The George Bass Coastal Walk is a well-maintained 7km trail in South Gippsland. With wide paths, golden beaches, and views galore, Jess reckons it’s a picnic-perfect place to spend an afternoon.

 

We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Bunurong people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Quick Overview

The George Bass Coastal Walk is a 7km (one-way) scenic trail stretching between San Remo and Kilcunda in Gippsland, Victoria. The drive from Melbourne to the San Remo end of the walk takes approximately 90 minutes and the walk takes most people two to three hours to complete.

If you decide to walk to Kilcunda and return to your car the same way, factor in up to five to six hours for the 14km return walk, including time to visit all the beaches and stop for photos.

 

South Gippsland's Seaside Gem: The George Bass Coastal Walk, Jess Nehme, South Gippsland, Hiker, day hike, Victorian coast, beach, coastal view

If you like views like these, you’ll love the Wild South Coast Way in SA

About the George Bass Coastal Walk

The George Bass Coastal Walk is a short day hike that delivers the kind of epic views normally reserved for hikers committed to trekking multiple days to earn them. Expect panoramic vistas in both directions along the coast plus vibrant green rolling hills dotted with livestock.

While it only takes two hours to walk the 7km (without any rest breaks), the beautiful beaches are begging to be enjoyed so I recommend bringing a picnic or allowing extra time to soak up the sights. If you want to enjoy all that this trail has to offer, consider doing what I did and complete it as a return circuit of 14km.

Photographers chasing the best light will definitely want to time their visit for the early hours of the morning or later on in the afternoon. While the track follows the clifftops and gives great outlooks, it means you’re very exposed to sun, wind, and rain so dressing for all possibilities is a must.

 

South Gippsland's Seaside Gem: The George Bass Coastal Walk, Jess Nehme, South Gippsland, Hiker, day hike, Victorian coast, dry grass, coastal view

Expect wide open spaces as far as your eyes can see

History of the George Bass Coastal Walk

The Traditional Owners of the land upon which the George Bass Coastal Walk stretches are the Yallock-Bulluk Clan of the Bunurong People. Yallock translates to ‘River’ and Bulluk to ‘Swamp’.

The George Bass Coastal Walk is named after British explorer, George Bass, who sighted the Victorian coastline on a journey from Sydney to Tasmania in 1797, while he was trying to prove the existence of a strait between Tasmania and New South Wales. This would of course, eventually be known as Bass Strait.

In 1826, another British explorer named William Hovell explored the Bass Coast region on foot. He described the area in great detail in his diaries, noting that along the clifftops ‘the land ends abruptly’ and there were ‘low, stunted trees with low bush’.

Farming, especially cattle, was common along these clifftops and remains so today. Despite this leading to the destruction of much of the original habitat, native plants remain where William Hovell originally described them. Keep an eye out for Coast banksia at Half Moon Bay and Boobiallas in the gullies.

In 2023 Parks Victoria committed to extending the George Bass Coastal Walk so that by 2025 (hopefully!) it will be 32km in length.

How to Get to the George Bass Coastal Walk?

Beginning or ending at Punchbowl Rd in San Remo – near Phillip Island – the George Bass Coastal Walk stretches 7km along the Gippsland coastline until it reaches the Bass Highway in Kilcunda.

By Car

The easiest way to get to the George Bass Coastal Walk is by car.

In 90 minutes (on a good day) or two hours (with the near-constant roadworks in Gippsland, this is more realistic!) you can drive from Melbourne CBD to Punchbowl Rd, San Remo. Drive an extra ten minutes and you’ll reach the trailhead in Kilcunda.

There’s a small car park with plenty of street parking at the end of Punchbowl Rd where the trailhead is in San Remo. The road is gravel but it’s well graded and suitable for 2WD vehicles. Plenty of parking is also available at the Kilcunda end.

By Train

While the V/line train service can get you to Gippsland, it doesn’t go anywhere near this trail. You can technically catch a couple of buses or a taxi, plus the train to make it work, but at that point, this turns from a day hike into a weekend trip.

By Bus

Buses depart from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne CBD one to three times per day, with more services available on weekdays compared to weekends (typical!). On weekdays a V/line coach service operates directly from Southern Cross Station to Kilcunda (meaning you’ll be walking from Kilcunda to San Remo).

