Bay.
  • Cape Schanck Coastal Walk: The Coastal Walk spans the southern edge of Mornington Peninsula from Cape Schanck to London Bridge. It’s a beautiful 30 km one-way walk that encompasses the Coppins Track, Gunnamatta Beach and Cape Schanck.

Read more: Mornington Peninsula Walks: 5 Wonderful Coastal Trails

London Bridge Portsea in Mornington Peninsula
London Bridge, Portsea

Gear Essentials

Below are our top hiking gear essentials for any Cape Schanck walk in the Mornington Peninsula. You should also pack snacks and sunscreen.

Osprey Skarab 30
Osprey Skarab 30

The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.

Osprey Ultralight Raincover
Osprey Ultralight Raincover

A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.

GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle

The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.

BUFF Original Ecostretch
BUFF Original Ecostretch

The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.

Sony Cybershot RX100 VII
Sony Cybershot RX100 VII

Capture epic photos and videos with the Sony Cybershot RX100 VII. This is hands-down the best compact camera. We love using this simple point-and-shoot camera when we’re hiking as it’s lightweight and durable.

To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.

Bonus Tips

  • No dogs allowed: unfortunately, you’ll have to leave the pooch at home as dogs are not allowed for walks at Cape Schanck.
  • Crowd Control: the Mornington Peninsula can get very busy on the weekends. So, try to visit mid-week or early in the day to experience quieter walking trails.
  • Weather: don’t be put off by the weather! Certainly, Cape Schanck and Mornington Peninsula are beautiful whatever the weather.
  • More of Victoria: some of our favourite places in Victoria include exploring the Great Ocean Road, The Grampians and of course, Wilsons Prom.

What’s your favourite trail to see Cape Schanck and Pulpit Rock? Let us know in the comments below.

We acknowledge and respect the First Nations people as the Traditional Custodians of the land/water that we visited and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Beck Piggott

With an art and design based background, Beck uses photography and writing to help inspire readers to climb mountains, hike coastal trails and chase waterfalls around the globe.

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