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Great Ocean Walk

Home > Great Ocean Road > Adventure | Beaches | Outdoor | Walks | Weekend Escapes
by Siobhan Sheridan (subscribe)
Hiker. I walk long distances.
Published December 26th 2017
Like the name says, it's great
The Great Ocean Walk is a one-hundred kilometre walking trail between the visitor centres at Apollo Bay and Twelve Apostles. It is cliffs and coastline, farmland and forests, and there's views at ever turn. There's even a lighthouse.
Great Ocean Walk

One day, one week?
Strictly speaking, you're not going to do the whole trail in a single weekend (unless it's a long weekend and you walk really fast). But there are plenty of options for a half day, a day or a night or two. Elliot River, Lighthouse, Johanna and Moonlight Head roads all provide access to the trail off Great Ocean Road.

And if your heart is set on making a weekend of it, consider starting at Castle Cove Lookout and walking to Princetown or Twelve Apostles.

I'm a sucker for punishment, so I opted for the full hundred kilometres over five days.

Antarctica to the left
On the trail, the gunk of daily life - bills to pay, traffic to battle - evaporates like it never existed. Big open sky and the expanse of ocean to my left - next stop Antarctica - is humbling. I am a speck moving through this landscape.

I rock hop along the beach and curse the weight of my pack on the steep climbs at Elliot Ridge, Parker Hill and Ryans Den. And then there's the two-kilometre calf-muscle-workout along Johanna Beach where I take off my shoes and cool my feet at the edge of the crashing surf.

The hard parts are the exception on this trail and they're all well marked on the official map so there are no nasty surprises.
Dramatic coastline
The trail is mostly within the borders of the Cape Otway National Park. Most of my days are spent on clifftops, in and out of scrub but the trail dips down to the beach for short stretches and climbs into the forest for a shady reprieve. There's good swimming at Blanket Bay and the view from the loo at Devils Kitchen will make you want to sit there all day.
Loo with a view
Loo with a view

It's 6am...what the hell are they laughing at?
Waking to the sound of kookaburras, so distinctively Australian, beats an alarm clock any day. So too, koalas at night. How can something that looks so cuddly sound so possessed?

I am an animal nut, so meeting wallabies, kangaroos and echidnas on the trail was a highlight. Meeting snakes, not so much, although the ones I encountered were willing to clear off so I could pass. Keep an eye out for them sunbaking on the trail and if you're camping, keep your tent zipped!

If you're overnighting, you'll need all the gear: tent, sleeping bag and the like. The eight hike-in campsites are mostly hidden in the gums or scrub but at Johanna Beach, I score one of the cliff top tent spots and wake early to watch the sun light up the coast.
Sunrise over Johanna Beach
Sunrise over Johanna Beach
The campsites are clean and have sheltered picnic tables, water tanks and composting toilets. Campsites need to be booked and paid for in advance with Parks Victoria. If you'd prefer to sleep in a bed, the friendly people at Apollo Bay visitor centre can provide a range of tour and shuttle options.
Farmland west of Johanna

Be prepared
This is a stunning section of Victoria's coast, but it is also bushfire country and there are rips that can drag you out to sea. If you're hiking end to end or overnighting and haven't done so before, do your research. Make sure you pack out whatever you carry in, including all rubbish.

Whether you're planning a day hike or tackling the trail end to end, pick up a map and tide time details from the visitor centre. If you're nervous, take a tour. Wear sunscreen and pack insect repellent. A head net looks silly but you might be grateful for it.
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Your Comment
A wonderful hike, Siobhan! Welcome to WEN!
by Elaine (score: 3|6694) 664 days ago
Well done Siobhan. Good article.
by May Cross (score: 3|5399) 664 days ago
by Gen Wilson on 18/01/2012
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