Trail Guide: Great Ocean Walk (Apollo Bay to Cape Otway Lighthouse) Sarah Alexander December 27, 2018 All The Great Ocean Road is situated west of Melbourne; most known for it’s thriving rainforests, incredible rock formations and of course, the Twelve Apostles. Approximately 2.8 million tourists flock to the Great Ocean Road every year, with only a handful of those attempting one of Australia’s most iconic coastal walks: the Great Ocean Walk. On this walk, you’ll get your hiking and camping fix as you trek your way through creek crossings, along undisturbed beaches, between towering trees and among dense seaside bush lands. The diversity of the landscape is unexpectedly unique; new surprises catch you around every corner in the Great Otway and Port Campbell National Parks. As well as the spectacular sights you’ll see, this hike is a must for those keen on bushwalking around Australia due to the native wildlife you’ll see along the way including koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and echidnas. Avid bird watchers can view a variety of species including wrens, parrots, eagles and honeyeaters. This hike is popular year round, but when the weather warms up, keep your eye out for the occasional lizard or snake sunbathing on the path. Great Ocean Walk Introduction The Great Ocean Walk is a 110-kilometre hiking trail leaving from the Apollo Bay Visitor Information Centre and ending at the Twelve Apostles near Port Campbell. The full walk generally takes 8 days to complete and is a one direction trail. If you’re short on time or would prefer a brief adventure, there are a multitude of hiking itineraries for you to choose from including day hikes. Below you’ll read about the first section of the walk; from Apollo Bay Visitor Information Centre to Cape Otway Lighthouse. This 3-day, 2-night hike is of moderate difficulty and can be completed if you have a reasonable level of fitness. The first night is spent at Elliot Ridge Hike-in Campsite and the second night at Blanket Bay Hike-in Campsite. Know Before You Go: With the assistance of your own cars or pre-arranged shuttle for pick up and drop off between your parked car or your accommodation, a one-day or multiple-day hike along the seaside trail can be tailored to suit your schedule based on your time and physical abilities. Day walks between campsites are generally up to 6 hours in length. The Great Ocean Walk is a one direction walk, meaning everyone must walk from east to west. This reduces congestion in narrow sections of the path and also allows you to get the best views throughout your hike. There are seven designated hike-in campgrounds along the walk. Each campground has eight sites with a maximum of three campers per site. Bookings will need to be made in advance due to the restricted availability and high demand. Each site has untreated rainwater tanks (bring a filter, Steripen or purifying tablets!), but be sure to carry extra water as Parks Victoria does not guarantee water in the tanks. Campfires are not allowed in any of the hike-in campsites at any time of the year. If you would like to light a campfire, they can be made in the Great Otway National Park at Blanket Bay and Aire River West car-based camping areas. They must be lit in the designated fireplaces provided with your own firewood brought in from outside the National Park. As this is a one-way hike. Depending on the number of vehicles you’ve brought, it’s recommended you leave your means of transportation at your ending point and take the shuttle to your starting point. This will give you the flexibility to finish your walk in your own time and not have to make any deadlines. Mobile reception is limited along the walk. In sections along the hike, it’s crucial you cross at low tide so knowing the tide schedule before beginning is essential. During high tide, parts of the path are unpassable and dangerous to be caught in. Before reaching these sections there are “Decision Point” signs along the trail which are also marked on many physical maps. It is highly recommended you fill out the VicPolice Intention Form and leave with someone reliable. Dogs are not allowed on the Great Ocean Walk. Great Ocean Walk Route: 3 Days – Apollo Bay Information Centre to Camp Otway Lighthouse Day 1 Apollo Bay to Elliot Ridge – 9.75km The Great Ocean Walk officially starts at the Apollo Bay Visitor Centre. Arrange to leave your car at the Cape Otway Lighthouse and take the shuttle back to the Visitors Centre to begin your hike. That way, your car will be waiting for you when you finish your walk at your own pace! Walk along the winding trail through Apollo Bay before making your way to the next suburb, Marengo. You may be lucky enough to spot the herd of seals who reside on the rocks in the bay here. Once you arrive at Marengo Caravan Park you can choose to continue the path along the foreshore and boardwalks or on the beach. This is the first of many decision points you need to look out for. These appear when you have to either cross the beach or a river or take the inland path. Keep the list of tide times on you for each location so you can plan and make the appropriate choice to avoid having to turn back. These decision points are indicated by a yellow triangle at the beginning and end of the beach sections. After you pass the caravan park, the true bushwalking adventure begins. Make your way along the wide and reasonably flat path through a Eucalyptus forest. Lookout and listen for koalas hanging out in the trees. Spotting koalas and other native wildlife makes the Great Ocean Walk an Australian treasure for hiking and camping. The scene will soon open up to a country landscape. Walk up the gradual incline before the steep descent past The Blowhole and into the native forest of the Great Otway