The Great Ocean Walk is one of the most famous hikes in Australia’s Victoria territory. Following the sea on the southern coast of the continent, this hike shows off some of the country’s most impressive natural beauty.
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While many people opt to drive the Great Ocean Road, hiking is a great alternative. Your reward for going on foot is an endless panorama of ocean views, a more private experience, and a chance to connect with yourself and with your natural surroundings.
Best of all, it’s the most sustainable way to see the stunning coastline and will allow you far more wildlife viewing opportunities than driving!
We recently hiked a portion of the Great Ocean Walk on a 4-day Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk and absolutely loved our time on the trail. We got a chance to experience the trail without the crowds and to truly appreciate the beauty of this region.
About the Great Ocean Walk
About 200km (124 miles) to the west of Melbourne, the Great Ocean Walk is a 100km (62 miles) stretch of trail that passes famous points of interest like the Twelve Apostles and meanders through national parks such as Great Otway and Port Campbell.
The trail has been in existence since 2006 and has since become a main attraction of Victoria, drawing tourists from around the world.
As you make your journey, you’ll pass a variety of magnificent landscapes including massive cliffs, secluded beaches, coastal grasslands, rivers, and forests. These landscapes make perfect habitats for some of Australia’s most beloved wildlife.
Keep a lookout for wallabies, kangaroos, and koalas as you hike. You’ll also see lots of birds such as cockatoos, bristlebirds, parrots, terns, and eagles. If you’re lucky, you might even have a chance to see whales and dolphins off the coast during their annual migrations.
The Great Ocean Walk begins at the Apollo Bay Visitor Infomation Centre and ends at the Gibson Steps/Twelve Apostles. The route progresses from east to west.
On average, the Great Ocean Road hike requires between seven and eight days.
Each day will require between six and eight hours of hiking. The route starts out easy in the eastern section and becomes more strenuous and remote the further west you venture.
The terrain is generally flat making with an elevation gain of only 3331m (3643 yards) and 3278m (3585 yards) of loss. This makes it an excellent choice for those who want to attempt their first long-distance hike.
Great Ocean Walk Eight Day Itinerary
Day 1: Apollo Bay Visitor Centre to Elliot Ridge
Distance: 10km (6.25 miles)
Hiking Time: 3hr 30 min
Start your adventure on the Great Ocean Road walk by leaving the Apollo Bay Visitor’s Centre and walking the pristine coastline.
You’ll have the chance to take in the views from Mariner’s Lookout, one of the best vista points on the trail. You’ll pass through Apollo Bay Villiage, a quaint seaside town.
Day 2: Elliot Ridge Campground to Blanket Bay
Distance: 12km (7.5 miles)
Hiking Time: 4hr 30 min
Day two is the easiest of all the days on the trail. You’ll leave civilization behind and get deeper into nature, passing through lush rainforests full of eucalyptus. It’s the perfect place to spot wallabies and other adorable animals.
When you arrive at Blanket Bay, you’ll have a chance to swim in the relatively calm waters before turning in for the night.
Day 3: Blanket Bay Campground to Cape Otway
Distance: 11km (6.75 miles)
Hiking Time: 3hr 45 min
On your third day, you’ll pass through more forests and eventually emerge on cliffside paths. You’ll explore Parker Inlet, a peaceful highlight of day three, and end your journey at the Cape Otway Lighthouse. (The lighthouse has rooms where you can stay in overnight.)
If you have enough time, an offshoot trail to Crayfish Bay is a great add-on.
Day 4: Cape Otway Campground to Aire River
Distance: 10km (6.25 miles)
Hiking Time: 3hr 15 min
Sand dunes and marsh grass will be the primary scenery on the fourth day of your hike. You’ll traverse rugged coastal areas full of rock cliffs, wetlands, and a picturesque coastline.
You’ll explore Rainbow Falls, a stunning waterfall, as well as the Aire River, a sanctuary for wildlife.
Day 5: Aire River Campground to Johanna Beach
Distance: 14km (8.75 miles)
Hiking Time: 5hr 15 min
Reaching Johanna Beach from the Aire river requires walking across a long stretch of perfect Australian sand.
Before you do so, you’ll pass through grasslands blooming with wildflowers, orchids, and other colourful plants. Some of the best ocean views of the entire Great Ocean Road hike can be seen on day five.
Day 6: Johanna Beach Campground to Ryans Den
Distance: 14km (8.75 miles)
Hiking Time: 5hr
Your hike on day six will take you into the more remote and wild section of the Great Ocean Walk. You’ll discover the almost secret Milanesia Beach and continue along the edges of curving cliffs.
At one lookout point, you’ll be able to see all the way back to where you were on day three.
