Bay of Martyrs - History and Nature on the Great Ocean Road

The Bay of Martyrs forms a part of the Bay of Islands Coastal Park, a 32 kilometre stretch of coastal reserve in Victoria along the Great Ocean Road. The region is one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in the country, promising rich history, vibrant culture, and even better views. There are plenty of lookout areas to enjoy along this stretch of coastline, particularly at sunset when the sky turns a milky pink. The stacked rocks that rest lazily in the crashing waters are said to be the guardians of this area, limestone pillars that soar up to 10 metres high.

The Bay of Martyrs itself is 2.5 kilometres long and inside the bay there are two smaller bays; Crofts Bay and Massacre Bay. For those who want to swim, there’s a beach at the eastern part of the bay. A spot of fishing can be done along the shallow reefs on the beach. The beauty of this beach is that it’s much less crowded than the popular Port Campbell however it remains a favourite amongst those in the know for its photogenic landscape. This lookout can be accessed by all as it is wheelchair accessible. The lookout offers breathtaking views especially around sunrise and sunset.

There is a fascinating history surrounding this part of Victoria, which is alluded to in the place names of other bays and lookout points – Massacre Bay, Massacre Point, Bay of Martyrs. According to stories that have spanned generations, Europeans killed a large group of Karrae-Wurrong Aboriginal men here. They did so by running them off the cliffs, whilst the women and children were supposedly killed in a swamp that is close by.

However, there are many contradicting stories and, more importantly, no written evidence of what happened. All that is known is that the population of Aboriginal people dropped from a few thousand to almost none. Some theories believe this was caused by mass migration, but local folklore has other ideas.

Bay of Martyrs

What to See at the Bay of Martyrs

Most people head to the Bay of Martyrs to catch a glimpse of the spectacular views, which encompass lush cliff faces, sprawling beaches, and sparkling waters.

There is also a vibrant wildlife population here, which is predominantly made up of birds. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot emu-wrens, honeyeaters, and the very rare bristlebird. There are also peregrine falcons that glide above the cliff-tops, pelicans, an array of duck species, black swans, and penguins that hang out near the shoreline.

At the site itself, you can start a picturesque, self-guided walk that takes you along the breath-taking cliff tops all the way to Point Halladale, where you can discover the shipwreck of the Falls of Halladale which dates back to the early 1900s.

There is also ample opportunity for beach walks at the Bay of Martyrs. The lush sands and glistening waters provide the perfect backdrop to a leisurely stroll, or even a picnic on the beach in the shelter of the cliffs.

The Bay of Martyrs is by far one of the most beautiful spots along the Great Ocean Road, so take some time to explore its stunning scenery and its fascinating history.

Bay of Martyrs Trail

This walking trail begins at the Peterborough Golf Course and follows the path to Halladale Point where the Falls of Halladale was wrecked all those years ago. Finally, you’ll find yourself in the Bay of Martyrs carpark where from here on you have access to amazing coves and beaches. The length of this trail is 4 kilometres return and will take you around 2 hours to complete -that’s if you can resist from stopping to continuously taking pictures of the stunning landscape! Keep in mind that this track does become narrow and uneven in some areas and include some steps as well.

Falls of Halladale

The wreckage of this cargo ship dates back to the year 1908 however it’s origin dates back to Scotland, 1886. How this cargo ship came to meet its fate is a tale heard all too often along the Shipwreck Coast of this point of Victoria. The Falls of Halladale had once sailed the world’s trade route before it became wedged between two reefs in relatively calm waters in Massacre Bay. The captain became confused and believed they were further away from the coastline than they actually were, and the dense fog that surrounded the barque only made matters worse. All 29 crew members made it safely off the boat, but the ship was unable to be salvaged. Over a period of weeks, many came to watch the boat slowly break away in the water. Nowadays, the anchor from the Falls of Halladale can be viewed at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village Museum.

Peterborough

The small fishing town of Peterborough is primarily a holiday resort with over 250 people in residence. It’s about 3 hours away from Melbourne and is nestled between Port Campbell and Warrnambool. It’s at it’s most popular and lively during summertime as it’s a great spot for water activities such as fishing and swimming. The Peterborough Golf Club is also one of the must visit attractions of the town as certain pars overlook breathtaking ocean views. Peterborough Beach is one of the more secluded along the Great Ocean Road so perfect for those who are after uninterrupted views of the intimate beach that’s nestled quietly between cliffs. It’s a great beach for fishing and surfing as well!

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