Discover long, lonely beaches, tracking limestone cliffs that rise out of a broad river and peaceful bushland on the spectacular 250-kilometre Great South West Walk.
Starting and finishing in Portland in southwest Victoria, the walk loops northwest through the Cobboboonie Forest to the banks of the beautiful Glenelg River. Walkers follow the slow bends of the Glenelg downstream, past magnificent limestone cliffs and tranquil swimming holes to the tiny Nelson. The trail then heads back east along the coast, taking in the spectacular dunes and beaches of Discovery Bay. Climbing high above the Southern Ocean along the cliffs of Cape Bridgewater, you'll pass blow holes, the Petrified Forest and seal colonies. Finally, the trail traverses Bridgewater Bay and Cape Nelson before heading north and finishing back in Portland.
Any direction from Portland
You can embark on your walk in any direction from the Portland Information Centre, though the anti-clockwise direction is the most popular route.
Head north from the Information Centre along the blue waters of Portland Bay, then plunge inland to wildlife-rich Cobboboonie Forest. The trail leads you northwest to the forested slopes of Mt Van Dyke, soon joining the Lower Glenelg National Park. Heading due west, the banks of the Glenelg River are reached at the idyllic Moleside Camp. The trail then traces the weaving path of the river downstream to Nelson, with views of the river slowly opening up west of Sapling Creek. The river has carved its way through limestone gorges up to 50 metres high and is extremely beautiful, with many lovely swimming holes and secluded campsites.
Whales, 'roos, swans and ducks
South of Nelson, the trail emerges onto the long, curving Discovery Bay beach. Look out for whales offshore as you head east for the first time. Shortly after the abandoned campsite of White Sands the trail turns inland through high dunes, past the remains of ancient middens and stunning heathland with flocks of eastern grey kangaroos bounding away.
Eventually the trail reaches the freshwater lagoon of Lake Monibeong where black swans and flocks of ducks can often be found (walkers can follow the beach the whole way, but the inland sections are especially recommended at high tide). Returning to the ocean, the beach is followed until you can turn off for the Swan Lake campsite. It’s possible to continue down the beach after Swan Lake, but the described route goes inland to the Mount Richmond National Park, following four-wheel drive tracks along pine plantations and delightful bush and vast stands of grass trees.