Things to Do

A Quick Guide to The Great Ocean Walk

Do you want to take a break from all the hustle and bustle of the city, or simply just marvel through the stunning coastal wonders of Australia’s Victoria territory?  Well, if your answer to this is a hard yes, you might as well start gathering your family and friends and take on the world-famous Great Ocean Walk! 

Traverse in several areas of historical and cultural significance, and weave through forests, coastal heathlands, wild rocky shores, river estuaries, and windswept cliff-tops with the most amazing sceneries.

While the majority of people opt to drive through the Great Ocean Road, we really think that hiking is a fantastic alternative for the outdoorsy types. Although the activity doesn’t offer the most comfortable experiences for you, you will be rewarded with unlimited breathtaking views of the ocean, an opportunity to connect with your inner self and with people around you, and the closest interaction you will ever have with your natural surroundings. 

If the Great Ocean Walk sounds of great interest to you, read our guide to the sections below and a few frequently asked questions (and answers) before packing your bags. Then prepare to go on your once-in-a-lifetime adventure with endless possibilities and envy-worthy photo ops!

Sunset over a coastal path with the ocean at the base of the cliffs on the leftDisclaimer: Almost all posts on this site contain affiliate links. This means that if you click on any of the links in our Quick Guide to The Great Ocean Walk (and make a booking) we may receive a small commission at absolutely no cost to you. Each post is carefully crafted to (hopefully!) answer all your questions and recommendations are made where we believe they will improve your trip and help with your planning. As such we thank you in advance should you decide to click, buy or book. Read our full Disclosure here.

Official Sections of the Great Ocean Walk

Apollo Bay to Marengo (3km / 1-hour / Easy)

Your Great Ocean Walk adventure begins at the deservingly known paradise by the sea – Apollo Bay Visitor Information Centre. It is a perfect base for exploring both the sand and the surf of the coastline. You start the walk by wandering through the town or strolling along the beautiful beach while taking in the most fantastic and breathtaking views of the coast! 

You may choose to follow the beach until you reach the river. From the river, you will have to walk along the Great Ocean Road to the beach-side suburb of Marengo which is home to a colony of fur seals who hang out on rocks in the bay.

Walking Track along Apollo Bay

Marengo to Elliot Ridge Campsite (7km / 3 hours / Easy to Medium)

Once you reach the Marengo Caravan Park, you may choose to walk around the rocky terrain and beaches or follow the trail through the Park, and along sandy foreshore and boardwalks. Chances are that this will be a rather challenging muddy walk after the Three Creeks Beach (especially after it has rained!) So, to avoid unpleasant surprises, you may want to wear appropriate footwear. 

The trail will then lead to a low forest, and just above Shelly Beach, you will be moving into the higher forests of the park. At the end of this trail, you will reach an intersection where you can head down the Shelly Beach (left) or to the car park at the Shelly Beach picnic area (right). 

For those heading to the campsite, you can also continue from Shelly Beach Carpark, down to the Elliot River mouth, and then back up the fairly steep Elliot River Track to reach the Elliot Ridge Campsite (aka the Elliot Ridge hikein campsite).

Elliot Ridge Campsite to Blanket Bay (12km / 4 hours / Easy)

Koala on the Great Ocean Road
The walk from Elliot Ridge turns away from the coast and tracks through the tall forest with the Mountain Ash trees and ferns. Although some people find this part of the walk bland, we suggest that you consider this as yet a wonderful experience of walking through the heart of the giant forest that is up to 65 meters high.

It is known for housing the highest trees in Australia and you can have huge pride in being able to witness them right before your eyes! You will find the trail again on the coast of Blanket Bay. You may want to take a quick dip here as it’s one of the few safe swimming locations along the walk, before heading up to the Blanket Bay hikein campsite.

 

Blanket Bay to Cape Otway (11km / 3 hours / Easy to Medium)

Cape Otway Lighthouse from the top of the white fences path leading down to it with the ocean in the background
Enjoy the superb sight at Parker Inlet – where you can walk along the boardwalk along the rock shelves and beaches around Point Franklin or take the inland road. A short walk to the picturesque Crayfish Bay – another safe swimming spot – is most totally worth the side trip! 

The coast walk trail then goes inland via the manna gums of the Otway National Park to the Cape Otway Lightstation, Australia’s oldest continuously operating lighthouse. While you’re at it, you might also want to check out the koalas hanging out there. Just remember to keep your distance and do no harm to these loving wild animals.

And if you’re lucky, you might have some of our furry friends as neighbours if taking advantage of the Cape Otway hikein campsites.

Cape Otway to Aire River (10km / 4 hours / Medium)

The walk from the Cape Otway to Aire River begins with a varied path through sand dunes, coastal scrub, and along cliff tops! This particular section of the trail is simply one of the best along the Great Ocean Walk. Though not a requirement, we highly suggest you take a complete side trip to Rainbow Falls. 

