To travel the Great Ocean Road is one of the iconic journeys of Australian tourism. For 200km this road follows the coastline where the Australian continent meets the great Southern Ocean, at times winding around the edges of steep tree-covered slopes that plunge into the sea to pass through picturesque holiday towns and villages, at times drifting inland to travel beneath majestic eucalypt forests, or skirting the cliff lines above the rugged and infamous Shipwreck Coast. This is a superb journey, but how much better would it be on foot, where you can appreciate every bit of the diverse landscapes at your leisure!

The fair Nello and I decided to find out. Three years ago, the Great Ocean Walk was established and has rapidly become a popular destination. Starting at Apollo Bay, it takes in the forests and cliffs of the Otway Ranges on a 6-8 day (100km) track that ends just before the iconic Twelve Apostles on the Shipwreck Coast. Yet, this is only part of the Great Ocean Road coastline. Way back east, near Torquay, the shorter 2-day Surf Coast Walk sets out at the beginning of the road to follow a coastline, famed for its big surf (e.g. Bell's Beach, part of the world professional surfing tour) and a holiday destination for many Victorians. This would be our starting point, but the problem was to link the two tracks. Between Lorne and Apollo Bay, there is no one linking track.

The Otway Ranges rise straight out of the sea and the steep terrain and southward running rivers make a traverse of the ranges very difficult. Interestingly, the local bushwalking clubs have been trying to establish a Trans-Otway Track for several years. A route has been developed, which currently appears to comprise a number of 4WD tracks, foot trails and off-trail walking tied together by pink ribbons. While a development plan has been submitted, it appears that this is not approved of by the National Parks authorities, but how magnificent would it be to have such a link and create one long walking track from Torquay to Port Campbell.

Still, this track heads deeper into the Otways than we wanted to go and, given the difficulty in getting information and maps about it combined with the dubious politics, we opted not to try it. Instead, we plan to create our own trail, partly following inland tracks, to get a feeling for the forests and waterfalls of the Otways, and partly following beach and rock platform to reach Apollo Bay and the start of the Great Ocean Walk proper.

But would the weather be like this ....
(view from Cape Patton)

... or like this?
(Split Rock Lighthouse)

Our walk falls easily into three stages, which makes it logistically simple - drive to Lorne, catch a bus back to Torquay and walk the Surf Coast Walk, drive to Apollo Bay leaving supplies at the camping grounds in between, catch a bus back to Lorne and do the link walk, drive to Port Campbell, leaving supplies at drop points on the way, catch a bus back and do the Great Ocean Walk. This system worked well for our walks in the southwest of Western Australia. So, in anticipation of wild and isolated beaches, rugged clifflines, big seas, tranquil forests and waterfalls, and pleasant coastal villages, we set out to explore the Great Ocean Walk .... and more!