As one of Victoria’s best kept secrets, the Great South West Walk offers a diverse experience of both coastal and bushland environments as it loops its way between Portland and Nelson in the far southwest corner of the state. We have selected the highlights of this magical 250km route to showcase the distinctly diverse landscape, which boasts a plethora of flora and fauna both on land and in the ocean. From the rugged wind-swept coastline, shaped by the mighty Southern Ocean and featuring the highest sea-cliffs in Victoria, to the serenity of the Lower Glenelg National Park and the sweeping sands and freshwater lakes of the Discovery Bay Coastal Park, the Great South West Walk provides a memorable hiking experience.
Your adventure begins in the quiet hamlet of Nelson, nestled close to the coast where the picturesque Glenelg River meanders its way into Oxbow Lake before flowing into the Southern Ocean. Based here, you will traverse the bushland of the Lower Glenelg National Park, accompanied by the river as it flows through an extensive limestone gorge before reaching its final destination. From here, the coastline beckons, with your walking experience taking in a section of expansive pristine beach before leading into a desert-like landscape of huge mobile sand dunes, reaching up to 70m in height.
The cosy and welcoming Cape Bridgewater then becomes your base, from which you will descend the volcanic cone of Mt Richmond, offering a rich diversity of flora and fauna as you wind your way back towards the renowned limestone coast, showcasing the timeless work of mother nature. The open sandstone ledges of Cape Nelson herald a visit to the Lighthouse, beyond which you will marvel at the Enchanted Forest before visiting Australia’s only mainland colony of Australasian Gannets.
Finish your adventure high above the ocean on sea-cliffs overlooking the mainland breeding site of both Australian and Long-nosed fur seals, before an exhilarating Zodiac experience offering an up close and personal account of these fascinating creatures in their natural environment. If you are really lucky, you may see some of the migratory whale species that frequent this remote coastline throughout the year!!
Genuinely all-inclusive tour with no hidden extras:
SUGGESTED PRE NIGHT ACCOMMODATION: The Grand Chancellor, Melbourne
DEPARTURE TIME: 7.30am from Melbourne CBD
TRANSFERS: There are several options to get to this walk. Choose to drive to Nelson or enjoy private transfers from Melbourne (355km, approx. 4h30mins drive).
ITINERARY: There is no planned walking today so settle in at Nelson Cottage, your accommodation for the next 3 nights and explore this small fishing village. Nelson Cottage is the towns original Police Station back in the 1880s. Today it has been transformed to offer a charming and historic accommodation experience.
The Great South West Walk established in 1981, is located on the traditional lands of the Dhauwurd wurrung or Gunditjmara Nation, renowned for their early aquaculture development still visible today at nearby Lake Condah. The first European to sight this area was Lieutenant James Grant who charted the south western coastline of Victoria in 1800 aboard the ‘Lady Nelson’. The township of Nelson was named in 1851 after Grant’s sailing vessel. Tonight enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
TRANSFERS: Morning: 20-minute transfer to start of the trail. Afternoon: 10-minute transfer back to your accommodation.
TERRAIN: 19km one-way; 6-7 hrs walking plus breaks; easy-medium grade; mostly flat or gentle gradient changes on comfortable, compact surfaces
Flexible Walking: Sapling Creek to North Nelson Rd (10km; 3-4 hrs plus breaks; easy – this option reduces the planned walk by 9km); there are also several access/exit points where the track connects with River Road
WALK ITINERARY: Enjoy a hearty breakfast at the cottage before you meet your driver for the transfer to the start of the walk. Today’s walk follows the contours of the picturesque Glenelg River as you wind your way through typical south-eastern Australian bushland, accompanied by serene vistas of the river and limestone cliffs for much of the day, and the lure of a refreshing swim at lunchtime. Wildlife abounds, with koalas, echidnas, kangaroos, emus, and wallabies often making an appearance along the track, and there are more than 700 species of native flora that bloom at different times of year. Tonight enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
TRANSFER TIMES: Morning: 10-minute transfer to start of the trail. Afternoon walk directly into your accommodation.
TERRAIN: 16km one-way; 5-6 hrs walking plus breaks; easy to medium grade; mostly flat or gentle gradient changes on comfortable, compact surfaces
Flexible Walking: North Nelson Road to Simsons Landing (14km; 4-5 hrs plus breaks; easy) – this option reduces the planned walk by 2km. There may be an option to join a 1-hour cruise upriver from Hirth’s Landing & back to Nelson (7.5km walking; 2-3 hrs plus breaks; easy) – cruise must be pre-booked & is dependent on availability.
