It’s a scary thing to leave the car at Point Danger and just keep walking. There’s no ‘I reckon I’ve gone far enough; time to walk back’. There’s only the ongoing pleasure of what’s around the bend.
The Surf Coast Walk goes from Torquay to Fairhaven and covers about 46km of coastal track. It’s hard to know how far we walk, because at the first opportunity, we ditch the path for the salty, wild ocean edge You can see why.
This is what you get on the SCW – kilometres of wide, pebbled path set back among scrubby heathland far away from the stunning coastline you’re there to see. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful it exists. There are a few impassable sections where cliff meets sea and curiosity is tempered by sanity. Largely though, Surf Coast Walk = next to something better.
Much MUCH better
We set off along Torquay’s sandy beach until the first outcrop of pools and yellow seaweed. I feel really bad walking on the plants. They’re squidgy and I’m a blundering human who’s not supposed to be there, but they spring back easily. The ocean forces are clearly more terrifying than my feet.
At Bird Rock, we’re forced inland and take the stairs to the clifftop. There’s the SCW standard wide, pebbled path winding through heathland and low, shrubby banksias. Fortunately, it lives up to its name. There was definitely a bird on bird rock.
There was also lots of weirdly yellow sprayed poop. Apparently, there’s a vigilante sprayer in Jan Juc shaming people who don’t pick up after their dogs. The sprayer says “I see it. I notice it. It’s not cool.” However, there’s lots of yellow poop everywhere and some of it’s fresh. You have to wonder how dedicated a person can be.
Meanwhile, the sea calls to us. It’s just over there, out of sight down the cliff. We catch glimpses, but we’re stuck with no way down until Bell’s Beach.
We’d heard a lot about Bell’s, how it’s a beloved surfing destination of surpassing beauty. We thought there’d be big signs and a sense of having arrived, but it’s all very understated. We could easily miss the location without a blue, Google dot. I like that about it. Even with its reputation, it still has an undiscovered feel.
We ditch the path again, which goes far inland to an ironbark forest. We can’t fathom why on earth you’d go inland since this stretch of coast has some of the most stunning scenery that either of us have ever witnessed. Tall yellow cliffs, shifting sands and azure sea. We have the beach almost to ourselves. It’s like walking in a postcard or the final scene in a movie where the hero gets the girl and walks off into the sunset. It’s remote, hardly anyone to be seen and we soon figure out why.
“Is that guy naked? I think he’s naked.” I say. I point to a man swimming in the breaking waves. He turns around and it’s true. There he is, unmistakably, swinging in the breeze. There are several more people dotted along the beach, all naked. We do our best to keep nonchalant, don’t look, don’t care and we don’t, of course. Bodies are natural and it’s only a social norm that we should cover them up. Nudists respectfully keep to remote areas and away from family beaches, but honestly, children don’t know to be ashamed of bodies until we tell them so.
“Penis approaching, 10 o’clock,” we say and put the camera away in case they think we’re ogling. I suspect the Surf Coast Council sends walkers inland on purpose so they can’t be held responsible for exposing walkers to the human side of nature.
The magic stretch ends at Point Addis. It’s impossible to get around the cliffs at this point, so we climb the stairs up to the carpark and over the other side. We’re back on the SCW path.
Point Addis Marine National Park is a wild stretch of beach with gritty sand and a steep bank of breaking waves. It’s the kind of beach that stirs that primal fear of the ocean that you forget about when there are flags and children with spade and bucket sets. This beach shows the dangerous power of nature. Strong waves surge at you and promise to suck you out to the restless sea and down to the rocks below. It’s also a difficult and exhausting walk. The grit swallows your feet with every step and the path onward isn’t obvious until you’re upon it. It’s a beautiful wildness, though. The tide is clearly coming in and clawing its way back up the beach. It’s time to go inland again.
The track between Red Rocks to the Anglesea Beachfront Caravan Park is boring. Like really, really boring. It’s a wide path, heath, more path and more heath. Maybe our mood is coloured by tiredness but we’re sun beaten and weary by now. We’re looking forward to a meal and a whole lot of sitting down.
The tide is in as we reach Anglesea. We risk the river mouth crossing, which is already knocking little kids over and stagger into town for a rest.