Portland to Penola
The ‘Aussie Camino’ celebrates the spirit and traditions of Spain’s 1,200 year-old Camino de Santiago. It draws pilgrims together in recognition of the life of Saint Mary of the Cross, Mary MacKillop, Australia’s only saint. The trail begins in Portland, Victoria where Mary taught between 1862 – 1866. Then finishes in Penola, South Australia, the birthplace of Mary’s congregation, the Sisters of St Joseph. We walk all the best sections of the trail, approx 176km, but transfer on a few of the road walking sections to make it a more enjoyable walking experience.
Get Ready For
- Uniquely Australian Camino in the spirit of the Way of Saint James
- Dramatic coastal seascapes and quintessential outback landscapes
- Connect with yourself and others through the simple rituals of pilgrim life
- Take home a memento; with special Aussie Camino stamps and passport
- Visit vibrant communities in remote regional Victoria and South Australia
- Walk with peace of mind fully supported by two RAW guides and private bus
Transfer from Melbourne to Portland; Walk the enchanted forest to Cape Nelson lighthouse (7KM / 2.5HRS)
Get ready to begin your tour at 7:15-7:30am with pick up from the Melbourne Arts Centre, St Kilda Road in Melbourne. We will travel via Colac and Camperdown – stopping for morning tea along the way, then onwards to Warrnambool and Port Fairy to break for lunch. Stretch your legs and appreciate the town’s charming ambience with a quick walk around the beautiful tree-lined streets before boarding the bus for our final destination.
We should arrive in Portland around 13.45 to check into our beautifully renovated historic hotel in the heart of town. After check-in we transfer to the charmingly named Enchanted Forest to walk a lovely section of the Great South West Walk. The trail leads into a forest of beautiful Moonah Trees lined with dense tropical-like vegetation.
The walk envelopes you with a lovely display of rich green overhanging plants, knotted and gnarled trees and the sound of bird-song from the canopy above. Purpose built cliff-top lookouts provide dramatic views over Nelson Bay before we emerge onto wide open wind-blown cliffs at Cape Nelson Lighthouse.
Meals: L, D
WALK CAPE NELSON LIGHTHOUSE TO CAPE BRIDGEWATER (23KM / 7.5HRS)
Your Aussie Camino pilgrimage begins atop the rugged sea-cliffs surrounding Cape Nelson Lighthouse. We follow a rocky limestone cliff-top track along the spectacular coastline before crossing Murrells Beach Rd through a pretty grove of coastal Tea Trees. We emerge at the top of a stairway that drops onto white sandy Bridgewater beach which we will follow for most of the day. The shore is alive with bird-life including Pied Oystercatchers, Sandpipers, Hooded Plovers, Terns and Pacific gulls; there are shells galore to admire and name. The mostly pristine beach is subject to small patches of debris bought in by strong tides and coastal storms, so bring a bag if you’d like to beach-comb for litter along the way. We pass an interesting age-old rocky outcrop standing sentinel like as you pass – you can feel it reaching back in time. The sand can be a little soft in places but the walking is pleasant, it’s possible to take off your shoes and enjoy ‘grounding’ with the earth. Closer to Cape Bridgewater the trail diverts inland through low coastal scrub along easy trails, it’s a nice change and a good spot to enjoy a snack in tucked away seclusion. We emerge again onto the hard flat wide open spaces of Shelly Beach for a glorious final walk along Bridgewater Bay.
Meals: B, L, D
WALK CAPE BRIDGEWATER TO BRIDGEWATER LAKES (18KM / 6hrs)
Today’s section takes us from the high cliffs of Cape Bridgewater to the serene shores of Bridgewater Lakes and features an astounding display of diverse natural beauty. We will enjoy sensational cliff-top walking, two large seal colonies, a surreal petrified forest, ocean blowholes, kangaroos, pristine lakes, remote rugged coastline and ancient limestone caves!
Our climb out of Cape Bridgewater takes us to some of the highest coastal cliffs in Victoria (130m) past two seal colonies; Australian and New Zealand Fur Seals who interestingly do not mingle even though they live in close proximity to each other. With several viewing platforms you can take advantage of the magnificent uninterrupted views over deep-blue water to the horizon. Look back over the perfect crescent-shaped beach of Bridgewater Bay sitting on the rim of a long extinct volcano, reminding us we walk upon million-year-old landscapes.
