Top 5 highlights from the Great Ocean Walk
The Twelve Apostles is best known as Victoria's most popular attraction but it is also the finale of over 100 km of trails through beaches, forests and clifftop tracks on the Great Ocean Walk! This coastal trail surprises at every turn with beautiful scenery, sandy beaches, an abundance of wildlife, lively forests, ship wrecks and plenty opportunities to learn about the coastline's history along the way.
Here are my 5 top highlights from exploring the Great Ocean Walk:
Cape Otway Light-Station
Victoria's coastline is dotted with shipwrecks and known as ‘The Shipwreck Coast’. As you pass these ruins and learn of the beaches named after wrecks you begin to build a picture of the area's maritime history. In 1848 the Cape Otway Light-station was built to ensure safe passage for ships passing through the Bass Strait. Today, the lighthouse is a prominent feature of the Great Ocean Walk due to its picturesque location. I would highly recommend taking some time to explore the lighthouse and learn more about its history, you can even climb the tower and take in the far reaching ocean views!
Although beaches are a staple of any coastal walk, I would have to say that the beaches along this trail are some of the most secluded and deserted I have ever seen - and so quiet. A far cry from the crowded beaches of Sydney or the Gold Coast, these empty beaches allow a real sense of solitude. The route offers some beach walking (when tides permit) and walking alongside the turquoise waters was my favourite way to experience this trail! Some of the highest sea cliffs in Australia are found along the Great Ocean Walk so you can also expect stunning views of the beaches and ocean as you make your way west - always have your camera to hand!
I started exploring the Great Ocean Walk expecting endless beaches and stunning coastal scenery but was surprised at one point to find myself in the middle of a rainforest! The trail passes through Great Otway National Park; so as well as exploring beaches and cliff top paths, it allows the opportunity to walk through forests, see waterfalls, listen to songbirds and spot wildlife. In comparison to the quiet and deserted beaches, this temperate rainforest is bursting with nature and noise. Along the trail there are opportunities to spot koala's, echidna's, wallabies and an array of birdlife. Cape Otway is actually one of the best places in Australia to see the native Koala Bear in the wild, a treat I was luck enough to witness! Keep your eyes peeled for them lazing high above in the trees. Another of my favourite spots was this colourful Rosell:
Loch Ard Gorge
Loch Ard Gorge is one of the most beautiful bays along the path and it also has a fascinating history. The Gorge is named after the Loch Ard ship which ran aground nearby in 1878 after a three month long sailing from England, on its way to Melbourne. Out of the 54 people on board, there were only 2 survivors, who seemingly had to climb the steep cliffs to reach dry land and seek help. One of the viewpoints above the Gorge is poignantly named after the 2 teenage survivors 'The Tom & Eva Lookout'. I would recommend to take your time exploring the gorge from all the different clifftop look outs as there are caves, arches, blowholes and islands to see from different angles. Walking down into the gorge and looking back up at the cliffs from the beach also provides a different perspective on how terrifying their experience would have been.
The Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles is probably the most iconic attraction along Victoria's coast, and what better way to finish your Great Ocean walk than to be rewarded with this spectacle. The Limestone sea stacks have been dramatically shaped over time by the crashing waves of the Southern Ocean. Make sure to count how many stacks you can see......as contrary to its name, there was only ever 8 'apostles', not 12! Unfortunately this number has reduced to 7 in recent years as the sea continues to erode the coastline. The far reaching views of the apostles and the coastline reaching west is breathtaking and the perfect end to this rewarding trail. Make sure to take lots of pictures, you can compare them with older pictures in the visitor center and see first hand how the landscape continues to be shaped by the sea.