Beach walking

By Carolyn Barry 28 September 2011
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One of the best things about this walk is that it so closely follows the coast, with oodles of beach walking.

ONE OF THE BEST things about this walk is that it so closely follows the coast, with lots of beach walking.

The Great Ocean Walk officially starts at the Apollo Bay visitor centre just on the main street and a stone’s throw from the beach.

You can drop in here to, and get last minute flyers or maps, and check about conditions and tides. It’s almost essential to pick up or print out a local tide guide, as on many parts of the walk you have the option to take the beach route or the inland track – and this is the Southern Ocean down here, so swell can be huge and wild (and spectacular), making rock hopping dangerous.

The first part of the walk heads along the main road out of town and by Marengo. If you’ve got some spare time, it’s well worth spending a couple of hours ‘seal’ kayaking with wild seals, who reside on a rocky island just off the beach.

The trail then goes straight through the Marengo Caravan Park, so you could probably save yourself a couple of kilometres and stay here a night before walking out the back gate to the trail.

This first part of the walk is filled with secluded little beaches, dotted with holiday homes in the hills to the west. Giant kelp lines the shore and you’ll see plenty of lrage cuttlefish.

A fork in the trail

Along the way, the trail drops down to beach, and often this is the juncture of a ‘Decision Point’ – where you can opt to take the inland track, which heads up a short way and parallel to the coast, or walk along the shore. The signage at the Decision Point lets you know how long that beach section is, so you can plan accordingly.

Almost all of the first section can be walked along the shore – which is mostly rocky platforms with some beach walking. If the tide is low and the swell reasonable, walking along the shore is the better option. The rock formations are fun to walk and fascinating to gaze at. You’ll see all sorts of interesting things washed up on the beach, including abalone shells, huge cuttle fish skeletons and loads of bull kelp. If you’re lucky, you might even find an old artefact from a shipwreck washed ashore.

And if the conditions change, you can always hop back on the inland track, though these tend to be muddy. No section of beach/rocks is longer than about 1km.

As you progress through the walk, you’ll feel you’re entering more remote, rugged and wild territory. The seas can typically get up 6m swell, even if it doesn’t look that big from the high view points, the beaches just feel a little dangerous here, as you’ll often see many layers of constantly breaking waves.

A plethora of terrain

One of the best features of this walk is that you travwerse through so many varieties of vegetation along the way. Not only do you walk along pristine beaches, where yours are the only footprints, but you enter into some of the tallest forests in Australia – the mountain ash trees, which can grow about 100m tall.

You’ll also pass by coastal shrubbery, wattle groves, eucalyptus frorest and temperate wet forest. In fact, this region gets a high amount of water, so some of the forest sections can be muddy.