Great South West Walk
The Great South West Walk, established in 1981, encompasses four distinct and unique walking environments, giving you blissful variety and a different challenge with each section tackled along the way.
Your journey starts and ends in the pretty seaside coastal town of Portland and takes you on an adventurous 262.5km loop.
This is a beautiful trek with wildly diverse scenery. Your soul will sing! Trekking through native forests and along the marvellous Glenelg River gives way to amazing views of gorges and limestone cliffs, then up onto cliff-tops adjacent to pristine bays and beaches of the Southern Ocean. You will trek through exceptional national parks – Lower Glenelg National Park, Cobboboonee National Park, Discovery Bay Coastal Park and Mount Richmond National Park, and Cape Nelson State Park.
It’s peaceful and wonderful and you are likely to make enduring friendships with other like-minded walkers. Switch off from the world around you and reconnect with nature.
Great South West Walk
- Victoria’s floral emblem (pink heath) and spring wildflowers (orchids)
- Wildlife on land and sea; diverse birdlife, cheeky fur seals, even whales
- Kangaroos, echidnas, koalas, emus
- Manna gum, blackwood, and classic Australian eucalypt forest
- Tracks meandering alongside the Glenelg River and its towering gorges
- The highest sea cliffs in Victoria, dramatic limestone cliffs by your side
- Freshwater lakes, blowholes, a petrified forest, even an enchanted forest
- The underground wonderland of the Princess Margaret Rose Cave
- Historic Cape Nelson Lighthouse and the seaside villages of Nelson and Bridgewater Bay
15 day GSWW
Your adventure begins from the Portland Visitor Information Centre, walking along the coast, passing the Bluff Lighthouse before entering into farmland and finally into the Cobboboonee Forest, where your first night’s campsite is located, nestled amongst tall eucalyptus. It’s a long day’s walk but the terrain isn’t too challenging underfoot, though there is a little elevation gain on this first section.
Out of Cobboboonee Forest Park and into Cobboboonee National Park, is today’s walk. You’ll be rewarded with lots of flora and fauna today, think pink and white heath, Faintails and Robins flocking; you might even see a kangaroo or two hopping across the track, while echidnas dig around for their food. Cut Out Camp is set amidst the eucalyptus trees. The camp is also close to the Surry River and the walking track leading to Surry Ridge picnic area. The walk today is mainly flat with less elevation today and 5km shorter!
Cobboboonee Camp is in the Cobboboonee National Park set amidst tall eucalyptus trees, similar to the previous two camp spots. You’ll notice changes here from wet forest and heathland to become a dryer hard leaved forest, with dominant trees such as Manna Gum, large stands of Messmate and Blackwood, with vegetation becoming a lot thicker. As the vegetation changes so too do the animals and birds in this area. Look out for the Powerful Owl and Yellow-bellied Gliders, as well as potoroos,rat-like marsupials that hop around similar to kangaroos.
Fitzroy Camp is in the Cobboboonee Forest Park set amidst tall eucalyptus trees. You’ll notice as your walking this section signs of past fires with blackened trees along the way. This camp is close to the Fitzroy River and there is a walking track to the Jackass Fern Gully picnic area.
Moleside Camp is in the Lower Glenelg National Park, surrounded by tall Eucalypts and Blackwood trees, with views of Glenelg River views. Birds become more prolific and river and limestone cliffs are part of the view along this section. You’ll hear screeching Sulphur-crested Cockatoos as you pass through their territory; emus have also been spotted swanning around.
This delightful section follows the track along the Glenelg River, rising and falling over many of the limestone cliffs in this area. Battersby is set in the Lower Glenelg National Park, on the banks of the Glenelg River with tall eucalypts and blackwoods bountiful. More than 60 plant species, along with 50 species of orchids are located in this area. Black cockatoos may also make themselves heard.
Paterson’s Camp is in the Lower Glenelg National Park sitting on the banks of the Glenelg River amidst tall eucalyptus trees. Views of the Glenelg River from the limestone cliffs are quite stunning and getting there to witness the sunset over these amazing natural structures is quite spectacular. Look out for Honeyeaters and Kingfishers that roam this area.
Simson’s Camp is in the Lower Glenelg National Park and sits amidst Eucalyptus and Blackwood trees. Witness magnificent limestone cliffs along this section. The Glenelg River has carved its way through a limestone plateau and formed a spectacular limestone gorge, along with caves that have been formed out of these structures. Lots more birds and wildlife come into fruition here; sometimes busy honeyeaters, kingfishers and ground dwelling birds such as the large emu can be seen.
Monibeong Camp is in Discovery Bay Coastal Park set amidst coastal scrub and heathland. A great day of varying terrain as you start from the Glenelg River, into the township of Nelson and then onto a sandy open beach of Discovery Bay before your final day’s destination of Lake Monibeong. You’ll witness the change in both wildlife and plants as you go from inland to an ocean setting. See water birds flying above then onto the beach there’s the Nobles Rocks Middens, Whelks and Mussels accumulated on the rocks which are the remains of food eaten by Aboriginals up to several thousand years ago.
