Glowing sandstone cliffs and rugged coastline make up the eastern side of the stunning and small coastal town of Aireys Inlet. Originally only joined to the rest of society by a small track until the Great Ocean Road was constructed, this place now attracts huge numbers of visitors in the summer months, either just wanting to holiday beside the beautiful coastline or make the most of the many pristine and world-class surrounding beaches.
This area was originally called Managwhawz by the Wadawurrung people, which are the original occupants of the area and had lived there for tens of thousands of years before European colonisation. Aireys Inlet is named after a man that settled here in the 1840s.
The iconic yet infamous lighthouse at Split Point
In the 1850’s, gold was found in Ballarat, which is a bit over 100kms north of Aireys Inlet. A gold rush that lasted decades began and huge numbers of ships from Europe sailed to Melbourne, which took them past this coastline. The first time that land would be seen after sailing around the south of Africa would be a few hundred kilometres to the west of Aireys Inlet on Shipwreck Coast.
During the second half of the 19th century, hundreds of ships wrecked along the coastline, so in the 1890s they erected Split Point Lighthouse above the cliffs on the point in Aireys Inlet. Since the lighthouse went up, there hasn’t been a shipwreck on this part of the coastline.
Split Point Lighthouse has become quite famous and infamous over the years. It was home to the TV show Round the Twist and the ghost of a murdered teenage girl, head over here for the ghost story.
Surfing at Aireys Inlet
Aireys Inlet is in the middle of the Surf Coast. If you’re to head here, there are dozens of breaks that you’ll drive past, no matter which way you come from.
Possibly one of the most popular surfing spots in the area is Fairhaven Beach, and although it’s just outside of Aireys Inlet, it runs along the south of town, just a short walk from the main shops, past the Painkalac Creek. Medium and big waves break right along Fairhaven Beach and it attracts a lot of locals. This place gets super busy anytime, as long as the surfs up. It’s the longest beach on the Great Ocean Road, so there’s plenty of room to spread out, but there can be up to 20 rip currents, so it’s not suggested that you head surfing here unless you’re with a local and experienced.
The entire Aireys Inlet coastline, running from south to north is made of large cliffs and rocky headlands with beaches dotted in between. There are few okay spots to surf along this part of the coast, but due to most of the beaches facing the south-east or east direction, they’re protected from the swell that come from the west. At some of the headlands, you can surf past the point and find small to medium waves when the conditions are right, Sunnymeade Beach being a good example.
When heading north-east through town or along the rugged part of the coastline that goes for a few kilometres, you’ll end at Urquhart Bluff, which at the top tip of the Aireys Inlet area. Urquhart Bluff is on the western end of Guvvos Beach, that goes for over 4kms, all the way to Point Roadknight at Anglesea. You’ll find medium waves. It’s a really good and popular spot for surfers that have a bit of experience, right up to the best.
Beginners, it’s best that you head to either Torquay Surf Beach, Anglesea or Lorne or Apollo Bay. At each of these places, you’ll find somewhere to rent a surfboard, wetsuit, take lessons and be able to walk to beaches that are ideal for beginner surfers.
Fishing on the coast or in the creek at Aireys Inlet
The Painkalac Creek runs through Aireys Inlet, often with the river mouth closed. You’ll find plenty of Bream in the creek and there are a bunch of platforms and timber jetty’s that give you an easy access to the water. The creek is stunning and just next to the shops, making it an ideal place to throw a line while friends or family that aren’t interested can explore the beautiful surroundings. Here’s some more information about fishing at Painkalac Creek.
If you’re happy with a short walk down the vertical cliffs (..on a proper staircase), there are some good fishing spots either from beach or rocks at either ends of the beach, below headlands.
Below Split Point Lighthouse is Step Beach where you can fish from the rocks, although it can be really dangerous if the conditions aren’t right. Sunnymeade Beach is a little bit further north of Step Beach and requires a 400 metre walk from the car park. Here you can either cast out from the beach where there’s a hole just in front of a reef that’s full of sea life, or again, head to the rocks on either end of the beach if the conditions are right.
Salmon is one of the more common fish that you’ll find in the ocean around Aireys Inlet, although there are plenty of Gummy Sharks, Snapper, Flathead and Whiting in the area too.
For somewhere a bit more protected, try heading to Point Roadknight, which is about 5-10 minutes from Aireys, over at Anglesea.