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Travel guide Great Ocean Road

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The Great Ocean Walk
  • Walkers
  • Walking the Great Ocean Walk

"If people have been impressed by driving down the Great Ocean Road, what they will see on the Great Ocean Walk will really blow their minds."

Otway National Park Ranger-in-Charge, Will Cox.

A road that clings to sometimes precipitous cliffs above Bass Strait in the south-west of Victoria is, quite rightly, one of the state's greatest tourism drawcards.

Originally hacked out of the hills in the 1930s by labourers using picks and shovels, the Great Ocean Road has such scale and drama that it rates as one of the world's most spectacular and scenic coastal drives. This iconic attraction has also gained another marvellous aspect, the Great Ocean Walk.

At Apollo Bay, three hours from Melbourne where the road turns inland, a new walking track takes up the coastal trail to give access to equally impressive, but until now relatively unknown, coastal terrain to those prepared to ‘hoof it' on foot.

Launched in January 2006, the Great Ocean Walk extends for 91 kilometres from Apollo Bay to Glenample Homestead and takes walkers to within view of the extraordinary limestone stacks of the Twelve Apostles.

The walk has been designed by Parks Victoria not only to give ambitious long-haul bushwalkers an incredible new experience; it has also been designed in such a way that walkers can "step on and step off" the trail in short walk options ranging from six kilometre to 15 kilometre stretches.

Walkers can choose from a wide range of accommodation in the region or stay overnight in one of seven purpose-built “hike-in” overnight camping sites, with toilets and day shelters, making the overall hike an eight day and seven night experience.

And, if Otway National Park Ranger-in-Charge, Will Cox, is any guide, what an experience this ‘walk in nature' will be. "There are places on the walk," he says, "where you feel incredibly remote from civilisation…so many places that many people don't even know exist."

"Station Beach, which is rarely visited by anyone, gets lots of driftwood on the western currents coming in from the Great Australian Bight. Milanesia Beach is quite stunning, with a wide sandy beach. The water is crystal clear and in different lights, takes on extraordinary colours."

"At Moonlight Head are some of the highest coastal cliffs of mainland Australia. Forested right to the coastal ridge, the cliffs drop steeply into the sea. At Wreck Beach, you can find anchors from historic shipwrecks embedded in the rock shelf."

"You go into wet fern and rainforest gullies, which have huge specimens of the world's tallest flowering tree, the Mountain Ash. You cross coastal heathlands. You also go in and out of the sheltered coastal estuaries of the Aire and Gellibrand rivers, where there are reed beds and amazing bird life," said Will.

"You might see Sea and Wedge-tailed Eagles, koalas and wallabies. If you're lucky, in the right seasons, you might also see whales and dolphins in the water. I think international visitors will find the wildlife very alluring."

"There is just so much about it that you don't expect to find," says Will Cox. "Because most of the walk is within National Parks, it is so pristine. The air is so fresh and clear. There are many layers of contrast and amazing vistas."

While the 91 kilometre walk can be tackled as a whole by walkers carrying their own camping gear, within reach of many sections are accommodating bed and breakfast, motel and well-established camp-ground venues. Some of these will offer drop-off and pick-up options so hikers can take the walk in easy, comfortable stages with the promise of a warm bed and a good meal available at the end of a day or two on the Great Ocean Walk. Also, there are many licensed tour operators offering an assisted experience.

Overnight hikers must register their walking and camping intentions with Parks Victoria.

For further information on the Great Ocean Walk please contact Parks Victoria info@parks.vic.gov.au or visit our website: www.parkweb.vic.gov.au.

About the author
Parks Victoria wrote this article

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  The Great Ocean Walk is spectacular. There are a few sections that aren't quite as good so if you only have a few days to do some of the walk make sure you find out the best parts. I can highly recommend staying in nice accommodation with great food and wine in the evening. It was very easy to organise and with a map there was no way of getting lost so a guide is not required.
Posted on Jun 24 2009 at 19:04

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