Dear Ocean and Sand Dunes, thank you for making us feel tiny, humble, inspired, salty, windswept and free all at once”.
That’s how this place made me feel.
From driving on massive sand dunes to riding the ocean waves, the area around Cape Bridgewater blew me away, nearly literally. Located about 23kms from Portland (and 4.5hrs from Melbourne) Cape Bridgewater is one of the most beautiful, wild and windswept stretches of coast in Victoria, minus the crowds. This is where we spent a long weekend recently.
There are pristine beaches, spectacular blowholes and natural formations carved by the sea. And bonus, the Bridgewater Bay cafe serves a mighty good coffee and scrummy food with a view.
This oceanfront stretches west from Cape Bridgewater for 50kms, almost to the South Australian border and lies within Discovery Bay Coastal Park.
Fun on the Dunes
Not far from Cape Bridgewater is one of Victoria’s most jealously guarded secrets. 1800 hectares of massive sand dunes, adjacent to the Swan Lake camping ground, an area managed by the Portland Dune Buggy Club.
Membership of the Portland Dune Buggy Club (PDBC) is essential to drive on the dunes, and needs to be organised before you go, either a twelve month membership or a four day membership, which is what I organised.
How lucky for us that we were privy to the secret!
Coincidentally, our friends, who are part of a four wheel drive club, were camped at Swan Lake that same weekend, while we were camped in nearby Narrawong.
Before you go
Aside from the requisite membership, a flag fitted to a BIG pole is essential before you hit the dunes. No have flag, no can drive. You have to be easily visible out there.
There’s no phone reception in the park so we had no way of communicating with our friends who had already left for the day and were out of UHF range.
Fortunately we met Ron from the PDBC beforehand. We told him we were hoping to find, if not our friends, at least some other vehicles. Ron gave us the low down and told us to stick to the green markers. “Keep the coast on your left” he told us, “and you’ll be right”. So with tyre pressures lowered and a flag fitted we’re off.
Out there, in the middle of the dunes your driving skills are tested, not to mention your strategic skills with the shifting sand conditions, sharp descents and minimal track markings. Where were these green markers?
There’s not much around to guide drivers, no marked tracks other than the occasional one way and do not enter signs. This is not a place to venture into alone.
Where were the other 30 cars we were told were out there?
It felt like the Sahara, exciting but also, I’ll admit it, with no backup a tad unnerving. We drove for a while, tackling a few sand hills and sliding down a couple that we didn’t quite make it up but we didn’t venture too far.
At one stage I stepped outside to take some pics and was nearly blown away. The wind was ferocious though somehow also exhilarating in the middle of this sand oasis. Still, not a soul in sight.
Eventually we spotted a couple of other vehicles (hooray) and joined them. And then, up the top of the dune when they stopped, we met up with Ron again. We were thrilled when he offered to take us around, kind of like a personalised tour. He’s been part of the dune buggy club since its inception back some thirty years and knows it like the back of his hand.
Have you ever followed a dune buggy. They’re loud, fast and damn thrilling to be behind. It felt like we were in a Mario Kart Brothers video!
I had to remind Doug that the Colorado wasn’t a dune buggy however it was important to keep up the momentum. Yep rule number one: keep the foot to the floor.
From the sand to the sea
The momentum kept going the next day … on the water.
What a blast we had!
Cape Bridgewater is home to over 2000 Australian and Long Nosed Fur Seals.
You can walk out to the colony lookout point which takes a couple of hours or you can see them up close and personal on board a Seals by Sea tour. No surprise what we did!
After a thrilling boat ride out to the end of the point the pace slowed. Amongst the rock pools we saw heaps of seals lazing about, splashing and playing, like they were showing off for us.
It was amazing, not just to see the seals in their natural habitat but to experience the rush of this beautiful coastline. To pass alongside Victoria’s highest sea cliffs, underneath the rim of an ancient volcano and to sail into the mouth of a cave was absolutely awe inspiring. I recently posted a video of our ride into the cave on Instagram.
Our camp was at nearby Narrawong, a small picturesque park nestled between the river and the sea.
That night as we sat around the fire we spoke about how fortunate we are to live in such an amazing country.
Yet not every weekend has adventure and big thrills. The one that just passed was more sedate, yet still I like to think there are moments in every day that make the heart pound just a bit faster. Those simple moments that make us feel alive …
Sometimes the anticipation can be as much fun as the action, so let your imagination run wild and don’t be afraid to dream big. Dream big, go big.
Wishing you all fun and a dose of adventure wherever you are.
Stay safe, keep smiling and enjoy the journey.
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