Back from the Great South West Walk

One week ago I finished the Great South West Walk. It was by far the greatest (and longest) walk I have done so far in Australia and I’m extremely happy everything went so well.

I took a bit more than two weeks holidays over Easter and it worked out just right. On a beautiful Saturday morning I packed all my gear in my car and went for a 6h drive from Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road, all the way to Portland (almost exactly 450km). It was beautiful to drive down the Great Ocean Road, although I wasn’t able to stop at all the scenic points because — once again — I simply left too late in the morning.

On arrival in Portland I was pretty happy when I looked at my car’s trip computer and it reported an average fuel consumption of only 4.2l for the whole day, which likely ended up way cheaper than train and bus.

I checked in at Portland Bay Holiday Park, a commercial campground only 5min walk from the Visitor Information Centre, where the Great South West Walk officially begins. Despite being fully booked for the then upcoming Easter weekend, they allowed me to leave my car parked in the caravan park until my return from the walk. A very nice offer because otherwise I would have had to park it on a public parking space somewhere.

I booked in for one night and set up my tent. Afterwards I went for a walk around town to find something to eat. It was pretty late and I was almost ready to get some food from the nearby petrol station, when I decided to take a look around the block and spotted the shiny yellow M in the distance. McDonald’s is everywhere!

I’ll post a more detailed report on the walk itself soon, but exactly two weeks later I walked back into Portland, after 250km and 14 nights sleeping in my tent. Well actually I cheated a little — I took a few shortcuts on the walk, but when I add the kilometres I walked on my rest day in Nelson it’s likely still around 250km.

The last day was pretty tough. It was incredibly hot, I failed to take enough water with me, and I ran into a rather aggressive tiger snake on the last kilometres. But the feeling of walking into the visitor centre and de-registering from the walk felt amazing! A wonderful success, something to be proud of.

I checked in at the caravan park again, stayed for another night and the following day I drove the same way back to Melbourne (4.0l average fuel consumption this time!).

Sign near Cut Out Camp
Sign near Cut Out Camp

Overall I think the Great South West Walk is one of the most underrated walks in Australia. I have never seen such a diverse landscape on any other walk before: forest, river, remote beaches, sand dunes, capes and bays — this walk had everything! And I had every single campsite for myself, I was the only walker on every part of the track.

The quality of the campsites was great, every campsite had a shelter, a toilet and a water tank (usually rain water, on two camp sites I think it was bore water). Most campsites even had fire places. The shelters are of the same type as on the Great Ocean Walk.

The thing that impressed me the most was wildlife. I have seen more wildlife than on any other walk. I managed to take photos of all sorts of cockatoos, rosellas and other birds, kangaroos, black wallabies, koalas, echidnas, seals and even snakes.

I’m going to write more about the individual sections of the walk in an upcoming series of posts.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Gordon Page, the walk coordinator for the Great South West Walk, and one of the volunteers who maintain the track. I called him while I was planning the walk and he was happy to answer all my questions. I even met him on each of the first three campsites as he was installing new information boards for walkers. He also gave me a lift from Fitzroy campsite to Moleside because that section of the walk is currently closed due to bushfire damage. I would have had to walk 20km along roads otherwise.