To get back to Kilcunda for your return trip to Melbourne, you’ll either need to walk back along the coastal walk or take a regional bus from the San Remo Post Office to Kilcunda. Note that these also run infrequently compared to metropolitan bus services and you’ll need to walk 4km from the end of the George Bass Coastal Trail (approximately one hour) to reach the San Remo Post Office.

Where to Stay Along the George Bass Coastal Walk

The closest accommodation to the George Bass Coastal Trail is the Kilcunda Ocean View Holiday Retreat. It offers unpowered sites for camping right through to powered spaces for caravans, and onsite cabins, villas, and cottages.

I didn’t stay there but it’s the most convenient option if you’re working around public transport or wanting to make a weekend out of your trip.

 

South Gippsland's Seaside Gem: The George Bass Coastal Walk, Jess Nehme, South Gippsland, Hiker, day hike, Victorian coast, beach

Sadly, you cannot camp along the George Bass Coastal Walk

Where to Eat on the George Bass Coastal Walk

There aren’t any food outlets along the George Bass Coastal Walk itself, but there are plenty of beaches to spread out on for a picnic (provided you bring it yourself!). At the San Remo end of the walk, there aren’t any facilities (no food, no toilets), but there are plenty of options within 200m of the trailhead in Kilcunda.

I recommend commencing the walk at San Remo so that you can enjoy great local food and a toilet stop during your rest break or end-of-hike celebration in Kilcunda.

Skill Level

Beginner

Despite being a Grade 3 walk, the George Bass Coastal Walk is suited for pretty much all ages and fitness levels. There are hills – you’re heading from the clifftops down to beaches and back up again – but for the most part, the trail is well-defined and varied. While there is one whopping slow-burn of a hill, the terrain is mostly quite moderate with wide paths and comfortable inclines.

At only 7km in length, you should be able to carry all the water you’ll need, but there’s at least one stream along the way should you run out and need more.

Mobile reception is pretty consistent throughout the entire walk. Thanks, cliffs.

 

South Gippsland's Seaside Gem: The George Bass Coastal Walk, Jess Nehme, South Gippsland, Hiker, day hike, stream

Beautiful bubbling stream near Kilcunda

Distance / Duration / Elevation

7km (one-way) / 2 – 3 hours / 623m

Essential Gear for George Bass Coastal Walk

  • First aid kit 
  • Hat (with a chin strap if you’d prefer to hike without holding your hat on your head)
  • Sunnies, sunscreen, and long sleeves
  • Water, preferably 2L per person
  • Snacks or picnic food
  • Camera/phone for all the photos you’re guaranteed to take
  • Raincoat and fleece (it’s cold on the clifftops and the weather changes rapidly)
  • Beach chair or towel for lazing on the beach

Read more: Packing List for a Day Hike

What it’s Like to Hike the George Bass Coastal Walk

Getting Started

With only one car and limited public transport options, my partner and I set off on the George Bass Coastal Walk on a chilly winter day. We had decided to do it end-to-end and back again for a total of 14km, starting at Punchbowl Rd in San Remo.

While it was cold and we were visiting at a time I’d consider off-peak, the sun was out so we were unsure how popular the trail would be. Arriving at the car park we found five cars there already, proving that this walk really is popular all year round.

There’s nothing at the trailhead at San Remo except the car park so after reading the information boards, we were off!

 

South Gippsland's Seaside Gem: The George Bass Coastal Walk, Jess Nehme, South Gippsland, gravel trail

The trail starts off narrow and protected, but it soon opens up

Trail Conditions

I have to applaud Parks Victoria for the great condition of this trail. The path is wide enough for two people almost the entire way, the grassy sections are neatly trimmed and the gravel is devoid of any potholes.

We choofed along at a rapid rate, enjoying occasional corridors where the vegetation had grown overhead to form archways, and marvelling at how effective the shrubs were at blocking out the ever-present wind.

 

South Gippsland's Seaside Gem: The George Bass Coastal Walk, Jess Nehme, South Gippsland, Hiker, day hike, Victorian coast, clifftop views,

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the soft grass though – the wind is still wild on the cliffs!

 

There are quite a few muddy sections, particularly at the San Remo end. I’d expect to encounter these in most seasons throughout the year, including summer, as they were predominantly located in sheltered sections that rarely see direct sunlight.

Squelching through the mud is one way to instantly feel as though you’re on a ‘real’ hike.

