Great South West Walk
The Great South West walk is one of Victoria’s best-kept secrets; a long-distance trail that gets few visitors but has some of the sublime scenery, as well as great historical and cultural places of interest We showcase some of the best and most dramatic sections of the Great South West Walk and its amazingly diverse scenery, from the limestone gorges of the beautiful Glenelg River to rugged sea cliffs and remote beaches littered with shells to the beautiful seclusion of Cape Nelson lighthouse.
Standing atop soaring sea-cliffs at Bridgewater Bay looking back at a perfect crescent-shaped beach sitting on the rim of a long extinct volcano is one of the highlights of the walk. Not to mention the prolific wildlife of the seashores and forests and a staggering variety of seasonal orchids and wildflowers which enhance the trail in Spring.
Our walking trip will not only show you some of the best parts of the trail but also some great cultural insights as we visit the hugely significant and ancient Indigenous site of Budj Bim and the Tower Hill reserve with a guided tour with an Indigenous ranger. We also delve into the history of the ‘Shipwreck coast’, take a walking history tour and spend a night at the iconic village of Port Fairy and stay in Victoria’s first permanent European settlement in Portland with its many historic buildings.
Join us on our 6-day Great South West Walk tour and discover for yourself the unique biodiversity and history of the area.
Get ready for
- Walking wild dramatic coastlines, beaches and headlands
- Explore the limestone river gorges of the Glenelg River and serene Nelson
- Spot Australian and New Zealand fur seals
- Visit Australia’s only mainland gannet colony
- Indigenous guide at 6,600 year-old UNESCO World Heritage-listed Budj Bim and the Tower Hill Volcanic reserve
- Explore Victoria’s first European settlements in Portland and Port Fairy
- Guided tour of historic Port Fairy with local historian
As well as being accompanied by our experienced RAW Travel leader throughout you will enjoy various short guided tours with local guides and experts, including: the UNESCO listed Budj Bim Cultural Landscape with local Aboriginal rangers, a historical walking tour of Port Fairy, a talk and exploration of Cape Nelson lighthouse with a former Lightkeeper, a volunteer-led exploration of the only Australian gannet colony on the mainland.
On the trail
Our Great South West Walk sections consist of varied track conditions, some of which follow the contours around both coastal headlands and the river gorges of the Glenelg river. On occasions you will walk down to isolated beaches and across soft sand and then walk up the other side over steps on a well-marked track that has been constructed and managed with your safety in mind. Some sections involve walking in quite exposed areas next to the ocean so you can expect windy weather. You can expect to walk between 5 and 8 hours each day with regular stops to take in the natural beauty, and for snacks and lunch.
Our day starts with a 7:30am 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 Budj Bim and the Tae Rak aquaculture centre part of Lake Condah, where we walk as guests on Gunditjmara country. We will have our cafe lunch onsite before our 2-hour guided tour of UNESCO World Heritage listed Budj Bim Cultural Landscape site that allows us to experience the history and learn about the ancient aquaculture practices and eel traps through the eyes of expert Indigenous guides. The site is older than Egypt’s pyramids and the first site in Australia to be offered protection purely for its Aboriginal cultural importance; its aquaculture system dates back over 6,600 years.
We arrive in Portland around 4pm to check into our historic hotel in the heart of town. Then after freshening up we will drive out to the nearby Point Danger Gannet Colony, which is the only mainland Gannet colony in Australia for these seabirds. It’s a fascinating visit and a local volunteer will grant us access to the enclosed colony and tell us about the lifecycle and habits of these beautiful birds.
Dinner is in town where we will give you a briefing and details of the next day’s walk.
Meals: L, D
This morning we transfer out to the serene coastal hamlet of Nelson, sitting on the Glenelg river mouth and the border with South Australia. The Glenelg river at 350km is the third-largest in Victoria and where it meets the coast here at Nelson it carves out magnificent sweeping gorges through the limestone country. Our walk traces a narrow path above the river with excellent views of the gorges below, before venturing inland slightly and through growths of Grass tree forest and eucalpyt forest. At one point we venture into South Australia for a few kilometres on a bend of the river then return to Victoria again. Be on the lookout for the prolific native wildlife in this area as you will often see more animal tracks than human ones along this stretch of the Great South West Walk. We will take morning tea and lunch out on the trail before we eventually emerge into Nelson, where our driver awaits. Weather and time permitting we will drive to the ocean beaches just south of Nelson to enjoy the fantastic scenery here before we return back to Portland.
Meals: B, L, D
We start the day with a short climb to the mouth of Tarragal Caves, a network of ancient limestone caves within the Discovery Bay Coastal Park overlooking Bridgewater Lakes. From here a gentle walk through sand hills brings us to the beginning of a remarkable day’s walk featuring 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 and remote rugged coastline. We follow a rugged coastline where it seems you never put your camera away – the views are glorious! So have your cameras ready to capture the endless juggernaut of waves crashing onto the rocks below.
