Epilogue and The Shipwreck Coast


There are many walks that boast the prefix "great" to their name and The Great Ocean Walk joined them when it was established in 2005. I have often wondered whether the term is applied a bit loosely and once even tried to develop a set of criteria by which to evaluate so-called "great walks". It was based on four categories; diversity of landscape, degree of isolation (to pass through areas only visitable on foot), physical challenge (everything gained should be earned) and what can be described as the "wow factor" (the need to come away in awe of what you have seen and experienced). In a planning document for The Great Ocean Walk, the project manager Scott Crabtree stated that "greatness should not be measured by the size, or extent or other such attributes but rather the ability to render the user a memorable and rewarding experience. This experience must be provided without compromising the environment and it must be long lasting!"

This sets the bar high, so did the Great Ocean Walk stack up? Our vote was a resounding yes!! A walk through many types of forest, heathland, beach and cliff-top, rich in wildlife and wildflowers with some transformed landscapes thrown in, a walk which left us feeling tired and satisfied at the end of each day and certainly a walk which gave us a memorable and rewarding experience.

That said, can it be even better? Probably yes - at a couple of places the track wanders inland on long detours along vehicle roads before returning to the coast - perhaps this is due to issues of public and private ownership of land, but once is enough to see how the landscape has been transformed by European settlement. More importantly, with the closure of Glenample homestead, the Great Ocean Walk just fades away when it reaches the highway less than 2 km from the Twelve Apostles. What better way to finish than at that iconic spot - all that it would require is to extend the existing track through the dunes a bit further. There is even the perfect spot to place a plaque indicating its end (see photo opposite). Anyway that is where we chose to finish and it is a euphoric place to do so.

Once curiosity is the published length of the actual walk. Many sources of information state that it is 91km, yet, when you add the distances between campsites on the official track map, they total 104 km, a distance verified by my GPS. So where did the 91 km story come from?


The Twelve Apostles - where the Great Ocean Walk should end

However, this was only part of our "Otways experience". The Surf Coast Walk was distinctive in coastal landform, vegetation and land use, a different experience altogether. In between, on the linking walk from Lorne to Apollo Bay of our own design, we passed through some of the best forest, waterfalls and river systems. How good would it be if there were a defined trail joining these walks into one super track. It would certainly make for a "a great ocean walk .... and more."

The Shipwreck Coast

The Great Ocean Walk ends on the Shipwreck Coast, an incredible stretch of coloured limestone cliffs that form a buttress against the waves of the Southern Ocean. Relentlessly, these waves have carved the cliffs here into spectacularly sculpted shapes, isolating pillars of rock, tunneling beneath the land and exposing multi-coloured layers of rock that reveal the geological history of the land. The process is ongoing - only recently one pillar of the Twelve Apostles collapsed and a few years earlier the span of London Bridge fell into the sea to create a new island.

This is a magnificent and active coastline and, although you cannot walk its length, no visit to the area is complete without a trip to the different features of the coastline with their forboding beauty and the poignant presence of the ghosts of wrecked ships. As a reward for getting to the end of this photodiary, enjoy the following images of the Shipwreck Coast without a commentary.

Loch Ard Gorge, where the only two survivors of the "Loch Ard" wreck were washed to safety

Multicoloured stalactites in Loch Ard Gorge

Muttonbird Island - the "Loch Ard" was wrecked on its seaward side in 1878

The Island Archway

The graves of the only four bodies recovered after
the "Loch Ard" was wrecked

The channel between Muttonbird Island and the mainland

Layering on Razorback Island


Looking eastward from Loch Ard Gorge

The Blowhole - connected to the sea via a cave


London Bridge (or should I say Island) - the span collapsed in 1990
trapping two people on the wrong side

Thunder Cave


The newly restored London Bridge -
almost as good as it was before!!

The Arch

The tranquility of The Grotto

Precarious rock stack off the Bay of Martyrs

The Bay of Martyrs

.... and to finish, the iconic Twelve Apostles (only eight of which remain standing following the latest collapse of a rock stack in 2005)!

The two eastern Apostles

The better known western Apostles