• Highlights: Stunning views along the Great Ocean Road, incl Twelve Apostles
  • Distance:  Various – 800m to 14.5km
  • Duration: Various – 20mins to 5hrs
  • Grade: Various – Easy to Hard
  • Conditions: Varies
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring (Sep to Nov)
  • Facilities: Toilets & picnic tables at beginning and end of trails
  • Start/Finish: Various
  • Permits/Bookings: None required
  • Address: Great Ocean Road, Victoria



See the stunning scenery and spectacular views along the Great Ocean Road while embarking on a short walk or day hike along the Great Ocean Walk. Choose from 14 short walks and day hikes based on your fitness and activity level.

Great Ocean Road Walks: 14 Short Walks & Day Hikes for All Levels


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The Great Ocean Walk is a 100km long distance coastal bushwalking track from Apollo Bay to near the Twelve Apostles, passing through the Great Otway and Port Campbell National Parks. Although the entire walk takes seven nights and eight days to complete, it is not necessary to complete the entire walk to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of this region. There are several shorter walks and day hikes possible for all fitness and activity levels.

Choose from day hikes and casual treks that take anything from an hour to a day. Let the path lead you through national parks and rolling farmland, along clifftop edges and secluded beaches, into lush rainforests and coastal scrublands.


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Ref Short Walks Type Start Point End Point Distance Time (Approx) Grade
1 Shelly Beach Return Shelly Beach
picnic area
Shelly Beach
picnic area
2.4km 45min Medium
2 Lighthouse cemetery
and lookout
Return Cape Otway
Lightstation car park
Cemetery 2.8km return 40min Easy
3 Aire River Escarpment lookout Return Aire River bridge Escarpment
4.2km return 2hrs Medium
4 The Gables lookout Return The Gables car park The Gables
800m return 20min Easy
5 Wreck Beach Return Wreck Beach Wreck Beach 2.1km return 90min Hard
Ref Day Hikes Type Start Point End Point Distance Time (Approx) Grade
6 Marengo to Shelly Beach Car shuffle
or return
Marengo Caravan Park Shelly Beach
picnic area
5.0km 2hrs one-way Medium/
7 Elliot River Loop Walk Shelly Beach
picnic area
Shelly Beach
picnic area
4.7km return 2 hrs 15 mins Medium
8 Blanket Bay to Parker Inlet Car shuffle
or return
Blanket Bay
camp ground
Parker Inlet 4.5km 2hrs one-way Easy
9 Cape Otway to Aire River
(optional side trip to Rainbow
Falls and Station Beach)
Car shuffle Cape Otway Aire River 10.0km 4hrs Medium
10 Aire River to Johanna Beach Car shuffle Aire River
information shelter
Johanna Beach
14.5km 5hrs Medium/
11 Princetown to Twelve Apostles Car shuffle
or return
Princetown Recreation
Twelve Apostles 9km 3hrs Medium



Great Ocean Road: Short Walks


1. Shelly Beach / Three Creeks Loop

Type: Return

Distance: 3km loop

Time: 1.5 hrs return

Grade: Medium

Start & Finish: Shelly Beach Picnic Area

This moderate grade walk features coastal forests, sea views, beaches and rock platforms. Starting at Shelly Beach Picnic Area carpark, descend to Shelly Beach. Turn left at the Three Creeks Junction and walk through coastal scrub with views over the ocean to Three Creeks Beach. If conditions are suitable, walk west back around the point to a small beach, where access steps take you in a loop back onto the original track. Return the way you came if you are unsure conditions are suitable.


2. Cape Otway Lightstation Cemetery and Lookout

Type: Return

Distance: 2.8km return

Time: 40mins

Grade: Easy

Start & Finish: Cape Otway Lightstation carpark

From the lightstation car park, head west on the gravelled track for about 10 minutes before climbing Paynters Hill to a lookout over the lightstation grounds. Descending the other side of Paynters Hill, turn right and follow the sandy track for approximately 10 minutes to a junction just before the lightstation cemetery. Continue 20m past the junction to explore the cemetery.


3. Aire River Escarpment Lookout

Type: Return

Distance: 4.2km

Time: 2 hrs

Grade: Medium

Start & Finish: Aire River Bridge

From the Aire River Bridge, follow the sandy track up the dune through tunnels of Coast Beard Heath and coastal scrub to the Aire River Escarpment Lookout, which provides spectacular views to the mouth of the river where it meets the sea and back to the extensive wetland system along this heritage river.


