Great Ocean Walk

Infobox Hiking trail
Name=Great Ocean Walk
Caption=The Twelve Apostles
Location=Victoria, Australia
Start/End Points=Apollo Bay, The Twelve Apostles (Victoria)
Use=Hiking: overnight and day walks
LowPoint=Beaches |Difficulty=Easy-Medium
Sights=Coastal, Shipwrecks, Beaches, Rivers, Waterfalls
Hazards=Snake bite, cliff walking

The Great Ocean Walk is a walking trail located on Victoria's southeast coast in Australia. The track stretches 91 kilometres from Apollo Bay to Glenample Homestead, located near The Twelve Apostles, Victoria. The walk passes through the spectacular coastal scenery and the beautiful Otways National Park which have made the Great Ocean Road so popularfact|date=September 2008. The track can be walked from end to end, or in short segments accessed by the Great Ocean Road. Parks Victoria have constructed seven hike-in campsites spaced roughly evenly along the track.


One of the uniquefact|date=September 2008 aspects of the GOW is that walkers can ‘step on and step off’ the trail, completing short, day, overnight or multi-day hikes, ranging from easy walks to difficult treks. To complete the entire linear walk (approx. 91 kilometres) would take approximately eight days and seven nights.

Wildlife includes Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Black Wallabies, evidence of echidnas on the ground and koalas in the trees around Cape Otway. At vantage points along the trail walkers have the opportunity to see dolphins and, from June to September, migrating whales.

A variety of birds may be observed including King Parrots, Rufous Bristlebirds, Crimson Rosellas, Singing Honeyeaters, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos and Gang-gang Cockatoos. Wedge-tailed Eagles and White-bellied Sea-eagles are also seen. Along the beach flocks of Crested Terns, larger Pied Oystercatchers or Sooty Oystercatchers and occasionally Little Penguins, can be seen. At night campers may hear the Boobook Owls and Powerful Owls in the forests or the unusual screaming sound of the Yellow-bellied Glider or the puppy-like yaps of Sugar Gliders.

Cape Otway is renowned for its shipwreck history and evidence of this can be seen at Wreck Beach where walkers can visit the anchors of the Marie Gabrielle and Fiji, embedded in the sand.

The Gadabanud people’s traditional country transcends what is known today as the Otway coastline. This area, rich and diverse in plant and animal life, has been a gathering, ceremonial and feasting place for thousands of years. Many sites and spiritual links remain today. Local Gadabanud & Aboriginal people are closely involved with Parks Victoria in the protection, restoration and management of significant sites.

Near The Gables lookout walkers can experience some of the highest sea cliffs in mainland Australia

The walk goes from ‘mild’ in the east to ‘wild’ in the west. As walkers hike west the walk becomes more remote and challenging. The final section of the walk concludes with spectacular views of the Twelve Apostles before crossing the Great Ocean Road to Glenample Homestead. The Homestead was built by pioneer pastoralist Hugh Gibson in 1869. Today, the homestead houses interpretive information on early pastoral and maritime history of the area.

The walk includes a mixture of tracks, gradients and surfaces including beach walking 5%, walking tracks 53%, management vehicle only tracks 13% and vehicle tracks 29%. There are a number of sections where further beach walking is an option.

GOW walk services provided by the tourism industry include guided walks, pick up and drop off of walkers, camping and walking equipment hire and food provision.

There are seven purpose built GOW ‘hike-in’ campsites along the walk with a total capacity of up to 170 people. They are located at Elliot Ridge, Blanket Bay, Cape Otway, Aire River, Johanna Beach, Ryans Den and Devils Kitchen. Distances between campsites range from 10-15km.

Parks Victoria has allocated three dedicated group camping areas on the GOW at Elliot Ridge, Blanket Bay and Cape Otway. These sites have access to the same facilities as the GOW hike-in campsites: environmentally friendly toilet, a three-sided shelter and park benches.There are four ‘drive-in’ campsites at Blanket Bay, Parker Hill, Aire River and Johanna Beach.

Construction of the track

Track alignment was decided after comprehensive environmental, landscape, heritage and cultural values assessments. Geological and geo-technical investigations were also completed to assess coastal stability and erosion issues. The track surface is predominantly made of natural soils or sand, however boardwalks and crushed rock have been laid to protect areas from erosion. The alignment of the Great Ocean Walk was designed after review of the extensive environmental, cultural, geo-technical, risk and cost investigations spanning five years, referring to past track marking and involving hundreds of hours of fieldwork.

22km of new walking track has been built between 2002 and 2005 by expert track builders. Over 25km of track previously built has been cleared. Over $1.2 million dollars has been spent on the construction of tracks along the walk.

Nearly the entire walk has been constructed by hand with basic tools such as mattocks, shovels and crowbars adding greatly to the natural feel of the walk and ability of the track to blend into the surrounding environment.

Over 1200 rock steps have been laid in the new sections of track from local and imported stone. Rock steps have all been hand built with stone moved around the track by power carriers and Tirfor winches. Rocks weighing over 300kg have been moved by the crews. Two major elevated sets of steps were constructed at Ryans Den (2 flights 45 steps) and Cape Volney (7 flights 131 steps). 454 timber on-ground and elevated steps have been built in steeper terrain along the walk. Timber has been carried in by hand and power carrier for up to 1.5km. Harnesses have been used by the crews to work safely in steep areas.

Rock stepping stones and small rock bridges have been used to cross small water courses and a timber bridge was built to cross a creek near Cape Volney.

