Reaching just over 100km west from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles, the step-on step-off long-distance Great Ocean Walk (GOW) is your bushwalking Victoria path to the dangerously beautiful Shipwreck Coast. The moderate 14.5km walk from Aire River to Johanna Beach, one of the GOW’s 14 legs, shows off fabulously diverse geology and plant life.
From the camping-parking area on the bird-rich Aire River estuary, the track scales a headland giving views of the river mouth and coast. It then cuts through coastal scrub and crosses a cliff face resembling a huge slab of honeycomb. At Castle Cove beach, a couple of hours into the walk, you can lunch in the lee of striated sandstone – unless the march flies are hungry too!
Having continued through cliff-top grass trees and tall eucalypt and bracken forest, the walk concludes with a 2km stretch along Johanna Beach, a rarely deserted surf beach. When the sand is soft this is a slog for pack-carriers but on a perfect day, when you can smell the ozone and taste the salt, there’s no better way to end a hike on this “great” ocean walk.
And there’s no more spectacular tent site than the Johanna Beach GOW campsite, one of seven hike-in campsites (bookings essential) along the walk. Whether you choose a longer hike or overnight before heading home from here, along the Great Ocean Road, you can look forward to a night on a cliff edge and morning views of sea mist playing on the beach below.