Land Ahoy! Or at least I expect that’s what the lookout for the Marie Gabrielle (1869) and the Fiji (1891) were supposed to say. Instead the hulls of these ships were smashed apart on the treacherous rocks along the aptly named Shipwreck Coast. The coastline stretching along Victorias Great Ocean Road has claimed more than 100 ships and countless lives.
We have departed Lorne, and have passed through Apollo Bay and Maits Rest on our way to Port Campbell National Park. I want to do a side trip out to Moonlight Head as the scenery out here sounded interesting. We park at the Wreck Beach Carpark, have a quick bite to eat and hoist Harry up into the baby carrier to walk the 800 meter return walk to The Gables Lookout. This very pretty walk wanders through a stand of casuarina trees that create a slightly mystical feeling with only scant amounts of light penetrating through the feathery canopy of the trees, before opening out to one of the highest sea cliffs in mainland Australia. We are greeted by a gorgeous view of Moonlight Head and the reefs surrounding it. We stay here a little while to admire the view and then turn back towards the car park. Time to tackle the stairs down to Wreck Beach.
The spectacular coastline that runs the length of the Ocean Road is awash with tales of tragedy. Most of the ships that have sunk on the shipwreck coast lay in their watery graves, invisible to the visitors marveling at the coastline before them. This is not the case at Wreck Beach. We walk down the 350 stairs passing striking coastal wildflowers that are so beautifully arranged it gives the illusion that someone has planted them as such. A picture perfect garden bed. We hit the beach and turn right. We have timed it well and it is low tide. As we walk towards the remains of the Marie Gabrielle and the Fiji I am amazed at just how stunning it is here. The beach is deserted. Towering cliffs embedded with all sorts of fossils beckon us over for a closer inspection.
The beach itself is awash with all sorts of delicate shells and stones. I feel like a child who has been marooned on my own private beach. After about 400 meters we come to the first wreck. The juxtaposition of the decaying iron against the rocks, green algae and deep blue sea transfixes me.
We stay here for ages, just exploring and being. We are here in the middle of the day and I make a promise to myself to one day return here to watch the play of the light of the setting sun transform this scene before me.
At a Glance
Located 15kms from Lavers Hill past Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road Victoria.
Port Campbell National Park.
800 meters return walk from the Wreck Beach car park.
Grade – Easy
Starts from the Wreck Beach car park. 2.1 kms return, steep section with 350 stairs but once you hit the beach its flat. Allow at least 1.5 hours check tide times and only walk at low tide.