We follow easy trails along a rugged coastline where it seems you never put your camera away – the views are glorious! Hopefully we’ll encounter a mob of kangaroos who usually keep a close eye on things, then pass the aptly named ‘Perilous Parapet’ before arriving at a moonscape of petrified trees. Here we will break for lunch, allowing you time to appreciate the views and explore this fascinating area.
The walk after lunch is just as remarkable so have your cameras ready to capture the juggernaut of waves as they crash onto the rocks below. We finish the day with a gentle walk through sandhills to Bridgewater Lakes where we can climb to the mouth of Tarragal Caves to take in some fantastic views.
Meals: B, L, Dinner Lighthouse
WALK BRIDGEWATER LAKES TO TELEGRAPH RD (17KM / 5.5HRS); TRANSFER TO NELSON
An enjoyable day that first takes us high over farmland with great views back over the Bridgewater freshwater lake system through to the blue-green water of Discovery Bay. We cross an ‘interesting stile’ before entering quiet secluded bushland that offers a complete contrast to the dramatic coastal scenery of the past two days. Keep a look out for emus, kangaroos, echidnas and wallabies as well as wildflowers and a good variety of native birds.
After we cross Bridgewater Lakes Road the trail widens onto flat open trails allowing for pleasant easy hiking with an opportunity for quiet contemplation or lively group conversation, it’s your choice. Notice how the soil changes colour and becomes more fertile as we enter the unspoilt bushland of Mount Richmond National Park.
The national park is home to around 450 plant species including 50 different orchid species, including Spider Orchids, Sun Orchids and Hare Orchids and has stunning displays of spring wildflowers. We’ll picnic at Mount Richmond, an extinct volcano before a short walk to our pick-up point to transfer to Nelson, a pretty town sitting on the banks of the gorgeous Glenelg River.
Meals: B, L, D
WALK PICCANINNIE PONDS CONSERVATION PARK TO PORT MACDONNELL (24KM / 8HRS)
To miss walking along a busy and unsafe section of the Nelson – Mount Gambier Rd we drive across the border from Victoria into South Australia’s and the Limestone Coast region. Our walk begins inside the Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park recognised as a wetland of international importance providing habitat to 79 different bird species and 50 species of Australian migratory birds.
The park’s groundwater springs are renowned for their clarity and are one of its main attractions. Cave diving and snorkelling are the only permitted way to explore the stunning sculptured limestone formations with swimming being prohibited. We follow the trail through low coastal scrub onto the beach which we follow for approximately 10kms. The walking is relatively easy as the beach is flat and hard for most of the way.
There are plenty of shorebirds to keep us company including terns, oystercatchers and plovers. We exit the beach at Brown Beach carpark and follow Eight Mile Creek Rd for about 12kms into Port Macdonnell. We will spend some time exploring this tiny town before heading back to Nelson for our last night.
Meals: B, L, D
WALK PORT MACDONNELL TO BLUE LAKE, MOUNT GAMBIER (25KM / 8HRS)
The longest day of the walk takes us inland leaving the coast behind to make our way towards Mount Gambier. The path follows quiet rural farm tracks through mainly flat farmland and leads almost directly towards Mount Schank. Mount Schank (100m) is a long dormant cone-shaped volcano which was active over 4,500 year-ago.
There is a 2km hiking trail around the rim providing wonderful views into the crater and out towards the surrounding countryside. We will enjoy lunch here at the picnic site and toilets before our final walk into Mount Gambier. After lunch we make our way through splendid agricultural farmland via sleepy Louden Hill Rd before reaching the main road into Mount Gambier. Here the road shoulders are wide which allows for safe walking until we reach the outskirts of town.
Our destination is the incredible Blue Lake, an age-old water filled extinct volcano whose water colour changes from deep blue to an intense deep turquoise almost overnight. From November to late February the water remains a striking cobalt blue before changing to a deep blue from March onwards. The change in colour is caused by the higher position of the sun in summer and the changing water temperature of the lake.
