Great Ocean Walk

HORIZON GUIDES invites you to experience Victoria's Great Ocean Walk - a truly spectacular spring journey through some of the most wild landscapes in Australia.

Driving along the iconic Great Ocean Road is just the start of our week-long exploration of the Great Otway and Port Campbell National Parks. Known as the ‘Shipwreck Coast’ this part of Australia’s coastline is ruggedly beautiful and in the era of sail formed the extremely hazardous approach to Melbourne. Today we can enjoy the coastline and tall forests on the Great Ocean Walk. Opened in 2005 the track takes us to places that are invisible from the highway. On foot you can feel and breathe the ocean and adjacent forests in all their wildness.

Starting at the eastern end of the GOW at the seaside town of Apollo Bay we walk a new section of track each day until we complete the 104km walk at the 12 Apostles. This eco-guided, and vehicle-supported walking holiday allows you to become immersed in the history and natural beauty of the region. 

Here are the planned tour highlights ... but expect some serendipity too ....

  • 104km of spectacular scenery and wonderful walking!
  • Diverse environments: rocky shores, towering cliffs, pristine beaches, mountain ash and myrtle beech forest, coastal heath and still river inlets. 
  • Historic beaches and places: Wreck Beach, Melanesia Beach, the 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge.
  • Abundant wildlife including Koalas, Little Penguins, prolific birdlife and unique creatures like the Otway Snail

DAY 1 

Walk:     Apollo Bay to Shelly Beach 8.5km Medium/Hard

Trans:    Bus from Melbourne Airport

Accom:   Sea Eagle Retreat (Shared facilities)

Meals:     L (own in Apollo Bay) D

Pickup at Melbourne Airport is around 10am. Once we arrive in Apollo Bay there will be a chance for a bite to eat and a bit of a stretch before we take the first step on the Great Ocean Walk. The track first takes the Great Ocean Road to cross the Barham River then from Marengo Beach the GOW is a diverse mixture of beach and bush walking. Depending on the time and the tide/sea conditions we will take the track or walk the intricately patterned rocky shelves. The bus will meet us at Shelly Beach then we continue to Sea Eagle Retreat and settle in to our private retreat.

DAY 2 

Walk:      Full day Shelly Beach to Parker Hill 20.5km Medium/hard (6 – 7 hrs of walking)

Trans:     Shuttle to walk start (approx 30 mins)

Accom:    Sea Eagle Retreat (Shared facilities)

Meals:     BLD

Shelly Beach to Blanket Bay (13.5km: Medium/hard) From Shelly Beach the track climbs steeply up to the Elliot Ridge GOW campsite in the heart of the forest. The tall wet forests of Mountain Ash dominate this walk along old forestry tracks. Keep an eye out for koalas, black cockatoos and other wildlife.

To Parker River Inlet 7.4 km: The track winds through dry coastal forests with views over Parker Inlet. There is a river crossing here to finish – generally it requires shallow wading. It was near here that the wooden ship ‘Eric the Red’ was smashed to pieces in 15 minutes in the early foggy hours of 4 September 1880.

Note: The Parker River crossing is dependent on tides and river levels. If the river is impassable the walk section will end at Blanket Bay. 

DAY 3 

Walk:     Parker Hill to Aire River 16.5km Medium

Trans:    Shuttle return to accommodation (approx 35 mins)

Accom:   Sea Eagle Retreat

Meals:    BLD

Today we return to Parker Hill and take the escarpment track above the cliffs to Cape Otway. If conditions are right we can take the short side trip to beautiful Crayfish Bay. From the Cape Otway Light Station entrance, the sandy track crosses Paynters Hill and passes by the historic Cape Otway cemetery. From here the track meanders through dense wind-sculpted vegetation hugging the slopes and cliff tops above Station Beach. If the tides are in our favour today we can take the return side trip to Rainbow Falls, an unusual seepage over limestone cliffs where algae creates colourful features above the beach rock platforms. The next couple of kilometres are along the wild expanse of Station Beach. Keep an eye out for the endangered Hooded Plovers and interesting flotsam and jetsam before rejoining the escarpment track. From the Escarpment Lookout over the Aire River mouth the track drops down through dense vegetation before emerging beside the Aire River estuary

DAY 4 

Walk:      Rest and Travel Day

Trans:     Transfer to 12 Apostles accommodation.

Accom:    Apostles Motel & Country Retreat (All rooms have private facilities)

Meals:      BLD

After a few days of long walking today is a chance to recover - but we will still be active! Starting with a couple of hours at the historic Cape Otway Light Station precinct. Once through the entry you are free to explore at your leisure – there is a great deal to see here as well as enjoying a cuppa the Café.

