doing the great ocean walk

Everything You Need to Know About The Great Ocean Walk Australia

Spending a week conquering the Great Ocean Walk should on every hiker’s bucket list. The trek marks the edge of the Southern Ocean and coincides with the Western stretch of the Great Ocean Road. It is one of the most unique and immersive ways to explore the region.

An average day on the Great Ocean Walk will find you winding through old-growth rainforest and pristine beaches interrupted only by picnics and bird’s eye views of the coastline. Leave your car behind in Apollo Bay, grab your gear, and start exploring!

Where is the Great Ocean Road Walk, Australia?

The Apollo Bay Visitor Centre is the starting point of the Great Ocean Walk. The walk culminates at the 12 Apostles, although some hikers tend to complete their hike 11 km further afield in the town of Port Campbell.

If you are arriving to Apollo Bay from Melbourne the drive is 200 km and should take you around 2.5 hours from the CBD. If you are arriving via public transport, you will have to catch the Melbourne to Warrnambool train and intercept a bus at Geelong or Colac station to reach the coast.

The Great Ocean Road Walk follows the same stretch of coastline as the Great Ocean Road but the path does not dip inland like its automobile counterpart. The Great Ocean Walk winds along the coast all the way through to Cape Otway.

How Long is the Great Ocean Walk Trail?

The full 104km-long Great Ocean Road Walk can be completed in 4 or 6 days but is more often taken slowly and enjoyed over the course of 8 days.

There are 7 Victoria Parks’ hike-in camping sites which are scattered along the trail at intervals of 10 to 16km. These Victoria Park purpose-built campsites often act as the beginning and end of daily stretches for most hikers. 

The hiking distance between campsites is typically between 3 and 5 ½ hours. Therefore, some hikers tend to bypass a campsite in their daily trek. This results in longer daily hikes of 8+ hours which condense the trip to 4 to 6 days.

However, don’t feel pigeonholed by the Victoria Parks campsites, there are a number of lodges within easy access of the Great Ocean Road Walk if you prefer a little more luxury.

Alternatively, you can opt for 2 or 3 days itineraries that cover specific sections of the Great Ocean Road Walk Australia or even opt for a day trip.

What to Expect From The Great Ocean Walk Australia

People of all ages and abilities hike the Great Ocean Walk, Australia. It is considered a Grade 3 hike. The track is well-trodden with some inclines and a few areas of rough terrain or beach walking. The sections between Johanna beach and Devil’s Kitchen are known to be the hardest. 

Beach along the great ocean road walk

There are clear sign postages along the way. However, the beginning of the trail states it is 91km overall when it is in fact 104 km. Many sections have been added throughout the years. Pick up an official Great Ocean Walk map from one of the Apollo Bay, Lorne, or Port Campbell Visitor Centre before departing.

If you are embarking on the trail without a guide, then bush hiking experience is recommended. Walking on your own and carrying your own gear comes with its own set of challenges and requires some careful planning.

Getting Back to the Beginning of the Trail and Picking Up Your Car

The Great Ocean Walk is linear. Therefore, you will need to arrange to get back to your car or onwards to your next destination. 

If you are traveling in a group and hiking without a tour a car shuffle is the most popular solution. One car will be driven to the end of the trail, the second will be left at the beginning. So then the group can pile into one car at the end of the trek and take the owner of the other car back to theirs in Apollo Bay.

Victorian beach
Photo courtesy of the Great Ocean Road Shuttle.

Alternatively, there are a few shuttles that service the Great Ocean Walk and will take you back to your car in Apollo Bay, or wherever you began your trek.

The Great Ocean Road Shuttle service is a trusted choice. They can arrange for luggage transfers so you only need to carry a day pack with you throughout the day. They will meet you at your campsite or accommodation with your necessities but you will need to set up camp yourself as it is simply a pick-up/ drop-off service. They also offer food and water drops and camping gear hire.

Great Ocean Road Walk shuttle
Photo courtesy of the Great Ocean Road Shuttle.

If you would like to hike on your own but have someone else handle the camp and food then consider Hike2Camp. They will provide you with luggage transfers and meet you at the designated campsite each evening with your camp set up (tent, mattress, sleeping bag etc.) and tea waiting. Dinner and breakfast will be enjoyed at the camp and they will see you off with a packed lunch at the beginning of each day.

If you end your trip in Port Campbell, the 12 Apostles car park, Pricetown, or Lavers Hill then public transport can take you back to your car in Apollo Bay or onwards to Melbourne. The V/line coach bus services the area. Check timetables here.

Great Ocean Walk Guided Tours

If you are a newbie hiker, or not quite confident in your abilities then consider joining a guided tour. 