300 volunteer days have supported recent track clearing and construction work from Conservation Volunteers Australia, international volunteers, Greencorps, Deakin University, and the Regional Employment and Education Program. More than 300 new signs have been installed along the walk. Fallen logs have been repositioned and re-used as low boardwalks. The track crews spent over 100 nights camping out in and nearby the park.

Two hygiene stations have been built at Blanket Bay and Parker Inlet to reduce the potential spread of "Phytopthora cinnamomi". 1km of informal tracks have been closed and rehabilitated around station beach to protect sensitive sand dunes and cultural sites. Sections of disturbed land are being revegetated with indigenous species along the walk.


There are seven dedicated Great Ocean Walk hike-in camps on the walk at Elliot Ridge, Blanket Bay, Cape Otway, Aire River, Johanna Beach, Ryans Den and Devils kitchen. Approximately $0.5 million dollars has been spent on constructing the campsites. Each campsite has been carefully selected after an exhaustive planning process taking into account environmental cultural, geo-technical, experiential, risk, cost and community interests. Over 30 sites were investigated during the planning phase.

Each campsite has between eight and fifteen camping pads, a toilet, untreated rainwater tanks, camp benches and shelter (not at Blanket Bay). The Clivus Multrum toilets are a self-contained, waterless, odourless continuous composting system catering for 40000 visits each a year. They have been sized above their capacity taking into account climatic factors. Waste material and wood shavings compost in the tanks and the vent pipe extracts any smells away. Recycled Red Gum posts have been sought from demolished wharfs at Docklands, which are used as feature posts for the toilets and shelter.

Radial sawn yellow stringybark timbers from East Gippsland have been used for cladding of the buildings. This form of saw log creates minimal waste and features the natural curves of the tree. Native Cypress from northern New South Wales and Queensland has been sourced for posts and framing to provide resistance to termites and rot. 14 tonnes of materials were flown into the campsites at Ryans Den and Devils kitchen by helicopter. Over 75 drops were completed in just over two days by the pilot. A jetranger helicopter carried a maximum load of 600kg which accounted for the single 7m long Red Gum Posts. Each campsite has taken on average six weeks to build.


The GOW was launched in January 2006 and has become Victoria’s iconic long-distance coastal walkfact|date=September 2008 attracting many national and international walkers. The establishment cost for the Great Ocean Walk was $2.3 million which created an integrated, linked trail system from Marengo to Glenample Homestead.

The idea for a coastal walk along the west coast of Victoria was first mooted in 1974. A feasibility study for the South Coast Track between Portland and Anglesea incorporating the sections between Apollo Bay and Port Campbell was conducted by the Department of Conservation Forests and Lands, in 1989. In 1990, reference to a long distance walk between Peterborough and Princetown was included in the Port Campbell National Park Management Plan as a medium priority.

Members of local business community, Meredith and Charlie Robinson and Andrew Mitchell, developed the concept for a walk in 1994 over bottles of port in a shed at Hordern Vale near Cape Otway. Initially known as the Great Ocean Road Track Walk, it was refined to be known as the ‘Great Ocean Walk’. The concept for the Walk was taken by Meredith Robinson, Andrew Mitchell and Bill ('No Choppers') Bowker (deceased) to Canberra and support for the project was obtained from local Federal Member Stewart McArthur and, through his contacts, other members from both sides of politics.

A Great Ocean Walk Management Committee was formed in 1994/5 including community, representatives from the Shires, National Parks Service and Shipwreck Coast Tourism. A bid to the federal department of tourism for the first stage of works was submitted with support from the then Victorian Minister Hon. Mark Birrell. In 1996 Parks Victoria commenced a Values and Risk assessment project commenced to look at potential impacts associated with the walk.

The Regional Tourism Development Program funding bid was approved for Stage 1 in 1996, valued at $229,000 including in-kind contributions. Parks Victoria commenced construction shortly after using people employed through the Department of Employment Education and Training New Work Opportunity Program.

* 1996 – The Otway National Park Management Plan includes the Great Ocean Walk as a significant increase to walking opportunities.
* 1997/8 - A Greencorps program was engaged by Parks Victoria to carry out further on ground works to link earlier construction.
* 1998 – The Port Campbell National Park and Bay of Islands Coastal Park Management Plan includes Great Ocean Walk as an increase in walking opportunities in the park.
* 1998/99 - Parks Victoria engaged Ballarat University’s, Centre for Environmental Management to undertake detailed values and development risk assessment for entire walk.
* 2000 – Luebbers and Associates commenced the heritage study of indigenous culture of the walk study area for Parks Victoria with support from Framlingham Aboriginal Trust. How Woodhouse Graesser commence geotechnical investigations.

In June 2002 Parks Victoria approved the project with the second major phase of construction work commencing on 26 August by specialist track builders from Victoria and Tasmania, who worked on tracks such as the Overland Track and Western Arthurs in Tasmania and the new Wilsons Promontory SE track. This phase of work was completed in 2003.

Parks Victoria continued to create a basic track link with the next phase of work, which was completed in 2004, again with specialist track builders. The last phase of construction commenced in late 2004 through to December 2005 to provide a safer and improved track which has resulted in a much greater experience accessing some spectacular scenery along the Otway Coast.

The Great Ocean Walk was launched by The Hon. John Thwaites, Minister for the Environment, on January 9th 2006 and has since seen visitors from across Australia and internationally travel to Victoria to enjoy this uniquefact|date=September 2008 coastal experience.

See also

*Great Ocean Road
*The Twelve Apostles, Victoria
*Apollo Bay, Victoria

External links

* [ Parks Victoria website for Great Ocean Walk]

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