Thursday, April 19, 2018

Urquhart Bluff & Aireys Inlet - February 2018

There wasn't a lot of skill involved in taking a good photo this morning.

With the summer school holidays over I finally decided to risk a trip down the Great Ocean Road to take a bit of a stroll. This place is bedlam in the holidays but I was hoping things would be a little quieter on this Saturday. I was helped a little today by the fact I needed a very low tide to complete the first half of the walk and with low tide predicted for 8am it meant that I was up and on my way pretty early, way before any sensible person would of even been out of bed. After my usual walkers breakfast on the way down of toasties and a coffee, I still managed to pull into the Urquart Bluff car park at around 7am on this Saturday, so early that the pack backers camped illegally in their Wicked Vans had yet to vacate the car park. Managing to pull on my boots without rousing my wicked mates I set off on my journey down the coast to Aireys Inlet.
Heading down the Great Ocean Road to Urquhart Bluff, I was planning on walking the cliff line in the distance.
Urquhart Bluff, I've driven past this spot many many times but have never walked here.
The early start not only would make it possible to hopefully traverse the base of the cliffs all the way along to Aireys Inlet, but the early morning sunlight lighting up the costal cliffs wasn’t going to hurt my photos either, well that was the theory anyway. Setting off around Urquart Bluff it looked like for once my cunning plan was going to pay off, with the red cliffs almost glowing I’d managed to take around twenty photos before I’d even lost sight of the car park! With the tide almost dead low the walking along here was really nice, the route alternating between firm sand and large rock platforms. With the occasional cloud providing a bit of a light and shade effect on the cliff line I was finding it hard to make much forward progress as I kept snapping away, at this rate it’d be a Feral swim into Aireys Inlet.
Today's early start didn't hurt my photos.
The red cliffs along this section of the coast are always pretty photogenic.

The other good news this morning was that navigation shouldn’t really be an issue, keep the ocean on my left on the way to Aireys Inlet and on my right on the way back, even my dodgy Feral navigation techniques should be able to handle that! Crossing the wide expanse of sand that is Sunnymead Beach, which was the first access spot to the coast since leaving Urquart Bluff, I started down another long section of wild coastline, once again largely inaccessible from the cliff tops above. Rounding a headland I got my first relatively close up view of the Aireys Inlet Lighthouse, the spot that I’d leave water level and climb to the cliff tips for my walk back to the ute.
Navigation today wasn't really an issue.
Walking these rock platforms was very enjoyable.
Split Point and the Aireys Inlet Lighthouse has just come into view.
Walking past another couple of beach access spots at Sandy Gully and Step Beach I now started the roughest walking of the day around Split Point. With the missing 12th Apostle standing just off shore (actually that’s another alternative Feral fact, the rock stack is called Eagle Rock if you want to be technical about it all;) I slowly rock hopped my way around the point. As I mentioned the walking is rougher along here, instead of flattish rock shelves I was now walking across upturned and jagged rocks complete with a couple of gulches to cross, thankfully the tide was about as low as it gets as even with the low water levels there was a bit of easy scrambling around this headland to keep my boots dry.
Eagle Rock

I think the occasional cloud helped my photos today.

Bugger me, I reckon Eagle Rock is getting further away!

Easing my way around Split Point the long open expanse of beach along to Moggs Creek slowly came into view along with views down along the Otway Ranges towards Cape Otway, I was only heading west a far as the inlet though today. Reaching the closed off Aireys Inlet I headed inland a little way beside the still waters of the inlet, the only ripples on the mirror smooth water caused by the birds coming in for a drink. After walking a hundred metres or so from the beach I picked up the Surf Coast Walk, I’d now follow this walk all the way back to the ute at Urquart Bluff. First up though I climbed up through the coastal scrub towards the lighthouse, the views down along the coast giving me reason to pause every now and again.
There is even a cairn garden at Step Beach.
I was trying for the arty wanker shot here, Sam said I got it half right?
Eagle Rock
The walk around Split Point is best done on a very low tide, this was as low as it would go today.
There are some nice rock pools at low tide on Split Point.
Aireys Inlet Lighthouse was a nice spot to wander around for awhile this morning, with the beach section that was tide dependant now complete there was no urgency to get back to the ute. Apart from the actual lighthouse there are also a couple of nice lookouts in the immediate area as well as a nice café just down the road a few metres from the lighthouse, not a bad spot to relax and chill out for awhile really. Now while for my walk down to Aireys Inlet I’d largely had the early morning sun behind me, from now on I’d be walking into it, thankfully though I had a pretty mild day for February with temperatures in the low 20˚ so it wasn’t going to be too much of a death march this morning.
This rocky turret marks the spot I headed inland beside the inlet.
Aireys Inlet was closed to the sea this morning.
The locals were out and about...
The view down the Otway Ranges towards Cape Otway.