The bus will meet us at Blue Lake and transfer us to our accommodation in Mount Gambier.
Overnight Mount Gambier
Meals: B, L, D
WALK MOUNT GAMBIER TO CARNEY LAKE RD (18KM / 6HRS)
It’s a short walk through the main streets of Mount Gambier before the trail leads us past typical Australian suburbs and schools to reach the outskirts of town. The walking is flat on tarmacked roads before making way for soft limestone lanes which makes for comfortable walking.
There are a few minor hills but it’s very pleasant strolling past small rural acreages and larger farmland with horses and cattle grazing. There are a couple of small forested sections of pines along the way which break up the otherwise rural vista. The last section of the walk passes through a heavily forested area of pine before turning into Grundys Lane. This beautiful secluded tree-lined country road is gorgeous with plenty of bird-song in the background – it’s a lovely way to finish our walking day.
Time permitting we will visit the Umpherston Sinkhole or “The Sunken Garden” which was transformed into a beautiful walled garden in 1886 by James Umpherston. The garden is quite close to the centre of town and is best visited at dusk when hundreds of possums come to feed.
Overnight Mount Gambier
Meals: B, L, D
WALK CARNEY LAKE ROAD TO KALANGADOO (20KM / 6.5HRS)
“At dawn of day we could feel the breeze
That stirred the boughs of the sleeping trees,
And brought a breath of the fragrance rare
That comes and goes in that scented air;”
In the Droving Days – A.B. Banjo Paterson
Today is the kind of day that early Australian bush poets wrote about. Walking towards tiny Kalangadoo the dusty country lanes open to wide horizons, endless blue skies and wispy clouds. There’s sheep and cattle grazing in wheat coloured fields, the occasional grove of shady trees and every so often a farmhouse in the distance.
Pilgrimage walks may have been inspired by the saints and pilgrims of Europe but today we are very much in outback Australia – if we were walking the Camino de Santiago, today would be the meseta. Before too long we walk beside wonderful tree-lined roads which are particularly beautiful in the afternoon sun. When we arrive into Kalangadoo we’ll have a drink or two at the local pub before transferring to our accommodation in Penola.
Meals: B, L, D
WALK KALANGADOO TO PENOLA (28KM / 8-9HRS)
There is plenty of time to contemplate your achievement on our final day’s walk into Penola. Pilgrimage walks require an act of faith, especially in yourself. Hopefully, you’ve had time to reflect, relax and enjoyed being meeting other pilgrims and fellow hikers. You can relax and appreciate the wide open spaces and soft pathways underfoot; we will find a shady tree to sit and snack and contemplate.
Life in the slow lane is wonderful. Historical Penola waits for us as we meander accompanied by the sounds of cows and sheep and farm life. We make our final turn onto the quiet tarmacked Mount Burr Rd which we follow for 5km into Penola. Let’s have a quiet drink and a meal at the pub before an early night to refresh ourselves for tomorrow’s celebrations.
Meals: B, L, D
MORNING TEA AT THE MARY MACKILLOP INTERPRETIVE CENTRE; CELEBRATORY LUNCH COONAWARRA WINERY
Morning tea awaits! At 9.30 we will make our way to the Mary Mackillop Interpretive Centre which features two major exhibitions. Wander the gallery and learn about Mary’s life including the century-long process resulting in her canonisation. The other exhibition focuses on Rev. Julian Tenison Woods.
He and Mary co-founded the Sisters of St Joseph after Woods visited the congregation of Sisters of Saint Joseph in Le Puy France. We enjoy the symmetry of the pilgrimage connection to the beautiful Le Puy Camino which RAW Travel also offers.
The order provided free education for underprivileged children and undertook much charity work. Find time for quiet reflection and visit the beautiful stained-glass window dedicated to Mary at St Joseph’s Catholic Church. Then tuck into morning tea – but not too much because we’re off to a fancy schmancy winery for lunch. All you have to do now is eat, drink, relax and enjoy good company.
Tonight is at your leisure to allow you to explore the town, pack your bags and get a good night’s sleep which you certainly deserve.
Meals: B, Lunch at Coonawarra winery
DEPART PENOLA TO MELBOURNE (415KM / 5.5HRS)
Today we leave Penola for Melbourne.