Swan lake Camp is in the Discovery Bay Coastal Park set amidst coastal scrub and heathland. A long stretch of beach walking, before coming to another freshwater lake: Swan Lake. You may also come across dune buggies which use this part of the beach, be mindful of this.
Tarragal Camp near Mt Richmond National Park set amongst small eucalyptus and grass trees. You’ll notice the change in vegetation as you move from the coast to the inland tracks with sweeping views as you ascend towards Mt Richmond and a magnificent display of wildflowers, some 450 species of plants have been noted, including 50 orchid species! The diverse habitat also supports vibrant bird-life including emus, Crimson rosellas, Gang-gang cockatoos, thornbills, robins and currawongs.
The Springs Camp is in the Discovery Bay Coastal Park set amidst coastal scrub. The first section is a downhill walk, through farmland before getting to the quaint Bridgewater Lakes, continuing along the coast with significant up and downs, making it a good workout on the legs. There is a rich diversity of marine life within the Discovery Bay Marine National Park, the waters also are home to Great White Sharks, Blue Whales, dolphins and seals and Red Velvet fish.
Trewalla Camp is in the Discovery Bay Coastal Park set amidst coastal scrub. So much to see along this section, including the dramatic volcanic section of the Petrified Forest, past the Blow Holes, then down to the gorgeous town of Cape Bridgewater. You’ll also come across the cheeky fur seals that live in these parts. The Seals Lookout is a great observation point 55 metres above mainland colonies of both Australian and New Zealand Fur Seals.
Mallee Camp is in the Cape Nelson State Park set amidst Moonah and heathland.
The vast open beaches of Bridgewater Bay and views from the limestone ledges of Cape Nelson Headland and Lightstation offers a wonderful variation on this section. The coastline is alive with birdlife including Pied Oystercatchers, Sandpipers, Hooded Plovers, Terns and Pacific gulls; there are shells galore to admire and name.
You’re on the home stretch now and today we continue along the coast and through the Enchanted Forest before arriving at 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.
Explore Great South West Walk
Duration: 12 to 14 days
Route type: Loop walk (anti-clockwise)
Start/End: Portland – Maritime Discovery & Visitor Information Centre
Location: Far west Victoria
Closest towns: Portland, Nelson, Bridgewater
Cobboboonee National Park set amidst tall eucalyptus trees. Look out for the Powerful Owl and Yellow-bellied Gliders, as well as potoroos.
The Glenelg River with tall eucalypts and blackwoods bountifu with views of the Glenelg River from the limestone cliffs are quite stunning l. More than 60 plant species, along with 50 species of orchids are located in this area
Lake Monibeong is set amidst coastal scrub and heathland.
Mt Richmond supports some 450 species of plants have been noted, including 50 orchid species! The diverse habitat also supports vibrant bird-life including emus, Crimson rosellas, Gang-gang cockatoos, thornbills, robins and currawongs.
Trewalla Camp is in the Discovery Bay Coastal Park set amidst coastal scrub. So much to see along this section, including the dramatic volcanic section of the Petrified Forest
Australia’s only mainland gannet colony at Point Danger Coastal Reserve, just a few kilometres from Portland.
On the trail
The Great South West Walk is extremely varied: eucalyptus forests, riverside tracks and on limestone gorges, beach walking and high cliff-top tracks. The track is well sign posted with a red arrow mounted on posts and in some sections will be in conjunction with the GSWW sign on a blue background.
The first section through the forest is relatively flat terrain, with some wooden boardwalks and grated paths helping you along the way. You will need to do some beach walking, which can be challenging if the sand is soft (depending on the time of day you walk and the tides). There are a few undulating sections especially up to Mount Richmond and then up to the cliff tops close to Bridgewater Bay.
- Our detailed guide to hiking the Great South West Walk – contains all the essential information you need to know in advance
- 14 days worth of food for your adventure; breakfast, lunch and dinner each day – delivered straight to your home
- Our own range of lightweight, highly nutritious meals that are locally sourced, delicious and easy to carry & cook ( freeze dried and dehydrated):
- Our Navigation app to keep you safe and guide you on the track; showing huts, campsites and points of Interest along the way
- Delivery to your door* of our ‘Adventure in a box’ food parcel. We can arrange for a small fee to send half your food to Nelson Post office, midway on the walk
- Our ‘Get fit for hiking’ e-guide for backpacking adventures
- 10% GST included
* Additional $35 delivery charge for locations in NT, WA and Northern Queensland
- Campsite fees
- Transfers or transport to Portland
- Accommodation in Portland or Nelson
- No equipment included
Our essential information guides give you everything you need to know – and none of the information you don’t – to prepare well for one of these hikes. We cover off all transport and transfers with contacts, full equipment lists tailored to each walk, and safety factors to consider that can be unique to each track. We give you the information you need to know about water and where the best accommodation is before and after your trip, plus overviews of Aboriginal & European history and wildlife you can expect to encounter.
