The Great Ocean Walk: A Comprehensive Guide
One of Victoria’s greatest walking tracks is the Great Ocean Walk. As it wraps around the coastline of the Southern Ocean, it gives those walking along it the rare opportunity to immerse themselves in this monumental location’s landscape, wildlife, and history. From sweeping ocean views to hidden rainforests, there is something for everyone.
For local and international visitors planning to travel along the Great Ocean Walk, many things are worth knowing before you set off. We have compiled a guide that will give you an insight into the location, what you can expect throughout your journey, and the important considerations to make as you plan.
The walk begins in Apollo Bay, a town in southwestern Victoria. Apollo Bay is a stop on the Great Ocean Road that winds along the coast, passing through the Great Otway National Park. Behind Apollo Bay are the mountains of Otway Ranges, partly forested and cleared for grazing and dairying. When you reach Apollo Bay, keep your eyes peeled for Apollo Bay Visitor Centre, as this will serve as the starting point for your journey.
When you arrive at the Visitors Centre, you can purchase a guide and map of the walk, which will be your travel companion to ensure you stay on course and don’t miss any spectacular views. The 104-kilometre walk passes through the Great Otway National Park and across to the Port Campbell National Park, concluding in the town of Port Campbell.
Arrange your transportation from the end of your walk, Port Campbell, back to Apollo Bay (or where you have chosen to park your car). Shuttle services and public transport are available; we suggest organising your preferred transportation option before setting off.
The Great Ocean Walk is often travelled across eight days, allowing travellers to slow down and appreciate the sounds and sights at a gentle pace. There are also daily and multi-day trip options for covering the entire distance in a shorter timeframe.
Camping and lodge accommodations are available for those covering the distance over several days. Seven camping sites have been designed to be reached at the end of a daily hike, approximately ten to sixteen kilometres apart. To secure a camping spot or lodge, check availability ahead of time and book your accommodation.
The majestic locations available as you traverse the Great Ocean Walk can be separated into eight sections:
- One: Apollo Bay to Elliot Ridge
- Two: Elliot Ridge to Blanket Bay
- Three: Blanket Bay to Cape Otway
- Four: Cape Otway to Aire River
- Five: Aire River to Johanna Beach
- Six: Johanna Beach to Ryan’s Den
- Seven: Ryan’s Den to Devils Kitchen
- Eight: Devils Kitchen to Twelve Apostles
The Great Ocean Walk’s sections are classified as a ‘Grade 3’ hike. This classification was given as it is ‘suitable for most ages and fitness levels’ though some experience in bushwalking is recommended. Some steep staircases and gradients are presented throughout the walk—challenging terrain and areas that require a distance to be covered along the beach. Hikers should remain vigilant of the path as it can be wet and slippery in different areas or due to changing weather conditions.
If you are walking this track independently, be mindful that carrying your hiking pack may impact how challenging you find each section. The trail is marked along the way, but the map you collected when you began will also help keep you on the right path.
One of the best ways to ensure a smooth and engaging experience on the Great Ocean Walk is by completing the trail with a licenced tour guide. When partnering with a tour company, of which there are over twenty locally, you have access to several services depending on your expected duration and personal needs. From transportation, guided tours, camping and safety equipment hire, supplying food, and more.
Engaging with a licenced tour operator means that a professional will complete all the planning and preparation, allowing you to relax and enjoy every moment of your journey.
If you are walking the Great Ocean Road Walk, whether in a group or independently, we recommend that you take some safety precautions:
- There is limited phone reception along the walk, so ensure you mark the last location with reception to walk back to if you need to make an emergency call. We also advise being familiar with the emergency contact numbers 000 and 112.
- Consider bringing a personal locator beacon or satellite radio to keep those waiting for you updated on your location or for emergencies.
- It is essential to pack a First Aid kit or, where possible, travel with someone who is First Aid certified.
- Be vigilant of snakes, especially in the warmer months. Keep your distance and make a wide berth if you come across one. Precautions include keeping your tent and belongings off the ground and secure, checking the area before sitting down, wearing hiking boots, gators, and pants, and more. See the Great Ocean Walk website for more details on ways you can keep safe along the trail.
- Bushfires are a serious risk, and the Great Ocean Walk is a high-risk area, especially during the summer. We recommend checking the fire rating for the days you intend to be walking and being familiar with bushfire safety, which you can read more about through the Visit Victoria website.
- Many beaches along the trail experience rogue waves and tide changes. Wreck Beach, in particular, is a high-risk area. Keep a minimum ten-metre distance from the water. We also recommend checking the tide timetable. Only travel down to the beach if it is low tide and safe, and remain aware of quickly changing conditions.
You will need expert guidance and organisation for a truly memorable experience on the Great Ocean Walk. With Auswalk, you can enjoy guided, self-guided and tailored walks across Australia. As your qualified travel companion, you can leave everything to us – from accommodation to food. It’s not just about getting you to the destination but also about the journey that leads to it. Come and see the hidden gems of the Great Ocean Walk with Auswalk; contact us today to start your journey.