George Bass Coastal Walk

I’d always heard about the George Bass Coastal Walk, but never managed to actually get down to South Gippsland to do it. It’s often regarded as one of the best coastal walks in Victoria, and I have to say, that sounds about right.

The stunning walk follows the rugged coastline between San Remo and Kilcunda along the Bass Coast. Being a relatively accessible walk for a variety of people, the George Bass Coastal Walk is a great day spent outdoors admiring the wildly beautiful south coast of Australia. Whether you’re looking for a solo hike or want to take the whole family along, this is the perfect day hike to get everyone outside and enjoying the sea breeze.

This quick guide to the walk will help you plan your trip, with everything you need to know about walking the George Bass Coastal Walk.

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Quick Facts About the George Bass Coastal Walk

  • Trailheads: Punch Bowl in San Remo and Kilcunda
  • Distance: 8km one way (it’s often advertised as 7km, but I found that it’s really a bit longer than that)
  • Time: 2-3 hours one way (with minimal breaks, longer if you stop more often)
  • Total ascent: 235m one way
  • Direction: You can walk the trail in either direction
  • Difficulty: Moderate (easy to follow, wide formed track, some short steep hills)
  • Respect: George Bass Coastal Walk is on the Traditional Land of the Bunurong people
  • History: The walk is named after George Bass, an explorer who sighted the coast of Victoria in 1797 on his journey south from Sydney to Tasmania
  • Dogs: Allowed but must be on leash at all times
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How to Reach the George Bass Coastal Walk

Melbourne to San Remo: 125km or 1 hour 45 minute drive via the M1

At Kilcunda, there is a large gravel carpark with toilets, next to the caravan park. This is the best place to start the walk, and it adds about 600m one way onto the official start of the trail.

At the other end near San Remo, there is a small gravel carpark at the end of Punch Bowl Road at the trailhead. No facilities there though.

Read next: What to Pack for a Day Hike

Fishermen on the coast
Fishermen on the coast

Where to Stay Nearby 

If you’re looking to do this walk as part of a weekend away down in South Gippsland (not a bad idea really), then here are some recommendations for places to stay. I was based in Cape Paterson for my time down there, but you could also stay closer to the walk itself in Kilcunda or San Remo.

Kilcunda: Kilcunda Ocean View Motel

San Remo: Black Dolphin Waterfront Apartment

Cape Paterson: Three Bedroom Holiday House or Ingenia Holidays Cape Paterson Caravan Park

Cape Woolamai: 7 Palms Queen Studio

Punch bowl lookout
Punch Bowl Lookout

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Trail Notes from the George Bass Coastal Walk

I was lucky enough to have a perfect autumn day when I decided to do the George Bass Coastal Walk. Although it was a weekend and the trail was heaving with people, it surprisingly didn’t take away from the raw beauty of the coastline.

I started around mid-morning from Kilcunda, as I was staying down the road in Cape Paterson. The walk started off being on a gravel footpath as it wound its way along the cliff tops west of Kilcunda. There were a couple of great viewpoints along here, but it only got better further along.

Trail along the fenceline
Trail along the fenceline

After about a kilometre, the walk started to follow a fenceline, marking private farmland to my right and the cliff down to my left. It reminded me instantly of the Wild South Coast Way on the Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia.

After about 4km, the trail did go down to a beach, whereas previously it had skirted around beaches and mostly hugged the fenceline. This beach was beautiful, but I kept my eye on where I had to pick up the trail again on my right above the dunes.

View over Half Moon Bay
View over Half Moon Bay

Then, it climbed gently again, up and along the stunning coastline with views in both directions. At the top of a small headland, there was a particularly incredible view down into Half Moon Bay, and then back along the coast that I’d walked along (pictured above).

From there, it was only another 2km or so to the end at Punch Bowl. I ducked down to the left to the viewpoint at Punch Bowl before the carpark, and had the viewing platform all to myself for at least 15 minutes while I took photos and ate my lunch.