The 12 Apostles Lodge Walk takes hospitality seriously. They offer luggage transfers, daily foot spas, and luxury accommodation. Their local guides have exceptional knowledge of the area and their business practises are based on responsible tourism. 

the Great ocean walk australia
The Great Ocean Walk sign. Photo courtesy of the 12 Apostles Lodge Walk.

Inspiration Outdoors puts hikers up in their seaside cottages for most of the trek and then drives hikers to their starting point in the trail each day. They offer guided tours from March to October and include complimentary transfers to and from Melbourne. 

Day 5 on the Great Ocean Walk
Hiking to Moonlight Head. Photo courtesy of Inspiration Outdoors.

AusWalk Tours is a luxury, eco-conscious choice. They offer group-guided walking tours of various lengths. Guests are accompanied by a knowledgeable local guide, all food is included, as well as luggage transfers. At the end of each day, walkers are accommodated in comfortable lodges and then treated to 2-course dinners.

The Best Time of Year to Embark on The Great Ocean Road Walk 

If you are expecting year-round clear blue sky and picture-perfect weather conditions, remember that this is the South Coast! The “shipwreck coast” of Victoria has 4 distinct seasons. The weather conditions change drastically from one season to another and, in the winter months – from hour to hour. 

weather along the great ocean walk

Summer (December to February) is the most popular time of year to embark on the Great Ocean Road Walk. Temperatures hover between the twenties to thirties in the afternoons and precipitation is at its lowest. You won’t be able to resist taking a mid-trail dip at the hidden beaches and rock pools you’ll pass along the way.

However, trails are also at their busiest at this time of year. Fellow hikers and day-trippers,  especially during school holidays, commandeer the trail. You should book your campsites or Great Ocean Walk tour well in advance if you choose to hike during the summer months.

Spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May) are also attractive months to do the Great Ocean Road Walk. Temperatures hover in the mid-teens to twenties which are pleasant for hiking. Plus, the crowds have largely dispersed.

In the spring wildflowers begin to bloom and wildlife are at their most active. In the autumn, the nights are often clear which make for some incredible star-gazing. The shoulder season is our favourite time of year to do the Great Ocean Walk! 

The temperatures in the winter months (June to August) tend to be cooler and perception is at its highest but hiking the Great Ocean Road Walk in the winter does have its perks!

The near-empty trails give trekkers a sense of solitude and act as a platform for some incredible one on one encounters with wildlife. If you are booking a tour at this time of your year, you may qualify for a low-season discount.

Read Next: Great Ocean Road Weather and The Best Time to Visit

Highlights of the Great Ocean Road Walk Australia

There is lots to see and do along the Great Ocean Walk. Don’t miss these highlights!

Spot a Sleeping Koala in the Otways

The large population of Koalas around Cape Otway makes it one of the best spots to watch the iconic Australian animal in the wild.

koala in lorne australia

It’s unlikely you will see them stirring since they  spend around 19 hours a day sleeping in the branches of eucalyptus trees. So keep your eyes peeled! If you do, they should be relatively easy to spot.

Watch the Seals at Marengo Reef Marine Sanctuary

From Apollo Bay, walk southwest for about 30 minutes and you’ll find Marengo Reef Marine Sanctuary just below the water’s surface. Little Henty Reef is the closest reef, within the Marengo Reef Marine Sanctuary, to shore (only 120 meters off) and home to a lively population of Australian Fur Seals.

seals

The seals laze atop the rocky outcrops of Little Henty Reef all throughout the year. Pick up your binoculars and watch them play together in the water.

Seals are fascinating and protected creatures and this is one of the few places where you can observe their ballet. However, they have a spicy personality and can bite, so don’t get in their way! 

Go Whale Watching Along The Great Ocean Walk

Every year, 25 species of migrating whales approach the Shipwreck Coast, often congregating around 100 meters from shore. If you are visiting between May and September you are really in for a treat!

Whale watching

Among the best-known species, here you will be entertained by Humpback Whales, Orcas, and Southern Right Whales. Blue whales come here to reproduce or give birth to their calves. So, it is not uncommon to see baby whales splashing around!

Chances of spotting a whale are especially high around Cape Otway.

Spot the fastest bird in the world in the Aire Valley (if you can!)

The town of Glenaire, in the Aire Valley, is home to the peregrine falcon – otherwise known as the fastest bird in the world. Glenarie is located just before Johanna Beach close to Castle Cove. You will most likely pass ot on your fourth day on the Great Ocean Road Walk.

Even if you are not quick enough to spot a peregrine falcon, take your time meandering through this area. The smooth hills and dense forests are a pleasure. You’ll find a number of lodges in this area. So, many hikers tend to use it as a halfway point and stop for the night.

peregrine falcon in aire valley

We like the Great Ocean Walk Retreat for an overnight stop. Their stylish apartments have full kitchen facilities and cater to groups of 2-6 people. Plus, each unit has a lovely outdoor area which looks out onto the pristine Aire Valley. 