At the right time of the day, you will see a magical array of beautiful colours. To reach Aire River hikein campsite, you can either walk along Station Beach (applicable only when it’s low tide!) or along the inland route. Make sure to put your hats, shades, and sunscreen into good use as this route will give you much exposure to the sun!

Aire River to Castle Cove (6km / 2.5 hours / Medium)

Beach and scrubland along the coast at Castle CoveFollowing the walking track from the Aire River, you’ll find yourself climbing up and down around the next headlands through spinifex forests that carry on until you reach the beach road. From there, you will be surprised by the overwhelming and breathtaking southern ocean views by the cliff line, all thanks to the sandstone formations!

Anticipate a few photo stops climbing on the way to the spectacular beach at Castle Cove, and make sure to check out the panoramic views into the valley just opposite the cove!

Related: Lots of walkers combine the Aire River to Castle Cove and Castle Cove to Johanna legs into one day walking to make an Aire River to Johanna Beach section.

Castle Cove to Johanna (7km / 2.5 hours / Medium)

Waves at Johanna beyond the treeline
Before heading out, you may want to look out for Peregrine Falcons that nest around the area. From the Castle Cove tourist lookout, the walk resumes its way along with the forests and grasslands with a great variety of manna gums, spring wildflowers, and magnificent expanses of grass trees. Continue walking the trail until you reach the mesmerising views of the coastline. 

At this point, you will have arrived at Johanna Beach – known for its magical landscape and superb views! And If you’re into surfing, big waves pop up here so be sure to keep an eye out.

Johanna to Melanesia (4.5km / 2 hours / Medium)

Kangaroos on the Great Ocean Walk
Once you reach the top of the hill wherein you see 180-degree ocean views, you may want to settle in for a picnic to prepare yourself for the rollercoaster-type of journey ahead. From Johanna Beach to Melanesia, you will have to pass through rolling hills and farmlands before reaching one of the walk’s highlights — Melanesia Beach.

You will most likely see a permanent mob of Eastern Grey Kangaroos in the grassy valleys near Johanna Beach. Be sure to look out for them (and to keep your distance)!

Melanesia to Ryan’s Den (9.5km / 3.5 hours / Hard)

Great Ocean Walk TrackConsidered as the most challenging part of the walk because of its secluded location and the bumpy road, Melanesia Beach is still a true gem. Staying here for a bit is worthwhile because of the magnificent views and the tranquillity it provides, and not many visitors come to this beach — all the more making it extra special. 

Once you reach the coast, you may also spot a beachcomber’s cottage that has been there for a really long time. Note, though, that the cottage is private property. The least and the most that you can do is enjoy it from afar!

From here, expect that the trail to Ryan’s Den will still be filled with ups and downs. Nevertheless, you will still enjoy the captivating views of the high sea cliffs on the way there.

Ryan’s Den to Devil’s Kitchen (13km / 5 hours / Medium to Hard)

Great Ocean Walk Coastline
Others also consider the trail to the Devil’s Kitchen as one of the most challenging parts of the Great Ocean Walk because you need to be reasonably fit to go through it. Follow the coastal scrub until it reaches the aptly called Moonlight Head.

Continue flowing downward until the trail takes you to the Gables Lookout, an entirely beautiful spot to witness the coastline once again. And in case you didn’t know, this is one of the highest clifftop viewpoints in the whole country!

If it’s low tide during your walk, you may want to stroll down to Wreck Beach and spot the anchors of several lost ships. But if it’s high tide, you can simply continue to Devil’s Kitchen.

Devil’s Kitchen to 12 Apostles (16km / 5 hours / Easy to Medium)

Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road
Drawing near the end of your journey, the path from the Devil’s Kitchen covers the wild coastal cliffs going to Princetown and 12 Apostles Marine Park. During your walk, you may want to look out for and delight in the diverse flock of birds around the riverbanks of Princetown. 

From here, you will have to go back a bit to pass the Gellibrand River through a bridge where you will eventually find a path. As you are now in the last part of the walk the world-famous 12 Apostles Marine Park will come into sight. 

Conclude your wonderful journey with a celebratory “selfie” at The Great Ocean Walk viewing platform just before Gibsons Steps or go straight to 12 Apostles visitor centre where you’ll find toilets and a cafe, and further celebrate the great completion of your Great Ocean Walk!

 

Google Map of the Great Ocean Walk

Great Ocean Walk Map

Obviously, this is not the official Great Ocean Walk map, but is here to give you a quick overview of the Great Ocean Walk and the stops along the way, locations of campsites etc. As with all the maps on the Great Ocean Road Guide, if you click through to the map, it is a fully interactive Google map which you can use on your phone/tablet.

Google Maps does NOT, however, have the actual Great Ocean Walk Route in its system. To get hold of an official paper copy, the Great Ocean Walk Information Guide and Map is available from Parks Victoria by calling 13 1963 or from the Great Ocean Road Apollo Bay Visitor Information Centre.

