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Catriona at a lookout on the way.
Catriona at a lookout on the way.
Stopping at the lighthouse.

Great South West Walk

Thursday, April 25, 2002
Take a walk on a wild side so fierce and diverse they named it Shipwreck Coast.

Many ships have come to grief off the coast of Victoria's south-west. It is so treacherous, the waters all the way across to Port Philip Bay are known as the "Shipwreck Coast". However, if you stay on dry land, you can enjoy one of the world's best walking tracks — the 250km long Great South West Walk.

The loop starts and finishes in Portland. It takes two weeks to travel the entire track, which was built by Portland High School students between 1981 and 1983. They were granted funds from state and federal governments, and work was carried out by Year 10 students, teachers, parents, friends and the community. It is maintained by these people as well.

The track is divided into four, and each section takes you through completely different environments. One quarter goes along Glenelg Gorge, one quarter along the beach, another quarter takes you through the forest and the other quarter leads you through the three capes area. For this reason, it is known as a Symphony in Four Movements.

The three capes — Bridgewater, Nelson and Grant — offer some of Victoria's most rugged and wild coastline. The track is safe and well-defined with many lookouts and steps leading to surfing beaches.

Yellow Rock is one of Portland's main surf breaks and has a huge wooden platform built so people walk above, rather than on, the old Aboriginal midden.

You will see thousands and thousands of fluffy white birds at Gannet Colony on Point Danger.

When diving for fish from a great height, they form into a dart-like shape before impact. You may see them doing their mating dance, all huddled up together and looking quite comical — but not the gannet being wooed!

The Cape Nelson Lighthouse is privately operated and opens its doors for overnight visitors. It also has a café, and of course offers simply wonderful views.

The Enchanted Forest was formed when an old cliff collapsed and slid, forming limestone boulders. Over the years, a forest of Moonah trees formed a canopy and native creeper vines grew, making a dark, enclosed forest. The track winds its way through the forest for about one kilometre.

The Petrified Forest was given its name thanks to the hundreds of hollow limestone columns stacked side by side. They are up to 3m tall and were formed by water reacting on the stone.

Mallee Camp is one of 14 free campsites along the track. There is water, toilets, picnic tables and fireplaces.

Bridgewater Bay, some say, has Victoria's most beautiful beach. 12kms of white sand would be hard to top. Its cliffs reach 130 metres and Cape Bridgewater is a rare dissected volcanic cone.

The campsites along the walk are fairly basic, and if you prefer a little more comfort there are motels, guesthouses, self-contained cabins and b&bs in nearby towns.

It is recommended that long distance walkers register at the Nelson Information Centre or Portland Parks Office.


The south-west corner of Victoria.


There is no fee for using the track or camping.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

Portland Visitors Information Centre: Ph: 1800 035 567
Nelson Information Centre: Ph: (08) 8738 4051
Nelson Information Centre Register: Ph: (03) 5523 3232
Best Western: Ph: 131 779

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