WALK ITINERARY: After breakfast at the cottage meet your driver for the transfer to the start of the walk. The mighty Glenelg River once again guides your course for most of today’s walk, but you are now treated to even more spectacular outlooks from the rim of the towering cliffs of the gorge, created by the river’s endless eroding of the soft limestone landscape. The river is tidal and its character changes dramatically as you approach the ocean, with the echoes of crashing waves sometimes audible from many kilometres upstream. The route has you visiting South Australia briefly, and as you draw nearer to the hamlet of Nelson, you’ll see the colourful old boatsheds that have been creatively converted to provide the ultimate in waterfront living. You may prefer to experience this section of the Glenelg River on a guided canoe/kayak tour, covering 25km from Sapling Creek to Nelson. The river is typically very calm, and the downstream paddle is suitable for beginners or even those with no experience on the water. Tonight enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
TRANSFERS: Morning: 20-minute transfer to start of the trail. Afternoon: 30-minute transfer to your accommodation in Bridgewater.
TERRAIN: 16km one-way; 6-7 hrs walking plus breaks; medium to hard grade; mostly beach-walking on potentially soft sand, and traversing dune systems on loose, dry sand.
Important – this walk is tide dependant; please consult with our staff when selecting your tour dates to ensure conditions will be suitable; you may be able to adjust the order of the walks to account for appropriate tide conditions for completing this walk.
Flexible Walking: No shorter options available – you may change the order of your days to accommodate the tides. This would need to be decided before your tour to account for transfer bookings.
WALK ITINERARY: This morning after breakfast meet your driver for the transfer to the start of the walk. The freshwater lake at Monibeong supports many fish species. A large array of waterbirds come here to feed, so keep watch as you meander towards the coastline at the start of today’s walk, before accessing the seemingly endless white beaches of Discovery Bay, which extend for over 55km in total. You will be engaged by the remoteness of this region, with potentially wild seas forcing huge breakers to the shore to interrupt the solitude, or the unique call of the Pied Oystercatchers as they frequent the beach searching for food. As you leave the beach, you will be confronted by the desert-like landscape of huge mobile sand dunes which appear to be encroaching inland, and require that little extra energy to traverse, before emerging into Swan Lake Camp. From here a driver will take you to your accommodation for the next 3 nights at Annesley House in Portland. On arrival your hosts, Peter and Nicole, will ensure you have a memorable experience at their unique, Georgian-style property which has been beautifully restored. Tonight enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
TRANSFERS: Morning: 25-minute transfer to start of the trail. Afternoon: 10-minute transfer to your accommodation.
TERRAIN: 18.0km one way; 6-7 hrs walking plus breaks; easy-medium grade; mostly gentle gradient changes on compact, comfortable surfaces, including fractured limestone.
Flexible Walking: There are two options to reduce the distance of today’s walk –
WALK ITINERARY: This morning after breakfast meet your driver for the transfer to the start of the walk. Today’s walks take you from the summit of Mt Richmond, once a feisty volcano, to the rugged limestone coastline that has been thrashed for 1000s of years by the elements. The volcanic remnants, now covered with wind-blown coastal sands, support a rich diversity of flora, including eucalypts and other flowering plants, as well as a myriad of fauna, from koalas and red-necked wallabies, to crimson rosellas, emus and stumpy-tailed lizards. Tarragal Caves offers some delightful views across Bridgewater Lakes to the ocean before you take the coastal forest lined track to meander near the shoreline of the lakes, to emerge onto the cliffs overlooking Discovery Bay. As you traverse the limestone high above the volcanic basalt rock platforms, you are rewarded with spectacular views, both ahead and behind. Further evidence of mother nature’s work unfolds as you proceed, with stunted bonsai-like vegetation seemingly fighting for life on this vast escarpment. From here a driver will take you to your accommodation. Enjoy some downtime in Portland before dining at a local restaurant.
TRANSFERS: Morning: 25-minute transfer to start of the trail. Afternoon: 25-minute transfer to your accommodation.
TERRAIN: 13km one-way (MB-Yellow Rock + a little extra on the tours); 4-5hrs walking plus breaks (+ time for 2 tours); easy-medium grade; mostly gentle gradient changes on compact, comfortable surfaces, including fractured limestone
FLEXIBLE WALKING: Cape Nelson Lighthouse to Yellow Rock (8km one-way; 3 hrs plus breaks, easy) – this option reduces the planned walk by 5km
WALK ITINERARY: This morning after breakfast meet your driver for the transfer to the start of the walk. From the eastern end of Discovery Bay, you will encounter suspended lookouts offering breathtaking views over secluded rocky coves as you proceed towards the most southerly point of the coast in this region at Cape Nelson. If the timing is right, you may witness migrating whales feeding on the nutrient-rich waters created by the Bonney Upwelling. Enjoy an Optional guided tour of the Lighthouse precinct perched high on the cliffs, before you experience the eerie but delightful “Enchanted Forest”, where vines drape like curtains over the Moonah trees and create a magical corridor through which to pass. Your walk continues on to Yellow Rock, a striking limestone formation positioned at the base of high cliffs, which is accessible via an extensive staircase and platform network. From nearby, a short transfer provides the opportunity to visit Australia’s only mainland colony of Australasian Gannets on a guided tour, which will account for a little more easy walking. From here a driver will take you to your accommodation. Enjoy some downtime in Portland before dining at a local restaurant.
