After thinking, dreaming and planning for so long, it was exciting to step out on our first real adventure for 2022. The wind buffeted us as we walked away from the protection of Apollo Bay township and the sand, whipped up off the beach, stinging our legs and arms. Loving the early morning views over the beach, the wind gusts hit out fully loaded (overloaded?) backpacks and we stepped sideways grappling with our hiking poles to remain upright.
Our Great Ocean Walk was underway!
Date: Saturday 19 March, 2022
From: Apollo Bay, Victoria
To: Blanket Bay
Official Distance: 21.6km
Actual Distance: 23.23km
Weather: Very windy and overcast in the morning, and then bluest of blue skies
Stayed At: Blanket Bay Great Ocean Walk (GOW) campsite
- The GOW guidebook lays out a walking itinerary in eight stages. Us being the optimists that we are, combined two stages for our Day 1. That was ambitious, but doable if you are relatively fit and pretty determined.
- For someone who lives so far from the sea, it was an absolute joy walking close to the crashing waves. The first part of this path rock hops along the beach and around headlands. It pays to keep one wary eye on the waves and the other on the slippery and uneven surfaces underfoot.
- About 5km into the walk, the Blow Hole provides an interesting challenge as you change from hiking to hand-over-hand rock climbing. This may not be enjoyable for those a little afraid of precarious positions or unwilling to reach across sizeable distances with turbulent waves below. Yes, all with a fully loaded backpack on your back. Take it slow and steady, and you should be fine.
- The eroded rocks and cliffs were a myriad of colours and shapes. Balls and tubelike blocks of colour were revealed as the softer surrounding rocks weathered away. All that layered history telling the story of our Earth over thousands of years.
- The path then takes you away from the water and the endless ups commence as you climb the first (of many, many, many) ridgelines. The bush is thick and fragrant with those Aussie bush smells, all with the accompaniment of the roaring ocean in the background. The husband and I quickly settled into a walking pattern. He led the ups and I led the downs. We each have our strengths. 😊
- There is a picnic area and toilet at the Shelly Beach carpark. For water, you must wait until you arrive at Elliot Ridge GOW campground.
- The second half of the walking day is completely different. The sound of the sea disappears until the very end of the day and is replaced by the sound of the breeze rustling through the tallest of trees and elegant tree ferns.
- We caught up with a few day walkers, stage walkers, and passed a few others walking in the opposite direction, but on the whole, it was blissfully quiet and un-busy.
- The path is very wide and clear, and for most of this stage, following a Vic Parks access road. You still have to be conscious of where you step due to tree roots and fallen branches. At one stage I heard a thump and turned to see the husband face down on the path pinned under the weight of his bakery-laden pack. Thankfully no injury was sustained to either the husband or bakery goods.
- The descent into Blanket Bay was very steep and tough on weary legs, but highly welcome as it meant we were done for the day. There we met a couple (of similar age/stage of life) who were the only others walking end-to-end. It appears day walks and weekend walks are the most popular ways of completing the GOW.
Top Tips for this Section:
- Tides: Before you leave Apollo Bay, pop into the very helpful Visitor Information Centre to obtain up-to-date information about low/high tide times. You will need this for the first part of this walk.
- Booking: If you are walking on the weekend or during a holiday period, make sure you book your GOW campsite. There must have been 20 tents pitched at Blanket Bay by the time we arrived.
- Footwear: The rocks in the first part of the stage are slippery and sharp. Footwear that has new tread and good grip is essential.
- Bathing: It is possible to swim at Blanket Bay if you need to refresh. Take care in the strong currents. Alternatively, there is a small waterfall at the rear of the campsite and, with a bit of acrobatics, you can get to the fresh water for a bird bath.
- Distances: We found that none of the distances for virtually the whole walk married up to my Garmin watch, the guidebook or the official Vic Parks signs. Take the listed distances as a suggestion only and be prepared to walk another kilometre or two.
- Mobile Service: Mobile service varies from being patchy to non-existent.
Stay tuned for Day 2.
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