Rainbow Falls and Station Beach; the best time to visit & tips on the tides
There are many hidden gems on the Great Ocean Walk, but one of our favourites is Rainbow Falls. Many of our walkers ask, is it worth the detour, and the answer is yes! However, it pays off to know the best time to visit and its good to note some of our tips below before you leave.
Whilst you are walking the first half of the Great Ocean Walk, such as our 3 Day Hike the Cape Walk, there is the tendency to just skip this 1-hour detour as there are still many kilometres to cover on the trail. However, as this waterfall is so different from the other falls scattered around the Great Otway National Park, such as Hopetoun Falls and Triplet Falls, it is worth a look if your legs can manage it. Also, this is the only ‘proper’ waterfall on the Great Ocean Walk (but you might see a few springs escaping through the rocks towards Wreck Beach after a downpour).
Remember to check the tides!
One of the most important things to remember before you attempt to walk to Rainbow Falls is not to attempt this detour if the tide and sea swell is high. We would also recommend walking in sturdy shoes with a good grip as the combination of the high tides and freshwater running over the rocks can cause them to be slippery. It takes approx. ½ an hour to 45 minutes each way from the Parks Victoria signpost to the falls and back. This doesn’t include viewing time, so please factor this into your walk plan when referring to your tide chart.
Always remember, if it doesn’t look safe to walk and the swell looks big – don’t risk this walk, even if the tide indicates low on your chart. If you are walking on our self-guided ‘inn to inn’ tour we will discuss this detour with you at your walk briefing on arrival.
When is the best time of year to visit Rainbow Falls?
As you approach Rainbow Falls around the impressive rocky platforms, you will notice a cascade of water running along the left-hand side of the cliff face. In winter, spring and autumn this is quite impressive and you can often see the colours of the rainbow reflecting off the water, hence giving the Falls its name. Therefore, the best time to walk in general is on a sunny day when there has been a lot of rain. Heavy rainfall is more likely in late March to November, but we have had some pretty wet Januarys here so don’t rule out the summer months!
Visiting the Great Ocean Walk in the summer months.
However, if you are planning to walk in Australia in the summer months there is usually a lot less rainfall so you will possibly find Rainbow Falls far less impressive at this time of year. You also have to remember that if you are attempting the Great Ocean Walk in hot weather that the reflective heat off the sand and coastal dunes can be very hot, so take plenty of water and remember to be ‘sun-smart’ (i.e. a hat, sunscreen and cover-up with long sleeves). Also, always remember to let someone know where you are planning to walk before you leave.
How do you get to Rainbow Falls?
Once you leave the Cape Otway Lighthouse, follow the well-marked track to Station Beach. You will be led downwards towards the beach along well-made boardwalks which wind in and out of the coastal scrub. You will enjoy magnificent views of the Great Southern Ocean. If you are walking in June to September remember to look out for Southern Right Whales!
At the Parks Victoria signage at Station Beach, make your way onto the sand and turn left for Rainbow Falls. The detour is approx. 1.6kms from the beach along the soft sand so it can be quite a tiring walk. However, you will be accompanied by the sound of the wild crashing waves along this isolated stretch of beach which is quite magical.
Where does the water come from at Rainbow Falls?
The falls come from a freshwater spring above the cliff, which is used to supply water to surrounding properties. This water was pumped by use of the windmill which you can see on the track above the Great Ocean Walk and Station Beach. The windmill was built many years ago when the surrounding area was mainly used for farmland. Hence it is looking a bit rusty and worn out nowadays, and is actually run by a generator now as part of the windmill blew away, ironically, in huge winds! It used to provide water to the whole area but now only 3 properties use its services.
The water of the falls streams down the face of the large rocky surface creating small sparkling streams of droplets running off the algae. This is so pretty to watch and it is like an ‘outdoor’ indoor cave! The water is crystal clear and very cold and our kids and their friends have had lots of fun standing under them and getting absolutely soaked!
What facilities are at Rainbow Falls?
Well, in short…none! There are no toilets or camping facilities here and dogs are not allowed as you are within the National Park, on the Great Ocean Walk.
Station Beach is also an unpatrolled beach and swimming is not recommended.
The unspoilt natural environment is what makes it so special so please take your rubbish away with you. Also, on our recent trip to the falls, there were a few bits of plastic washed up on the sand (flotsam carried in by the wind and sea) which is terrible to see. So, if you feel like taking a bag with you and picking up just a couple of bits of plastic please do – every little bit helps!
The Great Ocean Walk & Walk91
We hope this information has answered a few of your questions and made you even more excited to explore this wonderful part of the Great Ocean Walk. And remember, there are so many other great sights to see on this world-famous walk. So, if you have any questions about how to plan your walk, or would like to enquire about our 6 Day Walk or any other walks we offer, please feel free to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you! If you need to contact Parks Victoria, please refer to their website.