Well, in this case walking in one circle – a very big one. In late March and early April this year, I completed a walk around Port Phillip Bay in Victoria – a distance of about 245km over 15 days with a couple of rest days included. There is no single waymarked path to follow for this route so a bit of navigation and a lot of planning was required. But it can be done.
I chose Queenscliff as the starting and finishing point for my ‘Around the Bay’ adventure because I could walk to the starting point and walk home again at the end of the journey – after all, any good adventure will always start and finish at your front door. However, starting point, direction and distances per day are quite flexible – choose your own adventure. Accommodation is readily available but may require the use of public transport (also readily available). Food and drink are not a problem either.
Starting from Queenscliff, I followed the Bellarine Rail Trail to Drysdale and then Geelong. This is very popular with cyclists and for very good reason – it is a very pretty trail passing through a lot of attractive farmland with occasional distant vistas; and on the right day you might be passed by a tourist steam train choofing along the tracks beside you.
Geelong is an interesting town and well worth spending an extra day here. There are lots of accommodation and dining options. The waterfront is spectacular and the Botanical Gardens are a hidden gem. My walk took me along the waterfront before plunging into the industrial/wharf areas of North Shore and Corio. I was reminded of what my walking companion, Manfred from Germany, said, as we walked through the industrial areas of Ourense on the Camino Sanabres ….“Zis is not so sexy!” However, it is soon over and does provide an interesting insight into the development and revitalisation of an industrial precinct. Before long, you pass Geelong Grammar and pick up the Hovell’s Creek Trail to Lara.
After Lara, the journey essentially follows the route of the rail line to Little River and then to Werribee. There is no direct path and does re- quire a bit of zig zagging along mostly quiet country roads. In some ways this section reminded me of the Meseta – you will either love it or hate it. I personally didn’t mind it with its views of the You Yang ranges on the left and the grasslands stretching to the north and west. In retrospect, this part of the walk is so different to the rest of the walk and is worth doing for that alone. The section from Lara to Werribee is not well serviced by public transport, accommodation, food, water etc so, like the Queenscliiff to Drysdale section, doesn’t offer a lot of flexibility to play around with distances. But these are the only stages where this is the case.
Once you reach Werribee, you are in greater metropolitan Melbourne and for a time, the walk takes you through suburban Werribee, Point Cook and Sanctuary Lakes – but don’t despair, this stage doesn’t take too long and does have its own interest. Before long, you walk out the back of Sanctuary Lakes and find yourself on the Foreshore Trail that under different names will take you all the way to Frankston. Between here and Williamstown, there are ecologically important salt marshes and wetlands that are being cared for and restored. Even to my untrained eye, the range of birdlife drawn to these restored wetlands is outstanding. About 4km before Altona, there are the 100 steps of Federation up a man-made hill to commemorate Australia’s Federation. It’s worth taking this short detour to the top of this high point, to take in the view of Melbourne’s CBD skyline, the bay and the wetlands.
If you can, spend time in the historical precinct of Williamstown and enjoy the old buildings and learn about some of the history of what was formerly an important gateway to Melbourne. Plus there are plenty of places to eat and drink.
As you walk up the west bank of the Yarra River towards the Westgate Bridge, the question of how to get across the river might occur to you – but don’t worry, in these days of high tech travel, a solution from times long past presents itself – a punt! (albeit a motorised one). Sit back and enjoy the ride and if he’s not too busy, strike up a conversation with the captain – he is a font of knowledge about this part of the river. Note that the ferry only runs morning and evening on weekdays but operates all day at weekends.
The punt will drop you off near an entrance to Westgate Park – another remarkable restoration project that transformed a barren industrial wasteland. From there you will pass by the entrance to Webb Dock – the largest container port in Australia with its sky high stacks of containers.
Soon after you will pick up the Bay Trail which will take you all the way to Frankston. Most of the time, I chose the Coastal Path through the trees between the beach and Nepean Highway/Beach Road. This was very easy and pleasant walking. In some places (Mordialloc to Seaford), the best option was to walk on the firm sand along the waterfront – another interesting and different experience on this varied walk.
After Frankston and before Safety Beach, some careful navigation is required as there is no coastal path or direct route to Mornington and similarly from Mount Martha to Safety Beach. However, after many hours poring over Google Maps and satellite images, I found a route through bushland reserves linked by short sections of suburban streets. This proved to be delightful walking. Part of the route also included walking along a bush track beside the Mornington Tourist Railway. A word of caution though, as the track passes into the rail danger zone in a few places, maybe put off walking this track when the train is running.
After Safety Beach, I followed coastal paths or walked along the beach all the way to Sorrento. I discovered some history of this area that I was unaware of – I did not know that the area around Rosebud was a major source of the lime used in the mortar to construct Melbourne’s first buildings. Something else I was aware of but only superficially was that the very first settlement in Victoria was at Sullivan Bay, a small bay on route and not far from Sorrento. It only lasted from October 1803 to May 1804. The walk takes you past several interpretive boards explaining in some detail the short history of the settlement. The final leg to complete the circle in Queenscliff was aboard the ferry crossing between Sorrento and Queenscliff.
I had been thinking about the possibility of a walk around the Bay for several years but had not bothered putting in the planning to prove to myself that it could be done without straying onto major highways. Partly this was because of the call
of the Camino. And partly it was a subconscious thought that anything so close to home could not be all that interesting. How wrong I was! I was surprised how interesting and varied this walk proved to be.
It is usually not good to go around in circles but I can recommend this one.
(If you have questions or comments, you can contact me by email mailto:email@example.com. I also have a GPX track of the route and a suggested itinerary that I am happy to share.)