Optional – Cape Nelson Lighthouse Precinct Tour and Point Danger Gannet Rookery Tour
Cape Nelson Lighthouse Precinct Tour: Take some time out from your track walking today for a guided tour of the lighthouse precinct at Cape Nelson. Learn about the history of the precinct and the maritime history of the region, which accounts for many shipwrecks that lie in the depths of the Southern Ocean off the cape. Your knowledgeable guide will take you back in time, into the world of the lighthouse keeper and you will be offered the chance to climb to the top of the lighthouse and view the spectacular coastline from 32m above the ground.
Point Danger Gannet Rookery Tour: Once your official walking is completed today, you may like to join a guided tour of the Point Danger Gannet Rookery, located close by to the end of your walk. Your guide will provide you with the opportunity to view these spectacular birds on their mainland colony, which is home to about 300 pairs, and an ideal place to observe birds in all stages of life. Learn about their behaviours, habitat and fishing expertise while witnessing them in their natural environment.
TRANSFERS: Morning: 10-minute transfer to The Blowhole. Afternoon: 5-hour transfer to Melbourne or transfer back to your car in Nelson if you were driving.
TERRAIN: 9km one-way; 3-4 hrs walking plus breaks (+ 1 hour for Seals by the Sea Zodiac experience); easy-medium grade; mostly gentle gradient changes on compact, comfortable surfaces, including fractured limestone
FLEXIBLE WALKING: Bridgewater Bay to Zodiac Tour location (3km return; 30 minutes each way plus breaks; easy) – this option reduces the planned walk by 6km
WALK ITINERARY: This morning after breakfast meet your driver for the transfer to The Blowholes. Your final walk begins at The Blowholes, with the track hugging the cliff-line as you proceed around Cape Bridgewater, with the moon-like landscape exposing some phenomenal natural wonders, including the ‘Petrified Forest’, as well as potential for spotting sea-life, with seal colonies located on the southern tip of the cape. Before your walking concludes today, an exciting and educational 45-minute Zodiac boat experience awaits, with a guided exploration of the seal colony located in the shadows of the highest sea-cliffs in the country. There are over 2000 Australian and Long Nosed Fur Seals. You’re also likely to witness other forms of sea-life, including dolphins, whales, penguins and many different types of fish. As you approach Bridgewater Bay, you will notice the coastline presents as a perfect crescent, hugging the rim of an ancient volcanic crater, and the protected pristine waters extend a welcome invitation at the end of today’s walk. Your departure from Cape Bridgewater is scheduled for early afternoon today. A driver will transfer you back to Melbourne or drop you off in Nelson to your car if you were driving.
We run this tour a few times every year. We will also consider opening up a new departure date if we have enough demand. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Date of your choice is available for groups of 10 -12 people. Subject to availability. More information on private groups here.
Please contact us for more details on (02) 9975 4553 or email: email@example.com
Private Groups Only
Private groups of 8 -12 people can choose the date of their choice. Subject to availability.
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Departure of your choice
Departure date of your choice
SEPT 2023 – MAY 2024
Spot Special prices available on specific departures when you book and pay in full at time of booking. Offer ends 31 October 2023. Normal price requires a $300 deposit, then final payments due 8 weeks prior to departure. Departure date of your choice is subjective to availability. A minimum group size of 8 required. Prices are equal to Past Travellers’ discounted rates. Additional Past Traveller’s’ discount not available for groups. Based on twin share – see details about Single Supplement and upgrade extras.
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PAST PASSENGER DISCOUNT: Those who have travelled with Life’s An Adventure previously, receive a past passenger discount of $100. In order to receive this discount please email us for your special “promo code” to use when booking. In your email, you should outline what Life’s An Adventure tour you have done with us in the past so we can cross-check.
EARLYBIRD & SPOT SPECIAL CANCELLATIONS: Refunds and cancellations are not permitted for Earlybird Deals or Spot Specials, however, transfers to another date are permitted 8 weeks or more prior to departure. We advise taking out travel insurance, in case unexpected circumstances prior to the trip, prevent you from joining this tour. Early bird or Spot Special discounts cannot be used in conjunction with another offer. To receive these special discounts, full payment must be made at the time of initial booking.
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