National Park. As you approach Shelley Beach either opt for the beach track or turn right towards the picnic area. Not too much further from the car park is the Elliot River Track which will take you up the steep hill the Elliot Ridge Great Ocean Walk Campsite. Set up your camp and retire for the night. Day 2 Elliot Ridge to Blanket Bay – 12km Begin the day by walking away from the water’s edge and into the bush. Seek shade beneath the Mountain Ash which dominate this section of the national park. These trees reach up to 65m in height, making them some of the tallest trees in Australia. Wander over multiple hills before arriving back at the coast of Blanket Bay. Here is one of the safest beaches along the walk for you to take a swim. After frolicking in the water, follow the cliff tops catching glimpses of the scenery through the trees, stopping at stunning viewpoints along the way. Gander at the bright blue water washing up against the cliffs in the distance. The water is so incredibly vibrant on a sunny day. This section of the walk is where you should keep your eyes open for various types of wildlife, and also admire the wildflowers in the springtime. Great Ocean Walk Bay Views The Blanket Bay campsite is a sheltered site amongst the tall trees. It’s a short walk to the beach with interesting rock formations which are fun to explore. The beach can get very windy and cool even in the summer months. The campsite is near a river which can have a lot of mosquitos in the warmer months. To avoid being constantly bothered, make sure you’ve got the repellent you need. If you’re someone who finds themselves as the mosquito magnet of the group, consider a Mosquito Head Net or some ExOfficio apparel – their BugsAway line with Insect Shield®. The treatment is bound to fabric fibers, so it stays in your clothes and not on your skin! Blanket Bay Campsite Day 3 Blanket Bay to Camp Otway Lighthouse – 10km Day three of this hike is one of the more stunning sections of the Great Ocean Walk. From the Blanket Bay campground begin inland through the dense native forest keeping an eye out for more koalas. Blanket Bay Feel the sun on your skin as you walk down to cross the Parker Inlet, making sure to clean your shoes at the shoe cleaning station to keep this beautiful place free from disease. The inlet is a stunning place for a break as it’s sheltered from the wind with plenty of places to rest up. Parket Inlet You may want to rest as the next section is 300 steps up to Parker Hill. This is the hardest part of the day. 300 Steps along the Great Ocean Walk You’ll be rewarded with incredible coastal scenes on the next section of the walk. If you still have plenty of energy in you, take the detour down to Crayfish Bay, another good swimming spot. You’re almost there! Soon you’ll be able to spot the Cape Otway Lighthouse in the distance. Enjoy the lush green landscape while passing more farmland in the distance. You’ll begin to hear the hum of cars in the distance. After walking through some coastal bushland you’ll find you’ve suddenly arrived at the lighthouse. You made it! If you want to go inside the lighthouse there is a fee to pay, but if you take the narrow track up past the carpark you’ll get the same views. Great Ocean Walk Cape Otaway Light Station Track Conditions As the campsites are close to the beach, the weather can change rapidly and the wind commonly picks up in those areas. The campsites themselves are sheltered with trees but can still get cool. There are no cooking facilities in the hike-in campsites so you will need to bring your own. Don’t forget the biodegradable dish soap! There are also no showers in the hike-in campsites. You’re walking along the beach so even in the warmer months it’s recommended you bring layers of clothing with you to protect yourself from the elements. Though the terrain itself isn’t too treacherous, I do recommend walking in a sturdy pair of waterproof hiking boots with ankle support. These will make the journey so much more enjoyable. Some areas can become quite boggy after rainfall. Recommended Gear If you’re doing an overnight hike, especially a multi-day hike, you want your pack to weight as least as possible. The gear you take needs to be appropriate for the time of year you’re hiking. Nights on the Great Ocean Walk can get quite cool in any month of the year. As it so commonly rains in Victoria I recommend keeping any electronics in a dry bag or using a pack cover to keep your bag dry. Comprehensive packing list: Gear: Medium-sized pack with rain cover Lightweight sleeping bag Sleeping mat A lightweight hiking tent Stove and fuel Matches or lighter Cutlery and crockery Utensils Dish-washing kit Drinking water and options for treating rainwater A large dry bag may be needed for un-bridged river crossing Sunscreen Sunglasses Map Toiletries Anti-chafing cream Quick-dry towel A first aid kit Knife Enough food for your journey as there is nowhere along the trail to purchase any Headlamp Garbage bag for your rubbish First-Aid Kit Mosquito repellant Toilet paper Camera Phone (turn off during the walk as there is no reception) Clothing: A windproof and waterproof jacket and pants Sturdy hiking boots with ankle protection Socks Camp footwear T-shirts Long sleeve shirt Underwear Warm long sleeve jumper Shorts (summer) Pants Beanie/Hat for cold evenings Make sure you carry out what you carry in. Use the composting toilets along the trail for human waste and never throw rubbish in them. Now – we imagine that, if it wasn’t already, this Great Walk is now on your list! Where are you off to next? We would love to know! Keep us in the loop by using the hashtags #ExperienceIsEverything and #PaddyPallin! #ExperienceIsEverything | #PaddyPallin Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.