We arrive at a moonscape of petrified trees where 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 with more glorious coastline and plenty of photo opportunities including the aptly named ‘Perilous Parapet’. As we walk towards Cape Bridgewater look out for a local mob of kangaroos who usually keep a close eye on things. The trail 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 search for seals and take advantage of the magnificent uninterrupted views over deep-blue water to the horizon. We end our day with a beautiful dinner just for us at the Cape Nelson Lighthouse.
Meals: B, L, D
A gorgeous walk starting from Travella camp near Cape Bridgewater leads us along the beach and the hard flat wide open shores of Shelly Beach. The coastline is alive with birdlife 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 keep on the beach for a long stretch of 5km where we pass a group of washed up shipping containers. The sand can be a little soft but the walking is pleasant, it is possible to take your shoes off and appreciate ‘grounding’ with the earth. ( We can also offer an option to skip this section with our driver and reduce the walking distance for those who prefer to)
After completing the beach walk we climb a sturdy wooden stairway to the start of the spectacular sea cliffs. There are dramatic views over the Southern Ocean and the open expanses of the bay, so you can see exactly how far you walk today. After a pretty grove of coastal Tea trees and crossing Murrells Rd, the trail winds across the cliff tops as we begin the next part of our walk to the now familar sight of Cape Nelson Lighthouse. The eroded rocky landscape, dotted with native coastal bushes is strkingly beautiful along this section with great views back along the sea cliffs. After stopping for a break at the lighthouse we continue for a few Km on the other side of the Cape; this has similar sea cliffs and dramatic views but this side has dense vegetation and forest. We then meet and jump on the bus to the last section of our walk today through the aptly named ‘ Enchanted Forest’ a grove of wonderfully tangled and atmospheric tea trees backed with limestone cliffs.
Meals: B, L, D
Today’s itinerary follows a maritime theme as we depart Portland after breakfast and to the wonderful and historic town of Port Fairy for our last night. In Port Fairy we will take a stroll around Griffin island the Port Fairy Lighthouse along with a history walk through the wharf and nearby streets with a local guide who will inform us of the long and colourful history of this former whaling and sealing town. There are over 200 historic buildings in Port Fairy and we will learn about the most significant of these. (approx 6km walking total)
After taking lunch in Port Fairy we will drive to Tower Hill reserve, Victoria’s largest dormant volcano and Australia’s first national park. It is now a wildlife reserve and a great place to explore on foot, learning about the Indigenous history of the area, spotting koalas, emus and much birdlife inside this extraordinary geological formation. Tower Hill is believed to have erupted over 32,000 years ago, today you can still see the striated rock faces of the spectacular 11km crater rim, a rare geological site. We will take a walk through the boardwalk and forests, also climbing up the highest point inside the caldera (approx 2km).
Dinner tonight is at your own expense in Port Fairy.
Meals: B, L
IMPORTANT: All walking routes and local guide visits are subject to change based upon local conditions, extreme weather, group abilities, COVID closures and other factors beyond RAW Travel’s control. RAW Travel reserves the right to alter an itinerary or substitute an aspect of it in response to unforeseen changes or conditions with a group.
After breakfast, we will move on to nearby Warrnambool and the maritime museum at Flagstaff Hill. The museum is home to Australia’s richest collection of shipwreck artefacts from some of the 200 ships known to have been wrecked along this coast. From the everyday items of passengers to the famous Loch Ard Peacock statue valued at over $4 million, all have a tale to tell. You’ll have time to wander at your own pace through the museum and reconstruction outside of the 1860s port and town. Afterward we will resume our journey back to Melbourne and arrive back by mid-afternoon.
IMPORTANT: All walking routes and local guide visits are subject to change based upon local conditions, extreme weather, group abilities,COVID closures and other factors beyond RAW Travel’s control. RAW Travel reserves the right to alter an itinerary or substitute an aspect of it in response to unforeseen changes or conditions with a group.
- Twin-share accommodation with en-suite
- 4 nights accommodation in a historic hotel in Portland
- 1 night accommodation in Port Fairy Inn
- Most meals: 5 cooked Breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 restaurant dinners
- Return transfers to/from central Melbourne
- Refreshment stops during walks
- Experienced RAW hiking guide
- Driver and support vehicle for the duration of tour
- Walk with an Indigenous guide at UNESCO World Heritage-listed Budj Bim (or Tower Hill)
- Gannet colony private visit
- Exclusive RAW Travel Cape Nelson Lighthouse dinner and talk
- History walk around Port Fairy with local guide
- National Park fees
- Breakfast on day 1, dinner on day 5, lunch on day 6
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic beverages
We will base ourselves in Portland for 4 nights in a restored Victorian-style inn built in 1856, one of the oldest inns in Victoria. The hotel has been tastefully restored and has original heritage decor with modern comforts and en-suite rooms for you to appreciate after a day on the trail. The hotel offers a public bar and restaurant downstairs for a drink at the end of the day.
