Beach the winter blues
Forget the catch-cry of 'sun, surf and sand' and explore Victoria's beaches in winter, when the waves are thunderous and the shores windswept. Rug up and discover some of these coastal gems in the off-season.
Great Ocean Walk
While the Great Ocean Road is famed the world over, the lesser known Great Ocean Walk comes into its own in winter when the landscape is at its most diverse. Make the most of the slower pace during the cooler months and take in the spectacular scenery, from national parks teeming with wildlife to deserted beaches and shipwreck sites. Walk the whole 104 kilometre coastal route over about eight days or take the option of a two-day, one night walk. En route accommodation varies from campsites to luxury retreats.
Flinders and Cape Schanck
Discover some of Australia's most magnificent coastline at the point where Bass Strait meets Westernport Bay. Set off on the 100-kilometre Mornington Peninsula Walk or opt for the shorter Two Bays Walking Track or Coastal Walk components. Witness the Flinders Blowhole, explore tranquil inlets and rocky outcrops, and get close to some of the coast's native animals.
Sealers Cove is one of Wilsons Promontory's lesser-known gems, primarily because it is not accessible by car. Go the extra distance and be rewarded by a spectacular golden beach with turquoise waters and an abundance of wildlife. The track from the Telegraph Saddle carpark to Sealers Cove is approximately 10 kilometres so it's best to allow two to three hours each way. There are a limited number of campsites adjoining the beach on the southern end of Sealers Cove for those keen to stay a little longer.
Ride through the shallows in winter on a horse with Gunnamatta Trail Rides. Enjoy a two-hour ride that takes in long sandy stretches of Mornington Peninsula beaches, from Gunnamatta to St Andrews, as well as rugged bushland with panoramic views of Port Phillip Bay.
A popular swimming beach in summer, in winter the Great Ocean Road's Fairhaven Beach is best explored on horseback. Join a Blazing Saddles trail ride for an amble through the lush Otway National Park and down onto the six-kilometre long stretch of sand.
Wintry weather makes for great waves, and the surf doesn't get any better than at Bells Beach, a site with a reputation as one of the best surfing spots in the world. Wander along the sand and watch locals catch – and lose – spectacular waves. If you're brave enough to try it yourself, take a surf class with Go Ride A Wave on the much smaller waves in Torquay, just around the corner.
The ancient pink granite cliffs of Cape Woolamai provide a beautiful backdrop for surfers – but it is the waves that surfers crave. One of the most popular surf destinations in Australia, the region was recently declared a National Surfing Reserve. Seven times surfing world champion, Layne Beachley labels Woolamai one of her favourite surfing spots and it is the break of choice for Hollywood stars Chris and Liam Hemsworth, who grew up on the Island.
Phillip Island Nature Park
Every night at dusk, thousands of little penguins paddle ashore and waddle to their burrows at Phillip Island's Summerland Beach. Take your place on the tiered seating platform, which offers a 180 degree elevated view of the Little Penguins on parade. Sign up for the new premium viewing facilities, which allows for up-close encounters that have minimal impact on the beloved birds.
Bunurong Marine and Coastal Park
Travel down to South Gippsland's Bunurong Marine and Coastal Park where you'll find striking rock formations and diverse coastal habitats. The rocky reefs and seagrass beds are home to a plethora of wildlife, including seastars, crabs, snails, Port Jackson Sharks and up to 87 species of fish. Occasionally, humpback whales, southern right whales or subantarctic fur seals can also be seen.
Make your way to Warrnambool's Logan's Beach between late May and early October, when Southern Right Whales return to their nursery to give birth and raise their calves. Take to the viewing platform to watch the mothers and their giant children loll about and play just offshore, enjoying the shelter of Lady Bay.
Explore the wintry landscape of Gippsland's Cape Conran, which is now accessible to everyone thanks to Parks Victoria's new all-terrain beach wheelchairs. The chairs are suited for sandy and semi-rough track surfaces that are not accessible with conventional wheelchairs and disassembles to fit in the back of a station wagon. The Cape Conran Coastal Park also offers accommodation, including one fully accessible self-contained cabin with disabled parking and bathroom facilities suitable for most wheelchairs.
Point Nepean National Park
Experience outstanding coastal scenery and panoramic views of Bass Strait, the Rip and Port Phillip Bay at Point Nepean, located on tip of the Mornington Peninsula. All-terrain beach wheelchairs are available free of charge, enabling all visitors to enjoy the coastal surrounds.
Beach the winter blues
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