I'm a Melbourne girl, born and bred, and new resident of Geelong. Fantabulous adventures await as I explore my gorgeous new city and the stunning Surf Coast. But don’t worry—I’ll be crossing the bridge regularly to get my Melbourne fix.
Published November 19th 2015
A bushland park in the heart of beachside Anglesea
Anglesea really is the quintessential beachside town. Situated right on the beach, in between Torquay and Lorne on Victoria's Great Ocean Road, it's retained its small town holiday feel, and hasn't been developed too much (although more and more of the old fibro beachside shacks are being demolished to make way for stunning new holiday mansions with glorious views of Point Roadknight beach and beyond). The caravan park is right on the water, the shopping strip has everything you need for your beachside holiday without being too big and crazy (it's almost mandatory to enter the IGA with sandy feet and beach hair), and of course, there are the beautiful beaches.
But there's more to Anglesea than beaches and surfing and building sand castles. It's the little town where the bush meets the beach, with plenty to see and do that doesn't involve getting beach hair (although you might still end up with sandy feet—it really is inevitable in these parts). Coogarah Park sits right on the Anglesea River (which flows into the ocean), and is a short stroll away from the shopping strip and the Anglesea Main beach.
There's a lovely little path along the Great Ocean Road that takes you to the park through the bushland, so it's well protected from the traffic. Head past the pub on the corner, cross over the bridge, veer into Noble Street, then turn right down River Reserve Road. You can't miss it—there are a couple of little red and white boat houses on the corner, overlooking the river, and usually a local or two dropping a line off the wooden jetty into the calm water.
Take the road with the boat houses to Coogarah Park.
The gravel path along the river takes you all the way along River Reserve Road, but you can also take the car and drive down if you prefer. Coogarah Park is at the very end of the road, and it's a lovely site to see as it pops into view as you crest the slight hill.
The trail alongside River Reserve Road takes you all the way to the park.
For kids, the main attraction is the shipwreck playground—and how could you blame them?! A huge wooden 'ship' is semi-buried into the sandy grounds, with masts and flags and platforms just asking for mini pirates to run and jump and explore and pretend they're lost at sea. There are swings and slides, spinning things and tunnels, even a hammock for the weary shipmates to have a little rest.
Shipwrecked playgrounds not really your thing? Coogarah Park is ideal for gentle strolling, with gravel paths weaving across the park, and crisscrossing the wooden bridges here and there over the Anglesea River. As you wander through the reeds and marshes lining the paths, you might spy some birdlife (just ducks on my recent visit I'm afraid…but very nice ducks all the same) and you'll almost certainly hear them calling—perhaps the only sounds you'll hear.
Coogarah Park is laced with peaceful walking trails along the water.
If you're feeling in the mood for something with a little more action, Coogarah Park also has a couple of a short mountain biking trails if you don't mind getting a little dirty. The bushland trails are mostly over the other side of the playground and walking paths so you can thrash along without disturbing the ducks (and the mini-pirates). The trails are easily identified with either green or gold labels on signposts, and are aimed at families—not so much for the hard-core mountain bikers (the Surf Coast is blessed with plenty of other spots to get a little wild and crazy on mountain bikes though, so everyone is catered for!).
Challenge your little terrors with a kid-friendly mountain bike ride around the park.
The calm Anglesea River flows right through the park, and balloons out into some wider sections here and there, making it perfect to try out some cruisy watersports (nothing motorised though of course—we're talking relaxing, enjoying-the-scenery type stuff here!). You can kayak all the way along the river until it almost meets the ocean, or perhaps you'd also like to give stand up paddle boarding a go? Check out Go Ride A Wave's website if you feel like trying out this new sport that is ever increasing in popularity.
Anglesea River is perfect for a little stand up paddle boarding.
With picnic tables, barbecues, toilets and plenty of shade, Coogarah Park is a wonderful place to spend a relaxing morning or afternoon—or indeed the whole day—if you need a little break from the summer beach crowds. And of course you can enjoy the park all year round, not just in the summer. Anglesea is delightful whatever the weather—and there's definitely not as much sand in the IGA during winter!