After a long day of driving, most people have run out of steam by the time they reach the Grotto. If there was ever a situation where the statement of saving the best for last was true, this would be it. Among all the rock formations, the Grotto is perhaps the most enchanting. It it not quite a blowhole, not quite an arch, and not quite a cave – but it’s a bit of everything.
The Grotto is a naturally carved out cave which stands up about halfway from sea level up the cliff. The paved pathway leads to a decked staircase that descends into a viewing area that is blocked off by a wall, preventing access further into the Grotto. What lies beyond is an area covered with smooth boulders that leads to rock pools carved out in the worn but jagged edged limestone. The best view of the Grotto is from beyond the wall and looking in.
Now this is the part that is important to know. The barrier that has been built at the viewing area at the Grotto is the area that is considered safe. Now while I know of several people and myself who have jumped the wall to get closer to the edge, be aware that there are some severe risks involved. Before getting anywhere close the the rock pools, one has to cross a layer of very smooth rocks which are very each to slip on. While these can be negotiated with care, there is a risk of falling and hurting yourself pretty badly.
Once you get beyond the rocks, the rock pools pose another challenge. The rocks are jagged and sharp, and are also coated with a very slippery layer of soil. This is especially so when it is wet (which is most of the time). While negotiating the sharp and slippery rock surface, be careful not to fall into the rock pools. They are filled with very sharp rocks, and a wrong step can lead to disaster. Last, but not least, I recommend not going further beyond the wall without someone accompanying you.
Best times to visit
The location is open all year round. The weather in the area constantly changes. Hence, while the best time to shoot here may be at sunset or sunrise, the reality is that one will probably make the best of the conditions that present themselves at this location. Partially cloudy days offer some of the best conditions to shoot, as do days when the ocean is not too rough. Summer is perhaps the best time to visit this particular spot.
With the weather in this area being as changeable as it is, check the forecast, and allow yourself some extra time in case you get caught in a passing shower (most of which last about 15 to 30 minutes).
The effect of sea spray in this location is far less than some of the other more exposed areas. Nonetheless, I recommend that you carry a towel and some microfiber cloth to keep your lenses clean. It is probably desirable to have a tripod with you here, especially if you are planning on jumping the wall.
The winds in the area get very rough.
You definitely need a wide angle lens here – something under 20mm, or even better yet, a fish-eye lens.
Because this location is so closed in, the best time to visit is in the early mornings or late evenings. In either case, be sure to carry a flashlight with you.
While the paved pathway remains a good surface in all conditions, the wooden staircase can become slippery when wet. Always dress in layers. The weather and temperature here constantly changes, and its very easy to suffer from exposure to the elements. In the summer, it is imperative that you have sunscreen on you. Your choice of footwear is important. I recommend comfortable walking shoes (not runners).
Vehicular Access: Sealed highway access to the parking lot.
Pedestrian Access: Firm gravel pathway leading to a wooden decked staircase.
Fitness levels required: Suitable for any reasonably fit individual. Not suitable for individuals with mobility restrictions.
Walk Difficulty: Easy
Amount of time required at the site: About half an hour.
Price of Admission: Free
Access hours: 24 hours a day
Notes of caution: The deck is slippery when wet. There are snakes in the area. Proceed with caution. The cliffs in the area are unstable. It is highly recommended that one stays on the marked paths only.
Recommendations: The volume of tourists in this area peaks around 3p.m. when the tour buses from Melbourne arrive.