The collection of publishers of bushwalking guide books in Australia is quite a narrow and select club. Historically, there’s folk like John Chapman or John & Lyn Daly who spread their net far and wide to cover a variety of different states and national parks. Sure, there are people renowned for a particular regions, like Ron Doughton’s Budawangs books, but in recent years, Woodslane Press based in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, have established themselves as a brand that can be relied upon by not only the punters who pick them up in newsagents, but by crusty old bushies like myself.
So what makes a good guide book? Number one for me is always the creds of the person who wrote it. These days, any Tom, Dick or Harriet can Google search their way into writing a piece of internet click bait like, “Sydney’s Top 10 day walks”, without even stepping foot on them [*remind me to tell you a funny story]. So when I saw that two of Victoria’s leading bushwalking blogging lights had joined forces to pen the “Best Walks of the Great Ocean Road,” I was sold.
Julie Mundy and Neil Fahey practice what they preach. They walk. They write. Because of this, I feel I can trust the insights and approach that they’ve taken with this book. They’re passionate about walking and sharing their stories of journeys on not just the physical level, but the multiple layers that go into a great bushwalking experience.
If you’re familiar with the Woodslane format and its nice matte celloglaze cover, copious photos and user friendly layout, you’ll know that you’re going to get a well thought out guide book that meets the needs of a variety of walkers.
My favourite feature is the “Walks at a glance” table in the opening pages. Straight away, a reader can scan all 25 included walks and find something to fit their experience, fitness and available time, not to mention the highlights. Like waterfalls? No problem, check out Henderson Falls or Sheoak Falls around Lorne. Looking for notes on the full Great Ocean Walk (6-8 days) or the Surf Coast Walk (3-4 days), they’ve got you covered. What about if you’ve only got a couple of hours in Apollo Bay (surely not enough!), then there’s 4 walks to suit. From 30 minutes to 8 days, from Easy to Hard, this 122 page book has got it all.
The maps are clear and simple to follow, but my only request (as a bit of a map and navigation nerd) is that I’d love to see contours on them to be able to interpret the elevation changes along the routes at a glance.
This area (from Torquay to Port Campbell) is a long held weekend escape for Melbournites and this guide would make a perfect gift for the weekend warrior, occasional rambler or micro-adventure dreamer. Sure, some of the walks will be busier than others, especially in school holidays or weekends, but there are still some walks where you’d be hard pressed to meet another person along the way.
Step by step track notes along with information on flora and fauna (which is pretty light on and could be embellished) gives a great insight and introduction to stepping out in Melbourne’s coastal playground. From history to great safety tips, this book has just enough to draw you in and then let you discover it for yourself.
* Oh and that funny story? Well, I receive all sorts of unsolicited emails from people, but I recently received one from someone who wanted me to publish their article titled, “10 Best Day Walks in Sydney”. They list the casual Bondi to Bronte coastal amble as “Challenging” grade, only for experienced hikers. Needless to say, this writer had never been to Australia, let alone walked this track. 😉