I then turned around and started the trek back, retracing my steps. I passed some of the same people, some who were also doing the walk both ways and others I’d overtaken on my way. 

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A few kilometres from the end, I could see a rain shower closing in across the seas. I hoped at first that I’d miss it, but it came quicker than I thought. Luckily, I had thrown in a light rain jacket, and I chucked that on as it drizzled for about 20 minutes. Then, as soon as it had arrived, it left, and the sky was clear again.

I noticed some sea caves near Kilcunda that I hadn’t seen the first run along, so these were pretty cool to take photos of (pictured below). I got back to my van by mid-afternoon, after a beautiful few hours admiring the incredible coastline of the Bass Coast in South Gippsland. 

Sea caves close to Kilcunda
Sea caves close to Kilcunda

Essential Information for the George Bass Coastal Walk

Here are some helpful tips and safety information for your walk, so you’re fully prepared for everything to expect on the trail.

Safety Tips

  • Snakes are common on this stretch of coastline, it’s likely that you might come across one on the trail, particularly on a hot summer day
  • Keep to the track as some of the steep cliffs are not stable
  • Beaches along the walk are generally considered unsafe for swimming due to rips and strong currents
  • The trail is quite exposed to the sun, so even on a cloudy day you should still wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses

Serious dangers mainly come in the form of injury or snakes. Make sure that you carry a first aid kit, including a snake bite bandage, in case of emergency.

Read next: How to Leave No Trace and Respect the Outdoors

George Bass coastal walk beach

Other Walking Tips for the George Bass Coastal Walk

  • Make sure that you go to the lookout at Punchbowl, as many people simply head straight to the carpark and miss it
  • It’s not really a bad thing to do the walk both ways, as even though you’re repeating your steps, the views looking in the reverse direction make it seem like a whole new trail
  • There are no toilet facilities at Punch Bowl Road, only near the trailhead in Kilcunda
  • You won’t have access to drinking water other than at Kilcunda public toilets, so carry enough with you for your walk
  • There are no other access points to the trail between the trailheads, so you can’t try to do a pick-up halfway 
  • You can always do a shorter section of the walk, such as from Punch Bowl to Half Moon Bay and return, but I’d recommend trying to complete the entire stretch one way at least
  • There is good phone reception for the entire walk along the coast
  • If you walk in winter, you’ll likely be able to spot Southern Right Whales off the coast along the trail, which makes it a great time of year to do it
  • Looking for a morning coffee? Kilcunda General Store just opposite the trailhead is known for excellent coffee and cake or even lunch
  • This walk can be done by a wide range of people, including families. I passed so many different people on the trail from kids to older people, teenagers and everyone in between. You don’t need a lot of fitness or experience to complete it
Kilcunda Trestle Bridge
Kilcunda Trestle Bridge

Other Things to Do Nearby

  • Kilcunda Trestle Bridge and Anderson-Wonthaggi Rail Trail: Accessible from the carpark in Kilcunda at the trailhead of the George Bass Coastal Walk, you’ll find this beautiful trestle bridge that is also part of the Anderson-Wonthaggi Rail Trail. You could easily extend your walk on this trail or take bikes for a cycle.
  • Cape Woolamai Walk: Down on Phillip Island, Cape Wollamai has some great coastal walks, including an 8km loop, which I highly recommend for those who want more walks to do along the Gippsland coast. Check out my guide to Cape Woolamai Circuit Walk.
  • Phillip Island: There’s more to Phillip Island than just the Penguin Parade. You’ll find plenty of things to do on the island, with beautiful beaches, rugged coastal views, cosy cafes, and a variety of walks. Check out the 26 best things to do on Phillip Island.
  • Cape Paterson: Where I was based for a few days in South Gippsland, Cape Paterson is a lovely little town with beautiful beaches and a laidback vibe. It makes for a nice holiday destination if you want to spend your days beach hopping and surfing without the crowds of other places.

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