The Great South West Walk – a great walk? You bet!

Want to spend 2 weeks hiking in Victoria in a variety of interesting scenery including sea, river and forest?

Love the beach and bush and want a bushwalking trip that takes you these environments and more?

Looking for a multi day hike that offers a lot of variety?

The Great South West Walk may be for you!

The 250km long Great South West Walk provides a fascinating variety of scenery and wildlife in the southwest of Victoria. The track winds inland from the town of Portland and reaches Nelson via the Cobboboonee Forest and Glenelg River. From there, it returns along the beaches and rugged capes to complete the loop. As it is cleverly promoted, it is a “Symphony in Four Movements”

Dave Tomlinson, our guest poster pictured below, started the Great South West Walk on the 7th February 2009. He stayed a night with us on his way through to Portland from Brisbane and has kindly agreed to allow us to reproduce his trip report here on “Our Hiking Blog”.

But first, some background and references.

Parks Victoria have a great site with more detail Great South West Walk and the Great South West Walk site also has significant information about local resources, volunteer assistance, maps, accommodation and walking options.

Below is a map of the Great South West walk – for a bigger, scalable map click here

This walk has a fascinating history as is seems to be conceived and supported by the Portland and district community. The following information is taken from a great site maintained by NETS Victoria – called Walk

In 1980, Sam Bruton, the then Chief Ranger of National Parks in South West Victoria, dreamed of a massive walking track extending inland form Portland to Nelson and returning via the coast.

The Walk would feature four contrasting environments – the Cobboboonee Forest,the Glenelg River, the beach of Discovery Bay, and the cliffs and capes of Bridgewater and Nelson.

Portland High School accepted Sam’s invitation to construct the walk. With the support of government officers, the students, teachers and parents set about the task and the Walk was officially opened in November 1983.In April 1984, the newly formed Friends of the Great South West Walk accepted responsibility for it. Ever since then, with the support of the government, they have continuously maintained, upgraded and promoted this community asset.

Bill GoldingCo-founder, Great South West Walk

Now onto Dave’s trip report –

Part One: The Cobboboonee Forest

My hike of the Great South West Walk started in Portland on February 9th, just two days after the state of Victoria was devastated by the worst bushfires in history.As I stepped from the plane on the day which will be forever remembered as ‘Black Saturday’, I was greeted with a temperature of 47ºC and strong, hot winds.Never have the words ‘stepping into an oven’ been more appropriate!I had concerns about the fire situation, but the worst affected areas were in an area northeast of Melbourne. Apart from a fire which damaged the train line, the western part of the state appeared to be largely unaffected.

On the day I started the temperature was down to a very comfortable 21ºC.

To be quite honest, I didn’t find the first day out of Portland very inspiring.The town itself is attractive and there were some nice views of the harbour and as the track passed the historic Whalers Bluff lighthouse built in 1859. I also took time to do an interesting little self-guided tour of the old cemetery.

I had some navigation problems though and a few more makers in these initial stages would have been appreciated.For most of the 20km I seemed to be walking on either residential streets, sealed or secondary unsealed roads and it was only in the last few kilometres that I felt I’d actually left civilization.

Starting mid-afternoon meant it was getting late by the time I arrived at the first camp.I was so happy to be there, pitch my tent, unroll my sleeping bag and hang up sweaty clothing.I was just imagining how good a cup of tea would be when I realized: there was no water! I was puzzled that there should be a toilet and fireplace but not the promised rainwater tank. It then occurred to me that I’d arrived at a disused campsite and the new one was a further 2km.There was no option but to pack everything up and ask my weary legs for another 25 minutes work.

In the fading light I nearly tangled with a snake on the track and the adrenalin from that had me surging into Cubby’s Camp!

The three days through the forest offered relatively easy hiking.The track was wide and well maintained.There were very few undulations so it was very pleasant walking.The weather was generally overcast and temperatures through this entire section were unseasonably cool at only about 20ºC.So all those factors meant I was able to hike at 5 kilometres per hour and estimate my arrival time at the next camp accurately.

Cobboboonee is a native Australian eucalypt forest.The track explores the headwaters of two rivers and ferns seemed to flourish in these areas.It traverses heathland areas and Messmate trees.These are also known as Stringybark for the way bark can be easily peeled from the trunk. It also passes an unusual pond called The Inkpot.

The water is a distinctive black colour (caused by an accumulation of decayed vegetation) and forms an interesting contrast with the surrounding earth. At a couple of the forest campsites I was greeted in the morning by one or two grey kangaroos.After I emerged from my tent it usually didn’t take them too long to disappear into the bush. I saw a couple of echidnas on the track but they were very shy and shuffled away as soon as they sensed the possible danger.

Unfortunately I didn’t see any koalas but the forest is home to some beautiful birds. Occasionally I’d see the bright red and deep blue of Crimson Rosellas flicking through the trees and also several flocks of the white Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.


  1. Diane says

    Hey Frank
    Now you’ve had some more experience leading commercial groups, isn’t it time to organise a GSW walk for those of us too feeble to do it ourselves?
    I’d prefer BnB please!

    • Frank says

      Hi Diane,
      Would love to lead a trip on the GOW. My only problem is the permits and stuff. I will investigate it. Had some discussions with World Expeditions a while back and they were keen to partner with us. I have just been too busy to get to them!

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