Things to see and do:
Apollo Bay to Princetown, Victoria

From Apollo Bay to Princetown and the eastern end of Port Campbell National Park you have two choices to continue: either by road or by foot. Walking will get you closer to the scenery as well as offering access to remote places unreachable by car. While the road heads inland, the Great Ocean Walk sticks to the coast, offering hikers breathtaking views and unforgettable wildlife experiences.
This is a moderate-level trail with some challenging sections and, depending on your pace, it can be completed on a variety of itineraries which range from a couple of nights to eight days. Consider doing the trail with a tour operator such as Otway Eco Tours, Auswalk Walking Vacations, RAW Travel or bothfeet who offer a range of itineraries with knowledgeable local guides, luxury accommodation and a luggage transfer service so that you can hike in style, or take to the trail independently, staying each night in the campsites along the route.

By foot
Leaving Apollo Bay, you'll first head out through farmland before dropping down to the beach and on through tall eucalypt forest to the Elliot Rivercamping for the first night at Elliot Ridge Campsite. This day is characterised by stunning ocean views and also provides the chance to see koalas and yellow-bellied gliders in the blue gum forest around Shelly Beach

On day two the trail heads inland through more eucalypt forest where you might spot black wallabies before ending back at the coast at Blanket Bay Campsite. From here the trail passes through coastal forests and crosses numerous small creeks before offering spectacular views from Parker Inlet and close-up koala viewing in the manna gums around Parker Hill. Your camp for the night is Cape Otway Campsite, a short walk from Cape Otway Lightstation where kangaroos are often seen. Also here is the Cape Otway Ecolodge, an environmentally sustainable guesthouse serving super-local produce (much of it from their very own garden) and regional wines and providing guests with exclusive guided dusk walks which offer outstanding opportunities for observing kangaroos, koalas and other indigenous wild animals in their natural habitat.

Setting out the next day, the trail passes the Cape Otway Cemetery where the graves of lightkeeper’s families and shipwrecked sailors can be seen, before heading along the rocky clifftops for spectacular views along the coast and up the Aire River Estuary. The views just keep on coming on day five as you head from the Aire River Campsite to Johanna Beach Campsite, so be sure to stop at the numerous lookout points for some of the best coastal views you will ever see. Keep your eyes peeled also for kangaroos and wallabies in the coastal scrub and seabirds such as the white-bellied sea eagle overhead.

From here the route gets wilder, featuring remote beaches and rural valleys. Day six takes hikers along the Milanesia beach track while day seven from Ryans Den Campsite to Devils Kitchen Campsite is the most difficult day of the walk, featuring steep climbs and long sections of steps – the reward is sensational views from the towering clifftops and the chance to see historic shipwrecks on remote Wreck Beach. From June until September you may even see whales from some of the highest lookout points. The final stretch through the sandhills and coastal scrub can be tough going but it’s just a few hours before the small settlement of Princetown comes into sight and you may even see pods of dolphins out in the marine park.

Apollo Bay to Princetown route map. Illustration by Lisa Joanes

By car
If you’re traveling by car you will see a completely different side to this area as the road heads inland and through the Otways, an area home to some truly unique species. Leaving Apollo Bay the Great Ocean Road winds through the eucalyptus trees, a favourite of koalas, before heading deeper into the rainforest where you can see the large, scaly trunks of the myrtle beech and numerous tall, straight Australian blackwoods. Stop for a short walk at Rest and explore the rainforest. The dense canopy drips with pure water here and little sunlight can break through. The resulting cool, damp mossy earth is the ideal environment for the Otway black snail, a shiny, black carnivorous gastropod which feeds on worms and other snails and is only found in the rainforests of the Otway Ranges.

From here, continue along the Great Ocean Road for another 3km or so and detour down Lighthouse Road to Cape Otway to spend the night in the Cape Otway Ecolodge. The next morning, tour the Lightstation for fantastic views of the coastline and take the 2.8km Lightstation Cemetery and Lookout Walk through the coastal heath for some kangaroo spotting before heading back to the Great Ocean Road. It’s not much further to the hamlet of Hordern Vale where you will find the wonderful Aire Valley Restaurant – home to one of the region’s very best dining experiences.

Dinner here is not to be missed so pull in for the night and enjoy fresh, local, organic produce and beers from Otway Estate on the verandah overlooking the lakes and the Aire River Wildlife Reserve. Sleep well in the guesthouse’s luxurious rooms and awaken to beautiful views from your own private verandah. Having dined overlooking it, spend the next morning exploring the Aire River Wildlife Reserve where you might be lucky enough to see grey kangaroos, swamp wallabies and ring-tailed possums or even the rare tiger quoll, a carnivorous marsupial. From here the road heads back to the coast and Castle Cove Lookout so be sure to stop for fantastic ocean views and the chance to see peregrine falcons flying overhead.

Continue inland to Lavers Hill where a worthwhile detour of just 15 minutes will bring you to the Otway Fly Treetop Walk, a 600-metre-long, 25-metre-high elevated walk through cool temperate rainforest, bringing you into close contact with giant ferns and tall myrtle beech, blackwood and mountain ash trees.

Don’t miss the (optional) 45-metre-high lookout reached by an additional metal spiral staircase and, on returning to ground level, the chance to catch a glimpse of the shy platypus in Young’s Creek.

Head back to Lavers Hill and continue on to Melba Gully where you can finish the day spotting glow worms. Visit after dark and look in the soil banks and overhanging ledges along the walking tracks for the chance to see thousands of tiny beads of light twinkling in the otherwise pitch-black forest. Bring a torch but don’t shine it directly at them – they’ll turn out their lights if you do. From here it’s just a 25-minute drive to Princetown.
Responsible Travel would like to thank Tourism Victoria for their sponsorship of this guide
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