National Parks

Q & A with Area Chief Ranger for Shipwreck Coast and Hinterland

Michael D Smith, is the Area Chief Ranger for Shipwreck Coast and Hinterland, Parks Victoria. Find out about his top tips for exploring the region’s best big nature experiences.

Parks Victoria rangers have an enviable knowledge of our region’s diverse landscapes. The good thing is, they are willing to share some of their favourites!

Area Chief Ranger Micheal D Smith looks after some of our most remarkable landscapes.

What do you love about your job?

I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to go on Country with the Traditional Owners of the area to learn about their powerful connection to Country and hear their stories first-hand. It’s important we take the time to understand and reflect on the meaning of this place and truly respect its uniqueness and fragility.

I also enjoy uncovering the hidden places in this dramatic landscape of iconic beauty, watching how they change over time and continually admire the wild weather and the way the water and land interacts.

A must-visit for nature lovers?

Belfast Coastal Reserve is home to many native coastal and wetland birds including Hooded Plover, Lathams Snipe and Orange-bellied Parrot.

The Hooded Plover is a threatened species that lives on beaches combing the wet sand for the tiny invertebrates they feed on.

They make their sand scrape nest and lay their highly camouflaged eggs in the sand. After hatching, their chicks are very vulnerable to predation and disturbance.

The Reserve is incredibly important to ensure their survival as it is the site of the highest concentration of nesting sites in their remaining range. Get involved! The Far South West Friends of Hooded Plover and Birdlife Australia run amazing volunteer programs to protect these special birds.

Best view for sunrise or sunset?

It’s hard to go past a sunset shot at the 12 Apostles and certainly it is becoming quite popular to visit there to get a sunset picture. But, to be honest, nearly any stop along the coast at Port Campbell National Park or Bay of Islands Coastal Park around sunset will give you a fantastic experience.  I tend to prefer to take my family to the quieter areas, which gives you a chance to rest, reflect and connect with this wonderful place in a different way.

Best place to soothe your mind?

Visiting the southern cliffs of the Shipwreck Coast with the sea spray lashing the limestone precipices, always causes me to feel humble and grateful of this precious landscape. I feel a strong responsibility to play my part in preserving the environment for future generations.

What about some fun?

Belfast Coastal Reserve is a great place for recreational opportunities in a park that can feel quite remote, even though it is so close to Warrnambool and Port Fairy.  Here, you can engage in a variety of activities, such as walking along the beach, dog walking, swimming, surfing, kite boarding, fishing, snorkelling, horse riding and bird watching.

Summer travel tip?

The week between Christmas and the New Year; the Chinese New Year festival; and the Easter long weekend are traditionally the busiest periods at the 12 Apostles precinct, when daily peaks can reach 13,000 people. During the two-week long Chinese New Year festival in February last year an estimated 128,500 people visited, while there were around 25,000 people across Easter Saturday and Sunday.

For an enjoyable visit, visitors should allow additional time for their trip, be patient, and observe the traffic conditions. To be safe and to help protect this unique landscape, people should also stay on the paths and behind lookout barriers.

Winter travel tip?

Get out in nature. Visitation to Victoria’s parks and waterways increases during the summer period, but the cooler months provide a completely different, more tranquil experience. When the days are shorter and the mornings icy it can be tempting to hibernate inside and sink into a rut. However, as long as you have the right gear, being out in the elements with the place to yourself can be a great way to escape and rejuvenate.

About The Author

Parks Victoria

Victoria's parks provide open space, stunning landscapes, habitats to protect flora and fauna and areas to conserve cultural heritage.

www.parkweb.vic.gov.au

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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawuurung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Ancestors, past present and emerging. We recognise and respect their unique cultural heritage and the connection to their traditional lands. We commit to building genuine and lasting partnerships that recognise, embrace and support the spirit of reconciliation, working towards self-determination, equity of outcomes and an equal voice for Australia’s first people.