Jun 01, 2018
Hitting the Great Ocean Road? You’ll want to plan these side excursions to explore some of the best sites along the way, with help from the Visitor’s Guide to the Best Walks of the Great Ocean Road (Woodslane Press) by Julie Mundy and Neil Fahey.
If you’ve got a few days…
The Surf Coast Walk
This long rambling walk, strenuous in some places, easy in others, stretches from the edge of the Bellarine Peninsula at Point Impossible, all the way along the Surf Coast to Fairhaven, passing through magnificent ironbark forest and coastal heathlands, along towering sea cliffs and curving crescents of sparkling sand beaches. It also takes in some of the Surf Coast’s popular tourist towns along the way, which means that walking between accommodation is very simple. This walk is highly accessible and can be very easily broken into short day or half-day walks, or tackled as one long-distance walks over 3 or 4 days.
Time: 3-4 days
Distance: 43 kilometres one way
Conditions: Variable – sections can be easy, medium or hard; exposed. Some forestry tracks, sandy paths, indistinct tracks and inaccurate signage in places. Confident map reading/ GPS skills required for some sections
Getting there: Walkers will need to arrange car shuttles at the start and end of each walk – there is generally adequate free parking available
If you’ve got half a day…
Moonlight Head & the Shipwrecks
The coast west of Cape Otway has been dubbed the Shipwreck Coast, after the 638 known vessels that have come to grief on this fearful stretch. At low tide (and when seas are calm) this 9-kilometre circuit takes in thick coastal scrubs, fern gullies, grass tree glades, and a beach with relics from two shipwrecks. Seabirds and wallabies are abundant but also look out for snakes in hot weather. Keep an eye seaward for whales from June to September. The many features and different vegetation types make this half-day walk pass far too quickly.
Time: 4 hours
Distance: 9 kilometre circuit
Conditions: Bush tracks, boardwalks and beach walking with short steep sections and some steps. Well signed, toileted and drinking water at Great Ocean Walk campsite. Circuit can only be walked at low tide
Getting there: Turn southwest off the Great Ocean Road onto Moonlight Head Road, Wattle Hill (about 16 kilometres south of Lavers Hill). Follow this for about 4 kilometres, passing Moonlight Head Cemetery (on your left), to The Gables Car Park.
If you’ve got two hours…
Aireys Clifftop & Split Point Lighthouse
There is something about lighthouses which captures the popular imagination and Split Point Lighthouse is no exception. A beacon for ships along this treacherous coastline, it is also a prominent feature on this walk, which takes in the clifftops (part of Surfcoast Walk), Painkalac Creek wetlands and Eagles Nest Marine Sanctuary. Keep small children close on the cliff top section of the walk, as while it is generally very safe, not all sections have wooden fencing to prevent curious children exploring, and the sandstone cliffs are crumbling and unstable. There is the option of rockpooling and taking a swim along the way, but ensure you only do so when the beaches are patrolled by lifesavers and that you swim between the flags, as currents and waves here can be unpredictable.
Time: 2 hours
Distance: 5.6 kilometres
Conditions: Wide, well maintained gravel paths and boardwalks. Some steps. Optional beach walking. No shade
Getting there: Park in the Lighthouse car park, accessed from Inlet Crescent and Lighthouse Road
If you’ve got less than two hours…
Tramway Track & Teddy’s Lookout
This more challenging walk definitely rewards the effort expended. As long as you take your time, and walk at your own pace on the steep section, this walk is achievable by almost everyone. Starting with a lovely, easy wander above the Great Ocean Road, the walk takes you along the old route of one of the tramlines, where horses once used to haul timber out of the forest to the mills. There is time for a rest beside peaceful St George’s River, before a steep haul up towards Teddy’s Lookout where you can catch your breath while enjoying sweeping coastal views and an almost birdy’s-eye look at the sinuous curves of the Great Ocean Road.
Time: 1 hour 30 mins
Distance: 3.5 kilometres
Conditions: Well marked, narrow dirt tracks, steep in places
Getting there: Park in the Lorne Pier car park
Elliot River Loop Walk
Walking this picturesque forest and coastal section of the Great Ocean Walk will surely whet your appetite for attempting the complete trek. The towering forests give welcome shade on hot days, opening out to breathtaking views across the ocean at the Elliot River mouth. If you enjoy this walk, and it is low tide, it is very simple to continue onto the Shelleys Beach and Three Creeks Loop walk. If you have your own equipment there is also the opportunity to experience some isolated but easily accessed bush camping at the hike-in only Elliot River camping site. Bookings are essential, however, as this is also a campsite for thru-walkers on the Great Ocean Walk and there are only eight sites available.
Time: 1 hour 30 mins
Distance: 4.7 kilometre circuit
Conditions: Well signed track, some steeper uphill sections with stairs. Good shade. Toilet. Hike-in camp site
Getting there: Car park at the end of Elliot River road, Marengo (6km south of Apollo Bay, turn off from Great Ocean Road is next left after Jansil Court, after you leave Marengo)
Extracted from Visitor’s Guide to the Best Walks of the Great Ocean Road: 25 wonderful walks along the Great Ocean Road (Woodslane Press) by Julie Mundy and Neil Fahey, available here.