A SLIGHTLY corrugated dirt road takes me past big old sheoaks and on through open farmland to Pyramid Rock, where the two gentle arcs of Phillip Island’s south coast meet.
To the west, successive headlands stretch around to the Nobbies where Round Island punctuates the island’s western extremity. Two low bumps on the horizon are the islets of Seal Rocks.
I have come to walk the coastal track from Pyramid Rock to Berry’s Beach but can’t begin without first walking to the lookout for a close-up of the pyramid. Unlike the pyramids built by the Egyptians almost five thousand years ago, this one has been shaped by nature through 50 million years.
Pyramid Rock is a rock stack of basalt columns on a platform of pink granite. The basalt columns, formed when lava cooled and contracted, have been sculpted into a pyramid by wind, rain and waves. Some columns have fallen and been tumbled around by storm waves into the boulders now seen at its base.
Near the lookout, white correa (a popular garden plant indigenous to these parts) spreads in large swathes across the cliff-tops. Several wind-pruned heath trees are hunched like medieval monks leaning against the wind.
Looking back towards the land, an old cypress sits in manicured pastures above cliffs that descend abruptly to the rocky shore. Steep slopes carpeted with bright-green bower spinach and succulent noon-flower drop to boulder beaches. A sandy cove peeks between the cliffs, alluring but inaccessible from this precipitous height.
The coastal track starts at the Pyramid Rock car park and follows the cliff-tops to Berry’s Beach. A gravel path leads through glossy boobiallas, a fraction of the size they would reach in a more sheltered place.
The path takes me across open tussock grasslands. I look back to Pyramid Rock’s pretty pink granite skirts then out to the wide blue ocean as it stretches to infinity.
Further along, there is a seat near a patch of sheoaks with views to the shapely bluffs and broad rock platforms that curve around the coast. From here a boardwalk and a stairway take me over a shrub-land of flowering correa and dwarfed paperbarks stunted by salt-laden winds.
Around the half-way point of the walk a striking ochre-red cliff rises from the sea. The soft red rock of Redcliff Head is tuff (pronounced toof) formed from volcanic ash. The sheer strongly-tilted face leans landward and is capped with a baked-hard crust.
Dozens of wallabies browse on grasses and shrubs on the coastal slopes. When they sense me coming they stand on their haunches, little paws resting on tummies, ears pricked, looking alert, until suddenly they bound off in every direction.
I am surprised to see a copperhead snake sunning itself on a tussock grass. It makes no move as I take its photo. Perhaps it is accustomed to walkers or maybe it is making the most of the sunshine before winter sets in.
Rugged headlands wrap around to the west and Berry’s Beach comes into view. The sandy beach is fronted by rocky outcrops and backed by high dunes covered with shrubs, grasses and shearwater rookeries. At the far end of the beach Wild Dog Bluff rises to a tree-less plateau grazed by cattle.
The track follows the lie of the land down to a tiny creek and past some houses to the car park and the lookout above Berry’s Beach.
From the lookout I see Redcliff Head standing high and proud at the eastern end of the beach. I look out to sea, breathe in the salt air and watch the swell roll in. My eyes follow the frothy white lines pushing towards the shore. There’s not a soul around. It is tempting to go down there, walk along the beach and feel the sand under my feet.
As one of Phillip Island’s lesser-known beaches, Berry’s Beach is often deserted. With a little imagination you might think you’d discovered it yourself.
The Pyramid Rock Walking Track is well signposted from the Berry’s Beach car park. The round trip takes at least an hour and is best done in fine weather.