 

South Gippsland's Seaside Gem: The George Bass Coastal Walk, Jess Nehme, South Gippsland, Hiker, day hike, Victorian coast, mud

One of the impromptu slippery dips that had snuck out in full sun – sneaky, sneaky!

 

I felt really sorry for a small group of walkers who were decked out in white sneakers and struggling to avoid getting their shoes completely destroyed. Spoiler alert: white shoes won’t survive this trail.

You don’t necessarily need hiking boots for this walk, but I sure appreciated the ankle support in sections like this.

The Ups and Downs

Most of the trail is relatively moderate in terms of incline, but when a hill hits, maaaate, it hits hard. I think this is because you’re not coming onto any hills halfway. You start at the bottom, you slog your way to the top, and then you follow it all the way down the other side. It’s the full hill experience!

There’s one absolute monster you’ll have to conquer. This beast was so long that I lost count of the number of times I looked up to check how close I was, only to be slapped in the face with more hill.

If anyone else out there is hiking for mental gains or to improve their resilience, this is the walk for you. It’s the ideal training ground. You can’t let this hill break you. Stomp each negative thought under your feet as you take it one step at a time. You can do it.

 

South Gippsland's Seaside Gem: The George Bass Coastal Walk, Jess Nehme, South Gippsland, grass, big hill

The hill of false summits, featuring mud (of course!)

 

Once you summit the beast, you’re treated to such wondrous views of the coastline as you meander back down the other side, that it’s easy to forget how hard you just worked to get there. Take time to soak them in. You can spend the next hill debating whether you’d prefer to be rewarded in pride or views.

After much deliberation, I decided that both pride and views seemed like the right journey for me.

Treat yo’ self!

Plus, if I’m making the rules, I might as well collect the main prize!

The Sand Between Your Toes

If you do one thing on this walk, make it your mission to visit all of the beach sections. From Half Moon Bay to Shelley Beach, and a few beaches in between, you have multiple opportunities to feel the sand between your toes on this walk.

You’ll find easy, well-marked paths that take you off the coastal trail and down to the stunning secluded beaches below.

 

South Gippsland's Seaside Gem: The George Bass Coastal Walk, Jess Nehme, South Gippsland, Hiker, day hike, Victorian coast, beach

Not a bad reward for a couple of hours walking

 

They’re quiet beaches for a few reasons. Firstly, because far fewer people are inclined to hike to them when they could park their car 20m from a similar beach (crazy decision – where’s the satisfaction in that?).

And secondly, because they’re so sizeable that even with up to twenty or so hikers, you’ll still feel like you have the place to yourself.

 

South Gippsland's Seaside Gem: The George Bass Coastal Walk, Jess Nehme, South Gippsland, Hiker, day hike, Victorian coast, beach

All this beach just for you. This is why we hike

 

The water’s too rough for swimming on the beaches along the coastal trail, but walking along the waters edge in bare feet is fine, and lazing around with a picnic really should be a requirement of this hike.

Just remember to follow leave no trace principles – no one wants to lay down amongst your crumbs.

We, regrettably, were on deadline and had to march through the sand like we’d missed an appointment.

I would have given my left arm to flop down and enjoy a picnic while the waves rolled in. The sand is golden. It may have been winter but summer mode was activated on that beach. Maybe there’s a glitch in the matrix. Whatever the reason, the beaches are not to be missed.

Finish Up Or Take A Break

Once we hit the Kilcunda trailhead, it was decision time. Should we stop for a celebratory lunch and take our chances trying to get a taxi back to our car on Punchbowl Road, San Remo? Or do we hotfoot it back along the trail to our car?

We prefer life on two feet, plus we were already a bit too sweaty for a taxi, so after a quick recline on a park bench, we headed back the way we came along the coastal trail. The highlight of the Kilcunda end of the trail is definitely Punchbowl Caves. You can’t get down to look inside them but they look fantastic from the clifftop.

 

South Gippsland's Seaside Gem: The George Bass Coastal Walk, Jess Nehme, South Gippsland, Hiker, day hike, Victorian coast, Punchbowl Caves

If you know to keep an eye out for them, Punchbowl Caves are very easy to spot

 

The trail back to the car was uneventful. Aside from my ceding defeat to the wind and reluctantly packing my chinstrap-less hat into my backpack to avoid endless runs after it whenever the wind decided to pluck it from my head, it was incredibly peaceful.

