Outdoors Magazine

Wonthaggi Circuit Walk, Victoria. March 2012

By Hikingfiasco @HikingFiasco

water tank at wonthaggi state coal mine historic reserve

Wonthaggi State Coal Mine Historic Reserve

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. That sounds pretty good doesn't it? There's lots to get through in this post including an isolated beach, some wetlands, a historic disused 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 tire smoke behind me.
My first stop for the day was a 'spur of the moment' job. I was driving past Kilcunda which is not that 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's no such thing as a crap beach in this area of the coast and Kilcunda is no exception.

low tide at kilcunda beach

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.

rock arch at kilcunda beach

Rock arch on Kilcunda Beach

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.

waves at kilcunda beach

Waves rolling in...

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.

waves breaking on rocks at kilcunda beach

Breaking waves on the rocks at Kilcunda beach.

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 that 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 and that was during an eternally long drive from Melbourne to Brisbane. Over 1,500 kms of complete tedium, which made me so numb that I looked at a set of binoculars sitting on the seat next to me whilst thinking, "What would it be like to drive whilst looking through some binoculars?"
It's probably not the wisest idea, but don't forget that 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.

breaking waves on rocks at kilcunda beach

Another one...

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.

large rock at kilcunda beach

Colourful rocks at Kilcunda beach...

Strolling back to the car I dropped 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.

trestle bridge at kilcunda beach

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 that lots and lots 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.

man drinking beer on bass coast rail trail

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 my friend 'Popeye' who I've written a post about before. 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), that this is 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 that's on the verge of collapse.

no 5 brace building at wonthaggi state coal mine historic reserve

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.
fenced off ruins of no 5 brace building

There was only so much rubble to look at, so I headed off with my next target being 'Baxters Wetland'. Although that sounds like a rarely used manoeuvre in Greco-Roman wrestling, it's actually a place known for the bird life. I had one last look at the debris of the 'No. 5 Brace' though.
no 5 brace building ruins

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 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 accidently sat on your glasses today, I can help out by informing you that the photo is titled: State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi. Author/Creator: Rose Stereograph Co. Date: c1920-1954.

state library of victoria photo of wonthaggi coal mine

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 that there's a 'bird hide' there. "What's that?" I thought to myself. Strolling on I came across a small lake which is a great spot and I found out a 'bird hide' is just a hut for feathered freaks to look out.

bird hide at baxters wetland

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 that? 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 came across a manga magazine titled 'My Balls' which is about, "...the fate of the world rests in one man's testicles..." This is cutting edge stuff, not to mention the famed 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 wetland

Baxters Wetland

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, that 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, that was a good idea for about 0.7 seconds until I turned a corner and looked ahead.
wonthaggi wind farm

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.
wonthaggi wind farm

wonthaggi wind farm

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.
wonthaggi wind farm blade close up

What I found interesting is that the blades weren't going very fast, considering the breeze that 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 that the beach was near. Even I could work that one out. A few small hills and finally I could see the ocean and it looked fantastic.

ocean at baxters beach

Ocean view whilst approaching Baxters Beach

baxters beach from the track

Baxters Beach coastline from the track...

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.
sand dunes at baxters beach

A bit of a clamber up a sand dune passing some grass along the way...
grass on sand dune at baxters beach

...and then there was a gap between the dunes which led me onto the beach...
sand dune at baxters beach

...and 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

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...
surf at baxters beach

surf at baxters beach

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...
holding smooth stone at baxters beach

...bits of seaweed...
close up of seaweed at baxters beach

...pieces of grass washed out into the water...
grass on baxters beach

...and shapes in the sand.
wet sand pattern

I did notice an unusually smooth rock in the water...
smooth rock on baxters beach

...but it was hard to take pictures of it with the waves continually coming in.
wave breaking over rock

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

Although looking kind of weird, that 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.
two rocks shaped liked australia

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.
leaving cutlers beach

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 that 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, that I'm not even sure which direction he's facing.

Wonthaggi Circuit Walk, Victoria. March 2012


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.

sign saying burnt march 2002

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.

sign saying burnt march 1997


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 pajamas - March 1983'.
Besides unusual signs there was also the odd shotgun casing lying around...
shotgun shell at wonthaggi heathland

...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.
closed track sign

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 I was 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

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.
wonthaggi state coal mine historic reserve

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.
moon over grass at historic coal mine wonthaggi

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

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 kms. The relaxing thing about it though is the total elevation climbed for the day was only 105 metres! Now that is casual. I've downloaded the route and the statistics are available for perusal at this link on Garmin Connect.
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?
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 am about to do, as that 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 of the clash at festival hall melbourne 1982

Mick Jones - The Clash. Festival Hall, Melbourne 1982.

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