Nature’s drama unfolds at every step along this eight-day, 100-kilometre trek, beginning at Apollo Bay and ending at the amazing Twelve Apostles.
From tall forests and coastal heathlands, to rocky shores and windswept clifftops, here we reveal the most memorable highlights in each section so you can choose the best Great Ocean Walk itinerary for you.
Day 1: Apollo Bay to Elliot Ridge
9.7km; Medium – Sweeping beaches, rocky shores and coves that lead into heathland, plus the ever-popular Shelly Beach.
Best view: Bald Hill summit reveals a rocky shoreline and the tall forest ahead that leads to Cape Otway.
Wildlife to watch: Australian fur seals are regularly spotted frolicking in the waters in Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary.
Local tip: The new ‘Trail Head’ walk between Apollo Bay and Marengo (which is just under three kilometres) marks the official start of the Great Ocean Walk. Launching just outside the door of the Apollo Bay Great Ocean Road Visitor Information Centre, it’s a great photo opportunity for hikers.
Where to stay: Captains by the Bay is a contemporary bed and breakfast in the heart of Apollo Bay, catering up to 11 couples. From $235 per night.
Day 2: Elliot Ridge to Blanket Bay
11.8km; Medium – Tall, cool temperate rainforest towering above lush fern gullies and myriad plant and bird species make this walk a particularly sensory experience.
Best view: Leaving the tall forest as you begin the descent approaching Blanket Bay from high up on the ridge.
Wildlife to watch: Coastal rock pools in this area are delicate worlds so tread carefully. You’ll likely find fascinating rock pool dwellers along the way including seastars, elephant snails and chitons. Just don’t put your hand where you can’t see – there’s also blue-ringed octopus around!
Local tip: Snorkelling in Blanket Bay at low tide and calm seas after hard day of walking.
Where to stay: Great Ocean Walk Retreat is a local secret at Glenaire beach, with eco-friendly apartments catering for couples, families and groups. From $205 per night.
Day 3: Blanket Bay to Cape Otway
10.3km; Easy/Medium – Woodland, heathland and coastal tea tree forests dot this section of the walk, while some short, steep climbs promise sensational views along the way.
Best view: About halfway through this section is the remote and beautiful Parker Inlet, showcasing the dramatic Great Ocean coastline at its best. Even on gentle days you can see the sea crashing through the entrance into this tiny harbour, spraying water spectacularly high into the air. Keep watch for majestic white-bellied sea eagles in the sky or perched high on dead branches.
Wildlife to watch: Look up for snoozing koalas curled up in the forks of gum trees, busy honeyeaters feeding on nectar and wallabies grazing trackside.
Local tip: Be sure to drop down into Crayfish Bay – a beautiful wedge of beach surrounded by rocks and reef. Great for snorkelling when conditions are safe!
Where to stay: The Great Otway National Park campgrounds in the Cape Otway area include Blanket Bay and Parker Hill. You need to book this through Park Victoria by calling 13 19 63 or visit parks.vic.gov.au/stay There’s also Bimbi Park nearby, with unpowered campsites to four-star deluxe cabins, and a pick-up drop-off transfer service to walkers if needed.
Day 4: Cape Otway to Aire River
9.3km; Medium – Sprawling coastal views, ancient rock formations and exposed escarpments showcase how the relentless power of the wind in this unprotected section have shaped an otherworldly landscape.
Best view: From Aire River estuary lookout you’ll see the calm water of the river meet the crashing waves of the ocean, with impressive views over the Hordenvale Wetlands and coastline.
Wildlife to watch: Eastern grey kangaroos and wallabies can often be seen bouncing their way through the coastal scrub.
Local tip: For a taste of history, take the Lightstation tour near Cape Otway Lighthouse Cemetery. As well as striking views, the cemetery is the final resting place for many souls that were lost in shipwrecks along this stretch of Victorian coastline
Where to stay: Aire Valley Guest House is a historic homestead just outside the hamlet of Hordern Vale, from $250 per couple per room per night.
