The Great Ocean Walk in Victoria is both spectacular and conveniently close to home. The plan for 2016 is to complete as much of the walk as possible (skipping out the boring bits) with as many good friends as possible.
Several of us did this a few years ago, which makes the planning a lot easier. The aim is to head down to The Otways on Friday night, get in a good hike on Saturday, a nice camp dinner Saturday night and then a shorter hike on Sunday before heading back to Melbourne. This is a good mini-break and I always head back feeling that I’ve had a little holiday as well as catching up with some friends.
Wait a few weeks, so it doesn’t feel too rushed, then repeat.
The Great Ocean walk has plenty of jump on and off points and in-between these you often feel that you have the entire coast to yourself. I think the walk lends itself so well for this format that I have no real desire to end to end it (although occasionally I do have campground envy). It also allows me to invite along just about anyone interested in walking on the beach. I am a self-proclaimed slow walker and work on the theory that if I organise the walk, then everyone knows they can keep up.
Another advantage that I discovered this weekend is that you don’t really need to plan the exact hikes until you’re sitting around the breakfast table or munching on your lunch. Maybe that’s just me but when life seems too busy to do more planning that finding a spare weekend it does offer a nice freedom of choice.
Koalas! Last time we were here, around 3 years ago the place was teaming with Koalas. Bimbi Park had a Koala up every tree and once you got your Koala spotting eye in there were everywhere on the road to Cape Otway and along the walk. As it turns out this was the start of the trouble. Koala population was spiking and the Manna Gum population wasn’t coping. The road to Cape Otway was ghosted with dead gums – it looked like the high country after a bush fire. One solitary Koala at Bimbi Park and only a couple of places where tourists stood on the road taking pictures of furry bumps in trees.
Blanket Bay to Crayfish Bay – Return.
Not exactly what was planned for day one. We had planned to do Blanket Bay to Cape Otway with a relatively short car shuffle between to two.
Set of around 9am with a perfect low tide of 9:30am keeping us on the beach the whole day. After a short walk in the dappled light, morning tea at Parker Inlet we took the low -tide option walking along the rock shelves and beaches. I am particularly balance challenged and the small amount of rock hopping was very achievable. We only had a small stretch off the beach, then headed down to Crayfish Bay for lunch and realised that we could easily have walked around the head to the same spot – since the tide was still so low.
Here we had our own decision point. We were early for lunch and it was a keen bunch of hikers who were despairing about how close the lighthouse was. Only 2.5 km away! Tempted by locals who mentioned there was track realignment that kept the track to the lighthouse closer to the cliffs, we still decided that we needed more walking and turned around to head back to Blanket bay. This gave us a respectable distance of somewhere between 15 and 17 km.
Overnight: Bimbi Park.
This is my “go to” caravan park for most of the Great Ocean Walk. I like to spend as little on accommodation as I can so I can have more weekends away. We booked one of the bunk rooms and all had slightly restless sleep on the plastic covered mattresses. Dinner was BBQ with bring along a salad. Delicious food, a quite drink and just a little knitting.
BBQ and showers are coin operated. The camp kitchen is well appointed and campfires are allowed. We had an attempt at a campfire – just as the threatening showers arrived.
The plan for a shorter Sunday walk was Marengo to Shelley Beach. Since this was only 5km and based on yesterdays adventure I proposed doing this as a return trip – going on the beach and then returning on the cliffs. Previously we had walked Shelly Beach to Apollo Bay but from Marengo to Apollo is just beside the road so unless you are determined to do the full walk or rely on public transport I wouldn’t consider it worthwhile.
The weather didn’t agree with these plans and after a coffee and cake in Apollo Bay we headed off home along the Great Ocean Road. I’ll keep the Marengo walk up my sleeve for a nice little Sunday outing on a future GOW weekend away.