Great Ocean Walk – Day 1 – Apollo Bay to Elliot Ridge (10km)

Victoria, Australia, December 2020

Living in Melbourne, we decided to break the drive down to Apollo Bay up by staying the night in Geelong with my parents, which made for an easy drive on Sunday morning. So we stopped for our last real meal at Forrest, where we had a great toasty and a coffee.

Arriving in Apollo Bay we went first to the visitor information centre – for some reason I thought you needed to check in prior to commencing, but no. She did give us some helpful tips – where to park the car (near the YMCA), let the Police know the car is there for a period, and watch out for snakes – the first day is particularly snake-y!

So I lay in the sun on a bench with the bags while Phil moved the car. He was a while, because as soon as he went into the Police station he had to fill out a form registering his hike and when we’d be back. He then bought a newspaper, took the crossword page and ditched the rest at a cafe. We were then on our way (once he nudged me back to life) and worried me with the Police warnings that there could be no water – it is impossible to carry 8 days worth! After an initial freak out I determined what will be will be, and there are rivers on the map… right?.

It was probably 1.45pm when we took off – the first part is along the foreshore to the end of town then across the road and along the road for the next 3-4 km. A lot of people skip this bit and start at the Caravan Park in Marengo, however I want to say I did the whole walk, so we started at the start. In Marengo we topped up our water bottles and started to walk away from civilisation.

The lady in the tourist information centre is correct! We saw two great big snakes in the first section of walking.. so with our eyes peeled to the ground, I saw little of the scenery.

We then hit the beach – I was also slightly nervous about the tides. On this day high tide was 1.62m at 9.40am and low tide was at 0.52m at 4.05pm. At these levels, the required beach walking was not an issue, I think we could have taken it at the high or the low. In fact the more we walked each day we came to conclude that the guidance in the book is very conservative, but best to always be safe and hit any risky areas on a falling tide.

Beach / rock walking

I being a bit of a purist had also pre-decided that we were going to do the walk, not the beach if we had the option, so after our first beach section we had our first option to head back to the route. Climbing off the beach we were greeted by another Tiger Snake in the middle of the path and at that point I quickly reversed my decision, and we took the beach / rocks.

It was a great decision as the beach was gorgeous and hopping across the rocks was fun, there were lots of photo opportunities and we were having a blast until… we came across a chasm – I immediately decided we must turn back, thankfully Phil decided to look a little closer and with more ease than what I did without a pack, he climbed down one side, stepped across the narrow gap (over the perilous water crashing in and out with each wave) and was up over the other side. I managed some sort of performance – initially I was going to throw my pack but at 16kgs I could barely lift if in front of me, so I slid it down then Phil did some acrobatic work with it and somehow hauled it up and onto the other side, I then slid down into the gap using the natural rock hand and foot holds and scrambled up the other side. Although very ungraceful I felt like a hero.

Just before the chasm – I took no photos of us crossing the chasm of death (haha) I think I was too nervous of pitching over into the drink

It was all a good call because the exit point was just on the other side and so we avoided the hill. With the snakes and rock climbing I was glad that the next animal we came across was a lovely little echidna who was digging on the track (you will see evidence of their activity all along the walk).

Hitting the river (carefully planned to be on the way to low tide (about 3pm)) we hopped across no issue – at this point I started to let my worry about tides slide and after ‘climbing’ the 1km up (it is about 20%) we hit our camp site. I also stopped worrying about water – with rivers we would be fine and this site had almost full tanks

Scary deep river crossing!

Being first in of the 8 sites we had our pick and found a nice little spot, set up camp and had a cup of tea. We then carefully selected our heaviest meal (by weight of course!) a cheese filled Barilla pasta with a pouch of pasta sauce for dinner.

Three other groups joined us and we learned that two of them were taking the same pace as us, the other one, ‘amazing dad and son’ were doing the whole walk in doubles and would finish before we reached half way!

Camp site #1 – time for a crossword

10.3km – 3 hours

Other sites of interest:

Got more up to date information? let me know in the comments.

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