It saves countless hours of trawling through websites, guidebooks and forums to get to the essential information you need to know, so you don’t forget to factor in anything for your adventure.
Finding your way
Our unique RAW Travel walking app has been designed to help you navigate easily on the trail. Simply download your map with the link we send you and you’ll be able to follow your route with ease, showing your location in real time without any internet connection needed. The app has many great features; it shows you weather forecasts localised for each of your overnight stops, detailed information on each campsite/ hut and what facilities are available there so you don’t need to carry our trail guide. There are important reminders, safety information, videos and emergency contact information for your route. It also has a unique audio feature that can tell you about places and points of interest as you approach them on the trail.
Need to Know
This walk is generally moderate and accessible to hikers of reasonable fitness and confidence on a trail who can carry an overnight pack and walk for upto 5-6 hours a day.At least 1 person in your party should have experience in off-track walking and navigation.
RAW Travel has a detailed guide specifically for multi-day walk training, you will receive this as part of your booking.
Yes – There are a number of outdoor gear hire companies in Melbourne who can potentially help outfit you with equipment for the hike: contacts are provided in our information guide.
Portland is approx 356km, or 4.5 hours drive from Melbourne if arriving by car from that direction. You may be able to leave your car in Portland until after completing your walk by prior arrangement.You can also take a train from Melbourne to Warrnambool and from there take a bus to Portland.
Mount Gambier (SA) is a lot closer to Portland and REX airlines flys into there. From Mount Gambier there is a daily coach service to Portland. Full details are given in our information guide.
Independent adventures place you at the centre of the experience, giving you the confidence to be a self-reliant walker on the trail. We take care of the research needed and give you all the essential information relating to the trip ( a task that seasoned walkers can tell you often takes many hours to get the correct information) so you can be thoroughly prepared and confident that you have everything you need for your adventure. We give you all the contacts & details to nearby transportation, accommodation and hire services, highlight any risks to be aware of and how to mitigate them.
The food prep is a major hassle of many hikers trips and we solve that for you. We prepare all the food that you need for your trip, all pre-measured and dehydrated / freeze dried to take away the weight but keep the freshness. Our meals are reviewed by Nutritionists to provide the right daily nutrition and energy for your demands of the walk. And our ingredients are prepared from the best local ingredients here on the Mornington Peninsula, cooked to order and freeze dried fresh – not sitting on a shelf for years at a time!
Once you arrive at the trail it’s all over to you the adventure begins! You are free and independent to create your own experience the way you want it. We provide you with an app to help you navigate in real time on the trail and give you the campsite locations and points of interest but you are completely autonomous & self – supporting on the walk. These trips are best suited to people who relish that sense of liberation and freedom that comes with being self-reliant and don’t need the back up of a leader or group travel. Independent Adventures are different from our other self – guided walking trips as there are no briefings, transfers or local support from RAW Travel staff. It’s just you and nature out on the trail!
If you are an experienced walker then yes, but not recommended for a beginner to walk solo due to the remoteness. The trail is well marked for its entire length and there are communal campsites to head to each evening.
All walkers require a pre-booking for campsites. There are a total of 14 sites on the official GSWW. In each campsite you will find:
- cleared tent site
- shelter (all 14 campsites)
- toilet (pit)
- one wooden table
- tank water
- wood BBQ/stone fire ring
There is only one fireplace at each campsite and it must be shared between campers.
There is limited mobile phone reception along the Great South West Walk, with the largest carrier up until now, Telstra, having the most reliable coverage.
Hikers are advised to check their mobile telephones for reception along the way. For best peace of mind and security carry a personal locator beacon (PLB / EPIRB) to activate in the event of a life-threatening emergency, you can hire them through companies based in Melbourne.
All this information for hire gear & the relevant contacts are contained in the essential information guide you receive after booking, along with many other details such as recommended local accommodation.
Social and environmental
All our adventures are fully carbon offset so that you know your travel has minimal impacts. Hiking itself is a low impact activity but we offset the cost of all our office operations and food production as well, so you can be satisfied that you have chosen a form of travel that is both good for you and good for the planet. Each year we also plant trees on behalf of every customer who has travelled with us, aiming to build towards a carbon positive effect with our operations.
As a B-Corp a focus on local community is an important part of who we are. We are committed to buying locally and source our produce from growers here on the Mornington Peninsula. We care about people in our community and for every meal pack you buy with us we donate a meal to a homeless support charity, to spread some love and share good food with those who need it most.
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