If you’re traveling through Apollo Bay and you’d love to do the Great Ocean Walk but you just don’t have time, there is a hidden gem close by that most visitors to the area don’t realise is even there – the Marengo Nature Conservation Reserve. Marengo is a 25 minute short walk from Apollo Bay or a 5-minute drive along the Great Ocean Road.
A short trail close to Apollo Bay at Marengo Conservation Reserve
There is a short 8km walk from Apollo Bay to Shelly Beach which skirts around the ocean, and this is a great short section of the Great Ocean Walk, but if this is too long for you try a 30-minute stroll around the Marengo Nature Conservation Reserve instead. The Great Ocean Walk is on the beachside of the Great Ocean Road, and the nature reserve is on the opposite side of this famous stretch of road, so often overlooked.
The Marengo Nature Conservation Reserve location
As you head towards Marengo from Apollo Bay, you can turn right onto Telford St, Newcombe Street, or Ferrier Drive to find this lovely short walk. This reserve is a small remnant of extensive heathland – the like of which you would have seen covering most of Apollo Bay and Marengo years ago before European Settlers arrived.
The nature reserve covers 26 ha and includes Wetlands and Eucalyptus Woodlands. It is also home to numerous animals and plants. It traverses through the trees and along the fire tracks on the edge of the airfield.
The airfield is still in use and you can still book flights to King Island and the 12 Apostles from here. Our most famous visitor in recent years was Oprah Winfrey who came here for an Australian adventure with members of her audience who won the trip of a lifetime!
The history of the Marengo Nature Conservation Reserve
The Marengo Nature Conservation Reserve has been looked after by the friends of the Otway National Park and Parks Victoria since 1986.
Originally in 1905 – 1920 this land was reserved for the Church of England as a reform training farm. This is not a nice part of Apollo Bay’s history as the boys living here were very badly treated – overworked and underfed. For more info on this https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/ref/vic/biogs/E000552b.htm, or visit the Apollo Bay Museum
In 1924-1921 the land then became a racecourse and a recreation area and in 1931- 1950 and the area was designated as an emergency airstrip. In 1962 – 1966 it was divided into the present airstrip reserve and a public purpose reserve, and in 1978 it was decided that the land would be permanently protected as a flora reserve.
In 2004 the Victorian environmental assessment council recommended that the Flora Reserve and the unreserved crown lands be renamed as the Marengo Nature Conservation Reserve.
What will I see at Marengo Nature Conservation Reserve
The conservation reserve helps to protect rare or threatened species. Throughout the woodlands, there are six species of eucalyptus, so enjoy looking at all the trees around you – this is a pretty special place.
The Scented Paper Bark Tree can also be found here which flowers in winter and provides nectar for small mammals such as the Pigmy Possum as well as the nectar-eating birds like the Little Wattlebird and New Holland Honeyeater.
The Bushtailed Possum can also be found in the hollows of the trees, and if you are lucky you may even see an Echidna scurrying around in the undergrowth if you are visiting in Summer.
Echidnas hibernate during cold winter months and are active during the summer months. The Echidnas is an egg-laying monotreme and the egg takes approximately ten days to hatch and the pup is fed by its mother in a burrow made it twigs and dirt for up to 3 months. So keep your eyes peeled as you walk through this beautiful nature reserve as you may see more than you expected!
There are some lovely views back over Apollo Bay, so stop and enjoy this beautiful view!
If you do decide to walk this track it might be easier to start walking at the gate at the top of Newcombe Street, but don’t drive too far up to the gate as it can be very muddy in winter months and the road is just dirt (so drive slowly in summer as it is a bit dusty). You can walk the loop and come out onto the street over the planks (see photo) then walk along the road back to your car.
Enjoy this lovely local walk, and if you decide to bring your dog you are requested by Parks Victoria to keep your pooch on a lead 🙂 Oh, and no horses allowed!