The Great Ocean Walk
One of Australia’s Great Walks, the 104km Great Ocean Walk (GOW) doesn’t want for variety – or breathtaking scenery. Don’t be put off by the distance; the GOW can be experienced a number of ways, from day walks, through to overnight and longer multi-day walks, all of which will include plenty of walking time near some of this coastline’s most famous rock formations.
Following Victoria’s beautiful west coast, from Apollo Bay to Glenample, near the 12 Apostles, the walk travels through coastal hinterland covered in dense native forest and along wide, pristine beaches, all while offering views over beautiful marine environments, as well as the chance to visit historic lighthouses, spot wildlife, and be amazed by the number of shipwrecks located offshore.
The biggest appeal of this walk is not all of the above, however, but in those aforementioned many options available to experience it. For the less adventurous (or time-poor), day walks along various sections can be linked up (allowing you to slowly ‘tick off’ the entire walk over time, if you wish), and bookended by nights in comfortable accommodation, such as hotels, B&Bs, etc. For the more serious bushwalkers, there is the option of camping in your tent along the entire 104km of track, at designated campsites, or mixing it up with nights in a local coastal pub (for that oft-welcome shower and a celebratory meal – this is a great way to break up the full-length walk).
Walkers can also opt to go guided (RAW Travel has some great guided options) as well as independent. The entire walk can take anywhere between five and eight days and, with a finish point near the Twelve Apostles (one of Australia’s natural wonders) it will remain one of your most memorable walking experiences.
Ride and walk the High Country
The Victorian High Country (in the state’s north-east) is chock-full of cycling and hiking adventures, ranging from short to multiple days, and for any and all ages and experience levels.
For road cyclists, the lofty peaks in this pocket of Victoria offer some amazing climbs, with all that effort offset by the alpine landscape you ride through. Opt to tackle one of the area’s most popular climbs – the 20km ascent of Mt Buffalo – or, instead, enjoy something a little less strenuous, in the form of the Gaps Loop (starting and finishing in Bright). For families that include little’uns, Victoria’s northeast can lay claim to the largest rail trail network in the southern hemisphere, with not only the Murray to Mountains, but also the 134km Great Victorian Rail Trail and the High Country Rail Trail. These rail trails are ideal for family cycling thanks to the relatively flat terrain and the beautiful landscapes (with plenty of lunch stop locations) they take riders through.
Mountain bikers are definitely spoilt for choice here. A number of alpine resorts dotted across the high ranges offer excellent MTB trail networks for the spring/summer/autumn season, with riding ranging from cross-country through to epic downhill runs. Mt Buller Resort contains one of the southern hemisphere’s only IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) EPIC trails – and it is a 40km doozy that every Aussie mountain biker should ride at least once in their life. Both Beechworth and Bright also offer excellent knobby-tyre adventures (with the bonus of being able to celebrate your day on the bike at some awesome craft breweries – Bright Brewery is brilliant).
Walking in the Vic High Country offers equally sublime experiences with, again, myriad options for all ages. For the keen and experienced walkers, the three-day (37km) Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing is an absolute belter (summer is the most popular time for this walk but any season outside winter – and weather permitting – is fine). Over the three days you will traverse mountains, alpine plains and then descend heavily forested alpine valleys to amble alongside clear mountain streams. As well as the awesome landscape, there is plenty of native wildlife to spot and, if you time it right, there will be colourful swathes of native wildflowers blooming as well.
Those with less time can still get their walking experience in, thanks to short walks at most of the alpine resorts, as well as a number that start from (or are nearby to) the region’s towns, such as Bright, Harrietville, Myrtleford and others. These walks range from 30 minutes to a couple of hours and up to half a day. They are perfect for the adventurous family, and usually lead to a great picnic area or scenic highlight.
Whether you’re a ‘roadie’, mountain biker or bushwalker, the Victorian High Country has enough to keep you well busy for a week or more.
Wilsons Promontory National Park
It’s a bit of a haul from Melbourne, but “the Prom” as it is affectionately known, makes those hours spent in the car well worth it once you get there – and it’s worthy of a few repeat visits at the least. There are oodles of walking tracks throughout the national park, ranging from easily accessed beach-based sojourns, through to more challenging overnight walks in both the northern and southern sections of the park.
The East Prom Coastal Circuit is a great easy-intermediate overnighter, with only one more challenging section (Refuge Bay to Little Waterloo Cove) along its 35km, while the Northern Prom circuit and Corner Inlet loop both up the ante in difficulty. For those with younger family members in tow, there are a number of easy short and day walks as well, some of which can be linked up if you’re (they’re) keen to walk a bit longer. Add in the chance to look for marine wildlife and birdlife along these walks and you’ll be surprised how far your kids will end up walking – a win-win for all.
For those looking for a more luxurious Prom experience, Parks Victoria has the Wilderness Retreats (tented cabins) at Tidal River, the park’s main campground. These are great for couples or families – as is the Tidal River campground in general; the 484 camping and caravan sites certainly mean you won’t be alone, but you can rest easy knowing everyone is there for the same reason: to explore and enjoy one of Victoria’s premier national parks. For the ultimate Prom weekend experience however, we’d recommend staying in one of the three cottages at the Wilsons Promontory Lightstation. After a day or more of walking in the park, being able to look back over the park’s coastline (and those tracks you just walked) at the end of the day is simply brilliant.
See Parks Victoria for the latest national parks information (closures/openings, etc.)
For information on the hiking and bike trails in the Victorian High Country, Ride High Country and Walk High Country are the go-to websites, with loads of rides and walks to research, maps and other info.
Check Tourism North East for general information on the region, including towns, accommodation, travel times, etc.
See Visit Victoria for all the essential info on the Great Ocean Walk and for general information on the entire state.