Wonthaggi Circuit Walk, Victoria

Well, after the ‘gear guff’ of the last post, it’s time to look at another day walk and this one isn’t too bad. Autumn + Friday + Not at work = Moonwalk around the house doing high fives to myself in celebration. There was only one thing to do whilst in this intoxicated state and that’s to head out for another coastal walk.

I consulted the ‘guru of good times’, Glenn Tempest’s book ‘Daywalks Around Melbourne’ and picked out a walk that’s long in distance, but non-existent in hills. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

There’s a lot to get through, as the Wonthaggi Circuit Walk included an isolated beach, some wetlands, a historic coal mine and a beer drinking cyclist. So, after a kilo of porridge for breakfast I was in my car heading for the coastal town of Wonthaggi with a cloud of tyre smoke behind me.

My first stop for the day was a ‘spur of the moment’ job. I was driving past Kilcunda which isn’t far from Wonthaggi when I noticed the tide was out. I’ve never stepped foot on the beach there before, so I thought I should stop for a half hour or so for a quick look around.

There aren’t any crap beaches in this area of the coast and Kilcunda is no exception.


Kilcunda beach

It was quite breezy, so I decided to walk out onto the surrounding rocks and take a few pictures of the waves rolling in. Whilst doing so, I couldn’t help, but notice a strange looking rock formation complete with an arch.


After some arch action, I continued heading out onto a rock shelf which gave me quite a nice side-on view of the waves breaking at Kilcunda beach.


There were also decent waves hitting the rocks a short distance away, which is always a good photo opportunity, but these places make me a little nervous due to their deadliness. I remember rock fishing as a kid and one day getting bowled over by a big wave, which casually carried me across a rock shelf on a bed of white water. I’ve no idea how he did it, but my brother grabbed hold of my arm as I was cruising by with the ocean being my destination. Yes I survived, but the rock mantra lives on, “Never turn your back to the sea”.

So, I edged out towards the breaking waves and looked through the camera viewfinder waiting for a wave to break.


You know what happened? I absolutely crapped myself when I saw the entire viewfinder fill with white water and heard an accompanying ‘crump’ sound from the ton of water exploding off the rock. I snapped the photo and with elevated blood pressure took off before realising the splash was a bit further away than I thought. The zoom lens had tricked me a little regarding the waves distance to me.

It reminded me of one of the stupider things I’ve ever done, which occurred during an eternally long drive from Melbourne to Brisbane. Over 1,500 km of complete tedium, left me feeling so numb and light-headed, I looked at a set of binoculars sitting on the seat next to me and thought. “What would it be like to drive, whilst looking through some binoculars?”

It’s probably not the wisest idea, but don’t forget I was really bored. I picked them up and whilst looking through them I could see a caravan being towed by a car in front of mine a few hundred metres up the road, but obviously in the binoculars it appeared to be on the end of my bonnet. Talk about a freaky moment. Next time you’re bored I suggest you give it a go. You’ll be thoroughly entertained and guaranteed to be fully awake for the rest of the day.


After the fun of the surf I returned to the beach whilst passing some more of the unusual rocks in the area. Nice colours as well.


Wandering back to the car, I stopped by an old, railway trestle bridge which has since been paved and is now part of the Bass Coast Rail Trail. A restored trestle bridge is usually part and parcel of any decent rail trail.

Kilcunda trestle bridge

Kilcunda trestle bridge

After some bridge perusal, I headed off with a further short drive to Wonthaggi where the days walk was to kick off. The initial part of the stroll would be along the Bass Coast Rail Trail before heading into the ‘Wonthaggi State Coal Mine Historic Area‘. You know what? I’m never going to write that mouthful of a title in this post again. All you need to know is a lot of coal was mined in the area until the 1960’s.

I headed out with three litres of water and not a lot else along the rail trail. It was only a matter of minutes before I spotted my first highlight of the day. Some bloke in a Hawaiian shirt had ‘parked’ his bicycle and was relaxing with a drink. A drink of beer that is.


Time for a Gatorade beer?

Now, seeing how it was only 1.00 pm, I had to admire his dedication to sneaking in an ale whilst out on the bike. It reminded me of an old friend ‘Popeye’. I trained with weights in his garage one day and whilst I was drinking water, he went the ‘alternative’ route by drinking beer between lifts. Can alcohol be a sports drink? He’d just shake his head at me and say, “Listen to ‘Pop’. If you want to grow, then you should be drinking beer”.

