Written by Caroline
The Great Ocean Walk was one of the biggest logistical challenges for our 2016 Coastline Challenge!
Katka was tasked with organising this one, and since we planned to do it over the Easter long weekend, this was quite tricky due to the popularity of the trail.
The Great Ocean Walk (GOW) is a 100km hiking trail from in Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles, near Port Campbell. Usually people hike it starting at Apollo Bay and ending at the Twelve Apostles, over multiple days (usually 8). We ambitiously decided to do it in 5, since that’s how many days we had. Unfortunately, due to the long weekend, all the campsites were booked out starting from Apollo Bay and ending at the Twelve Apostles. We were worried we might have to cancel the trip, but Katka got creative… and planned us a complicated trip starting in the middle of the hike (Johanna Beach), hiking to the end, driving back to the start, then hiking back to the middle. My head was about to explode with the confusion of all this, but Katka had it all under control, so I just let it go.
Day 1: Johanna Beach to Devils Kitchen (27km)
Friday 25 March
We drove down on Thursday 24 March in 3 separate cars for the 7 of us, and camped at the GOW campsite at Johanna Beach. Alison & Jens volunteered to get the appropriate cars and gear to Devils Kitchen, and the rest of us (Katka, Mark, Franta, Jon & me) set off for a breezy 27km stroll. To be fair, we only had our day packs at this stage, so it was not as hard as it could have been, though we were definitely feeling the blisters by the end of the day.
The scenery was every bit as spectacular as we’d hoped, and the weather was too. We reunited with Alison and Jens about 4km from the Devils Kitchen campsite, and all hiked together with our overnight packs for the last bit. Energy was flagging at this point and the rain started coming in too. We met some lovely, friendly people at the campsite and enjoyed an evening of cooking, eating, great conversation and game-playing. One of the highlights was the loo with the view, looking out over the cliffs.
Day 2: Devils Kitchen to Twelve Apostles (16km)
Saturday 26 March
This time we all set out together – all 7 of us – for the famous Twelve Apostles. We had lunch at the beautiful Gellibrand River, featuring an excellent swim for most of us.
After that, the weather worsened considerably as we neared the Twelve Apostles, and we were basically running just to get out of the crazy rain and wind as fast as possible. We barely even glanced at the Twelve Apostles, just desperate to get to the cover of the visitor centre and put on some warm clothes.
After two days of enjoying peaceful hiking, arriving at the visitor centre was a rude shock – what felt like thousands of tourists running around like crazy, and so much noise! It was a very unpleasant place to pass two hours or so while we waited for two of our crew to go and do a car shuffle. We contented ourselves with many hot cross buns, and were very relieved when they finally returned to pick us up and drive us to Apollo Bay, where we spend the night at a local campground (also a shock after the peace of the GOW campsite) amidst more noise and heavy rain. We did enjoy an excellent dinner of the local fish and chips though.
Day 3: Apollo Bay to Blanket Bay (22km)
Sunday 27 March
We were pretty relieved to get away from the town and start hiking again from the official start of the trail. Jens and Franta decided to go fishing instead, but the rest of us were excited about hiking. People had told us that the beginning of the trail was “boring” as it goes inland so you don’t get as many ocean views. Happily, they were wrong about the boring, and we loved walking inland through the beautiful forests. There were many steep sections and Alison may have started regretting the decision to get involved in her first ever multi-day hike… 😉
We were rewarded with an amazing swim at Blanket Bay (bringing back memories of my childhood days at Bimbi Park and surrounds), and one of our favourite games – beach olympics!
Day 4: Blanket Bay to Aire River (21km)
Monday 28 March
For everyone but Katka and me, this was the last day of the hike – everyone else was heading back on Monday afternoon for work on Tuesday.
We started out early to make sure the others wouldn’t arrive back in Melbourne too late. Today featured more spectacular coastline, including Parker Inlet, Crayfish Bay, Cape Otway Lighthouse (way too many people as it’s a tourist attraction – but at least we could buy icecream!) and Station Beach. We had lunch at Cape Otway Campground, then continued on to Aire River, arriving early in the afternoon.
A few of us who can’t stay away from the water went for a FREEZING swim, and then Katka and I sadly said goodbye to the remaining hikers as they headed off. We had hours and hours ahead of us… and had such a lovely time slowly setting up camp, doing yoga and preparing dinner. Then with still more time to kill, we set off on a wonderfully liberating nighttime walk down to Aire River Beach.
Day 5: Aire River to Johanna Beach (14km)
Tuesday 29 March
We thought Day 5 would be easy – our last day and the shortest distance we had to cover. Sadly we were mistaken – it was an incredibly difficult day as a lot of it involved trudging through sand. Of course, we were rewarded with great scenery as we had been over the whole trail.
We were proud (and also relieved!) to finally reach our start/end point of Johanna Beach – meaning we had completed our 100km hike in 5 days as planned! (and knocked 100km off our coastline challenge) We had a sneaky wash at the sinks at the Johanna Beach public toilets, then headed back to Melbourne.
A highly recommended and thoroughly enjoyable hike! If doing it in summer, I’d advise taking the full 8 days (or maybe 7) for this hike, to allow for swimming time. Plus the heat would slow you down! However, at this time of year, in cooler weather, 5 days was definitely achievable.