Day 5: Aire River to Johanna Beach
14km; Medium – Rugged cliff tops meet lush grass tree forests, culminating with the beautiful Great Ocean Road icon, Johanna Beach.
Best view: Castle Cove Lookout is on one of the highest clifftops in the area, offering views over the more rugged and remote sections of the walk. Note this lookout location intersects with the Great Ocean Road before continuing inland again.
Wildlife to watch: Keep watch for shy black-and-white hooded plovers, which live along the beach of this section. With only 400 still remaining along the coast, they’re quite a rarity to see. Foxes and human activity have reduced their numbers to the point where they’re now considered endangered.
Where to stay: Johanna Seaside Cottages offer six idyllic hideaways catering to various guest numbers, with onsite meals also available. From $280 per night.
Day 6: Johanna Beach to Ryans Den
13.9km; Medium/Hard – Undulating through open farmland pasture, dense coastal vegetation and secluded sandy beaches, this section is as diverse as it is picturesque.
Best view: Bowker Point offers a stunning view back towards Milanesia Beach and beyond to Cape Otway.
Wildlife to watch: This area is a birdwatcher’s delight as the varied habitats are home to colourful native birds including blue coloured fairy-wrens, crimson rosellas (parrots) and rowdy white cockatoos.
Local tip: Milanesia Beach at low tide reveals cannon ball-style rocks embedded into the cliff millions of years ago. You may find the small birdlike footprints of dinosaurs in the rock shelves. Note this beach is only accessible at low tide during calm conditions.
Where to stay: Alkina Lodge is a luxurious and contemporary hilltop escape, designed by award-winning architects to be as carbon neutral as possible. From $495 per night. Alternatively, nearby Ryan’s Den Campsite is both budget-friendly and boasts a loo with a view…
Day 7: Ryans Den to Devils Kitchen
14.4km; Hard – Steep climbs and descents along this rugged coastline reveal the wild side of the walk, including Victoria’s highest coastal cliffs. The rewards are well earnt with an abundance of stunning coastal views, caves and scenic sunsets.
Best view: Moonlight Head lookout and the ‘loo with a view’ at Devils Kitchen.
Wildlife to watch: Between May and November, look for South Right Whales frolicking along the coastline as part of their annual migration. During the warmer months they feed in Antarctica, then congregate around the Victorian coastline to mate and calf.
Local tip: Wreck Beach is a must visit where on low tide, halfway between Ryans Den campsite and Devils Kitchen, you’ll find the mysterious rusting anchor of two shipwrecks, the Marie Gabrielle and Fiji, both claimed by the Southern Oceans treacherous coastline.
Where to stay: Pebble Point is an exclusive bush retreat in the coastal village of Princetown, with six lavish tents fitted out with king-sized beds, luxe linen and ensuite bathrooms. From $145 per couple per night.
Day 8: Devils Kitchen to the Twelve Apostles
14.6km; Medium – Windswept views of the Southern Ocean and the Gellibrand River floodplains make for an impressive appetizer for the pièce de résistance, the Twelve Apostles.
Best view: It’s a given – the masterful rock sculptures that are the Twelve Apostles, set amidst the rugged but charming Great Ocean Road coastline. And while the Southern Ocean’s wild weather and forces of nature continue to shape this area; old rock stacks continue to be slowly claimed while new ones emerge.
Wildlife to watch: Look to the skies for an aerial display by two of Australia’s largest eagles, the coloured wedge-tailed eagle and the white-bellied sea eagle.
Local tip: Watching the first rays of light wash over the Twelve Apostles at sunrise is a fitting reward for early risers. If you’re visiting midweek, park at the Twelve Apostles by 7.30am to catch the ‘12AmorningXpress’ bus to Princetown. Stop for coffee in Princetown before beginning your seven-kilometre journey back to the Apostles via a wetland boardwalk.
Where to stay: Southern Ocean Villas are an idyllic way to celebrate completing the walk with contemporary design and creature comforts, set on the edge of picturesque Port Campbell National Park. From $275 per night.