The 104km journey along the Great Ocean Walk is one of Victoria’s most iconic multi-day hikes, especially with a final destination like the Twelve Apostles. Explorer Brooke hit the southern coastline track for an epic five-day hiking adventure.
We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Country on which this adventure takes place who have occupied and cared for this land and water for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
- Journeying 104km to the legendary Twelve Apostles on two feet
- Exploring a more intimate side of Victoria’s popular Great Ocean Road region
- Walking beneath towering eucalypts and through mystical manna gum forests
- Spotting wild koalas, kangaroos, echidnas and Southern Right whales from the trail
- Walking across remote beaches to the soundtrack of crashing waves
Victoria’s Iconic Coastal Thru-Hike
The 104km Great Ocean Walk (sometimes called Great Ocean Road Walk) is one of Australia’s most spectacular thru-hikes. The walking track is set up as an eight day, self-guided walk, with purpose-built campsites.
It’s a slow-paced exploration of the region’s towering eucalypt forests, secluded beaches, and impossibly rugged headlands. The walking trail ventures from Apollo Bay, through areas of the Great Otway National Park and Port Campbell National Park, before culminating at the incredible Twelve Apostles.
Distance Covered – 104km
The 104km trail is broken into eight sections, each between 10km to 16km.
Elevation Gain – 3300m
Sections of the track have sharp ascents and descents that you might not be expecting on a coastal walk.
Skill Level – Intermediate
The trail isn’t overly demanding, but given its length and the weight of your pack, some overnight hiking experience is recommended.
Three Ways To Hike The Great Ocean Walk
Self-guided Camping Adventure
The Great Ocean Walk is designed as an eight day, self-guided walk. There are seven purpose-built campsites along the trail that you need to book through Parks Victoria before you go. You can walk more than one section per day to complete the trail in less than eight days. There are rainwater tanks at the campsites along the trail, but you’ll need to carry in all your food, camping gear and equipment. Check out how to pack a backpack like a boss before you hit the trail.
Self-guided Hike With Local Accommodation
There’s plenty of local accommodation offering transfers to and from the different sections of the Great Ocean Walk. This is a good option if you prefer walking the trail during the day and resting up in a comfortable bed at night. It also means you only need to carry a day pack and can leave the tent, cooking and overnight gear at home. If you plan to walk the trail in less than eight days – you’ll might find the longer days easier with a smaller pack.
Join A Guided Tour To Explore The Rugged Southern Coastline
If you prefer someone else to do the planning for you, there’s a heap of companies that provide guided tours along the Great Ocean Walk. We’re talking everything from luxury accomodation, to freshly cooked meals, to spas and massages at the end of the day. Find a local operator who specialises in hiking this awesome trail and focus on immersing yourself in the incredible surrounds as your tour guide takes cares of the rest.
Five Days Of Adventure On The Great Ocean Walk
In 2020 Brooke set off solo to complete the Great Ocean Walk in a whirlwind five day adventure. Here’s how she conquered the trail – encountering tall trees, curious wildlife, raging surf and spectacular cliff top views along the way.
Day 1 – Apollo Bay to Elliot Ridge
Hopping off the V/Line bus at the Apollo Bay Information Centre, I follow small yellow arrows through a park, along the road, and finally onto the sand in Marengo. Despite being the middle of July, I’m stripped down to a singlet, beaming like it’s my first time outside and reflecting a blinding amount of pasty chest to unsuspecting passersby.
The next few hours pass incredibly quickly, parading past a long string of secluded beaches, each more beautiful than the last. The dirt path is adjacent to the water, but trail markers often lead straight onto the beach, taking me right up against the gentle waves or over rock platforms.
I see only one other couple all afternoon, lounging on the sand and pointing me up to a nearly-missed trail marker. It leads me off of the beach and towards the cool, shaded forests of the Great Otway National Park.