Day 7: Ryans Den Campground to Devils Kitchen
Distance: 13km (8 miles)
Hiking Time: 5hr 15 min
The seventh day is one of the most exciting on the Great Ocean Road walk. You’ll arrive at Gables Lookout point, one of the highest ocean cliffs in Australia, for unrivalled views of the ocean. This is a perfect place to scan the sea for migrating dolphins and whales.
Next, you’ll pass through Wreck Beach where you can explore two decaying shipwrecks.
Day 8: Devils Kitchen Campground to Twelve Apostles
Distance: 16km (10 miles)
Hiking Time: 5hr 15 min
Getting to the Twelve Apostles, a series of gigantic rock towers sticking out of the sea, is your reward for eight days of hiking.
These limestone monoliths are a symbol and claim to fame of the Great Ocean Road. Hike down Gibson’s Steps to get a closer view of the Apostles. Finish your journey by arriving at the Twelves Apostles Visitor’s Centre and catching a shuttle bus back to where you began at Apollo Bay.
Shorter Alternatives to the Great Ocean Walk
If doing the full Great Ocean Road walk doesn’t appeal to you, consider completing a shorter section of trail.
One of the great things about this hiking route is that it was designed to accommodate hikers of all levels and abilities. There are plenty of places where you can step on and off the trail, making it possible to customize your hike to exactly your level and preference.
It’s very easy to complete days walks on the Great Ocean Road hike. Simply choose one of the days above and follow that route without camping. Alternatively, mix and match the sections of the trail that interest you most. We completed a four-day version of the hike on the western end of the track.
Great Ocean Road Accommodation Options
Camping on the Trail
If you’re hiking the Great Ocean Walk the traditional way, you’ll need to camp overnight. There’s a single designated campsite for each leg of the trip and you can book them online by clicking here.
Make sure to book them well in advance of your hike as space is limited and they fill up quickly. Each of the campsites has room for eight tents.
Night 1: Elliot Ridge Great Ocean Walk Campsite
Night 2: Blanket Bay Great Ocean Walk Campsite
Night 3: Cape Otway Great Ocean Walk Campsite
Night 4: Aire River Great Ocean Walk Campsite
Night 5: Johanna Beach Great Ocean Walk Campsite
Night 6: Ryans Den Great Ocean Walk Campsite
Night 7: Devils Kitchen Great Ocean Walk Campsite
Great Ocean Road Accommodation Alternatives: Off-Trail
If sleeping outdoors in the Australian bush isn’t your idea of a good time, then book your stay at one of the many hotels and lodges right off the trail. The Great Ocean Road tourism board has a list of official Great Ocean Road accommodation partners.
Some of the best and most sustainable options include Alkina Lodge, Bimbi Park, and Captains at the Bay. Many of them offer pick-up and drop-off services from the trial making it easy to enjoy both your hike and the comfort of a soft bed at night.
We personally stayed off-trail during our 4-day Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk a and we’d recommend that you do, too. Not only does it make your sleeping situation a lot more comfortable, but you also won’t be burdened with carrying your tent, sleeping bag, food, and water with you on your journey. This will lighten your load and make your experience more enjoyable overall.
What to Bring
The Great Ocean Walk is not a particularly dangerous or strenuous route but you’ll still need to plan ahead and be prepared. But if you are planning to hike the entire Great Ocean Walk route and sleep at campsites along the way, the hike will require a lot of preparation.
As far as gear goes, we recommend packing hiking clothes, good boots, snacks, and sunscreen. You’ll also need bug spray and a pair of gaiters to protect you from snakes.
You’ll need to pack all your own food for your time on the trail. We recommend a healthy lunch, snacks, and at least 3 litres of water a day. Either a reusable waterbottle or water bladder will work well.
If you’re camping on the Great Ocean Walk, you’ll need to bring a tent, sleeping back, extra clothes, a towel, toiletries, cooking equipment, and food for eight full days.
The campsites have rainwater tanks that you can use, but you’ll need to sterilize it with a SteriPen before using it for either cooking or drinking. There are no shops or places to buy supplies along the way, so you’ll need to be completely self-sustainable.
Great Ocean Walk – Is it Worth it?
Our experience on the Great Ocean Walk was one to remember. We would not hesitate to recommend this route to any hiking enthusiasts visiting Australia. We count it as one of the country’s best outdoor adventures.
In our opinion, hiking the entire length of the Great Ocean Walk is a feat for the experienced hikers only due to the setup and preparation required for this hike.
In our opinion, the best way to experience the trail is by opting to spend the nights in partner hotels where you can get a comfortable sleep, great breakfast and dinner so that all you need to carry with you on the trail is a day bag!
Have you ever hiked the Great Ocean Walk trail? How did you choose to organize your hike?
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