I had been talking about doing the Great Ocean Walk for years. Years. I had read it was was awesome – and my friends had the pictures to prove it. Still, I was scared of actually doing it. My fitness levels, tiny budget and severe anxiety were all limited me.
In Summer, 2016, I saw a Walk91 bus drive past us when we were returning from Blanket Bay. I didn’t think anything of it, until my parents asked if I wanted to go to Apollo Bay with them in Autumn. I looked up Walk91, for the first time in years, and learned that they did one day shuttles.
Brilliant. I was going to FINALLY do some of this walk!
Starting Point: Blanket Bay
According to the Walk 91 Website, this “section of the track is known as the ‘Mild Side’ of the Great Ocean Walk. The track traverses through dry coastal forests, inhabited by echidnas, koalas and King Parrots with views over Parker Inlet.”
They should probably rephrase that to say that this part of the walk is completely distracting if you are a nature nerd. 😉
We were dropped off at Blanket Bay shortly after 9, ready to start our adventure. I’ve been wanting to explore here properly in ages as it is meant to be an awesome place for birdwatching, as well as rockpooling. I stuck around the camping area for about an hour trying to suss out the birdlife. I didn’t have any luck seeing my target bird – the olive whistler – but I did see a lot of wildlife.
I was lucky enough to see two separate koalas here, fairly low in the trees. Remarkably, these weren’t the first we saw. Reuben, the driver from Walk 91, was really awesome. He knew that two of the walkers were from overseas and were really keen to see some local wildlife. He stopped to point out two koalas on the drive in and spoke to us about how they preferred manna gum. He had a lot of knowledge about the local area – something you don’t always get when you are doing the day tours. The nature nerd in me really appreciated this as he gave me some ideas of places to go to when I return.
I recommend taking the time to explore here properly if you can. It may be worth doing in a separate trip.
Blanket Bay to Parker River Inlet: 4.5km
I left the campground and passed the boot cleaning station. The path followed a coastal route for a short distance, which allowed for a lot of creative photo opportunities. Alas, one of the problems of taking a shuttle is that you are very much aware of the deadline and can’t savour the scenery.
Very quickly, the track veered inland. Fortunately for me, the tracks are very well maintained. Less fortunate was the odd tree root that I nearly tripped over. This isn’t a problem for most people – I was too busy looking up in the tree branches or on the ground.
A short distance into the walk, I stumbled across Point Lewis Lookout. This is a decent enough place to sit and have a quick rest. There are places that are considerably more scenic to stop at though, so I wouldn’t stay here for too long.
From here, it’s about 3 km of dry coastal forest. I am so used to walking through the wet forests close to Apollo Bay – Maits Rest, Melba Gully. It was an interesting contrast. Unfortunately, the difference in forest types didn’t stop me from looking at everything. I only managed 1km every 45 minutes or so. The birdlife here was magnificent. I could hear a lot of birds that I didn’t have time to look for properly. There were a lot of king parrots and rosellas.
I also noticed a lot of skinks scurrying about. Would definitely love to return to see if I could discover more.
If you are a photography lover, this section is a must. You can do a round trip walk from Blanket Bay instead of doing the whole great ocean walk if that interests you.
About 3km in, you notice the scenery change ever so slightly. There are grass trees. You can see a hint of the ocean. I knew I was nearing the inlet and there was a slight decline. I was concerned about the walk back but not overly so.
It was a welcome break stopping here. This area was phenomenal and well worth exploring for at least half an hour. My photos don’t do it justice, primarily because I was trying to photograph the practical side of the walk. That, and I was well aware that I was a little bit behind, and still had 6km to go.
I was so worried leading up to this part of the hike because I had read this area involved a river crossing. I had gotten my feet absolutely soaked on a separate walk and knew how uncomfortable wet boots could be. I didn’t know anything about river crossings. What had I gotten myself into?
