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Victoria’s Surf Coast is made for walking. Read our guide to the best tracks, surf vistas and selfie spots.
Story by Krysia Bonkowski.
The Surf Coast might be the starting point for one of Victoria’s favourite drives but, with more than 70 walking tracks, it’s also downright spectacular to explore on two feet. Discover cool-climate rainforest, chase waterfalls and take in the ocean views on these top Surf Coast walks.
Torquay at sunset. Photo by Lisa Luscombe
From Jan Juc and Winkipop to Bells Beach, the 44-kilometre Surf Coast Walk links Victoria’s best waves. It can be tackled in sections, and is popular with local surfers such as Craig Baird, curator of the Australian National Surfing Museum in Torquay. Some of Craig’s favourite spots along the track include Point Impossible, Point Danger and south of Bells, but his highlight is a no-brainer: “For me the heart of the Surf Coast Walk is the area around Point Addis. It’s simply beautiful, with imposing cliffs and few hints of any residential dwellings or development.”
Craig’s top pick for a breather is Torquay’s Third Wave Kiosk. “There’salways bound to be some characters there getting their caffeine fix, checking the surf, or making a pitstop on their dog walk,” he says.
The Great Otway National Park encircles the Surf Coast’s townships. Behind Lorne snakes 60 kilometres of marked tracks – from 15-minute ambles to all-day treks, winding through temperate rainforest to secluded waterfalls and fern-filled dells.
Avoid the crowds at Erskine Falls and visit Cumberland Falls on the six-kilometre return walk through the valley starting from Cumberland River Holiday Park – pack the togs for a dip at Jebbs Pool. Keen hikers can tackle the 20.5-kilometre Cumberland River Trail, which loops through the pretty Upper and Lower Kalimna Falls.
Flanked by bushland and marine parks, the Surf Coast is a nature-lovers’ nirvana. Janine Duffy is co-founder of Echidna Walkabout, which offers Great Ocean Road wildlife adventures. Janine recommends the Allen Noble Sanctuary walk in Aireys Inlet (for black swans, Australasian swamphens, superb fairywrens, spotted pardalotes and nankeen night herons); the Lighthouse Discovery Walk to Split Point Lighthouse (for shy and black-browed albatross, Australasian gannets, singing honeyeaters and gang-gang cockatoos); and Teddy's Lookout Circuit and Tramway Track (for koalas, swamp wallabies, yellow-tailed black cockatoos and crimson rosellas).
Spring breeding season is ideal for spotting wallabies and koalas – “koala joeys have just emerged out of their mothers’ pouches and are at their cutest,” Janine says – as well as echidnas shaking off winter hibernation, and common bottlenose dolphins and Australian fur seals.
For spring wildflowers, leaf peepers should follow the 7.3-kilometre Anglesea Heath Walk from Point Addis to Anglesea. Recently included in the Otway National Park, the heathland sustains more than a quarter of Victoria’s plant species – including 80-plus orchid varieties – as well as more than 100 bird species and fauna including wallabies and eastern grey kangaroos.
Yellow-tailed black cockatoo. Source: Getty Images.
Crimson rosellas.Source: Getty Images.
Echidna.Source: Getty Images.
With stunning lookouts and cliff-hugging tracks, it’s not hard to score the ultimate Surf Coast selfie. Lorne’s 1.6-kilometre Queens Park Lookout Loop visits three lookouts, including the popular Teddy’s Lookout. Outside Aireys Inlet, the 4.5-kilometre Moggs Creek Ocean View Walk reveals spectacular vistas of Split Point Lighthouse and the coast down to Lorne. Local landscape photographer Will Dielenberg, whose award-winning work is on show at Will Dielenberg Galleries in Lorne, has shot the dramatic Victorian coast for nearly four decades.
One of Will’s favourite lookouts, Point Addis, can be reached on the eight-kilometre Ironbark Basin Walk. He loves to photograph from here “looking back towards Bells Beach on a day when the wind is offshore and there is a large swell”.
The Surf Coast is the traditional home of the Wathaurong people of the Kulin nation. For a glimpse into the past, take the Point Addis Koorie Cultural Walk from Bells Beach. The 1.6-kilometre track is peppered with interpretive signs exploring the Wathaurong clan’s ancient relationship with the landscape.
Inland, the Winchelsea Heritage Walk takes in the town’s sites of significance, including a historic bluestone bridge forging the Barwon River; the quaint 1920s Globe Theatre; and the 42-room Barwon Park Mansion, home of Elizabeth Austin (founder of the Austin Hospital) and her husband Thomas (whose less-appreciated legacy was introducing rabbits to Australia). Linger a little on the banks of the Barwon – if you’re very lucky you might spot a platypus.
Lucky visitors to the Barwon River may spot a platypus. Source: Getty Images.
Bells Beach, Victoria.Source: Getty Images.
Before you go
Be sure to choose a walk to suit your fitness, take plenty of drinking water, and consider sun and rain protection. Coastal weather conditions can change fast so always check the local forecast, as well as tide times for beach walks.
Avoid the Surf Coast Walk on Total Fire Ban and Code Red days. For fire information check cfa.vic.gov.au or call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line 1800 240 667.