Mm… Interesting. So, I had a go and guess what? The ale in my hand was the key, which unlocked a new world. Do not go beyond tipsy (that rules out getting hammered) and you’ll find yourself with a new personal best on the bench press in no time. The alcohol takes away the pain for the big lifts and you can push on with ease. Yeah okay, you won’t be able to raise your arms the next day when sober, but hey, as long as you have a new PB, who cares? I guess I should mention as a footnote that ‘Popeye’ was an alcoholic, which may have something to do with the whole scenario.

It was time to leave the ‘beer drinkers and hell raisers’ behind and enter the historic mine. There’s not many buildings left, but there’s enough interesting stuff to look at if you love your coal. Actually, the blokes who worked in this mine over a hundred years ago would have lived through painful hardship. Many workers died here and if a reminder is ever needed (which sometimes it does as people so easily forget), why the union movement was important.

I strolled through the long grass towards the ruins of ‘No. 5 Brace’ which was a building used to sort coal, but in modern terms is actually a building on the verge of collapse.


That looks like No. 5 Brace to me

Upon reaching it I was a little disappointed to see it was fenced off. That’s a pity, as it would be a great place to take the family to explore and play games like, ‘step on the rusty nail’. Especially at night.


There was only so much rubble to look at, so I headed off with my next target being ‘Baxters Wetland’. It may sound like a rarely used manoeuvre in Greco-Roman wrestling, but it’s actually a place known for the bird life. I had one last look at the debris of the ‘No. 5 Brace’ though.


It’s a bit hard to see what the place looked like all those years ago, so I approached the staff member in charge of research at the ‘Fiasco Corporation’. It sounds like an important position, but it’s actually just some bloke sitting on a couch at the computer, whilst wearing nothing more than ‘Y’ fronts and covered in potato chips.

The State Library of Victoria website is a great resource for finding old photos and I’ve managed to rustle up the following picture which after a week of analysis appears to be a coal mine. This deduction was achieved by reading a very large caption that’s actually printed on the photo. If you accidentally sat on your glasses today, I can help out by informing you the photo is titled: State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi. Author/Creator: Rose Stereograph Co. Date: c1920-1954.


I think the No.5 Brace is the building at the back right. Then again…

There was a bit of path wandering and road crossing, before I spotted a sign to the Baxters Wetland and I was intrigued about a ‘bird hide’ there. “What’s that?” I thought to myself. Wandering on…


…I came across a small lake and I found out a ‘bird hide’ is just a hut for feathered freaks to look out.


Bird hide at Baxters wetland

After the hike, I consulted the mystery hiker called ‘Anon’ who doesn’t actually exist, but has accompanied me on a few walks. My question was, “What’s a bird hide?” and the answer was, “A small building which you can sit in and hide, whilst looking at birds through an opening in the hut”.

Well, why didn’t I know this? I really should get out more, or maybe I should do a Masters in Wikipedia, so I know the answer to everything you could ever imagine. I mean, during my online ‘research’ I found an enthralling entry regarding the 1972 ‘Lloyds Bank Turd’. Don’t worry, there’s more, but let’s get back to the walk.

Anyway, the wetland is quite nice, although being early in the walk I didn’t spend as much time there as I wanted to. It would be a good spot to sit nearby for a snack, but I had to keep moving.


Baxters wetlands

I strolled on a nice, flat grassy path with my next stop being Baxters Beach. Who is this ‘Baxter’ bloke anyway? I did note whilst walking that the entire area was extremely windy, and I’m talking ‘toupée alert’ windy.

In fact it was so breezy, I considered it would be a great spot to plonk down a wind farm. Get some super-sized propellers going on my suggestion and I could make a million. Well, it was a good idea for about 0.7 seconds until I turned a corner and looked ahead.


Now, that to me looks like a wind farm. “What sort of idiot would put one here?” was the question I was asking myself. This was no fleeting glimpse either, as over the next hour I was constantly looking at or hearing them.



No matter where I went. They were there…

Hell, I can’t remotely avoid them, so I might as well get a close up photo and be done with it.


What I found interesting is the blades weren’t going very fast, considering the breeze was knocking me off balance. I mean, you couldn’t even play the, ‘kick-a-football-at-them-hoping-to-strike-a-blade-and-see-how-far-the-footy-gets-sent-into-orbit’ game. It would take a miracle kick just to hit one of those ‘go-slow’ blades which would be no fun at all.

I continued on leaving the propellers behind and found a small track to Baxters Beach. A bit more strolling and the track turned to sand, which was a pretty good indication the beach was near. Even I could work this one out. A few small hills and finally I could see the ocean and it looked fantastic.