The final stretch of today’s walk climbs gently up to Elliot Ridge, through thick ferns and a dense eucalypt forest, bathed in an almost ethereal golden light as the afternoon sun descends low over the horizon.
I’m pleasantly delighted to arrive at the Elliot Ridge Hiker Camp moments later and find myself the sole inhabitant. The excitement increases 50-fold when I hear a nearby scratching noise and look up to see a koala climbing one of the trees directly in front of my tent. Slowly and with heavy lids, he looks over at me and seems to accept that I’m just part of the scenery. I’ve never missed other humans less.
Day 2 – Elliot Ridge to Cape Otway
Elliot Ridge to Blanket Bay: 12km / 2.75hrs
Blanket Bay to Cape Otway: 10.5km / 3.75hrs
Most of the second morning on the trail is spent navigating through enormous stretches of muddy track that either threaten to swallow my boots whole or send me sliding in all directions.
For all the unpleasant trail conditions, I still find myself really enjoying the walk, entirely alone again this morning. That enjoyment only increases when the clouds suddenly break apart to reveal blue sky, just in time for the descent into picture-perfect Blanket Bay.
The rain returns sporadically over the next few hours as I navigate the steep trails up and over headlands. I descend to the beach at Parker Inlet to cross the narrow river and then head straight back up into the trees on equally steep stone steps.
Although the path is anything but direct, and I find myself (and my knee) getting a little bit frustrated by all the steep, slippery descents as I approach Cape Otway, there’s no denying the journey’s been worth it. Low shrub gives way to expansive views of the wild coastline. Surf whips into a frenzy by the wind. Clouds swirl ominously overhead. Rugged and insanely beautiful – and precisely the kind of drama one wants on a trek.
Just when I feel my feet beginning to ache for camp, Cape Otway Lighthouse comes into view. Just 600m from the Great Ocean Walk campsite, it’s a fitting beacon for the final leg of today’s walk.
DAY 3 – Cape Otway to Johanna Beach
Cape Otway to Aire River: 9.6km / 2hrs
Aire River to Johanna Beach: 13.8km / 4hrs
The first part of the morning en route to Aire River is incredibly wet and very cold, but otherwise uneventful. By early afternoon though, that wild Victorian coastline is back. It makes countless appearances as the trail skirts the waves on cliff line boardwalks and beachside trails. Breaks in the clouds reveal golden sand and perfectly turquoise water at Castle Cove – inviting if not for the hulking whitecaps.
Even the forest along this section of the walk is beautiful, winding on narrow boardwalks through a tangle of spindly manna gums and overflowing grass trees.
The light filtering in through the leaves transforms the whole scene into something out of a fairytale; think Brothers Grimm.
In no time, I’ve descended all the way down the headland onto the most perfect crescent beach. Johanna Beach is renowned for its impressive surf (and therefore not the place you want to hop in for a casual swim, although I’d otherwise be very keen).
After traversing a few kilometres across the sand and around rock platforms, I finally come to Johanna River, flowing quickly from between the dunes out into the sea. I parade up and down the bank several times in search of a narrowing. When no such section appears, I eventually strip my boots off and blaze my way right through the flow. It’s freezing, but surprisingly refreshing on tired feet.
Boots hung from my shoulder by the laces, legs dripping from the rain, and feet caked in mud, I arrive at the Johanna Beach campsite (which is actually on a bluff some 600m above Johanna Beach) looking like the hot mess I truly am. But smack me if I’m not having the time of my life.
Day 4 – Johanna Beach to Devils Kitchen
Johanna Beach to Ryan’s Den: 13.8km / 4hrs
Ryan’s Den to Devils Kitchen: 12.8km / 4hrs
There’s no doubt that day four is going to be a challenge. But I’m reassuringly joined on the first few hours of my walk by countless Eastern Grey kangaroos. They hop through golden hills and turn to appraise me with reluctant curiosity as I come round corners.
