Published: 20 Apr 2022
Each year millions of people travel from across Australia and the world to drive along the Great Ocean Road and holiday in Victoria’s beautiful coastal towns. To add to the region’s pristine environment and rich cultural history, a new walking trail is being planned along the Great Ocean Road from Fairhaven to Skenes Creek.
The 90km Great Ocean Road Coastal Trail will link with existing trails in the area and is expected to attract visitors and locals. It will mean visitors can linger longer and support more local businesses.
Recognising its many benefits, the project received $23.8 million through the Tourism Infrastructure Program - Flagship Projects funding as part of the Victorian Government’s Visitor Economy Recovery and Reform Plan.
The project is being developed in partnership with the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority, the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning, Traditional Owners, Parks Victoria and Colac Otway Shire.
Building a better future for the community
Following the 2015 Wye River Christmas Day bushfires, a community group formed to push for a walkable trail connecting local communities as part of a broader plan to renew the area. Since then, community input has been key to the trail’s planning process.
Project board member and Wye River resident Joanne Tyler, believes the trail will become one of the great walks of the world.
“The trail will showcase the region's history, rich cultural heritage and its beauty as it passes through Eastern Maar Country,” Joanne said.
“It will have spectacular views and opportunities to walk end-to-end over several days, or for shorter walks.”
With visitor numbers affected in recent years by bushfire and the COVID-19 pandemic, Joanne expects the trail will provide a welcome boost to the region. Additional benefits include longer stays and extending the tourist season, by attracting people all year-round.
“There’s a real desire amongst the community for tourists to stay rather than merely pass through,” Joanne said.
“The trail will also highlight the unique flora, fauna and topography of the region, and increase awareness of the need to care for our environment through taking the time to see it close up,” she added.
Eastern Maar Country
Reflecting the region’s First Nations history and importance to Traditional Owners, the Eastern Maar Corporation, have been involved in planning the trail from the beginning.
Corporation representative Jason Mifsud said having a voice in the project gives his community great confidence.
“Knowing the cultural heritage of our ancestors will be not only maintained but protected is enormous, for us” Jason said.
“It’s so important for our Elders, Knowledge holders and citizens to contribute to this project. We have a very holistic view and our three guiding principles for this project are to protect cultural heritage – tangible and intangible - and therefore, preserve heritage and history and promote heritage and history.
“The community are very excited to see the project come to life. We have a mutual goal to bring the project to life, with our cultural values embedded in every phase. This will include the sensitive, and sensible management of potentially sacred sites, sites of significance and songlines which will need to be thoughtfully managed.”
Over the coming year, the project masterplan will finalise the trail's route, including First Nations stories and landmarks, as well as the location of lookouts, boardwalks, bridges, river crossings, carparks and day visitor areas.
The trail is then expected to be constructed in stages over approximately two years commencing in 2023.
For more information please visit the Forest and Reserves Great Ocean Coastal Trail initiative.