My co-author Deb, and I, have walked the Great Ocean Walk quite a few times now over many years. Every time it is spectacular, different, challenging, and beautiful. It’s very accessible: with options from 8-24km per day, depending on your pace, preference, and fitness. It’s all about walking your own walk.
You can go fully self-supporting, camping as you go, take the full luxury option staying at B&Bs each night, use local Great Ocean Walk transport providers to drop off/pick up each day, or organise your own two-car shuttle for a series of day walks. The walk goes east-to-west as a rule and this helps ensure it does not feel too crowded in addition to leaving you with the spectacular finish walking towards the Apostles.
Here’s a few quick tips to help you make the most of the Great Ocean Walk.
1. Take In Those Beautiful Ocean Views
This walk is ALL about the ocean views. Even from the long drop toilets at the campsites, perched on cliff edges! Make time to sit and enjoy them (the views, not the toilets) along the way. A short detour into the GOW campsites often provides great picnic benches for lunch.
2. Know The Tides
You need to know the tides to know the best time to walk the Great Ocean Walk. I use Willy’s Weather, but BOM is of course great too. There are a couple of sections of the walk which have river estuary crossings (Eliot River, Parkers Inlet, Johanna’s Beach) which are a doddle at low tide—you might not even get your feet wet. But at high tide, and particularly if there is a bit of a swell, they can become dangerous and impassable. Sometimes there are no high tide alternate routes. Don’t risk it, as there is no one to rescue you if you get into trouble. If you arrive at the wrong time, just sit down and wait till it’s safe to go. Especially try and make sure you time your walk so you can go down to Wreck Beach at low tide and see the shipwreck anchors embedded in the rock platforms.
3. Don't Slip!
If it’s been very wet, the hills which don’t have stairs, can be slippery. Poles will help you keep your footing. Enjoy the slide on your bum without.
4. Befriend the Critters (Including the Slithery Kind...)
Leeches and snakes—yep, there are plenty of both. When hiking the Great Ocean Walk come prepared not scared. Insect repellent to prevent and a bank card/flat surface to remove the leeches, and at the end of your day, check carefully in all the crevasses you wouldn’t expect they could reach. Clean, apply pressure to stop any bleeding and whack a bandaid on if needed.
Any snake you will spot (usually sunning itself in the middle of the track) will be venomous but not interested in tangling with you. Just stop when you see them and give them some space until they move off. Always carry a compression bandage and know how to use it.
5. Be Prepared - Carry The Right Gear & Food
Take everything you need. There is a small kiosk which does fantastic coffees at the Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre for a treat at the end. At Princetown there is a rarely-open post office/general store, but don’t rely on it—ring ahead to check. The same applies to the café at Cape Otway Lightstation—it is only open to those who pay for a ticket to go and visit the Lightstation complex. The entry ticket is included for through walkers who book all the GOW campsites.
6. Book in Advance
Book the GOW campsites through Parks Victoria well in advance—most of them are walk in/out only, and have very limited spaces (usually 8 tent sites, plus some extra for small groups). Water is usually available in tanks, but is untreated. Best to call Parks Vic to check water is in the tanks if you are walking during a dry stretch. Bring a filter.
7. Don't Rely On Your Mobile
There are mobile phone black spots along the way, where you will not get coverage. Though, Telstra offers the best cover. For this reason, you’ll need to take a guidebook, which includes maps, take the Parks Vic map, or download your mobile maps so that you can use it offline. If walking independently, carry an PLB (emergency beacon) which you can rent from outdoor shops.
8. Keep Up To Date With Parks Victoria Updates
Check Parks Victoria for any track updates. Damage from flooding, heavy rains, windstorms, bushfire ,and planned burns can all affect the walk at various times, and if sections are closed there are very good reasons for it. Be aware that on Code Red fire days, the National Park will likely be closed for safety and you will need to be able to walk yourself out in advance.
BONUS TIP - 9. Enjoy Sharing The Track With The Friendlier Creatures
And lastly, enjoy the wildlife and flora—depending on the season, you’ll see wallabies, kangaroos, bandicoots (if you are VERY lucky), native mice raiding your food stash in camp, whales, birds, tree ferns and fungi or orchids. Nothing not to love about this Walk.
Julie Mundy (along with Debra Heyes) is the author of The Great Ocean Walk guidebook. This is a must-read if you're wanting to hike The Great Ocean Walk.
Julie has been kind enough to offer Merino Yarn readers a 15% discount (use coupon JULIEM15 at checkout here). Alternatively you can grab yourself a copy of this, and other guidebooks, from good bookshops and outdoors gear and camping stores.