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Fossicking at Phillip Island

Suzanne is an artist and writer who enjoys designing, crafting, and upcycling. She has created numerous small succulent gardens.

Brown agate in basalt at Kitty Miller Bay.

Brown agate in basalt at Kitty Miller Bay.

Where to Find Agates in Victoria (And More!)

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 or 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

More calcite/zeolite pockets in basalt.

More calcite/zeolite pockets in basalt.

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. Fishermen 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!

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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.

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.

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 recommended 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".

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.

Exposed agate "egg" in the basalt.

Exposed agate "egg" in the basalt.

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".

The Speke is around the corner from this basalt knob.

The Speke is around the corner from this basalt knob.

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 clifftop 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!

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 southwestern 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.

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!

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© 2014 Suzanne Day

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