Over Christmas and New Year we embarked on an epic journey to complete the Great South West Walk in Victoria over a 16 day stretch. My previous experience in pack-carry hikes consisted of only one – a two day pack-carry in Wilsons Prom with a total distance of 44km. This would be a 262km hike through forests, along rivers & long beaches, over sand dunes and on cliff-tops overlooking the ocean. I’m always up for a challenge and this was most certainly the biggest that I have ever embarked on.
Portland is the official starting point for the Great South West Walk which begins and ends at the Maritime Discovery and Visitor Information Centre. It can be completed as a whole (purported to be 250km, but actually a bit longer by my measurements), or in short loop walks, or full day walks. There are many options available, of which we will explore in full detail in due time.
The Great South West Walk was established back in 1981, developed as a bushwalking trail suitable for most ages and abilities. It is recommended to tackle the entire hike in an anti-clockwise direction over a period of 16 days. There are 14 campsites, 12 of which can be booked and reserved, with just two being walk in only. You can book campsites along the Great South West Walk online via the Parks Victoria website. The sequence of campsites are Cubbys, Cut Out, Cobboboonee, Fitzroy, Moleside, Battersbys, Pattersons, Simsons, Lake Monibeong, Swan Lake, Tarragal, The Springs, Trewalla and Mallee.
An additional day of rest and recuperation is recommended in Nelson which offers a fully stocked Kiosk and a local pub. The sections after Nelson along the beach can be quite strenuous as they are some of the longest sections and consist of some of the greatest elevation gains which can wear you out quickly when wearing a pack which could weigh up to 20kg.[adinserter block=”5″]
Great South West Walk: Section 1 – Portland to Cubby’s Camp
Section 1 from Portland to Cubby’s Camp of the Great South West Walk leaves the town of Portland, heading inland towards Cobboboonee Forest Park. The first part of the walk takes you out of town via several memorials and along some roads until you turn into a farm road and eventually enter the forest at around the 19km mark.
Great South West Walk: Section 2 – Cubby’s Camp to Cutout Camp
Section 2 from Cubby’s Camp to Cut Out Camp of the Great South West Walk continues through Cobboboonee Forest Park. After the previous long section of 20.5km to start the hike, this shorter 15km section is very welcome.[adinserter block=”5″]
Great South West Walk: Section 3 – Cutout Camp to Cobboboonee Camp
Section 3 from Cutout Camp to Cobboboonee Camp of the Great South West Walk continues through Cobboboonee National Park, a dryer sclerophyll (hard leaved) forest. Dominant trees in this area are the manna gum, large strands of messmate, and blackwood. Plant species start to change due to the changing topography and density of the forest, as do animals seen in the area.
Great South West Walk: Section 4 – Cobboboonee Camp to Fitzroy Camp
Section 4 from Cobboboonee Camp to Fitzroy Camp of the Great South West Walk continues through blackened sections of Cobboboonee National Park that have been strongly affected by bushfires which can easily be seen in the surrounding areas.[adinserter block=”5″]
Great South West Walk: Section 5 – Fitzroy Camp to Moleside Camp
Section 5 from Fitzroy Camp to Moleside Camp of the Great South West Walk takes you out of Cobboboonee National Park and into Lower Glendelg National Park where birds become plentiful and river views with Limestone cliffs call your name. A welcome change for me from 5 days hiking through Cobboboonee National Park. Many choose to take the river from this point down to Nelson which is a stunning part of the hike either on the water or on foot.
Great South West Walk: Section 6 – Moleside Camp to Battersbys Camp
Section 6 from Moleside Camp to Battersbys Camp of the Great South West Walk continues through Lower Glenelg National Park along the beautiful Glenelg River. This section is 2.5km longer than the purported 17km distance.[adinserter block=”5″]
Great South West Walk: Section 7 – Battersbys Camp to Pattersons Camp
Section 7 from Battersbys Camp to Pattersons Camp of the Great South West Walk continues through Lower Glenelg National Park along the beautiful Glenelg River. Leeches are purported to be plentiful along this section although we already encountered them in section 5 and boy are they big. Think index finger size, and they are fast. Expect continued views of the Glenelg River along with some stunning limestone cliffs.
Great South West Walk: Section 8 – Pattersons Camp to Simsons Camp
Section 8 from Pattersons Camp to Simsons Camp of the Great South West Walk continues through Lower Glenelg National Park along the final stretch of the Glenelg River, passing through the short South Australia section of the track. Continued views of the magnificent limestone cliffs can be seen along this section.[adinserter block=”5″]
Great South West Walk: Section 9 – Simsons Camp to Monibeong Camp
Section 9 from Simsons Camp to Monibeong Camp of the Great South West Walk continues through the township of Nelson and onto the beach section of this great hike. It is 3km from Simsons Camp to Nelson, and a further 22km to Monibeong Camp.
We recommend that you take an additional day to rest in Nelson, grab some good food and recuperate for the upcoming beach sections which have some higher elevation gains and longer distances along soft sands at high tides.
Tide timing is very important along this section. It is highly recommended that you do this section at the lowest tide times so that you can get onto the firmer sand which will make for a much easier trek. Walking on the soft sands at higher tides can be very exhausting – energy that you will need for these sections will quickly be lost otherwise.
I developed quite a fondness for the Pied Oystercatchers on the beach section. These birds have a unique call and can be seen catching Oysters along the shoreline. They are quite unique in appearance with a beautiful long pointed beak and a white belly.
Great South West Walk: Section 10 – Monibeong Camp to Swan Lake Camp
Section 10 from Monibeong Camp to Swan Lake Camp of the Great South West Walk continues along the beach and into the sand dunes. Watch out for dune buggies racing in the dunes near the end of this hike. It is tough going throughout the final 1km of this hike in the soft sand dunes. Due to passing through Swan Lake Camp on New Years Eve, we decided to camp at Swan Lake instead which has some suitable space close to the lake where a picnic bench once stood. The stretch of path just before Swan Lake Camp is known by locals as Bourke Street. They enjoy reading our notes in the log book here.[adinserter block=”5″]
Great South West Walk: Section 11 – Swan Lake Camp via Mt Richmond to Tarragal Camp
Section 11 from Swan Lake Camp via Mt Richmond to Tarragal Camp of the Great South West Walk heads inland here to Mt Richmond, and through Mt Richmond National Park. It’s a long wavy climb up the mountain on this section. Be sure to get a good amount of rest. As you climb the hills be sure to look back over your shoulder for great views out to the ocean over the sand dunes.
Great South West Walk: Section 12 – Tarragal Camp to The Springs Camp
Section 12 from Tarragal Camp to The Springs Camp of the Great South West Walk exits Mt Richmond National Park to head back to the shoreline and along the coastal cliffs. The Springs Camp is well sheltered from the winds and coastal sounds.[adinserter block=”5″]
Great South West Walk: Section 13 – The Springs Camp to Trewalla Camp
Section 13 from The Springs Camp to Trewalla Camp of the Great South West Walk continues along the coast on the most difficult section so far with an elevation gain of 575 meters.
Great South West Walk: Section 14 – Trewalla Camp to Mallee Camp
Section 14 from Trewalla Camp to Mallee Camp of the Great South West Walk continues along the coast on another difficult section with a total ascent of 505 meters.[adinserter block=”5″]
Great South West Walk: Section 15 – Mallee Camp to Portland
Section 15 from Mallee Camp to Portland of the Great South West Walk continues along the coast on yet another difficult section with a total ascent of 555 meters. This final section takes you through the Enchanted Forest.[adinserter block=”5″]
Last modified: January 30, 2018