We will stop for breaks and lunch (at your own cost) along the way, before arriving back in Melbourne by late afternoon.
This unique Pilgrimage was created in 2013 by school teacher Luke Mills and has become a trademarked walk. Luke’s idea of connecting a Camino to the outback placed it in a very Australian environment. For Luke, meeting fellow pilgrims, simply connecting to others, yourself or to nature within such a beautiful landscape was very powerful – “in being a pilgrim, one declares one is open to connecting to others.”Be part of this uniquely Australian Camino and immerse yourself in the spirit of the Way of Saint James. Embrace the extraordinary camaraderie that exists between pilgrims the world over. Help to create a new history for future pilgrims to follow in your footsteps. Then celebrate your achievement with a glass of wine in the world-renowned Coonawarra wine region. We’ll drink to that – Buen Camino!
On the trail
The Aussie Camino follows a mixture of paths and backroads. The first section is along the Great South West Walk, a winding track which follows the contours around the coastal headlands. You will also some sections of beach walking. Some sections involve walking in quite exposed areas next to the ocean so be prepared for inclement weather. Turning Inland from Port McDonnell you then follow a mixture of backroads and trails; some are tarmacked roads others are soft limestone lanes, mimicking what you would find on the Camino in Spain. You can expect to walk between 4 and 8 hours each day with regular stops to take in the natural beauty, and for snacks and lunch.
Distance walked: 176km
Pick Up and drop off: Melbourne CBD
Start: Portland Victoria,
Finish: Penola South Australia
Route Type: Linear trail, A to B
- 3-nights 4* accommodation in Portland
- 2-nights accommodation in charming Nelson
- 2-night accommodation in picturesque Mount Gambier
- 3-night accommodation in historic Penola
- Aussie Camino pilgrims passport
- All meals (excluding dinner Day 10 and lunch Day 11)
- Return transfers to/from Melbourne
- Refreshment stops during walks
- Experienced hiking guide
- Driver & support vehicle for the duration of the tour with optional drop-out points are available on most days
- Celebratory lunch at Coonawarra winery
- Travel insurance
- Items of a personal nature
- Alcoholic beverages are not included in your package but can be put on a tab and settled with staff at the end of your stay
- Single supplement ($1280 extra) – please enquire, limited single rooms available
The Aussie Camino trip was just wonderful, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip. It was so well organised and supported. I hope RAW understands and appreciates how good Nick and Darren are at their jobs! They were so friendly and helpful, catering for all our dietary needs and provided great support to everyone in the group. I cannot speak highly enough of their service.
Thanks for a terrific 11 days, no complaints from me about any of the trip.
Sandra Fenton, Melbourne.
Camino Salvado Pilgrim Trail
- Capture the essence of the Camino de Santiago in Western Australia
- Follow in the footsteps of Dom Salvado to Australia’s only monastic town
- Walk through the heart of Western Australia’s wildflower country
- Connect with yourself and other hikers with simple rituals of pilgrim life
Great Ocean Road Walks
Great South West Walk – Guided
- Discover wild dramatic coastlines and white secluded beaches
- Stroll quiet bushland trails in Mount Richmond National Park
- Immerse yourself in 6,600 year-old UNESCO World Heritage listed Budj Bim
- Spot Australian and New Zealand fur seals at Cape Bridgewater
Great Ocean Road Walks
The End to End Guided Trip – Great Ocean Walk
- Fully cooked breakfast provided every morning
- Comfortable well-appointed accommodation
- Gain insights; local history, culture, and landscape
- Exclusives with our shipwreck historian & a local Indigenous Elder
The Highlights Trip – Mornington Peninsula
- Stay in charming villages
- Taste the Peninsula’s many food offerings each day
- Explore the very best of the Mornington Peninsula’s varied trails
- Walk sections of the clifftop between Flinders and Cape Schanck
TRIP date selection
when would you like to travel?
Please select your preferred dates for on-demand trips or select a scheduled date for group departures. If you have booked a self-guided trip please understand that because your trip date is on demand and we must check availability of all properties on your chosen dates before it can be fully confirmed