Sun, sea, sand and stunning scenery. The Great Ocean Walk, one of Australia’s iconic trails, has it all. Located on Victoria’s southwest coast, it begins at the fishing village of Apollo Bay and follows the coastline for 104 km through spectacular, diverse landscapes before finishing at the world-renowned Twelve Apostles of Victoria, a collection of offshore limestone stacks. Taking a recommended 8 days to complete, the trail has a difficulty rating of moderate to challenging; there are short steep hills and rough, rugged terrain and is recommended for those with a moderately active lifestyle and some walking experience.
The Great Ocean Walk can be hiked year-round; southwest Victoria has four distinct seasons although the weather in this area is notoriously variable due to pressure systems and weather fronts moving west to east across the state, bringing with them changeable weather patterns. Summer can be hot, over 35 degrees is not uncommon, although very high temperatures are usually short-lived. Summer is an agreeable time to complete the trail but is also the peak season for visitors and walkers, so it can feel a little crowded. To ease the flow and allow for maximum visibility of amazing vistas, the trail is walked from east to west. For more tranquillity, consider going in spring or autumn or better yet, in winter, when you will have the trail to yourself along with some crisp sunny days.
Passing through the Otway National Park, the trail traverses rugged sandstone and limestone coastlines giving breathtaking ocean views. It crosses sandy beaches, lush dense rainforest, eucalyptus woods and some named areas, like Johanna, Aire River and Loch Ard Gorge with its fascinating geological formations. There is accommodation to cater for all; seven hike-in campsites on the trail at intervals of 10 to 15 km, lodgings, hotels, even a spa. The campsites must be reserved in advance, however. If travelling light is required, luggage transfer options are available. The first three stages form the easiest section of the trail, from Apollo Bay to Cape Otway and is suitable for beginners, but as the trail progresses the terrain becomes more challenging and rugged; around the small hilltop known as Ryans Den, there are a few kilometres of constant undulating track. Hikers must also be aware that there may be sections of the trail which are dangerous and impassable at high tides, although there are compensatory tracks to bypass these.
For nature lovers the trail is a delight. Koalas, wallabies, snakes, echidnas (aka spiny anteaters) and many bird species, like the Kookaburra, Wedge tailed Eagle and Boobook Owl may be encountered. From June to September, Humpback and Southern Right whales can be observed on their annual migration to their winter breeding and calving grounds in the warmer tropical waters of the Pacific. With culture, nature, scenery and history the trail gives an excellent opportunity for visitors to experience the most beautiful places that most tourists in Victoria do not see.