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Fossicking at Phillip Island

Fossicking at Phillip Island is more of a rock treasure hunt than a dig. As Phillip Island is a National Park and there are colonies of penguins that use the island as their home, you are not supposed to use a rock hammer, dig or take home specimens to add to your rock collection.

But you can go out for a great afternoon walk to find all the interesting rocks and formations around Kitty Miller Bay and Kennon Head. A visit to the Speke shipwreck and Seal Rocks is also great fun and free! As a lapidary club trip, it is quite a good walk and since there is some clambering over rocks, it is best that only healthy adults with a good ability to bend their knees make the journey.

Brown agate in basalt at Kitty Miller Bay.
Brown agate in basalt at Kitty Miller Bay. | Source

Getting Started

There’s nothing quite like the sea breeze, mild weather and an interesting beach to get the gem fossicking juices flowing…except prospecting for the exact X which marks the spot! Go in summer for the best weather, as sunny days make it easier to see the gemstones and enjoy the scenery.

Arriving at Kitty Miller Bay, head west towards Kennon Head to look for southern and western basalt dykes that are of geological interest. It’s about a 1km walk over rocks so wear very strong shoes (Blundstones or sneakers are good) and carry a drink, hat and some sunscreen.

The northernmost area of Kitty Miller Bay.
The northernmost area of Kitty Miller Bay. | Source
Basalt cliffs east of Kennon Head - where you can find calcite and zeolite mineral deposits.
Basalt cliffs east of Kennon Head - where you can find calcite and zeolite mineral deposits. | Source

Kennon Head Calcite/Zeolite

Upon reaching the easternmost basalt dyke of Kennon Head, you can find some calcite/zeolite nodules buried in the igneous rock.

There are some nice (but small) crystals as well as some bluish spots in the stone which I believe might be chalcedony.

Feel free to return here and leave a comment if you believe it is something else - I'd love to hear if you have a better idea than me about what the blue minerals are!

Dried calcite (calcium carbonate) and zeolite nodule in basalt - lots of fine and clear gemstone crystals inside.
Dried calcite (calcium carbonate) and zeolite nodule in basalt - lots of fine and clear gemstone crystals inside. | Source
Fishermen standing on the top of the interesting columnar jointed basalt display. Photo taken facing Watt Point from Kennon Head.
Fishermen standing on the top of the interesting columnar jointed basalt display. Photo taken facing Watt Point from Kennon Head. | Source
More calcite/zeolite pockets in basalt.
More calcite/zeolite pockets in basalt. | Source

Basalt Dyke Formations & Inspection

Rounding the easternmost point, you can see a huge basalt valley of (you guessed it) more rocks to clamber over and a fine example of columnar jointed basalt which looks like towers/steps. Fisherman often come to fish off the basalt towers and would love a quick chat.

Further to the south is one of the recommended dykes from old lapidary texts, which, when inspected, contain a “ring” across the dyke of embedded calcite/zeolite mineral nodules in basalt, but hardly any crystals. The calcite/zeolite is not as impressive as those on the easternmost dyke but you’ll have fun finding the ring!

On this occasion, I decided to give the western dyke a miss (as I’d already spent 2 hours walking to get to this point) and headed back to the cliff base of Kennon Head.

A mysterious find. I have no idea what this red crystal is and it doesn't look like anything mentioned in the historical lapidary texts.
A mysterious find. I have no idea what this red crystal is and it doesn't look like anything mentioned in the historical lapidary texts. | Source
The small but steep cliff you'll climb to get to the chamber.
The small but steep cliff you'll climb to get to the chamber. | Source

The Breached Zeolite Chamber

At the top of the cliff it looked like there was a cave of some sort (was this the breached zeolite chamber 5m x 25m as mentioned in fossicking texts?)

Upon climbing up the cliff, which is not recommend for people over 40 years of age, you’ll see it contains furrows like other visitors have been there with shovels.

It is a bit disappointing and there’s not much zeolite – it’s just a cave with some spiders, a hint of agate and a small amount of quartz. There is no way to leave the cave except on your bum and don’t leave your sunglasses behind in the cave like I did. If you find my sunnies, you can keep them!

Interesting calcite growth over agate found in Kitty Miller Bay "beach gravels".
Interesting calcite growth over agate found in Kitty Miller Bay "beach gravels". | Source
An example of how Phillip Island agates would look if they were polished.
An example of how Phillip Island agates would look if they were polished. | Source
Exposed agate "egg" in the basalt.
Exposed agate "egg" in the basalt. | Source

Agate In Basalt

After a startling descent down the cliff, you’ll be a bit tired, so walk back to the middle of the Bay and then towards Watt Point. A basalt dyke extrudes into the sea west of Watt Point and you can look for agate in the beach gravels there, according to historical lapidary texts.

The “beach gravels” in this case turn out to be medium to large size rocks and boulders containing agate in small, large, detailed and not-so-detailed pockets in the rock.

Some of them seem to contain eggs, but without splitting them open, it’s hard to know what’s inside. You’ll find the outer agates are well weathered but are a good indication of whether agate is contained inside the basalt.

Make sure you go at low tide to access the whole platform.

