Pilgrimage to the Apostles // The Great Ocean Walk (VIC)

The Great Ocean Walk is a 100km trail starting at Apollo Bay and finishing at the 12 Apostles running parallel to the Great Ocean Road. Here’s what you can experience…


Highlights

  • A week-long journey filled with natural beauty of every kind, and ending at one of the world’s greatest wonders – the Apostles
  • A more intimate way to explore the Victorian coastline
  • Campsites exclusive to hikers
  • Accessible to most hikers in terms of difficulty and signage of trail

Picture it: endless summer days spent walking along cliff edges, admiring stunning coastlines and rugged rocks, spotting koalas, kangaroos and maybe a snake too, exploring rock pools, having a midday swim in the Aire River, wildflowers at your feet (or sand in your shoes), and watching the sun set over cliffs and turquoise waters at your campsite every night.

There’s lots of information available from Parks Victoria for those wishing to take on The Great Ocean Walk. The walk is well maintained and simply stunning.

Despite this, when I did the walk in late January with fantastic weather conditions, I found myself solo for most of my days. Many of the drive-in campsites that the walk passed seemed quite full, but the walk itself remains a secret gem for those adventurers willing to go the extra mile (or 62).

I flew from Brisbane to do this walk and was able to pack a base weight of 7.2kg which passed carry on requirements, containing my tent, a sleeping mat, sleeping bag, minimal clothes, and a few medical supplies. I bought a few extras in Melbourne and 6 days food supply as I did not carry a cooker and so packed ready-to-eat foods. The only places to buy food on the walk are at Cape Otway light station early on (charges entry), and Princetown on the very last leg of the walk, so packing food for the whole walk is advisable. Be aware that the campsite rainwater tanks are not guaranteed to have water, and indeed I found one empty, so carry extra water. The rainwater is untreated so you’ll need to use a filtration device or purification tablets.

Starting at the Apollo Bay visitor centre (make sure to get the official walk map), the walk mostly follows the coastline, but you’ll also be treated to several beach routes, as well as inland walks through koala-inhabited bush. Beware however, that this presents a snake risk, especially approaching the Ryan’s Den and Devil’s Kitchen campsites. I came across six, including a Tiger and Copperhead. If walking alone for this reason it’s advisable to carry a Personal Locator Beacon as there’s limited network coverage (85%) on the walk. Some of my favourite parts of the trail were walking above the soft rolling hills of the Johanna Valley Farmlands and a swim in the freshwater Aire River around halfway into the walk – highly recommended as there are no shower facilities at campsites and the beaches are unswimmable.

Parks Victoria provides seven exclusive hiker campsites along the walk approximately 15km apart (book online). The walk can take up to 8 days/7 nights at a leisurely pace, but with the lovely summertime hours I would recommend 6 days/5 nights to fill your days. I skipped the Elliot Ridge and Aire River campsites to do this. My top walking day was 24km with an ~18kg pack and it was 8 hours straight walking. See official map/website for detailed information on section distances and times.

If you’re wanting to do your first longish hike, I highly recommend the Great Ocean Walk. Despite six days of walking, I felt remarkably rejuvenated at the end – days filled with awesome natural beauty and sleeping by the ocean will do that for you!

Essential Gear

Camping
  • Lightweight tent
  • sleeping bag
  • mat
 Walking
  • Hat and sun cover (8hrs walking in the sun without sunscreen? Just don’t)
  • Basic medical supplies
  • Communication device, especially if walking alone
  • Insect repellent as the beaches can swarm with March flies
  • Water purification device or tablets

How To Get There

I did the walk as a thruhike by getting a lift to Apollo Bay, and then getting the tailend of a Private Operators tour of the Great Ocean Road to get back to Melbourne from the Apostles. Alternatively, the Vline goes down to Apollo Bay if you don’t have car access. From Melbourne with cars, drive about 2.5 hrs SW along the M1/A1/C119, then along the B100 for another hour and a half to leave one car at the end of the walk near the Apostles, then drive back to start the hike.

Activities

  • bushwalking
  • swimming
  • photography

Skill Level

Intermediate (because of total distance, trail itself is easy for the most part)

Distance Covered/ Elevation

100km, max elevation at any point 276m, with 3328m gain and 3276m loss over the whole walk.

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