Continuing west on the Great Ocean Road we travel across to Loch Ard Gorge – scene of the tragic loss of the Loch Ard and the remarkable survival story of two young people. We will spend about 1 ½ hrs to take in all the walks, viewpoints and stories.

Time permitting, other features on our itinerary are London Bridge, the Arch and the Bay of Islands and the sleepy fishing village of Peterborough pop. 178 - the site of the infamous shipwreck of the Schomberg in 1885. Said to be the “most perfect clipper ever built” it ran aground on a sand spit in controversial circumstances. There was no loss of life apart from the drowning of two men who planned to salvage the cargo. Eventually it was all lost to the sea. The surf and fishing village of Port Campbell has a lovely foreshore and jetty area. Here you have some free time to browse the shops or sit by the bay. Our accommodation for the next four nights is the Apostles Motel.

For those who are keen there is an opportunity to take a helicopter flight along this spectacular section of coastline. www.12apostleshelicopters.com.au The experience isn’t cheap but it is worth every second! This can be arranged on the day (at your cost).

DAY 5 

Walk:       Aire River to Johanna Beach 12.4km

Trans:      Shuttle to Aire River

Accom:    Apostles Motel & Country Retreat (All rooms have private facilities)

Meals:      BLD

Returning to Aire River this morning our walk continues with an initial climb back up to the escarpment via the GOW campsite. From here the track traverses coastal heathland for the next 5.5km sneaking beneath the sculpted cliffs with fabulous views along the coast before we arrive at Castle Cove, a beautiful beach rimmed by spectacular cliffs. Not far from here some of Australia’s most important dinosaur finds were made between 1984 and 1994 under very challenging conditions as the excavations were made off rock platforms frequently subject to wild sea conditions. From Castle Cove we continue the westward journey traversing heathland with wildflowers, grass trees and cliff top views. The last part of this 6.9km section is along Johanna Beach. There is no inland route so if the day is pleasant we can take our time beachcombing. Though this is famous as a surfing location; swimming is not recommended at Johanna Beach.

DAY 6 

Walk:       Melanesia Gate / Moonlight Head / Gables 16.5km Medium / Hard

Trans:      Shuttle to Melanesia Gate (Approx. 50 mins) / from Gable (approx. 30 mins)

Accom:    Apostles Motel and Country Retreat

Meals:      BLD

This is arguably the most spectacular section of the whole GOW and it is also one of the most challenging sections of terrain. We first walk the old 4WD fishing track and meet the beach at the eastern end. The geology here is truly remarkable and quite unique. We’ll spend time appreciating the features before turning inland to climb above the beach with great views.

Between Melanesia Beach and Moonlight Head (9.6km) the walking is hard though the track is well constructed (with steps in steep parts) through the rough terrain and the last section to Moonlight Head is along an old fishing track. Moonlight Head is a magic spot with extensive views east and west. The last section of today’s walk starts along a country road then takes a trail inland to arrive the Gables Lookout where the walk ends for the day.

DAY 7 

Walk:      The Gables to the 12 Apostles 19km Easy / Medium

Trans:     Shuttle to The Gables

Accom:    Apostles Motel and Country Retreat

Meals:      BLD

This is the last section of our Great Ocean Walk. We need to be mindful of the tides as the famous Wreck Beach is part of today’s walk and here the ocean crashes straight into the massive cliff-line at high tide. There is a high tide route if we cannot make the low tide.

Today’s walk takes off from the spectacular Gables Lookout. There is a steep descent to Wreck Beach where high cliffs of sedimentary limestone tower over the narrow beach. The anchors of the wreck of the Fiji (1891) are stuck fast in the beach rock at the western end of the beach. From the end of the beach the track skirts steeply around the Devil’s Kitchen with great views of the beach. The next 7.7km parallels the Old Coach Road to Princetown. Crossing the Gellibrand River the track heads back into the low-growing coastal heath of Port Campbell NP. The views are extensive and as we approach walk finale, the rock stacks of the Apostles dominate the landscape. The Great Ocean Walk passes near historic Glenample Homestead, once home to the farmers who played an important role in caring for survivors of the Loch Ard disaster of 1878, and ends at the 12 Apostles Visitor Centre. Tonight we enjoy a final dinner together.