The wind was creating plenty of white capped waves which was enjoyable to look at, plus it was keeping me cool as I passed the halfway point of the walk. Dotted along the coastline are numbered posts used for safety reference which also mark the access point to the beach. I spotted the yellow triangle on the post and made my way towards it.


A bit of a clamber up a sand dune passing some grass along the way…


…and then there was a gap between the dunes which led me onto the beach.


What a spectacular beach it is as well. A vast stretch of golden sand that appeared untouched from footprints, rubbish or anything! It was the cleanest beach I have been to for quite some time. Literally, there wasn’t a scrap of plastic which can be a common occurrence, or any sort of driftwood at all.


Baxters beach

The tide seemed quite low, so I walked at the waters edge which gave me some nice, solid sand to stroll on. The waves continued to roll in…


I had a few kilometres to walk on the beach and being a coastal fanatic I could tell this section would be one of the days highlights. I took my time looking at small smooth pebbles…


…fragments of seaweed…


…pieces of grass washed out into the water…


…and shapes in the sand.


I did notice an unusually smooth rock in the water…


…but it was hard to take pictures of it with the waves continually coming in.


Feathers weren’t neglected either, as I spotted one covered in bubbles sitting in a rock pool.


Although looking kind of weird, it was nothing compared to a couple of rocks on the sand that took on the shape of Australia. I think they look very similar, but if you aren’t convinced I suggest you belt yourself across the back of the head with a large rubber mallet and then re-look at the picture. In your dazed state it will all make sense, although I’m not sure Tasmania is that big in real life.


I reached a line of rocks and it was time to head up off the beach. I hadn’t seen anyone during this beach stroll and I was a little sad to leave it behind, with a last look photo on the exit path. At some point the beach had changed names from Baxters to Cutlers, which is the spot I left it.


Now, in thick trees I wandered around a bit trying to find the right path out. There were the odd tracks leading off into the trees and it took some exploring to find the correct one. Eventually I came across a small track marker with a green triangle on it and decided it was the path to follow.

During my stomping around the bush I came across an echidna, but unfortunately I spotted him from too close a distance. He took one look at me and headed for safety in the surrounding bushes which meant the only photo I got was of a blurry, spiky object. The photo is so unclear, I’m not even sure which direction he’s facing.


I followed a track through the trees before coming to a clearing. The way ahead was open now, as I began to follow a wide vehicle track which was short on views, but it does have some interesting signs though.


Fair enough

There’s nothing like a sign making a statement. I didn’t think much of it until a walked a bit further and came across this.



I guess this is easier than mapping these things? Just put up a sign instead. It’s not a bad idea, as I considered putting signs like this on my front lawn that mark important moments in my life, such as ‘Last massage – 1987’ or even better, ‘Last wore pyjamas – March 1983’.

Besides unusual signs there was also the odd shotgun casing lying around…


…and even better was the track I was on ended at a fence. As I clambered over it I noticed a number of stickers on it.


According to this set-up, I wasn’t meant to be there and I should have been cautious as well. Having failed on both accounts, it was lucky to be leaving then.

The walk was well and truly winding down now with a short road bash to come. This section was less than two kilometres, but it felt longer nearing the end of the day.


Chisholm Road

I made a few turns here and there and before I knew it I’d appeared back at the coal mine which was the start of my day. There was No. 5 Brace again from a different angle.


The sun was low in the sky and the surrounding fields had a nice glow to the grass. The moon rising above was a nice addition.


In this late afternoon glow I noticed a feather on the ground and picked it up catching the sunlight.


I left the historic coal area and rejoined the rail trail to stroll back to the car. The walk was done! It was quite long and according to my GPS I’d walked 21.01 km. The relaxing thing about it though is the total elevation climbed for the day was only 105 metres! Talk about casual.

It was now time to get back in the car and make the evening drive back to Melbourne. On reflection I really enjoyed this walk (not just because it was easy!) as the sights were varied and there’s nothing better than the Autumn weather for a day out. I guess I should finish off with a picture of Baxters Beach?


Well, that was Baxters Beach, but the one bonus of having a two drive home was the opportunity to overdose on some music in the car. You probably already know what I’m about to do, as the last sentence gives me a totally random opportunity to slip in another photo from the ‘Fiasco Photo Archive (FPA)’.

In my last post I’d thrown in a picture of Joe Strummer from The Clash playing at Melbourne’s Festival Hall in 1982. Well, I can’t just leave it there can I? If Joe is in, then surely the lead guitarist, Mick Jones should be slotted into this entry as well? So, here we go again, with the graininess being offset by the glare of stage lights. None of this holding up the mobile phone camera like a tool. This is film people!


Mick Jones – The Clash. Festival Hall, Melbourne 1982