Waratah Bay is a great back up option for the main spots at Sandy Point, turning on as the wind swings more to the west. Waratah Bay is also rideable on days with a E-NE airflow that can be too offshore and gusty at Sandy Point.
The Gap is the main spot at Waratah, and offers a mix of waveriding and jumping conditions on both tacks. Like Sandy Point, the waves here aren’t of especially good quality – the long swell lines tend to break quite straight and close out. At small sizes this is a good learning environment, but when the swell is up and the tide is low, this can prove challenging. If the wind at The Gap heads around from the west to the south, there are two more options in the area to save longer drives back to Inverloch or Phillip Island in the search of cross shore conditions.
The Corner, right in front of the caravan park offers a similar set up to The Gap, and further upwind again is the right hand reef break – Chicken Rock, which can be a fun option.
For a good mix of jumping and waveriding at The Gap a strong WNW wind with a medium swell is ideal. Too big and the walls of whitewater get hard to navigate. When it is small The Gap offers crumbly, straight swells that are difficult to do much with.
Waratah Bay handles a few wind directions thanks to the curvature of the bay – but traditionally people windsurf The Gap on W, WNW and sometimes NW wind. W-WNW is roughly cross shore and allows for both jumping and riding if the wind is strong.
When a front moves in from the N-NW, sail Sandy Point first, and then try Waratah when it goes W-NW. Generally you’ll need to shift up a sail size though at Waratah compared to Sandy.
If the wind swings more to the south, head further west in the bay to find more cross shore conditions. Keep in mind that it will require more wind strength as the Walkerville hills create a bit of a wind shadow.
E-NE wind is also an option at Waratah, but the wave quality is relatively poor with less size and the long fetch across the bay from Sandy Point creating choppy, peaky conditions.
Waratah Bay is tucked right in the corner in a significant swell shadow from the predominant WSW-SW swell direction Victoria receives. The waves will always be significantly smaller here than at Sandy Point.
The Gap and The Corner can turn pretty ugly on big swells (8ft +) with low tide – turning into heavy, straight walls of close outs.
Chicken Rock will theoretically handle massive swells – it needs to be quite big to get in there and start breaking.
Refer to notes on wave height.
Like Sandy Point, the bottom shape is uniform at The Gap and The Corner so tide does not make a major difference to wave quality on normal sized swells. Powerful long period swells on low tide is a different story and can break gear.
Chicken Rock needs water over the reef, so best to try that on mid-high tides.
Waratah Bay is right up with Sandy Point as one of the best places for beginner and intermediate riders to improve their confidence in the waves. On typical swell sizes, the hazards are minimal.
For advanced riders, Waratah Bay is probably more interesting as a jumping spot on howling westerlies – but this needs to be paired up with the right swell size due to the walls of whitewater to negotiate on big days. Down the line alternatives to Waratah when coming from Melbourne are either Surfies Point on Phillip Island or the Surf Coast spots like Point Impossible and Poo Point.
Overall Waratah Bay is non-threatening with a sandy bottom and no strong rips and currents. The exception to this is very large ground swells and low tide – creating heavy, dumping waves which can smash gear.
The area upwind of The Corner, heading towards Chicken Rock is very rocky. This area is also in more of a wind shadow so keep in mind that swimming back to a shoreline covered in rocks with breaking waves may not be fun.
Like Sandy Point, Waratah Bay is a reliable pick for wind in an easterly air flow, when temps are warm and the sky is clear. Realistically, Sandy Point is going to be a better choice 95% of the time on those conditions though.
In winter W-NW systems, Waratah can blow a gale – but usually is one sail size less than the front beach at Sandy Point. It is a good option in nuking NW when Sandy is getting too hard to sail. On days like that Waratah Bay will be offering a bit less wind and clean cross offshore conditions.
Check the swell forecast on Swellnet here, note that the Mornington Peninsula forecast is for the open beaches. The Sandy Point area receives about half the swell of these, and the waves at Sandy are far less powerful thanks to the gradual slope and sandy bottom of Waratah Bay. The waves at Waratah Bay will be somewhere between 30-50% the size of Sandy Point – so 3ft would be tiny at Waratah. 4-5ft on the open beaches is probably the minimum for Waratah to have waves in the shoulder-head high range.
Check live readings from Pt Nepean Swell Buoy here.
Yanakie gives a good indication of the real wind direction at Waratah Bay. A good rule is to take the gust strength at Yanakie for a more reliable picture of the current wind strength at Sandy Point – Waratah is often 5 knots less on starboard tack directions.
Nearest Windguru Forecast:
Waves heights given in feet are ‘surfers’ size or Hawaiian Scale. Loosely this means a 3ft wave is head high, 4ft is overhead and 6ft is double overhead or mast high. Use the table below to roughly translate between surf forecasts and live swell readings at Point Nepean.
|Wave Size||Swellnet Forecast (Mornington Peninsula)||Point Nepean Swell Buoy (average height)|
Swell period relates to the amount of energy in the swell, a sub 10 second period is low and will be weak. An average quality swell will be around 12-14 seconds and high period, high energy swells are typically over 15 seconds. Higher period swells will generally wrap further into more sheltered locations and lead to increased wave heights.
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Photos by Phoenix McLeod, Alastair McLeod | untracked.media & Hudson Godfrey-Smith.