This full-colour map is extremely helpful for both campers and walkers – especially those doing a selfguided great ocean walk – and provides lots of information & detail to help you navigate the walk safely.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Great Ocean Walk (FAQs)

Where does the Great Ocean Walk start and end?

The Great Ocean Walk starts at Apollo Bay and finishes at the world-famous Twelve Apostles. The full hike is over 100km is it is recommended to walk the route over the course of eight days.

When is the best time to do the Great Ocean Walk?

Each season has its merits, with summer providing the best weather – but, as such, sees the most foot traffic (and snakes!); whereas the shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn often offer relatively stable weather (although we are talking about Victoria here with where we often see 4 seasons in a day) and much fewer people on the track. At many points, you could have it all to yourself!  

Do I have to do the whole walk?

Not at all! You can select which sections you want to complete – it may just be one or two, or it may be all of them – just over several weeks and months.

Do I need to be very fit to complete the Great Ocean Walk?

A general level of fitness is required for all the sections of the walk, although Parks Victoria has graded them clearly (which we have shared above) to assist in your planning and to indicate which sections of the walk are tougher.

Do I need special shoes to complete the Great Ocean Walk?

Some sections of the walk are often very wet, muddy, and slippery after a period of heavy rains. With all this in mind – we recommend sturdy, closed-toe walking shoes or boots with a good tread (not to mention a good pair of socks!). But you know your own feet, style and comfort needs – be sure to make the right footwear choice for you.

Is it possible to Camp on the Track?

Campsite on the Great Ocean Walk with tall trees in the background and a sunburst shining through the trunks
Yes, camping on the track is possible, although bookings are required and can be made via the ParksVic website. Track fees do not apply.

There are seven limited-capacity hike-in campsites along the Walk – four of which can accommodate small-groups (Elliot Ridge hikein campsite, Blanket Bay campsite, Cape Otway hikein campsite and Aire River hikein campsite) with individual camping sites at Johanna, Ryans Den and Devils Kitchen Hikein Sites.

For non-campers, are there other accommodation options near the start and endpoints of each section?

Apollo Bay Accommodation- Where to Stay in Apollo Bay
Yes, there are accommodations available in nearby areas. Click the links below to check availability at each point on the track:

Is there a Shuttle Service along the Great Ocean Walk?

More and more hotels and accommodation providers are starting to offer transfers to/from nearby points along the Great Ocean Walk – be sure to enquire when booking. If where you plan to stay does not have a shuttle, there are also two companies that run a dedicated shuttle: Walk 91 & Ride with Us.

Where are suitable car park spots for the Great Ocean Walk?

Though it is meant for walking, The Great Ocean Walk still considers visitors’ cars. Below is a list of parking spots spread through each landmark of the trail:

  1. Shelly Beach
  2. Blanket Bay
  3. Parker Hill
  4. Cape Otway
  5. Aire River
  6. Johanna Beach
  7. Milanesia Beach Access (at the gate)
  8. Moonlight Head
  9. The Gables Lookout
  10. Wreck Beach.

Is there a mobile signal along the Great Ocean Walk?

There is little to no phone reception along the track.

Is it possible to buy food on the Great Ocean Walk?

There are no shops on the track itself, and as you are walking along the coast edge for a lot of it, you do not walk through any towns. However, there is a café in the Cape Otway Lighthouse.

Where can I see wildlife on the Great Ocean Walk?

 Seal on the rocks at Shelly Beach
The majority of them can be spotted around the area of Shelly Beach, Blanket Bay, and Cape Otway/Johanna Beach area.

Kangaroos and Koalas can be seen along the walk – keep an eye on the branches of the Manna Gum Trees for Koalas, and in open spaces for the Kangaroos.

For marine life, dolphins can be seen along the walk practically all year round; southern right whales also migrate along the coast during winter; there is a population of penguins that live at the 12 Apostles, and a permanent population of Fur Seals on the reef about 100m offshore at Shelly Beach. If you have time, kayaking out to them is a fantastic activity.

Also note that snakes are present all year round, but are seen more often in the hotter months, so be on the lookout if walking the track in summer.

Is the Great Ocean Walk dangerous?

Without proper planning and preparation, it could be. There are inherent dangers that go along with it because it is a remote, multi-day walk. The key to preventing such dangers is to plan carefully, take your time, let people know your plans and check-in with those people when possible.

We hope our Guide to the Great Ocean Walk has helped you plan your own perfect hike along the coast, and our accommodation options have helped you find the perfect places to stay along the way – whether you’re a family, couple or a solo travel lover.

If you found our Quick Guide to the Great Ocean Walk helpful, please share this post (and others!) with them using the share boxes below. Sharing is caring and we very much appreciate everyone who helps spread the word about how great the Great Ocean Road – and the region around it – actually is!

Quick Guide to the Great Ocean Walk

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1 thought on “A Quick Guide to The Great Ocean Walk”

  1. This was an incredibly wonderful post about the Great Ocean Walk. Many thanks for providing this information.

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