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 beaututiful 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 Tower Hill reserve. We also delve into the history of ‘the Shipwreck coast’ and stay in Victoria’s first permanent European settlement in Portland with its many historic buildings.
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 guide you will enjoy a tour of UNESCO listed Budj Bim Cultural Landscape with a local Aboriginal guide to provide interesting insights. 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.
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 Port Fairy to break for lunch. Stretch your legs and enjoy the town’s charming ambience with a stroll around its streets and wonderful old waterfront.
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.
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:
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 from 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.
The trail then diverts inland for a while 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 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 our final walk to finish eventually at the now familar sight of Cape Nelson Lighthouse.
Meals: B, L, D
We depart Portland after breakfast and stop at a couple of very interesting sites on our way back to Melbourne. First is 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.
Afterwards we will move onto nearby Warnambool and the martime 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 join a guided tour here or wander at your own pace through the Museum and reconstruction outside of the 1860’s port and town. Entry is included but not lunch today. Afterwards we will resume our journey back to Melbourne and arrive back by late afternoon.
- 4-nights accommodation in historic Portland
- Solo walkers have your own room at no additional cost
- All meals (excluding lunch on Day 5)
- Return transfers to/from Melbourne
- Refreshment stops during walks
- Experienced RAW hiking guide
- Tour of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Budj Bim
- Driver and support vehicle for the duration of tour
- Exclusive RAW Travel Cape Nelson Lighthouse dinner
- National Park fees
- Entry to Flagstaff Hill Museum and tour
- Travel insurance
- Items of a personal nature
- Alcoholic beverages – not included in your package, but can be put on tab and settled with staff at the end of your stay
Discover Australia’s best coastal walk! 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.
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Food, Wine and Walking – Mornington Peninsula
- Walk some of the best trails, accompanied by taste sensations
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- 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