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. 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 / or the Tower Hill reserve with a guided tour with an Indigeneous Ranger. We also delve into the history of ‘the Shipwreck coast’, take a walking history tour at the iconic village of Port Fairy, the Flagstaff Hill Museum and stay in Victoria’s first permanent European settlement in Portland with its many historic buildings.
We were fascinated to learn of a symphony called “Discovery” by Australian composer and avid bushwalker Dindy Vaughan. “Sea Cliffs” is part of the symphony reflecting on the formation of the ancient volcanic landscapes of Budj Bim. 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.
We would love for you to join us on our 5-day Great South West Walk tour to discover for yourself the unique biodiversity & history of the area.
Get ready for
- Walking wild dramatic coastlines, beaches & headlands
- Explore the limestone river gorges of the Glenelg River & serene Nelson
- Spot Australian and New Zealand fur seals
- Visit Australia’s only mainland gannet colony
- Guided tour of 6,600 year-old UNESCO World Heritage listed Budj Bim
- Explore Victoria’s first European settlements in Portland and Port Fairy
- Emus, kangaroos, koalas, echidnas and birdlife
- VolcanIc Tower Hill reserve & Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum
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 and a bush tucker lunch cooked by local Indigenous staff at Tower Hill.
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.
We will base ourselves in Portland for 4 nights in a restored Victorian-style inn built in 1856. The hotel has been tastefully restored and has original heritage decor with modern comforts & en-suite rooms for you to appreciate after a day on the trail. Solo walkers can have their own room at no additional cost.
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 the Tower Hill Reserve, an old volcanic crater that is It is one of Victoria’s most fascinating and significant geological formations. Volcanic cone-shaped hills rise from the lakes. Emus, kangaroos, koalas, swans, ducks and blue wrens all live inside this magnificent dormant volcano. The visitor centre, which is managed by Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Cooperative, has environmental and cultural displays relating to the significance of the area for local people and its restoration following many years of grazing use. We will stop here for a BBQ lunch with a focus on native ingredients, full of surprising and wonderful tastes and take a walk on the boardwalk through the reserve.
After lunch we head to the Tyrendarra Indigenous area, part of Lake Condah region, where we walk as guests on Gunditjmara country. Our 2.5-hour guided tour of UNESCO World Heritage listed Budj Bim Cultural Landscape site allows us to experience the landscape, history and 60,000+ year-old culture 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 5pm to check into our historic hotel in the heart of town. This evening we will aim to have a brief visit to Australia’s only mainland gannet colony at Point Danger Coastal Reserve just a few kilometres from Portland. These striking birds can have a wingspan of up to 2 metres and dive fully submerged into the ocean in search of prey. Dinner is in town where we will give you a briefing and details of the next day’s walk.
NOTE: If the Tyrendarra Indigenous Protected Area is not open then we will arrange a guided tour at Tower Hill with an Indigenous ranger instead. Currently the Tyrendarra site is closed until further notice, possibly mid -2022.
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
If the SA Border is closed at the time od departure then we will substitute with the following walk at Mount Richmond, as below:
An enjoyable first day that begins among the unspoiled bushland of Mount Richmond National Park. The park was established in 1960 and is home to around 450 plant species including 50 different orchid species. The Gunditjmara called the region Benwerrin, meaning ‘Long Hill’ and once gathered a wide variety of food from the area. In spring there are stunning displays of wildflowers including correa, coastal heaths and wattles. The diverse habitat also supports vibrant bird-life including emus, Crimson rosellas, Gang-gang cockatoos, thornbills, robins and currawongs.
After enjoying beautiful views from the summit, the path widens onto flat open trails allowing for easy hiking; make sure you keep a look out for kangaroos, koalas, echidnas and wallabies. We cross Bridgewater Lakes Road to enter a small section of quiet secluded bushland before crossing an ‘interesting stile’. From here the trail takes us high over farmland with great views over the Bridgewater freshwater lake system through to the blue-green water of Discovery Bay.
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 on the other side of the Cape; this has similar sea cliffs and dramatic views but this side has dense vegetation and forest. The last section of our walk today is through the aptly named ‘ Enchanted Forest’ a grove of wonderfully tangled and atmospheric tea trees backed with limestone cliffs.
Meals: B, L, D
Todays itinerary follows a maritime theme as we depart Portland after breakfast and stop at at the wonderful and historic town of Port Fairy on our way back to Melbourne. In Port Fairy we will take 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.
After a quick lunch stop we will move onto nearby Warnambool 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 1860’s port and town. Afterwards we will resume our journey back to Melbourne and arrive back by late afternoon.
IMPORTANT NOTE: 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.
- 4-nights accommodation in a historic hotel in Portland
- Solo walkers have your own room at no additional cost
- All meals (excluding breakfast on day 1 & lunch, dinner on day 5 )
- 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 Indigenous guide at UNESCO World Heritage-listed Budj Bim (or Tower Hill)
- Gannet colony private visit
- Exclusive RAW Travel Cape Nelson Lighthouse dinner & talk
- History walk around Port Fairy with local guide
- Bush tucker BBQ lunch & walk at Tower Hill
- National Park fees
- Entry to Flagstaff Hill Museum
- Travel insurance
- Items of a personal nature
- Alcoholic beverages
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.
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!!
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.
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
The RAW experience was relaxed and the leader had the interest and enjoyment of the trekkers as a first priority.
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
The Highlights Trip – Mornington Peninsula Walk
- 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
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