The Great South-West Walk (GSWW) is a 250-km circular bushwalking trail located around Portland in the south-west of Victoria. The very pleasant walking track begins and ends at the Maritime Discovery and Visitor Information Centre. It is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels.
Photo: Kay Gaensler
There are about 29 different walks and paths on and around the GSWW. These include short, two-hour walks, full-day walks and the challenging entire 250-km walk, which can take up to 11 days to complete on a group guided tour. Each walk offers some of Australia’s most spectacular natural scenery and wildlife including national parks, Aboriginal heritage sites, and natural fauna and flora. If you’re a tourist and you decide to take one of the shorter integrated walks, you can find out about how to access it from any of the hotels in the area.
Types of Walks
There are four different sections of the GSWW, each including a breathtaking path of their own. These include the forest walk, Glenelg River gorge walk, the Discovery Bay bush walk, and the Capes and Bays walks.
The Forest Walk
The Forest walk is 80 km. You will start from the west, in traditional Australian eucalypt forest that takes you through the headwaters of the Surry and Fitzroy rivers. Wildlife can be seen, including rosellas, cockatoos, kangaroos and emus. There are also ideal picnic facilities along the way.
The Glenelg River Gorge Walk
The walking path appears alongside the river and up the towering gorge, with beautiful lookouts included. You can also go canoeing as part of this journey. Wildlife includes platypuses, ducks, moorhens, emus, kangaroos, wallabies, possums, koalas, wombats and kingfishers. There are also hundreds of native plants in the bush.
Discovery Bay Walk
This is the wildest and loudest walking path. The beach at Discovery Bay is stimulating, with loud roars and strong tides. You’ll get to walk along the sand dunes around Swan Lake and see the exquisite deep water at Lake Monibeong. It is recommended to walk along the beach section during low tide.
Capes and Bays Walks
On these walks, you’ll get to go to the stunning Cape Bridgewater and see Victoria’s highest coastal cliffs at a bay around an old volcanic crater. There is a lookout on the tip of the cape where you’ll also get to see a seal colony. You can take a closer look by boat. On the western area of the cape, there are more lookouts with magnificent scenery over aquamarine coves towards Cape Nelson. Other walking sections are through an enchanted forest landscape and one where you’ll see whales and dolphins around the capes.
There are now 15 designated GSWW overnight campsites along the track, which walkers can use if they decide to take the full 250-km circular bush trail over 11 days. They can be found every 10-20 km along the walk. These include the Parks Victoria campsites and Battersbys, which is the official walkers’ campsite. Each campsite contains basic water facilities, a toilet and places for tents. Accommodation is also available as part of some group guided walks.
Things to Consider
For the long-distance group guided walking trips, it’s important to be in reasonable shape and to be sufficiently fit. The full-day walks will involve 6-7 hours on the track at a moderate pace, which can be broken into three separate sections according to the itinerary. This could be the most walking you’ll do in a week.
To prepare, it’s recommended to do one hour of regular walking each day, for three weeks before the start of the GSWW. You can also do sports like aerobics, tennis or swimming for adequate preparation.
The best time to walk the GSWW is during autumn and spring. In winter, inland sections can get flooded, while in summer, the hot weather is not desirable.