Exposed 40mm agate in basalt found in Watt Point "beach gravels".
Exposed 40mm agate in basalt found in Watt Point "beach gravels". | Source
The Speke is around the corner from this basalt knob.
The Speke is around the corner from this basalt knob. | Source

The Speke Shipwreck

Next, you might want to visit the Speke shipwreck, which ran aground at Watt Point in 1906 and is well worth a visit. An all steel ship built in 1891, the Speke was salvaged by island locals and parts of it can still be found in homes and the local museum today.

There’s only a bit of it left, but it’s a good photo opportunity. Walk along the left side of Kitty Miller Bay towards the ocean and follow the path as it heads upwards on the slope. When you get to the first cape, continue along the cliff top until you can see the Speke, then descend with care.

The Speke shipwreck at Phillip Island. Yes, that's me!
The Speke shipwreck at Phillip Island. Yes, that's me! | Source

Seal Rocks

It’s free to go and look at the seals at Seal Rocks. It’s not far from the Penguin Parade, at the far south western tip of Phillip Island.

Park at the Nobbies visitors centre and walk down the boardwalk to see them, and if you’re lucky you might also spot penguins and penguin burrows under the boardwalk.

There’s a telescope you can use to view the fur seals – more than 16,000 of them!

You can pay to see the penguins in the evening or pay to go on a cruise to Seal Rocks to see the seals up close and personal. But to be honest, the free boardwalk is good enough for a pleasant stroll to view the wildlife.

View of seal rocks. There is a telescope so you can see the seals properly.
View of seal rocks. There is a telescope so you can see the seals properly. | Source

Kitty Miller Bay

How To Get To Phillip Island

Travel out of Melbourne down the South Gippsland Highway, which turns into the Bass Highway. Follow the signs to Phillip Island and cross over the bridge from San Remo onto the island.

To get to Kitty Miller Bay, follow the main Phillip Island Road from the San Remo bridge and stay to the left (it becomes Back Beach Road).

Keep going most of the way across the island until you can turn left down Kitty Miller Road and at the end, park at the beach carpark and walk down the beach stairs.

Good luck and happy hunting to all fossickers!

Map Of Phillip Island

© 2014 Suzanne Day

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Comments 16 comments

ologsinquito profile image

ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

The polished agate is beautiful. This spot looks like such a peaceful and secluded place. But maybe it's not on the weekends, when people like to get away from the city.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

What an interesting day you had. I would have loved to have seen the seals and penguins and the interesting rocks.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

What a lovely way to spend the day. If I were there I would join you in a heartbeat. Thanks for taking me along on the trip. I hope I wasn't too noisy in the backseat of your car. :)


Suzanne Day profile image

Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia Author

@ologsinquito, it gets very busy in the summer holidays and takes a few hours to get across the bridge in traffic, when usually it is a 10 minute trip. But when it's not holidays, on the fringes of summer, it's a great time to go for a day trip. For accommodation there, motels and bed and breakfasts in the off season are reasonable. The caravan parks and rented homes are highly overpriced during the busy season.


Suzanne Day profile image

Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia Author

@FlourishAnyway, it was a great little treasure hunt and there's heaps more to do on the Island. They even hold car racing there, and there's wineries, gourmet food, lots of beaches and other things. If you ever travel to Melbourne, do take a look at Phillip Island as it's about a 2-3 hour drive from the capital.


Suzanne Day profile image

Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia Author

No child could be as well behaved as you, Billybuc! If you ever get tired of writing (and I severely doubt that) then try rock hounding, it's such an interesting way to relax and spend your time ;)


grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

This piece reminds me of my rock collecting days as a child. The difference is now, it's possible to look for rocks with a distinct idea of what you may want. Sounds like a perfect hobby.


Suzanne Day profile image

Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia Author

Hi grand old lady, it is a great hobby to have! I always say that when you go out on fossicking trips, you need to find the special spot called "x marks the spot". This is usually a small area which is hard to find, as old lapidary books say things like "arriving at xyz beach, you'll find them on the eastern shore." Then all you have to do is walk up and down the shore for 5km until you discover your "x spot" about 3km in. In a way it is similar to geocaching, except usually you get a little specimen to take home when you find "x".


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 2 years ago from Iowa

Interesting hub. I know it's on the other side of the world, but the photos kind of remind me of the Pacific coast of Costa Rica with all of the rocks. We found lots of cool-looking granite there.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

An amazing suggestion and sounds fun. Voted up!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Hi suzanne, I am on my way! lol! how wonderful! I am a fossil nut, and also love rocks and crystals so you can imagine how long I would be there each day! and ship wrecks too, ah its just not fair! haha! great hub, voted up and shared! nell


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 2 years ago from Peru, South America

I'm not a rock collector but this article makes me want to be a collector! Your photos are great and I enjoyed your description of perfect weather for the trip. I think the thrill of the hunt would keep me going. Thank you for sharing!


Susan Recipes profile image

Susan Recipes 2 years ago from India

Amazing hub. I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing. Voted up.


SusannaDuffy profile image

SusannaDuffy 2 years ago from Melbourne Australia

I've seen some lovely crystals down at Phillip Island and some rocks that make my fingers itch to pick them up.


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 19 months ago

Voted up. Love the agate. Even that rusty hulk of a shipwreck looks interesting. Lots of look but don't touch going on here. I would need to constantly remind myself not to pick up the pretty rocks.


colorfulone profile image

colorfulone 13 months ago from Minnesota

Treading softly in respect of the beautiful attractions on Phillip Island must be a wonderful experience. I an glad you have made the journy and shared the experience. Thank you, Suzanne.

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