We take our included meals ‘a la carte’ at different restaurants in Portland each evening to allow maximum flexibility and sample great local produce and seafood.We also include a dinner at the Historic Cape Nelson lighthouse. Breakfasts are taken at our hotel with a selection of fruit, yogurt, bread, cooked breakfasts, juices and tea/ coffee. Lunches are for the most part taken out on the trail supported by our driver and van and a great selection of healthy fresh options are laid out for you to choose from. We also have morning teas/afternoon teas at selected stops on the trail with fruits and many varied and delicious snacks laid out for you with a selection of hot drinks to keep your energy up.
Private group tour
With friends and family
This trip can be run as your own private tour! Get a group of friends or family together and share a memorable pack-free adventure. Private tours are the perfect way to celebrate special events and special people. And they are so much fun! Contact us to get started. It’s that’s easy.
Discover Australia’s best coastal walks! Our comprehensive destination guide is bursting with inspiration, travel essentials, practical advice and more to help you prepare for a memorable journey along this breathtaking trail.
The Great South West walk was my first adventure with RAW travel and it was a superb one – an itinerary rich in natural, cultural, historic and human experiences. We trekked through a wonderful diversity of landscapes: the
limestone cliffs of the Glenelg River winding its way down from the Grampian Ranges to enter Discovery Bay at Nelson; the tranquil forests and woodlands with an abundance of grass trees with turbo-charged flowering from recent
fires; the wild Discovery Bay; the stunning beauty of Bridgewater Bay; the dunes and heathlands; the spectacular cliff views; the moonscapes leading to the lighthouse at Cape Nelson; and the closed canopies of melaleuca moonah
trees forming the enchanted forest. On top of this was the delightful diversity of birds and wildlife – my favourites were the glorious gannets at the Point Danger rookery. I haven’t gotten around to the cultural and historic stuff, but I
do need to mention the great company, professionalism and charm of the guides!
When I met Nick and Darren in front of the NGV International on Wednesday, April 21st, for the Great South West Walk I instantly felt that they would be a wonderful team to travel with and I am very pleased to be able to tell you that my instincts turned out to be true! Nick was a terrific guide over the three days of walking…very knowledgeable, very attentive and very personable. I was very impressed with Nick’s efforts to learn more about the plants and trees along the walk. It was lovely to see someone who worked diligently to expand his knowledge of the area. This will definitely hold Nick in good stead in future travels. Darren was not only a careful driver but his local knowledge of almost everything was impressive and it is just wonderful that he has such a pleasant manner about him. Both Nick and Darren worked hard to ensure that The Great South West Walk was a memorable experience for all of us. Loved the trip!!
A wonderful hiking holiday completed at a relaxed pace alongside spectacular scenery. Dave and Fred were the best of guides and ensured we were well supported, well fed and well educated with a variety of interesting side trips to indigenous sites, lighthouses and gannet colonies. Local, passionate people educated us about the country we were hiking on and this contributed I think to us treading more lightly and being aware of leaving nothing but footprints.
Both Dave and Fred were cheerful, knowledgeable guides with such enthusiasm for the bush and our amazing country. Comfortable accomodation, good food and the best of company.I would thoroughly recommend this trip.
Our group thoroughly enjoyed our Great South West Walk with Raw Travel over 5 days based in Portland. The walking was very rewarding, with spectacular scenery and great flora and fauna including echidnas, koalas, emus, wallabies and of course kangaroos aplenty. The accommodation was comfortable and convenient and the meals were also very good.
I had a great trip and loved the area. Your organization and leadership was terrific and both Erica and I had a lovely time. RAW Travel is top of my list for walking tours and I look forward to an opportunity to do my 4th trip with your company.
Great Ocean Walk
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 Aussie Camino’
- Capture the essence of the Camino de Santiago
- Learn about the life of Mary MacKillop
- Walk with like-minded people in this centuries-old tradition
- Stunning beauty and diversity of Australia’s landscapes
Mornington Peninsula Highlights
- 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
Food, Wine and Walking – Mornington Peninsula
- Walk some of the best trails, accompanied by taste sensations
- Feast on lunches featuring fresh and local cuisine
- Learn about wine production at one of the best vineyards
- Local food producers, behind-the-scenes on a farm, vineyard and olive grove
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