DAY 8 

Trans:      Bus return to Melbourne Airport

Meals:      B

Today we farewell the Great Ocean Walk and the Shipwreck Coast, returning to Melbourne via The Princes Highway. Arrival at Melbourne Airport is expected to be by 12 noon.

GUIDES

Teresa Cause based in Boonah, founded Horizon Guides Pty Ltd in 2007. Offering a specialised bushwalking guide service, Teresa has a background in outdoor and environmental education, with a particular emphasis on natural history.  Teresa's extensive guiding experience includes tours in Australia and overseas. She is also the proprietor of Far Outdoors in Boonah.

Jenny Lambert Based in Ocean Grove, Jenny is an educator, adventurer and outdoorswoman of great experience. She will provide logistical support and back-up on walks.

GENERAL TOUR NOTES:

Accommodations

Sea Eagle Retreat www.seaeagleretreat.com.au

Private retreat with shared bathrooms, full kitchen, laundry and indoor pool.

Apostle Motel and Country Retreat. (RACV 3 Star Rating) Twin share rooms with private facilities. Bar and restaurant.

Meals All meals and snacks are provided except lunch on the first and last days. Every effort has been made to cater for special dietary needs.

Laundry There is a laundry at Sea Eagle but none at Apostles Motel. However there is a Laundromat in Port Campbell and if necessary we can go there mid-tour. It is recommended to pack a small amount of washing detergent for hand washing.

Alcohol at Sea Eagle Retreat we will provide wine/beer/non-alcoholic beverages for happy hours before dinner. If you prefer spirits (or more than a glass or two of your favourite tipple) then you may purchase this prior to the tour in Apollo Bay. There is a bar at 12 Apostles Motel where you may purchase drinks.

Daily briefings Each evening there will be a briefing on the walk or options for the following day.

Mobile Phone Coverage There is adequate mobile phone coverage at some places along the walk. Emergency access via 112 is more available.

TRACK NOTES:

Distances and track section times Officially the track is 104km in length. We are covering pretty much all this on foot – all except for a section that we drive. Where indicated the time taken for each section is approximate.

Grading Most of the Great Ocean Walk is graded Easy – Medium. There are some Hard sections. Refer to daily notes for grading on each section. Being a coastal walk, elevation gain and loss is moderate over short distances.

Shortening walks On some sections of the walk there is vehicle access to certain points. For those who don’t feel up to hiking the entire daily section, there may be the opportunity to walk part of the way a have a pick-up arranged - one of the best aspects of a vehicle supported walking holiday!

Toilets Each of the walk-in sites has composting toilets and in several places we will also walk through public access areas with toilet facilities.

Track direction The GOW is designed to be walked East to West. This gives all walkers a better opportunity to walk ‘alone’ as there will be less chance of passing walkers.

Tides Inland vs. beach walks. In places there are decision points for safely walking sections. This will be strictly weather and tide-dependent. The track walking is generally easier going, as the beach sands may be soft and therefore harder walking.

Weather Spring weather can be quite changeable in the region so you may expect to encounter all sorts of conditions from sunshine to wild squalls. Please take note of the detailed packing list.

Steps There is quite a lot of ‘up and down’ on this walk with steps of stone or timber construction in steep sections. It is not recommended for anyone with knee conditions.

Swimming There are no patrolled beaches on the walk and many beaches have strong currents and rough water. Swimming is not recommended.

Hydration / Water There is usually rainwater at the GOW campsites and water treatment will be available. It is recommended to carry 2 litres of water in 1litre containers per day.

Phytophthora fungus Boot cleaning is encouraged in the effort to help prevent spread of Phytophthora fungus that causes ‘die-back’ of a variety of plant species.

European Wasps In summer European wasps may be a problem around water sources. Keep water containers capped when not drinking from them.

Snakes Along the track there are ample snake warnings. In places the narrow track and scrubby bush close on either side makes spotting snakes difficult.

 

 

 

 

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Best of the Great Ocean Walk

Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles: The iconic Great Ocean Road is always a memorable drive with sweeping curves tucked into the dense forest and coastal vistas opening out on the seaward corners.

The road passes through fishing villages and holiday towns with fading remnants of a former, perhaps grander era, settled against new hotels, galleries, gift shops and city-style restaurants. This is usually all that most weekend people see or have time for – the drive, a B&B and a stroll on the beach.

The Great Ocean Walk takes us to places that are invisible from the highway. On foot you can feel and breathe the coast and adjacent forests in all their wildness.

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Contact info

7 Church St, Boonah QLD 4310

Phone +61 07 54634 114
Mobile +61 0417 760 966

teresa@horizonguides.com.au

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