Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary

Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary lies a few kilometres up the road from Apollo Bay and is one of those “best kept secrets” of Great Ocean Road. It is a rocky beach that sits at the bottom of the town of Marengo, just next to the sandy beach that lies between Apollo Bay and the sanctuary itself.

This area is impassable at high tide. At low tide, it is a favourite hangout for anglers and families alike. The rocky beach offers a myriad of rock-pools, most of which are teeming with life. It is not uncommon to come across an assortment of crabs and other small crustaceans in the many rock-pools in this area, and is a place that most children will find plenty to fill their curiosity and inquisitiveness.

As a landscape photographer, the main draw card is the rock formations, and the many fissures in the area.

The image above was shot after sunset one winter evening. This particular tide-pool had a serpentine channel through which the sea water would trickle in and out of. This was shot at a time when I had a Canon 1000D with no filter. I had to wait until it was dark to be able to capture this composition, shot at f/22 with an exposure time of 1 minute.

If a sandy beach is more your thing, you need do little more than walk to your left rather than to your right from the car park, and will be greeted with an unspoiled stretch of sand the extends to Apollo Bay.

Best times to visit

As a coastal location, different times of the day will offer you different conditions to work with. Summers offer early sunrises and late sunsets with long twilights and mostly clear skies. Winters offer overcast conditions, late sunrises and early sunsets and make it perfect for long exposure photography with the weather adding lots of drama. The best times are in the early mornings and late evenings on cloudless to partially cloudy days.


There is ample parking near the site, and easy pedestrian access. A good set of water resistant hiking boots are recommended. There are good odds that you will get your feet wet, so consider having an extra pair of socks and shoes at hand. If you are planning on heading out onto the sand, I good pair of high-ankle hiking boots are the best choice. Runners are unsuitable and will get soaked very quickly.

This area is impassable at high tide. Be sure to check the tide before visiting. If you are shooting after dark, make sure that you have a flash-light or headlamp.

Gear Required

If you are planning on capturing long exposure surf activity, a tripod is essential. Also consider using neutral density filters (I usually keep an ND4, and ND8 and an ND400 close at hand). Your camera gear will be exposed to the elements here, so it is inadvisable to change lenses while in the area. Consider using a lens that will give you a good wide to medium range (something like a 24-105mm). You will also be subject to a fair bit of sea spray. Keep a towel and micro-fibre cloth handy to wipe your lenses down. Also consider using a weather shield or plastic bag over your camera body to protect it from the elements.

If you are planning on getting in the water to shoot up into the rock formations, consider wearing a pair of waders. Note that currents can get quite strong here, so if you are planning to get into the water, make sure that you have someone to accompany you.

The weather and temperature here constantly changes. Dress in layers, and ensure that you have both a hat, and a weather-proof jacket handy if it begins to drizzle on your shoot. If shooting during the day, ensure that you have sunscreen.

Vehicular Access: Sealed road from the highway to the parking lot.
Pedestrian Access: Easy pedestrian access from the car park to the beach.
Fitness levels required: Suitable for any reasonably fit individual. Not suitable for wheelchair access or for individuals with mobility restrictions.
Walk Difficulty:
Amount of time required at the site: Between 30 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the time of day, and what you plan to shoot.
Price of Admission: Free.
Access hours: 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
Notes of caution: This area is prone to tidal activity and is impassable at high tide.
Recommendations: This is an excellent spot for long exposure photography against a rocky beach. Consider shooting after dark for best results.