The next section of the walk is a bit less pleasant, leading up and down a rollercoaster of paved or gravel roads. Even back on the track, the sharp ascents and descents are unlike anything I expected on a coastal walk. So it’s with great pleasure that I arrive, about an hour later, at the secluded Milanesia Beach. From here, the forested ascent to Ryan’s Den is short and sweet.
The next four hours fly by in comparison to the morning’s slow-going. The elevation gain is far more manageable for the climb up Cape Volney, Moonlight Head, and the towering Gables Lookout, all the while offering dramatic views back towards the Cape Otway coast.
The final stages of the walk wind through farmland, where I’m delighted to find a little echidna digging under a fence, and an endless stretch of forest. I’m finally delivered to Devils Kitchen just in time to set up my tent in the final minutes of daylight. Be sure to bring your camera to the toilet, this is a loo with a view.
Day 5 – Devils Kitchen to Twelve Apostles
Enjoying the freedom of a short final day on the track, I move with absolutely no sense of urgency along the cliffs towards Princeton. Soaking in the salty air and the sharp whip of the wind with every step. Eventually descending off the cliffs to cross the Gellibrand River and then slowly winding back up through coastal scrub, the morning passes incredibly quickly.
I feel I’ve hardly even left camp when I catch my first glimpse of the Apostles in the distance. They loom closer and closer with every step, providing a fixed point and a tangible goal to hike towards.
Less than 4 hours after leaving camp, I’m standing at the viewing platform, soaking in the epic prize for all those wet kilometres. A handful of tourists cast furtive glances in my direction. They’re possibly wondering why I’ve brought a full pack for the 1km walk from the Visitor Centre. Or why I’m smiling with so much intensity at a bit of eroded cliff – but I’m too happy to care.
It’s my third time at the Apostles, and while the rocks themselves haven’t made a lot of movements, it is without a doubt the best of my visits.
I’ve been on a real journey to get here, and something about the sharp sting in my boots, the storm-frizzed hair, and the saturated 17kg backpack make it all the sweeter.
How To Get To The Great Ocean Walk
Park At The Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre
The Great Ocean Walk begins at the Apollo Bay Information Centre, about 2.5hrs west of Melbourne via Geelong. For those driving, it’s recommended to park at the Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre and organise with local shuttle services or taxis to get to Apollo Bay to begin the walk.
Catch Public Transport From Melbourne
You can catch the V/Line train from Southern Cross Station to Geelong (1hr) and then catch a V/Line bus towards Warrnambool (2.75hrs), hopping off right at the Apollo Bay Information Centre. All up, including transfer time, this journey will take around 4.5hrs from the city. Book your tickets in advance on the V/Line website.
Great Ocean Walk Map
The Parks Victoria website has a Great Ocean Walk map and itineraries which are useful for planning your hike and booking campsites before you go. You can cruise along the trail taking the whole eight days to soak it in. Or hit it harder and complete it in four to six days. No doubt, whatever you choose, there’ll be an epic adventure in store.
Get A Taste Of The Great Ocean Road Region
Short Hikes In The Great Otway National Park
The Great Otway National Park is the place to chase waterfalls, and revel in the rainforest. These short hikes will give you a taste of the forest trails along the Great Ocean Walk.
- Station Beach/Rainbow Falls – 8km return
- Stevenson Falls Walk – 4.6km return
- Triplet Falls Walk – 2km circuit
- Madsen’s Track Nature Walk – 1.2km circuit
Day Hikes On The Great Ocean Walk Track
You can still appreciate the deserted beaches, raging Southern Ocean and dramatic coastline without walking 104km. Try these day hikes to get a taste of the spectacular Great Ocean Walk.
- Blanket Bay to Cape Otway – 10km one way
- Wreck Beach – 2km or 4.5km loop
- Cape Otway to Johanna Beach – 23km one way
- Milanesia Beach to Twelve Apostles – 35km one way