WHAT TO PREPARE FOR
The Circuit Walk
DISTANCE – 10km circuit
GRADE – Medium/Hard
TIME – 4.5-hour return
STARTING POINT – Quarry OR Meikles Point Picnic Area (Meikles gets the steep part out of the way first)
TIP – Start at Miekles Point Picnic Area and walk the circuit in an anti-clockwise direction. By doing this, you are tackling the steep parts of the track at the start of the day, making it mostly all downhill on the return journey!
Steve and I have talked about visiting Werribee Gorge for a few years now after some friends went and gave it a glowing review, and now we have finally ticked it off the list, and we are so happy we did. It is currently winter in Melbourne, but it hasn’t stopped us. We woke up at 5.30am, packed the car, and headed out west – over the Westgate and onto the Western Hwy, ignoring all the signs to turn off to Werribee – because apparently, the gorge isn’t in the middle of the suburb. Who would have thought?
Werribee Gorge can be found 8km west of Bacchus Marsh via the Western Freeway. The roads off the freeway are not well signposted so let Google Maps be your friend!
WERRIBEE GORGE CIRCUIT WALK
There are multiple trails on offer at Werribee Gorge which is excellent if you want to see different perspectives of the gorge and the surrounding landscape. These trails include the Centenary Track, River Walk, Falcons Lookout and the Circuit Walk.
We chose to tackle the Circuit Walk. This hike is one of the most popular treks at Werribee Gorge, and we were heading into it not really knowing what to expect. The drive in gives you brief glimpses of the gorge, but from the outside, it looks, at best, mildly intriguing. It doesn’t exactly leap out at you like a mountain does on the landscape. But once we got started, it didn’t take long for the gorge to deliver the goods!
This hike offers stunning vistas, clear waterholes to sit and take in the scenery, and a challenging rock climb along the cliff face by the river.
So we started our ascent out of Miekles Picnic Area, and while the climb was steep, it only took us a short time to reach the top. However Steve and I are slowly discovering that when you are bushwalking in winter, while you may be cold when you jump out of the car, it won’t take long for your body to heat up, and we keep discovering halfway through our hikes that we wear too many layers. As you can tell in our videos, we are continually taking jackets and beanies off when we are hiking, and then find we get cold again while sitting at a viewpoint – soon go the beanies and jackets again! We have not yet seen the perfect solution – beyond carrying more bags. Feel free to let us know if you have an ingenious solution to this!
As a way to keep morale up during the difficult parts of the track, I started busting out some good old’ fashioned trail tunes. I’ve gotten slightly addicted to the First 40 Miles podcast lately, and they recently introduced me to “The Nursery Rhyme Song”. Now you’re asking, ‘What is that?’ and to be honest, this was something that I had never heard of either. So, this is what you do: Pick a nursery rhyme – any nursery rhyme, and start reciting it as you remember. Then when you get to a section of the verse, you and chuck in “I threw it out the window!”
Mary had a little lamb,
Little Lamb, Little Lamb,
Mary had a little lamb,
SHE THREW HIM OUT THE WINDOW!
Yep, Steve thought I’d gone a bit nuts, and I admit, it is a little cheesy coming from a 28-year-old singing nursery rhymes… But it is really addictive and I found myself getting a bit nostalgic as it took me back to some classics! Even Steve joined in with the crazy eventually, and it became a fun game which made us laugh as we went round the trail.
Anyway, wow, slightly off track there.
Once you reach the top, there are two feature lookouts – The Eastern Viewpoint and the Western Viewpoint. Talking to people on the trail, there was definitely a preference towards the Western Viewpoint over the Eastern, but each lookout provides a different view, and we’ll be diplomatic here and say we wouldn’t favour one over the other. They are both worth a visit, and really, you barely have to leave the track to check them out, so why would you skip them?
Once you pass the Western lookout, the trail follows the ridge all the way down to the bottom of the gorge, and this part of the trek is really the most impressive section of the Circuit Walk. If you haven’t seen anyone on the trail up to this point, then this is where they’ll be – it was crazy busy with people walking in both directions, and scrambling to get their unique Instagram shot on one of the many beautiful lookout points along the edge of the track – admittedly we were also guilty of this – but it is so worth stopping as much as possible and taking it all in before you head into the next section of the trail along the edge of the river.
