Review: Great Ocean Road walking tours will immerse you in one of Australia’s most stunning natural landscapes
The Great Ocean Road in regional Victoria is up there amongst the world's most spectacular drives. This extended walking tour along the same spectacular stretch of coastline will give you an entirely different perspective — well away from the tourist trail. Review: Adam Ford
Great Ocean Road walking tours with Park Trek Walking Holidays
These four-day fully accommodated Great Ocean Road walking tours along the stunning coastline will introduce you to all the highlights of the region. Explore beautiful beaches and coves, and take in the spectacular cliff-top vistas. You’ll stay in comfortable accommodation and walk with experienced and knowledgable guides. Transport, twin-share accommodation, most meals, guided walks and national park entry fees are included. Three-day and seven-day walks are also available. Duration: 4 days
Best price guarantee: If you find this tour elsewhere at a cheaper price, we will beat it by 10%. Some conditions apply. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book this tour with The Big Bus tour and travel guide.
Seriously, what an amazing country we have!
Australia has an abundance of natural beauty that has to be the envy of every lucky sod that gets to visit our shores.
For me regional Victoria is right up there in the Aussie beauty stakes. I love the rolling green hills on the way from Melbourne to Ballarat; the historic towns of the Victorian Goldfields like Castlemaine and Clunes; the dusty aridness of the Mallee and Wimmera; the age-old splendor of the Grampians; and the sweet subtleness of the Macedon wine country. But the jewel in this sparkling tiara is without doubt the incomparable Great Ocean Road.
Officially, the Great Ocean Road stretches for some 250 kilometres from surfer’s paradise Torquay all the way to the renowned 12 Apostles — a series of majestic rock sea-stacks timeworn by the Southern Ocean. In between you have a truly mind-blowing stretch of coastline — alternating between stunning golden sandy beaches, rocky promontories and dramatic towering escarpments.
Thousands of visitors to Melbourne choose to do the Great Ocean Road as a day trip. However, if you have the time, it’s possible to ditch the daily convoy of tourist buses and Winnebagos altogether. That’s exactly what we’re about to do, by joining one of the Great Ocean Road walking tours with Park Trek Walking Holidays.
OK, so let’s clarify one point: you don’t walk along the road. You walk a coastal trail that’s maintained by Parks Victoria — and you actually get to see far more of the coastline than you do from the road itself. It takes seven days to do the entire Great Ocean Walk — a distance of 105 kilometres. We’re doing a four-day option — where you’re accommodated in one spot and do sections of the walk each day.
Thinking about doing the Great Ocean Walk? In this segment from the Tour the World travel TV series, we join Park Trek Walking Holidays on a four-day short-break hiking the Great Ocean Walk in regional Victoria. We experience the amazing beaches, coves and spectacular cliff-top vistas this walk is famous for, before ending up at the wonderful 12 Apostles.
There are always two guides on these Great Ocean Road walking tours — in our case, the indomitable Cindy and Alistair. In addition to leading the walk, these guys cook our food and generally make sure everything runs smoothly. They’re amazing and the food is superb. I keep justifying the extra large helpings with a reassuring note to self: ‘It’s OK. I’m doing lots of exercise.’ In reality I’d need to walk from here to Perth to even come close to burning all these extra calories.
We ease into day one with a six-kilometre stretch from Marengo (just outside the quintessential Victorian resort town of Apollo Bay) to Shelley Beach. The walk is very pleasant — and for the most part — reasonably flat. It’s a gentle introduction to the trip and there are spectacular coastal views on offer as you would expect. The track meanders quietly through sections of the beautiful Great Otway National Park.
At the end of the walk we transfer to the Cape Otway Lightstation by mini bus where we’ll spend the next three nights. There’s a fascinating collection of colonial buildings — some of which now operate as a bed and breakfast. The oldest — the lighthouse itself — dates back to 1848. Here Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean collide. Climb the 80 metres or so to the top of the lighthouse for more incredible views.
Day two on these Great Ocean Road walking tours is a 16-kilometre walk from the Cape Otway Lightstation to Castle Cove — and a day of extraordinary contrasts. The walk starts with sweeping coastal vistas across pristine Station Beach and down the hazy coast as far as the eye can see. The vegetation along the cliff tops is low, dense and supremely hardy. It must be a particularly unforgiving place in the depths of winter. There are Echidna diggings everywhere on the track, but sadly no sightings of the diggers themselves.
As we take a right turn inland along the Aire River to our lunch stop the landscape quickly changes to lush emerald-green pastoral land. So different to the windswept cliffs just a short walk away! This spot is popular with campers and understandably so. It’s incredibly beautiful. There’s a large koala in residence in a tree by the loos. He regards us with just the merest hint of a passing interest. This guy has clearly seen it all before.
By the morning of day three my legs are protesting big time at all this extra curricular activity. And we have a big day today — 14 kilometres from sweeping Milanesia Beach to Moonlight Head. We’ve been warned to expect some big hills on this section of the walk. It’s head down, tail up as most of us trudge along in determined silence, lost in our own thoughts or simply focused on getting to the top of the next incline.
There’s quite a bit of traffic today. It’s a popular stretch and the serious walkers who pass us with a perfunctory nod seem to be lapping it up. There’s an immense sense of achievement as we reach the top of the final hill.
Day four rolls around and we throw down our cornflakes with an extra sense of expectation. Today’s the day we’ll see the much-anticipated 12 Apostles for the first time. We’re doing eight kilometres from pretty Princetown’s ‘Do Duck Inn’ to the 12 Apostles Visitor’s Centre. It’s easy-going and very pleasant.
Finally the majestic sea-stacks come into view. The first two are Gog and Magog. While not officially part of the Apostles, they’re spectacular enough in their own right and a delicious looking honeycomb yellow.
On to the visitor’s centre which is surprisingly modest for such a tourist mecca. I’m expecting a whiz-bang presentation of interpretative boards and geological gobbledygook, but no. This is very low key — just a kiosk, toilets and a couple of modest signs.
Leaving the centre you pass under the Great Ocean Road itself and along a boardwalk, which leads you down to the various viewing areas. And viola. The sun comes out right on cue, bathing the rock formations in a golden glow. It’s breathtaking.
If you only have a day to visit the Great Ocean Road, then by all means do a day trip. If you have more time though, these Great Ocean Road walking tours are a superb way to see everything the region has to offer — off the beaten track.
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. Adam has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. He worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He also appears regularly as a travel commentator on Sky News Business Class. Adam loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.