Stopping for the views en route
to Pigeon House Mountain

“Seemed like a good idea at the time, didn’t it fellas?”

We agree, having a chuckle, but then cursing this group of clearly much fitter walkers as we quickly lose sight of them up the steep track.

Greg (my brother in law) and I have stopped for a drink, panting heavily, only about 10 minutes into the climb from Pigeon House carpark to the distant summit.

“Mate, this is like a baptism by fire,” I remark. “There’s no easing into the climb, is there?”

“At least it’s only uphill for half the hike,” he offers.

We continue upwards, struggling for breath, but still managing to hold a conversation for the most part. Living so far away from each other, it’s great to be able get out and have some bonding time. He makes an excellent hiking buddy, especially since we’re both a bit out of shape .

As we approach the 500-metre mark, which feels like at least twice that distance, the relentless uphill dirt track gives way to a rocky scramble.

“Now we’re talking,” I exclaim. “I don’t mind the climb so much when it’s interesting like this.”

About half way into the scramble, there’s a large flat rocky section off to our right. We’re both more than happy to have a break at this point, so we veer off the track to check out the views and catch our breath.

When we decide to start climbing again, we’re pleasantly surprised to find that the track quickly flattens out. It’s a welcome relief, so for another kilometre or so we happily stroll the winding trail between wattles and banksias.

Pigeon House Mountain

Pigeon House Mountain summit

By Neil Saunders, on flickr

We even catch the occasional glimpse of the nipple-shaped summit. That’s right, I said nipple. This mountain looks unmistakably like a breast. Why’s it called Pigeon House then? Well, old mate Captain James Cook thought it resembled the top of a pigeon house from back home, when he spotted it from the HMS Endeavour back in 1770. It seems Cook was a frightful bore. Knock me down with a feather.

The local indigenous people, on the other hand, had long referred to the mountain as Didthul. This is said to be their word for its more obvious resemblance, so it’s probably no coincidence that the mountain was a special women’s place to Australia’s first inhabitants.

Whatever it resembles, it still seems like a bloody long way up from here.

Soon the flat, windy trail gives way to another steep section, where wooden steps supposedly help prevent erosion and help walkers negotiate the trail. They don’t actually seem to achieve either of these goals terribly well. Despite this section being less steep than the beginning of the trail, the steps seem to make it harder for me.

We’re thankful when we find ourselves at the base of an exposed rocky escarpment, with a steep staircase as our only way up. After climbing that, we walk a short distance to a series of staircases and even a couple of ladders, which take us very quickly up a crevasse to a spot near the summit.

Ascending the staircases to the Pigeon House Mountain summit
Ascending the staircases to the Pigeon House Mountain summit

“I’ll take ladders and staircases over those wooden steps any day!” Greg exclaims.

Knowing that we’re close to the summit now, we take our time and admire the views, the vegetation, and the wildlife. There are Monarch butterflies everywhere. We joke that all of our photos will probably be ruined because it’s hard to take one without a blurry butterfly or two in frame.

We spot a Cunningham’s Skink (one of the larger lizards in the Skink family) on the track in front of us and spend ages trying to get a decent photo of it without scaring it away. Unfortunately, we’re not very successful, so with the path to the summit unblocked we carry on.

A Land Mullet lizard - part of the Skink family

We both gasp as the full view from the summit reveals itself. Nothing could have prepared me for this. The Budawang Ranges look spectacular from here, and we can clearly see their most well-known features – The Castle, Byangee Mountain, Shrouded Gods Mountain.

On a good day, they say you can see everything from Jervis Bay to Bermagui from Pigeon House Mountain. I’m not that familiar with the area so I don’t know exactly what I’m looking at, but it’s all incredible.

The view from Pigeon House Mountain's summit

Need to know

Length: 4.8 km
Time: 3 – 4 hours
Grade: Moderate – Difficult / Grade 4 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System).
Style: Return
Park: Morton National Park
Closest Town: Milton
Car Access: From Milton, turn west at the traffic lights or when you see the signs marked “Pigeon House”. Continue following the signs. The walk begins in the picnic area off Yadboro Road.

Have you visited Pigeon House Mountain? Got it on your bucket list? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.

Exploring the Great Ocean Road?

You won’t see the best sights from your car. Get the definitive guidebook, featuring the 25 best walks in the area with detailed instructions and maps.

Buy now for $19.99
Visitors Guide to the Best Walks of the Great Ocean Road