Great South West Walk (4 days)

posted in: Victorian Coastline | 0

Written by Caroline.

This hike took place from 29 October – 1 November 2016, over the Melbourne Cup holiday long weekend, and Jon did the impressive job of organising it (and I’m writing this blog on 13 October 2017 so apologies for the large gaps in my memory).

Driving from Melbourne to Surry Ridge Campsite

Simon and I, as we weren’t working, decided to leave earlier on Friday to get a head start and not need to drive so much in the dark. That was the plan.. but due to both of us being a little less organised than we hoped (mostly me, I think), we didn’t set off from Simon’s place until well after 3pm. Not a great start for our 4-5 hour drive with a plan for dinner in Portland.

We spent the drive:

  • catching up (great)
  • route planning (a little tricky at times)
  • deciding whether to set up camp at the campsite before heading to Portland for dinner (ultimately, yes)
  • choosing where to eat in Portland (this was very difficult as most places close much earlier than we were going to arrive!)
  • and trying to communicate with the rest of the crew (and this proved very confusing as they said they were coming in two cars, not one! What had changed in the plan? Whose car were they in? Who was in which car? Much speculation to be had).

Anyway, the drive was looooong and we ultimately decided to go to Surry Ridge campsite first (a bit inland), set up the tents really fast (in the quickly fading light) and then head into Portland for dinner. We had dinner at a pretty amazing Indian restaurant (I think it was Seaview Indian) which was basically the only choice at what was probably about 9.30pm. Maybe we were just starving but I’m pretty sure it really was delicious, and we sure enjoyed a feast (while quietly sorting our snacks out in ziplock bags under the table).

We were completely exhausted by the time we made it back to the campsite, and rudely did not wait for our friends to arrive, but fell asleep straight away.

Lucie & Tim were lucky enough to see this Koala when they arrived.


Day 1 – Cut-Out Camp to Fitzroy campsite (21.9km)

In the morning we gathered everyone together and heard what had happened – Vanessa & Jon decided they would not stay for the full four days of the hike, but instead drive back Sunday night. This required an extra vehicle so they wouldn’t have to make anyone else come back early too. They rang Alison, who agreed to lend her car, but this meant they had to drive to St Kilda to pick it up, which put everyone behind schedule, and I think they didn’t get into the campsite until 1am.

This made our car shuffle more challenging… we arranged it so that Alison’s car and Jon & Vanessa’s car were at the end of day 2 (Moleside Campsite) and mine stayed at our start point (Cut-Out Campsite).

Starting out on the Great South West Walk

Memories from the first day:

  • the hike was extremely flat and mostly quite easy
  • it was incredibly muddy at time, requiring large detours for anyone who didn’t have super waterproof boots (OK I think that was all of us)
  • there was a lot of debris (sticks, branches etc) on the trail
  • I managed to get stuck on a branch at some stage, which caused me to trip and land hard on my knee – this hurt quite a lot on and off for the next few days but no lasting damage was done
  • lots of lovely scenery
  • lots of mosquitos and flies every time we stopped.

(Most of these apply to the whole hike)

Spring on the Great South West Walk
Happy hikers
We did not go.

We had a lovely evening at Fitzroy Camp. Simon & I went down to a “river” where we were hoping for a swim, but it turned out to be more like a swamp, so we just sat on the boardwalk and splashed ourselves. There were many flying ants at the campsite. Simon plaited Vanessa’s hair and was very proud of himself. It was very windy and we all worried if branches were going to fall on our tents. They didn’t!

Day 2 – Fitzroy Camp to Moleside Camp (22km)


Plenty of burnt trees along the way
Muddy sections were pretty common

The main thing I can remember from Day 2 is patchy rain, and that we visited the Inkpot along the way. I have no memory of Fitzroy Campsite, unfortunately!

The Inkpot – featuring Mark & Jon

Arriving at Moleside campsite was quite exciting, however. It’s next to the Glenelg River, and the trail follows the Glenelg for the next few days.

First thoughts: “Ahhh there are so many people here! This is going to be horrible!” Followed closely by: “Oh, great. This is the kayak/canoe camp. We get to go up here to this sweet secluded hiker’s campsite.” And then: “Damn, there are a couple of other people here.” (Yep, we really like getting campsites to ourselves!” And then a minute later, we notice that we know one of the people – Damian! So this is a pleasant surprise. Damian and his friend were on a cycling adventure and we spent the evening hanging out with them sharing stories of hikes and cycles while eating an enormous dinner (OK that was just me and Simon, overcatering for ourselves) around a fire. Oh and I think a few of us had a very fast swim earlier, much to the amusement of the kayakers and canoers at the other campsite.

Moleside Camp was really lovely, with a river view, plus we got to see an awesome full rainbow as well as some kangaroos.

Moleside Camp says “vote yes”
Roo at Moleside Camp

Jon & Vanessa headed home in Alison’s car, and later in the evening, Tim & I volunteered for the final car shuffle – leaving Jon & Vanessa’s car at the end of the hike (just past Pattersons Camp). This was an adventure, to say the least. We wound up on roads that were definitely for four-wheel drive only (OK for Jon & Vanessa’s X-trail but not for my Camry!) plus it was pitch black and we couldn’t quite figure out where the trail met the road. We eventually chose a spot so that we would avoid driving further on very sketchy looking road, and hoped that we would be able to find the car again when we finished the hike.

Upon arriving back at the campsite, we got under the shelter and then it poured rain for about half an hour, when we eventually made a dash for the tents.

Day 3 – Moleside Camp to Battersbys Camp (17km)

From here we got to hike with views of Glenelg River the rest of the way so that was a bonus – my favourite kind of hiking – flat, along water.

Glenelg River
Tim & Simon

It may have been on this day when Tim, Mark & Lucie treated us to several hours of singalongs from musicals to pass the time.

Glenelg River

We also enjoyed taking some “band” photos.

Taking a “band photo.”

We arrived at Battersbys Camp – another lovely campsite right on the river, and this time we did have it all to ourselves.

Battersbys Camp

There was still plenty of daylight so went for a quick, very cold skinny dip, then spent most of the evening warming up by the fire, and getting some reciprocal massages going – a pretty great way to end the day after walking for 17km! (plus more than 20km on the previous two days)

Massage time

Day 4 – Battersbys Camp to just past Pattersons Camp

In the morning we had lost all of our sore muscles due to the amazing massage-fest of the previous evening.

Glenelg River

To top it off, we were also treated to blue skies and lovely scenery, views, wildlife & flowers.

Flowers on the trail
Great South West Walk
Echidna friend

We stopped at Pattersons Camp for lunch and more band photos.

Pattersons Camp
Another “band” photo at Pattersons Camp

From Pattersons Camp onwards we were pretty unsure – we didn’t really know where the car was so we had to keep a keen eye out for it for the rest of the hike, based on Tim & my memories from the dark two days prior.

Luckily we eventually stumbled upon it.

Tim & me, pretty chuffed that we found the spot where we needed to turn off for the car.

As it was still early afternoon, we had time for an icecream and a quick visit to Nelson Ocean Beach before the long drive back to Melbourne.

Nelson Ocean Beach