I vaguely recall doing the Werribee Gorge Circuit Walk many years ago, on a blisteringly hot day when I took way too little water with me… I’m back again on another very hot day, but this time I’m armed with multiple water bottles. I’m unsure if I’ll be able to complete the circuit, as heavy rain and flooding a few months ago damaged the track and resulted in it being closed. The Web site still has the Werribee Gorge Circuit Walk as being closed, but I’ve read many reports of this being incorrect.
Myers Road Trailhead to Werribee River
Just in case the section though the gorge is closed, I’m starting from the Myers Road Trailhead (the first parking area) so I least pass the two main lookouts if I have to return the same way. In hindsight, not the smartest idea – I’d recommend starting at the Meikles Point Picnic Area at the end of the road on a hot day and hiking anti-clockwise. This gets all the uphill sections done first, and allows for a few swims just before you return to your car. From the carpark, the trail immediately starts ascending.
The trail soon passes the remains of Hanson’s Farm, where signage explains that Thomas and Eliza Hanson purchased eight hectares of land in 1871. They built a freestone cottage, extensive stone-walled orchard and garden and there’s evidence of one more building. Very little remains today, and it’s too hot to poke around so I don’t linger here for long.
The Werribee Gorge Circuit trail passes the junction with the Centenary Track and continues uphill for another few hundred metres, before levelling out. Just before the Eastern Lookout is the junction with the much shorter and easier Werribee Gorge Short Circuit.
The Eastern Viewpoint is less than 100m from the main track, and provides some nice (but not specctacular) views to the wast and north over Werribee Gorge State Park.
The track is now fairly level, as it traverses the flat top of the hill that I’ve been climbing from the carpark.
The next lookout is Picnic Point, from where you get the first view of the Werribee River below.
The Werribee Gorge Circuit track now starts descending and soon reaches the Western Viewpoint, which provides views to the west over The Island (formed when lava from the Mount Blackwood volcano flowed south and filled what had been a valley.)
From here the track descends steadily, offering a few more views of the the river and gorge almost directly below.
Along the Werribee River
The Werribee Gorge Circuit track now follows the river downstream. The Werribee River (Wirribi Yaluk) is the largest waterway on the long plain west of Port Phillip Bay, originating in the Wombat State Forest on the Great Dividing Range and flowing for about 110 kilometres south-east to Port Philip. The river has had (at least) four names:
- ‘Arndell’, named in 1834 by explorers Hume and Hovell after the latter’s father-in-law
- ‘Peel’ and then ‘the Ex’, named by surveyor John Helder Wedgeb, who rediscovered the river in 1835.
- Its current name is derived from the Aboriginal words Weariby (spine) and Yallock (stream), with the spelling later changed to Werribee.
So far my fears about the track being washed away are unfounded… even as the gorge narrows and the track drops is closer to the water, it’s easy to follow. It’s another reminder of why people ignore “track closed” signs; the Parks services (the same issue is frequent in NSW) are quick to close a track, but don’t seem to bother to update these closures even when tracks are re-opened.
One section requires a bit of careful clambering along the base of a vertical cliff -face, but is not particularly challenging (you wouldn’t want to be here when the river is in flood, though).
The track continues to follow the river very closely.
After about a kilometre is Needles Beach, a deep swimming hole with a sandy beach, that’s perfect for a quick swim.
After another half a kilometre is Lionhead Beach, another swimming hole along the Werribee River. The name is derived from a rock formation in the cliffs opposite the beach, which are said to resemble a lion’s head.
Next is the trickiest section of the gorge, where a hand-line affixed to the rock assists with traversing another steep cliff above the water. Even without the cable, it wouldn’t be too much of a challenge, and with the cable it’s pretty easy to cross.
After this section, the rest of the Werribee Gorge Circuit trail is paved or hard-packed gravel as it rises above the river. Parts of the trail use the old concrete Water Commission Channel, which was constructed from 1926-29. Concrete bridges crosses the channel to divert storm water to the river, and sluice gates controlled the water which flowed using gravity to Bacchus Marsh (for town supply and irrigation). On the opposite (south) side of the river is McFarlane’s Water Race, rock walls and cuttings blasted in 1904-1906 by local farmer William H MacFarlane who created a 2.5-mile long water race to irrigate 100 acres of land.
There’s one last spot where you can scramble down for a swim in the river, but it’s rock here and not as nice as the beaches upstream. The river then beomes a bit browner, full of reeds and a lot less inviting to swim…
From Meikles Point Picnic Area back up to the top
I’m soon at Meikles Point Picnic Area, and I as mentioned earlier if I’d started the Werribee Gorge Circuit here I’d be back at the car. But, as I parked at the first carpark along Myers Road, I now have a steep and rather uninspiring walk back up to the car. There’s not a lot of nice things I can say about this last part of the walk…
As the trail ascends, there’s a little bit more shade. An eroded gully shows some of the impact of the recent storm.
The trail passes the Quarry Picnic Area and carpark, before reaching the upper Myers Road trailhead and carpark,
Despite the tedious, uphill section at the end of the walk (which would have been less unpleasant at start of the Werribee Gorge Circuit, when it was a bit cooler) it’s a pleasant loop bushwalk, with some nice views and the option of a swim or too on a hot day. I’ve no idea why the signage is wildly wrong – I measured it as about 8.3km in length, with all the lookouts, and not 10km as Parks Victoria suggests.
0.0km Myers Road Trailhead 1.1km Eastern Viewpoint 1.6km Picnic Point 2.1km Western Viewpoint 3.1km Werribee River 4.0km Needles Beach 4.6km Lions Head Beach 6.3km Meikles Point Picnic Area 7.9km Quarry Picnic Area 8.3km Myers Road Trailhead
Getting to the Werribee Gorge Circuit
The Werribee Gorge Circuit is about an hour (75km) west of Melbourne, past Bacchus Marsh. You can start the walk at three carpark along Myers Road (which of off Pentland Hills Road):
- Myers Road Trailhead (the uppermost start point)
- Quarry Picnic Area
- Meikles Point Picnic Area (the recommended start point)
- Melbourne Water – Werribee River