After a short section along the quiet Aireys Inlet street the Surf Coast Walk heads off along a track that keeps very close to the tops of the high cliffs. The Tea Tree providing me with a bit of shade which was welcome, but also knocking out any cooling breeze which wasn’t so good, unfortunately the lack of any wind was also a boon for the local population of March Flies who proceeded to feed on me any time forward progress ceased for a minute. After crossing Sandy Gully the Surf Coast Track climbed again up towards a lookout high above Eagles Nest Reef, the advantages of returning back along the cliff tops obvious here as down at sea level I couldn’t really see the reef.
The Surf Coast Track on the way back gave me a different perspective to the wild coastline.
Easy walking along the Surf Coast Walk.
Sandy Gully
After passing the lookout the Surf Coast Walk dropped down to the sand at Sunnymead Beach for a few metres before I immediately climbed up a gully, through some Tea Trees and then steeply back up onto the cliff top heathlands. By now I’d largely left the beach houses of Aireys Inlet behind, the track now doing a long arc inland to pass through some dry stringy bark forest close to the Great Ocean Road. This section of the Surf Coast Walk is more typical of a normal bushwalking pad, for most of the walk today I’d been walking wide beaches or rock shelves, or on the Surf Coast Walk a wide gravel path, along this forest section though it was a single file dirt pad with a little bit of the over hanging scrub, while not exactly a scrub bash it was a nice little change.
Eagles Nest Reef
Sunnymead Beach, how lucky are we in Australia, hey?

When I mentioned in an earlier paragraph that the track headed towards the Great Ocean Road I meant it, the road was now sometimes only a few metres above the walking track. For the most part though the heavy traffic on the Great Ocean Road wasn’t too obtrusive, a thin belt of native bush meaning that the noise was screened out a bit. Eventually the Surf Coast Walk emerged from the scrub onto a very old alignment of the Great Ocean Road near Urquart Bluff, the patchy sections of bitumen being the give-away that I was on an old road. After one last long range view, this one through the Casuarina’s down towards Point Roadknight in the distance and with the Urquart Bluff car park and my ute visible below, I set off on the last few metres of today’s stroll. Emerging from the bush behind the the car park today’s walk was over. Now I’m thinking this post will be a bit heavy on the photos but don’t imagine that I put everything that I took into the post, I’m thinking that today’s walk probably had the highest quota of photo’s per kilometre that I’ve ever done with me having taken around 200 shots over the distance.
There is a steep little pinch climbing away from Sunnymead Beach.
I really enjoy walking this type of coastal heathland country.
There is a nice section of the walk through this Stringybark forest close to the Great Ocean Road.
Very close to the Great Ocean Road!
The Dirt.
I walked 11.1 kilometres and climbed 90 metres on this medium grade walk, those figures are from the notes that I used for today from the Geelong Bushwalking Club’s Walking The Otways (published by the House of Chapman). It’s vitally important to time the beach section of this stroll for the lowest of low tides, even timing it perfectly I had a bit of a scramble around Split Point in order to keep my boots dry. The beaches along the coast would be beautiful spots for aswim on a hot day but you are a long way away from help if you get into trouble, so keep that in mind if heading in. There is a nice café near the lighthouse if like me you need a caffeine hit. Navigation wise everything is pretty straightforward on this walk.

Relevant Posts.
Ironbark Gorge & Currawong Falls, Great Otway National Park, 2017.
Angelsea Perimeter Walk~West, 2016.
Lorne Forest Walk, Great Otway National Park, 2017.

That's Point Roadknight in the distance.
One last view through the Casuarinas.

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