Needles Beach was our next stop as it is a popular spot to have a break and enjoy a picnic or snack. The beach itself is not great as you sink down in the dirt with each step you take. In summer I can imagine the water looking quite inviting but be prepared cause this appeared to be a bit of a popular resting spot with quite a few groups claiming prized positions along the water’s edge.
Along the bottom of the gorge, the trail becomes a bit more challenging as you scramble on all fours over small cliffs and navigate loose rocks along the water’s edge. We highly recommend a good pair of hiking shoes to help with grip, but to be honest, so many people were doing this in simple runners, so go with what you are comfortable in.
A landmark along the water’s edge is the Lionhead beach. This is a seriously cool spot and was a bit quieter on this particular day than Needles Beach, so we took the time to skip stones and take in the sites. Its name reflect’s the Lion head that is visible in the rock wall. I actually didn’t see this at the time, it’s not since getting back and looking at my photos and reading a bit more about the area that I spotted it. Can you see it in the picture below?
Just a little bit further up the river, you come to – ‘the wire’. At least we think it’s called the wire, maybe cable runs, or cliff climbs, not sure what the official name is.
When researching the Circuit Walk online before we came, most people commented on this part of the hike, describing it as ‘a challenging climb over a cliff’s edge above the river, with only a wire that is bolted to the rock face to hold on to’. Whilst we did find the wire to be challenging, it was definitely way less stressful than described, and a heap of fun!
Being a long weekend, there were so many people on the trail, and personally, this was the most challenging part of the crossing. There we people travelling in both directions and you had to either duck out of the way to let people past going the opposite direction or rush the section to ensure you weren’t holding up people behind you. It would be much more enjoyable if you were at this spot with next to no one around and you could enjoy the time more rather than rushing to let someone else get past.
When we got back to the Miekles Carpark, it was jam-packed with cars, and we were thankful we arrived as early as we did to beat the crowds. Werribee Gorge was not only a great walk that you could quickly do in a day and get home before sunset but also offered grand vistas, unexpected challenges and enough Instagram moments to keep your feed fresh for at least a few days!
The Centenary Walk
GRADE: Medium to Hard
DISTANCE: 4 km
TIME: 2.5 hrs return
We also trekked the Centenary Walk on the first weekend of winter. The walk diverts off the circuit walk just before the Eastern Viewpoint. On this day we arrived around 7 am as we were chasing the sunrise and wanted to start the morning with a cup of tea on the summit and try out our new JetBoil Flash (see what we thought below).
Along the trail we spotted a variety of wildlife including Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Swamp Wallabies, not to mention being there early we were treated to a chorus of bush birds as they were waking up. The track has lined either side with Manna Gum and Golden Wattle, and these ghostly gums are definitely a highlight.
Eventually, you head down into the gully where you find Junction Pool – a section of the river that is surrounded by rugged cliff faces. This is a quiet area and offers a unique view of the gorge from the river’s edge that you don’t get on the circuit walk. But to get up to the Centenary Walk, you have to ignore the pool for now and look to your right to spot a small sign on the other side of the Myrniong Creek. This little side road can be hard to spot, and we heard stories on the trail of people walking over Junction Pool and missing the turn-off and getting lost.
After crossing the creek, you will be met with an array of reeds, which tower above your head! The reeds and native walk continue for around a 1km and then it is – unfortunately – straight up!
This very steep climb definitely takes it out of you, and when we reached the top we were feeling quite puffed, but this exhaustion quickly gave way to awe as we were met with panoramic vistas over the Gorge and rolling hills beyond.
After we made our way back down to Junction Pool, we stopped and rested at the waters’ edge. It is indeed a spectacular spot and very much a highlight of this walk. Unfortunately, the early start and steep climb had taken all the wind out of our sails and, while we wanted to do the circuit walk that day, it was already 1 pm, and we just didn’t have the energy – so, what a shame, we had to come back another day!
I think you could do both walks in one day, so don’t feel discouraged by our failed attempt! Just maybe tone back on the Hollywood, and you should find it doable!
Werribee Gorge Map
Equipment used: Nikon D700; Sony a6500; Zhiyun Crane
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