Glenaire Cottages offer 2 bedroom cottages which come with an indoor or outdoor spa. Their cottages come fully self contained with BBQ facilities and feature great views of the surrounding native bush.

Explore Wreck Beach

Take the 400 steps down to Wreck Beach along the Great Ocean Road Walk. At low tide, keep an eye out for the two anchors left behind from the shipwreck of Marie Gabrielle and the Fiji. They are reminders of the treacherous nature of the coast.

Go Stargazing

You’ll find very little light pollution while camping along the Great Ocean Walk, Australia. So don’t tuck in too early and get a load of the night sky. 

australia nightsky

The night skies are typically clear and the milky way is visible most nights. Prepare a hot drink, snuggle up, and grab your star guide. You might even be lucky enough to spot a couple shooting stars! 

Stop at the Moonlight Head Lookout 

The only hikers at Moonlight Head are the ones that have gone slightly off the beaten path. Head inland from Wreck Beach or the Gables to reach the lookout platform for 180 degree views of the stunning coastline.

Here you can have a look at how far you’ve walked, congratulate yourself, and look forward to what is ahead. 

Marvel at the 12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles tower the landscape and are the pinnacle of the Great Ocean Walk. The rocky outcrops are arguably the most famous spot on the Great Ocean Walk of Australia and mark the end of the hiking trail.

The limestone rocks were modeled by the wind, sea, and rain and although there are only 8 Apostles left, you will not be disappointed. However, keep in mind that the trail and viewpoints can be quite busy, especially at sunset so plan accordingly.

the 12 Apostles

Head here at sunrise to have the place to yourself. Then head to the nearby attractions when it starts to get busier. Loch Ard Gorge, nearby, is the perfect spot to spend a relaxing day at the beach and end your walk in the best of ways!

Read Next: Your Guide to Visiting the Twelve Apostles Australia

Safety Along the Great Ocean Road Walk

There is very little cell reception along the Great Ocean Walk, so it is best you bring a satellite radio if you are travelling on your own. Depending on your carrier you might get coverage in the small towns you pass along the way or on foliage-free cliff tops but it is often unreliable.

We understand satellite radios can be pricey for one-off hikers so an alternative is a safety beacon device.

A First Aid kit is essential but it is even better if you travel with a First Aid certified person. A First Aid kit can combat a number of injuries like scrapes, cuts, and burns. It can also provide short term assistance for more severe injuries.

first aid kit

Beware of snakes along the Great Ocean Walk. You may come across Tiger or Brown snakes. If you do, give them space and they should slither away on their own. Wearing gators or long pants with hiking boots are proactive ways to protect against snake bites. 

Never venture off the path where you may accidentally stumble upon a snake. If you must, then use walking poles. They may scare the snakes ahead of you and the snakes may strike the pole instead of you.

At your camp, ensure you keep your tent off the ground, ensure that there are no holes that a snake my navigate into and keep your tent is kept closed. For information on how to treat a snake bite click here. Although, don’t let snakes scare you off the trail. Being bitten is extremely unlikely – check out the facts here.  

Bushfires are a real danger, especially in the summer months. Read this article by Outside Online on how to escape wildfires while hiking. They are well documented so first and foremost you should check the forecast for the likelihood of bushfires or bushfires in the area that may spread.

Carry a tide timetable with you. Many of the beaches are susceptible to surges and tide changes which make getting off the beach difficult. Wreck Beach is especially notorious. Only venture down to Wreck Beach at low tide and keep track of the tide or you may be caught out in a bad situation.  

What to Bring on Your Trek

A multi-day hike requires some specific equipment so you will be most comfortable along the trail.

We suggest you bring the following:

  • Hiking shoes that offer strong ankle support and traction
  • Sandals or casual shoes for evenings
  • Breathable clothing including long sleeve tops and long pants to prevent knicks from trees and native bush
  • A suitable backpack and/or daypack
  • Waterproof rain gear including gators, rain jacket, and waterproof pants
  • Sun protection including a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen
  • Insect repellent 
  • A water bottle and water purifier like the Steripen or Lifestraw
  • A camera and any associated gear
  • Walking poles are recommended but not required
  • Camping equipment including a tent, cooking equipment, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad
  • A headlamp or flashlight for evenings around camp
  • An official Great Ocean Walk map

Food and Drink on the Walk

Outside of Apollo Bay and Port Campbell, you will find few places to refill your supplies. After Apollo Bay, there are only three cafes in Lavers Hill, Princetown, and Cape Otway.

Therefore, we suggest you bring enough food to get you through the duration of your hike or arrange a food drop via one of the shuttle services. Not sure what to make? Check out this meal planning guide for backpacking by REI.

walking poles on great ocean rd walk

There are 2 supermarkets in Apollo Bay but items tend to be more pricey than they would be in Melbourne or more urban areas.

