With picturesque coves, mile after mile of sandy beaches and dramatic jagged cliffs, the Great Ocean Walk is one of Australia’s most renowned and cherished hikes.
The walk winds around the main attractions of the more famous Great Ocean Road, but also ploughs through some of the much more off the beaten track areas, including eucalyptus forests, scrubland and forgotten beaches.
It’s 105 kilometers and generally takes hikers eight days to complete; although it can be done in as little as four (for the very fast and experienced hikers!) or five. Apart from a few sections of the walk; namely those between Johanna and Devil’s Kitchen, it is not an incredibly difficult hike; it is more about duration than intensity.
The hike starts at the beautiful Apollo Bay and traverses westward to finish at the majestic 12 Apostles; the most famous Great Ocean Road sight. Hikers must walk in an east to west direction.
Great Ocean Walk Highlights
The Great Ocean Walk’s attractions are varied and interesting. Some of my favorite spots were: the Aire River mouth views where there are some fishing opportunities, the hidden beach of Castle Cove with a wonderful lagoon and a calm beach, meeting a gang of kangaroos at Milanesia, the panoramic views of Gables lookout, finding anchors of forgotten ships on Wreck Beach, kayaking out to fur seals in Marengo, spotting the koalas in the eucalyptus forest and of course, snapping that iconic photo with the 12 Apostles at the end.
Seasons on the Great Ocean Walk
Victoria is often the victim of incredibly changeable weather, and four seasons really can be experienced in one day in the state, making the weather of the Great Ocean Walk very unpredictable. The most popular time of year to do the walk is from spring to autumn, but the temperatures can soar during summer. Winter is a chilly season to do the walk, but there are less crowds and still some clear and fine days.
When getting in the sea, remember this is the Southern Ocean, which can at many times be cruel and unforgiving; it’s not called the ‘Shipwreck Coast’ for nothing! The water will most likely be very cold too, especially if you are used to swimming in Northern Australia!
Where to Stay on the Great Ocean Walk
Accommodation options on the Great Ocean Walk range from campsites to youth hostels to hotels. There’s something to suit every budget and walking style.
Camping is a great option in the summer months when Victoria enjoys scorching days and mild evenings. The stars in this area can be absolutely mesmerizing and it’s a really great way to enjoy the disconnection and relish in the nature the walk provides.
The campsites are located at these sections of the walk:
- Elliot Ridge
- Blanket Bay
- Cape Otway
- Aire River
- Johanna Beach
- Ryan’s Den
- Devil’s Kitchen
The campsites must be booked in advance and come with basic facilities. These include toilets and a sheltered area for dining, but no showers. They have very intermittent signals; and shouldn’t be relied on at all.
If you like your luxuries or are doing the walk in the colder or wetter months, there are lots of accommodation options with solid walls available too!
2. Hostels and Hotels
Hotels and hostels are dotted along the Great Ocean Walk track and are bookable in advance. If you decide to go with a Great Ocean Walk tour, they’ll book the accommodation for you, or you can organize the hotels yourself.
Some great accommodations are:
- Apollo Bay Eco YHA – a budget hostel perfect for backpackers or those watching their wallet
- Cape Otway Lightstation – amazing views of the Shipwreck Coast and history of the lighthouse can be explored here
- Southern Anchorage Retreat – this is located in the beautiful Moonlight Head and is self-contained, just five minutes from the Great Ocean Road
- 13th Apostle Backpackers – fantastic budget-friendly accommodation option in Princetown
- Port Campbell Hostel – Modern accommodation in Port Campbell and only three minutes walk from the beach
For more accommodation options along the Great Ocean Walk click here.
Insider Tip: Only a few of the hotels are ‘hike in’, so alternative transport from the walking track to the accommodation must be arranged.
Safety on the Great Ocean Walk
The Great Ocean Walk is not too strenuous and is a popular route with hikers, so it does not bear any huge dangers. That being said, it is a hike in Australia, so some precautions should be taken. These include taking enough drinking water, especially in the summer when temperatures can reach up to 40°C, carrying a water sterilization method, taking care to avoid snakes and other potentially dangerous wildlife and knowing tide times when walking along the beach and crossing rivers.
Be sure to fill out a trip intentions form before you go and leave it with someone at home. If you do become stuck with no phone signal, this form could potentially save your life! There is sporadic Telstra signal en route, but it can’t be relied on.
Food and Water on the Great Ocean Walk
There are very few shops to purchase from on the Great Ocean Walk, so you’ll need to either bring everything with you, or arrange a drop-off service with one of the shuttle companies.
There are a few restaurants in the Otway area, including Otway Junction Restaurant & Café which is located on Lavers Hill and boasts incredible views and delicious seafood to match. Another popular option is the Café at Otway Lighthouse.
Things to Bring on the Great Ocean Walk
Some vital things to remember on the Great Ocean Walk are:
- Hiking shoes with ankle support are a necessity
- Radio for contact in case of emergency
- Protective clothing for all weathers; the climate in Victoria is very unpredictable
- First aid kit including snake bite bandages
- Large waterproof bag for unbridged river crossings
- Adequate food and water
With unbeatable views, unique Australian nightlife and a real sense of being “in the middle of nowhere”, there’s no doubt that any keen hiker will absolutely love the Great Ocean Walk. It really gives walkers the chance to comprehensively explore this frequently forgotten area that is often just bundled along with the Great Ocean Road. It was one of my Australia highlights and in my opinion is one of the best things to do in Australia!