UPDATE JAN 2017: Local council recently voted to build a fence to close this site to the public. Whilst there may be a delay in actioning this, hopeful visitors will likely meet an officer who will be in place to explain the safety, environmental and cultural reasons for the decision. More information here.
It seems the latest craze to sweep Melbourne this past summer was cliff jumping. Everywhere I looked on Social Media, people were either tip-toeing cautiously towards cliff-edges or jumping joyously off them, squealing as they plunged into blue, crystalline waters.
We all know Melbourne is synonymous with style, food, art and culture – but cliff jumping? Definitely not! Regardless, it seems the cat is well and truly out of the bag, with the Pillars at Mt Martha becoming a major tourist attraction all of their own. Once upon a time it was Victoria’s best kept secret, but when Nat Geo named the Mornington Peninsula amongst their top 20 trips of 2015, it seems the Pillars was one of the first hidden spots to get caught up by the sweep of out-of-town visitors – which now includes Nat and I.
In the summer months, as we watched jealously on Instagram, the small cliffside’s weekend atmosphere resembled something like what you might find on Bondi or Byron, with people lazily lounging in groups between jumps, jet skis and boats buzzing about the peaceful bay while others paddle about on Tay-Tay approved floatation devices just past the realm of jumpers.
I have posted a preview of the Insta party below for your convenience:
Obviously Nat and I wanted a piece of this action.
Luckily for everyone involved, March is set to be a scorcher for Melbourne, so hopefully there’s still some days left to milk this amazing location for everything it’s worth. Even if it’s too cold to get in the water, it’s fantastic to see what many say is the closest Australia gets to Southern France.
So, without further ado:
1. Mt Martha is located beach side on the Esplanade, directly between Marguerita Avenue and Deakin Drive. You’ll find the map here. Insider Tip: If your Maps App fails you, once you’ve passed the main township of Mt Martha, keep a very close eye on the street names on your left. There’s no signage for the Pillars so they aren’t as easy as it would seem to locate. If you miss Marguerita Avenue or Deakin Drive, then continue to watch the street signs to your left. If you’re driving and you see Bradford Road on the corner, you’ve gone too far. Make a u-turn and head back until you find Deakin Drive. In addition to the nil signage, there’s very limited parking, so I would definitely recommend car pooling, or even seeing you can get a drop-off or public transport.
2. Once you are walking up the Esplanade, towards Marguerita Avenue, small tracks to your right will appear in the scrub. Choose one that seems well used and follow it down towards the ocean. Insider tip: Be careful when walking beside the road as there is limited space for pedestrians and no barriers whatsoever between you and the vehicles on a winding road.
3. Follow the track down the ocean and eventually you’ll arrive at the Pillars! It should only be around five minutes before you see them so if it’s taking any longer grab your phone if possible and re-assess exactly where you are. Insider tip: If you don’t have internet, turn back to the road and see if there are any other adventurers walking roadside to see where they’re heading (we were lost until we found fellow wanderers). Trust me, the chance of finding people with the same issue are high if it’s a nice day!
Once you’re there, a couple of handy things to know:
The track does become really steep for a short time just before you step on the cliffs so take a backpack to leave your hands free to help you down safely. If you’re bringing floaties, maybe consider pumping them up once you’re there! There are zero bins, so please take your rubbish with you!
If you cliff jump, ever, you do so at your own risk. This area is technically un-patrolled by life guards and very recently a girl had to be rescued after hitting her head attempting a backflip. Jump feet-first and I would always recommend only jumping if others around you are doing so safely. We actually visited just after low-tide and my feet were touching the bottom. Whilst there were many people jumping freely, obviously with the water this shallow if someone decided to take a swan-dive they could very seriously/fatally injure themselves.
Once in the water, you are required to climb back up the cliffs. This is not overly difficult, but if you are not confident climbing on wet rocks, I can imagine this would be a little bit nerve-wracking. In addition, to stand up prior to ascending the short climb, there is a bank of rocks just below the water which you are required to heave yourself onto at low-tide.
If even very small and gentle waves are hitting the cliffs, these can push you onto the rocks and several people were walking about with small grazes and cuts as a result. FYI – I’m pretty sure I looked like a walrus heaving myself onto the rock in between waves. If this whole situation doesn’t sound ideal to you, I would check Willy’s weather and head to the Pillars between low and high tide for a simpler exit-strategy from the water.
When you’re ready to see something else beautiful, it’s time to visit Part 2 of my guide to Melbourne’s best cliff jumping spots – the Blairgowrie Jumping Rock in Bridgewater Bay.