Princetown is a small coastal settlement located on the Great Ocean Road. The hamlet provides access to beaches and the mouth of the Gellibrand River. The River’s lazy meander reflects the flow of time through the valley, just a quick turn and a world away from the Great Ocean Road.
Location: 14 kilometres east of Port Campbell in Victoria on Great Ocean Road.
A river estuary and wetlands is adjacent to the township, with reed beds on the western branch of the estuary containing significant bird and plant life. Princetown is bounded on two sides by national parks, with the Port Campbell National Park extending north-westerly and the Great Otway National Park to the south-east.
Port Campbell National Park
The Twelve Apostles rock formations are six kilometres to the west of Princetown, with the Gibson Steps also nearby. The steps and associated coastal features mark the beginning of Australia’s most famous coastal national park – Port Campbell National Park. It features an array of sheer cliffs overlooking offshore islets, rock stacks, gorges, arches, and blow-holes. As part of the Shipwreck Coast, it hosts several tourist attractions; including The Twelve Apostles, the London Arch (formerly London Bridge), Loch Ard Gorge, the Gibson Steps, and The Grotto. The ever changing landscape: as the cliffs and islands of the Shipwreck Coast consist of relatively fragile sandstone, they are constantly being eroded by the wind and waves which have pounded the coast for centuries.
The Gellibrand River flows out beside Point Ronald: a 50 m high, limestone cliff to the north west of Wattle Hill. A continuous surf zone extends for 3 km to the east of Point Ronald, backed by five separate beaches, with calcarenite and limestone bluffs and platforms separating the beaches. Access to the main Gellibrand Beach is by the Princetown Reserve Road, which ends at the National Park camping area located behind the main beach, also known as Princetown Beach. The main beach has the small Gellibrand River mouth in the western corner. One large rip usually runs out through the surf.
A 500 metre long walking track runs along the river bank to the beach. The two easternmost beaches can be reached by a vehicle track along the National Park boundary, which leads to an access track to the second beach, 2 km east of the camping area. To reach the middle two beaches requires a walk along the bluffs or around the headland.The five beaches face south-west and receive waves averaging over 1.5 metres. The easternmost beach is 200 metres long, with protruding reefs at each end and 60 metre high bluffs behind. It usually has one large rip draining out from the middle of the beach. The second beachis 1 km long, has reefs at each end and usually two to three large rips along the beach. The middle beaches are each 100 metre long pockets of sand backed by steep bluffs.
These are three energetic and rip dominated beaches, with deep rip channels against the shore. Use extreme care if swimming here and stay in lee of the bars. For surfers there are excellent beach breaks along these three beaches, with best conditions in low to moderate swell and northerly winds. The deep rip channels provide good deep holes to fish from the beaches.