If you’re quiet and observant you’ll enjoy the sounds of birds, watch butterflies drift lazily across the path ahead, and maybe spot a few snake trails in the sand.

 

South Gippsland's Seaside Gem: The George Bass Coastal Walk, Jess Nehme, South Gippsland, Hiker, day hike, Victorian coast, clifftop views, day hiker

Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera!

 Tips for visiting the George Bass Coastal Walk

  • Weather can change rapidly on the coast, so be prepared for all seasons
  • Take a buddy – these views are meant to be shared
  • If you have a mate who wants to get into hiking, this would be an amazing introduction
  • Visit between May and November for your chance to spot migrating whales from the cliffs
  • There are no toilets on the walk itself but there are some public ones in Kilcunda within 200m of the start/end of the trail
  • There are no other places to access the trail aside from the trailhead at either end. You can’t organise to complete half of it and get picked up unless you return to either San Remo or Kilcunda
  • Fishing on rock platforms is a popular activity at the San Remo end of the walk. Be mindful that there are rogue waves and obey all safety signs
  • Are you planning on attempting the Great Ocean Walk? The George Bass Coastal Walk is a great preview hike with similar views

Read more: Staying Safe on Coastal Rock Platforms

 

South Gippsland's Seaside Gem: The George Bass Coastal Walk, Jess Nehme, South Gippsland, Hiker, day hike, Victorian coast

For a day hike you’ll bring up so often that you’ll start to annoy people, you can’t go past the George Bass Coastal Walk

FAQs George Bass Coastal Walk

Are there toilets at the San Remo end of the George Bass Coastal Walk?

No. There are no toilets or shops at the San Remo end of the George Bass Coastal Walk. For this reason, it’s an ideal starting point so that when you complete the walk (or have a rest break) you’ll be in Kilcunda where there are plenty of food options and public toilets within 200m of the end of the walk.

Can I camp along the George Bass Coastal Walk?

No. There are no places to camp along the George Bass Coastal Walk. At only 7km in length it’s doubtful you would need to, unless in the case of an emergency. It’s quite a popular walk though so help is always near to hand. If you’re looking for accommodation, consider the Kilcunda Ocean View Holiday Retreat.

Can I make the George Bass Coastal Walk longer?

Yep! Aside from doubling back and making it into a 14km return trip, you can also extend the 7km one-way and connect into the Bass Coast Rail Trail, which is 16km long. Plus Parks Victoria has committed to extending the Bass Coast Rail Trail into a new 32km coastal hike.

Where can I get more information about the George Bass Coastal Walk?

For more information about the George Bass Coastal Walk, Parks Victoria produces Park Notes that contain maps, information about flora and fauna, and a few other bits and pieces.

Do I need a permit or park pass to complete the George Bass Coastal Walk?

You don’t need any permits or passes to enjoy the George Bass Coastal Walk. If the weather conditions look decent, get out there!

Which direction should I take to complete the George Bass Coastal Walk?

You can start the walk at either San Remo or Kilcunda. As you’re walking up and down the entirety of most hills, both directions are equally moderate in terms of effort. If you’re going one-way from San Remo to Kilcunda, keep an eye out for the Punchbowl Caves as you approach Kilcunda. They’ll be slightly behind you embedded into the base of the cliffs, but provided you’re looking out at the views anyway, you shouldn’t miss them.

Can I take my dog on the George Bass Coastal Walk?

Yep! Four-legged buddies are welcome on the George Bass Coastal Walk provided they are on a lead the entire time. Make sure to bring water and a bowl for them to drink from and don’t wander off the trail (snakes are common). There’s an off-leash dog beach in Kilcunda too.

Can I ride my bike on the George Bass Coastal Walk?

Sadly, no. This trail is not suitable for bikes. If you’re keen to get out on two wheels, I suggest you check out the nearby Bass Coast Rail Trail. It passes through Kilcunda and is bike-friendly.

What else can I do near the George Bass Coastal Walk?

South Gippsland is full of great attractions and many of these are close to the George Bass Coastal Walk. You can explore nearby Phillip Island, enjoy camping or a hike at Wilsons Prom, or investigate the wide variety of things to do in Kilcunda.

This piece was brought to you by a real living human who felt the wind in their hair and described their adventure in their own words. This is because we rate authenticity and the sharing of great experiences in the natural world – it’s all part of our ethos here at We Are Explorers. You can read more about it in our Editorial Standards.