This adventure started out as a full end-to-end attempt of the Great Ocean Walk. Campsites booked, backpacks packed. Due to some timing restraints, we were attempting two 20km days in the beginning. But not everything goes to plan.
Apollo Bay to Blanket Bay. I have done the first part of this as a day walk. Apollo Bay (or Maringo if you don’t feel like the first 3km of walking next to the road) to Shelley Beach is one of my favourite hikes. Hit it around low tide and you can walk along the beach for most of the way. We were not so fortunate with the tide, weather, a late start and a full pack had us on and off the beach taking advantage of the inland route.
We had lunch at Elliot River – a perfect GOW lunch spot with views of the river or the ocean. Filled out water at the Elliot river campsite shortly after lunch then set out on the 12 km forest portion of the walk. I had avoided this in previous outings due to walking along 4wd tracks. I enjoyed this section more than I thought I would due to the cool weather, the brightness of the foliage and the wonderful smell of the forest after the rain. still, as the day was disappearing we felt the monotony of the full afternoon walk and had to take care of the fallen branches after some particularly wicked weather the previous day.
Blanket Bay was a nice little campground. I hadn’t realised how close the non-walk in sites were to the walk-in site. This mean toilets with paper 🙂 and I didn’t really notice all of those extra people around. I’ve added Blanket Bay as somewhere for a nice drive in camping spot, especially not in school holidays. This is where our plans changed. My hiking buddy suffered a back injury after tripping on one of those fallen branches and after a night of pain, we made the decision to bail and seek medical assistance. What followed was an adventure of its own, involving finding a kind soul to drive us back to Apollo Bay, two closed roads meant a 200km detour. Ending with a visit to the Apollo Bay hospital, Sandy Feet Cafe and an ice-cream before heading home. 20km walk and hundreds of km driving, but better to have had started on this adventure and then made a sensible decision about continuing, rather than staying at home.
Would I recommend Apollo Bay to Blanket Bay?
Yes if you were camping at Blanket Bay but if I was just doing a point to point hike, I’d probably stick to Shelley Beach return from Marengo. Shelley Beach to Blanket Bay is quite uneventful.
Other GOW camping options
When I did sections of the walk previously we always camped off the track. Now I would seriously consider staying at the drive-in spots if doing it as day hikes.
Blanket Bay, Aire River and Joanna Beach all have wonderful campsites that can be booked on the Parks Victoria website.
Another thing that some were doing was have a multi-night stay. I love taking it easy and a double night at any of these drive-in sites would be a wonderful way to combine hiking with a beach day.
Getting to and from the track
Great Ocean Walk is well serviced by professional transport operators. It can be pricey and we have generally done our own car shuffles, but this depends on having two cars available.
The original full hike plan was to leave the car at Princetown and catch the Vline bus back to Apollo Bay but I since found out that it only runs between these towns on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
We ended up relying on the good nature of others to transport us back to our car. This may be possible during the busy times when there are plenty of campers around that may be travelling in the same direction, but often these cars are full to the brim with camping gear, bikes, surfboards, fishing rods and even kids.
Water and toilet paper
Yes, there is water at the GOW campsites and there are multiple river crossings. Surprisingly there was toilet paper in both the campgrounds toilets. To some, not a big deal, but if you’ve ever under-packed toilet paper you realise what a valuable commodity it can be.
Yes, get the official Map. No, I didn’t actually use it for this walk, It is very easy to follow (just keep the Ocean to your left).