Water is available the Victoria Parks Great Ocean Walk campsites however it is untreated rainwater that is collected in tanks. Therefore you must bring a water sterilization method or arrange for a water drop from one of the shuttle services. 

Great Ocean Walk Campsites and Permits

There are 7 campsites along the Great Ocean Road Walk operated by Victoria Parks. Permits must be purchased at least two weeks in advance. Campsite reservations must also be purchased two weeks in advance.

Victoria Parks requires trekkers to progress the trail from East to West. Therefore, campsites must be booked in that sequence.

The campsites offer tent platforms, drop toilets, and rainwater tanks. The campsites are as follows:

  1. Elliot Ridge Campsite
    • Apollo Bay Visitor Centre to Elliot Ridge (10.3 km)
  2. Blanket Bay Campsite
    • Elliot Ridge to Blanket Bay (12 km)
  3. Cape Otway Campsite
    • Blanket Bay to Cape Otway (10.5 km)
  4. Aire River Campsite
    • Cape Otay to Aire River (10 km)
  5. Johanna Beach Campsite
    • Aire River to Johanna Beach  (14 km)
  6. Ryans Den Campsite
    • Johanna Beach to Ryan Dens (14 Km)
  7. Devils Kitchen Campsite
    • Ryans Den to Devils Kitchen (13 km)
  8. Twelve Apostles Campsite
    • Devils Kitchen to Twelve Apostles (16 km)

Car-based and drive in camping is available a few of the campsites. Check the Parks Victoria website for more detail. 

Hotels and Lodges Along the Great Ocean Walk

Accommodation is plentiful at the beginning and end of the Great Ocean Walk in Apollo Bay and Port Campbell. However, it becomes scarcer along the trek itself.

These are the best hotels and lodges you will find along the trek.

Walk-in Hotels and Lodges

The following hotels and lodges are a short walk from the Great Ocean Road Walk trail. 

Room at the Cape Otway Lightstation Guesthouse. Photo courtesy of the Cape Otway Lightstation Guesthouse.

Cape Otway Lightstation Guesthouse is located on the same property as the historic Cape Otway Lightstation. Guests can stay in their suites or self-contained units which offer great views of the Southern Ocean. The cafe is open throughout the day but special arrangements can be made for evening meals.

Bedroom at the Great Ocean Walk Retreat. Photo courtesy of the Great Ocean Walk Retreat.

The Great Ocean Walk Retreat offers stylish apartments in the Aire Valley. Their self contaned units cater to groups of 2-6 people and each unit has an outdoor patio with stunning views. 

The living room in one of the deluxe cottages at the Johanna Seaside Cottages. Photo courtesy of Johanna Seaside Cottages.

Johanna Seaside Cottages is located just minutes from Johanna Beach. They offer modern stand alone cottages with full kitchens and private balconies. Guests are welcome to use the communal pool and tennis courts.

Nearby Hotels and Lodges 

The following require a bit of a further walk or you can arrange transportation with the accommodation provider.

Bedroom at Alkina Lodge. Photo courtesy of the Alkina Lodge.

Alkina Lodge is a one of a kind, modern accommodation option. They are located 27 km from Port Campbell and offer 4 bedroom lodges with big windows and great views. Their units are suitable for up to 8 people. 

The living room at the Wombalano Country Retreat. Photo courtesy of he Wombalano Country Retreat.

Wombalano Country Retreat is set in a 1950’s farmhouse and set on a working farm. The house offers cozy, rustic accommodation in with views of the surrounding countryside. 

Hostels along the Great Ocean Walk

There are no hostels to stay at along the Great Ocean Walk. However, there are hostels at the start and endpoint of the trek. 

Rooftop at the Apollo Bay YHA. Photo courtesy of Apollo Bay YHA.

The Apollo Bay YHA is an award-winning, eco-friendly hostel. They have a rooftop terrace, 2 kitchens, and an herb garden for communal use. They offer dormitories, private, and family rooms. 

Dorm room at the 13 Apostles Backpackers. Photo courtesy of the 13 Apostles Backpackers.

The 13 Apostles Backpackers is located in Princetown, near the end of the Great Ocean Walk. It is located next to a kangaroo reserve and has stunning views of the surrounding countryside. As well as free breakfast. They offer dormitories and private rooms. 

The exterior of the Port Campbell Hostel. Photo courtesy of the Port Campbell Hostel.

The Port Campbell Hostel is a clean, modern hostel with a microbrewery attached. It is located in the heart of the small town. They offer dormitories and private rooms.

The raw beauty of the Great Ocean Walk Australia makes it one of the region’s top attractions. It is great to get away from everyday life, reconnect with nature and should be added to your bucket list whether you’re Australian or from abroad. 

What is your Great Ocean Walk Itinerary?