As you can see below, the river was easy to cross. At the narrowest, it was about 40 cm wide and maybe 1cm deep. It was probably low tide around then, but conditions were really favourable.
Once I ‘crossed’ the river, I was able to properly admire the scenery. It was a lovely secluded little area that I had all to myself. Well, myself and two other hikers. I actually recommend that people visit here just to check out it.
This is one of the things I loved about the walk. Places like Marengo and Blanket Bay are slowly catching on, but the walk is full of hidden gems like this. Places that no-one would have really thought to visit. I found parts of a dead seal here!
I wish I could have spent longer just soaking it in and photographing everything. I could have easily spent a couple of hours hear. Alas, I had to keep going.
I did meet two lovely hikers here who were doing 3 days camping. They said that they were quite fit and still found it a struggle with the backpacks. I knew I’d made the right decision to do this walk via shuttle, despite it feeling like cheating. I can always return to camp. For now, I just wanted actually *do* it.
One thing I love about a lot of these inlets is the unique views behind you – as well as the hidden gems that very few people see. Alas, I was faced with this:
This hill was a BITCH. I’d eventually get to what I thought was the top, only to be faced with more steps. For most people this would get the heart rate up but for me, this was so difficult. I’m unfit as heck and never do well with hills.
I had to take many, many rests. This was very fortunate as a little birdy decided to go for a bit of a wander. A birdy that I had been trying to see for 6 months. Olive whistler – tick!
I eventually got to the top – something my lungs were very grateful for. I didn’t have much time to rest though as I knew I had about 150 minutes to do 6km. Yes, that should be more then enough for most people. Not so much for the easily distracted.
At the top, there is a small opening next to the path where you can look over Parkers Inlet. The view is obscured due to the vegetation – a common theme among many of the many unofficial lookouts. I liked them regardless, just so my legs could feel smug about walking up so many steps.
Walking to Point Franklin
This part of the walk was a stark contrast to the area I just did. The flora was completely different! It was refreshing to have views of the ocean, once again, although these wouldn’t last for very long.
This area is marked as Seal Point on the map. From here, you can access the beach. You can walk from here to Crayfish Bay if you’d like to, and still get access to the inland track later. It isn’t very clear on the map, so it can be confusing. You can even go to the nearby carpark and do a circuit walk.
The views were beautiful here but did look similar to what I had already seen.
At Crayfish Bay, I faced this sign. It was very confusing I didn’t know if they met up at the end. Spoiler: they did! I chose the cliff walk as beach walking can be tiring. Also, I didn’t fancy more steps.
Again, the views were marvelous and gave lots of opportunities for photography. It’s even more awesome that many of the best photographic spots are actually near carparks, so you don’t necessarily need to do the entire walk.
After here, the track started heading slightly away from the ocean. I could see the lighthouse in the distance and my cramping legs were begging for the walk to finish.
My legs were also displeased at a couple of short steep sections. The remainder of the walk passed alongside beautiful farmland.
The farmland was beautiful in itself – but even more beautiful was the lighthouse getting closer in the distance. It did taunt me a little bit though. It felt like I was nearly there. I could hear the cars nearby. I desperately had to pee, too. I haven’t learned how to pee in places where there are leeches.
I’m still bloody traumatized by one in the toilet at Kennett River!!!
When you get to this area, you know you are close. It’s about 10-20 minutes and then you are free. You are in a place with toilets and water, and even hats if you were stupid enough to forget yours.
I got a free ticket to the lighthouse but found that I was too exhausted to explore much of it. I did have a dutch friend who also did the walk that really enjoyed it, though. I guess it depends on whether you have been there before and how much you already know about the region.
This was a truly fantastic walk. I struggled, because I hadn’t down a long distance walk in a while. I really enjoyed seeing different areas of the Otways and how the landscape changed so much. I’m quite keen to return to do more about the walk and possible do some shorter loops in specific areas. It all depends on the logistics of transport 🙂 All I know is, I’m hooked.