4. The Gables Lookout

Type: Return

Distance: 800m one-way

Time: 20mins

Grade: Easy

Start & Finish: The Gables carpark

This great short walk travel through coastal heath, woodland and thick Casuarina forest before arriving at a lookout with spectacular views of some of Australia’s highest sea cliffs.


5. Wreck Beach

Type: Return

Distance: 2.1km

Time: 90 mins

Grade: Hard

Start & Finish: Wreck Beach carpark

This short but challenging walk heads down 366 steps to Wreck Beach. When tides and sea conditions are suitable, you can explore the beach, rock ledges and the anchors of the Marie Gabrielle and the Fiji shipwrecks which can still be seen about 400m and 650m west of the stairs. Imagine being shipwrecked on this beach below these towering cliffs.


Great Ocean Road: Day Hikes


6. Marengo to Shelly Beach

Type: Car shuffle or return

Distance: 4.7km one-way

Time: 2 hrs one-way

Grade: Medium/Hard

Start: Marengo Caravan Park

Finish: Shelly Beach Picnic Area

Follow low cliff tops overlooking the ocean and climb the exposed and aptly named Bald Hill. This walk takes you onto the beach and through sheltered forest, where you may spot the occasional koala, to picturesque Shelly Beach. Only take alternative coastal routes at low tide and during calm seas. At all other times take the signposted Great Ocean Walk (GOW) inland route.


7. Elliot River Loop

Type: Circuit

Distance: 4km loop

Time: 2 hrs return

Grade: Medium

Start & Finish: Shelly Beach Picnic Area

A moderate grade walk featuring river, forest and ferns. Start from the carpark and follow the Elliot River Track down to to the mouth of the Elliot River, crossing carefully on the stepping stones. Climb up the ridge along the track, passing through strands of Blue gum and areas of tall Eucalypt forest. Return to Shelly Beach Picnic Area via the management vehicle track.


8. Blanket Bay to Parker Hill

Type: Car shuffle or return

Distance: 4km one-way

Time: 2 hrs one-way

Grade: Medium

Start: Blanket Bay campground

Finish: Parker Inlet

A diverse walk, weaving its way through pristine coastal forests and grass trees, travelling in and out of gullies, before descending to beautiful Parker Inlet. Two lookouts along the way provide wonderful views into the estuary and over the ocean. Parker Inlet is a great location to explore for its amazing geology and wildlife.


9. Cape Otway to Aire River (side trip to Rainbow Falls)

Type: Car shuffle

Distance: 10km

Time: 4 hrs

Grade: Medium

Start: Cape Otway Lightstation carpark

Finish: Aire River

The walk to Aire River winds its way through a wind-sculptured landscape of sand dunes, coastal scrubland and calcified cliffs. From the lightstation carpark head west over Paynters Hill and past the lightstation cemetery. Continue along this section of the GOW to Station Beach. Take the main track over Station Beach to the Aire River Escarpment Lookout. Continue along the track from the escarpment, ending up at the historic Aire River Bridge. Rainbow Falls and Station Beach can also be visited along this hike, but it is an extra 3km if you take this side trip. Rainbow Falls is spring-fed and trickles through algae to the rock platform on the beach below.


10. Aire River to Johanna Beach

Type: Car shuffle

Distance: 12.4km

Time: 5 hrs

Grade: Medium/Hard

Start: Aire River Information shelter

Finish: Johanna Beach Campground

This is a long but satisfying walk through diverse terrain to beautiful Johanna Beach. The track passes through coastal heathland with an abundant display of wildflowers in spring. You will also get to experience some awe-inspiring sea views, and if you keep a look out perhaps you’ll spot Peregrine Falcons flying overhead. There is no bridge across the Johanna River. Carefully assess the depth of the water before attempting to wade across, as the water can be very deep and the ground very slippery underfoot.


11. Princetown to Twelve Apostles

Type: Car shuffle or return

Distance: 6km one-way

Time: 2.5km one-way

Grade: Medium

Start: Princetown Recreation Reserve

Finish: Twelve Apostles

This walk will reward you with spectacular views of the Twelve Apostles and surrounding coastline. Hike along cliff tops through coastal scrubland and low heath to the end of the walk. Kangaroos are regular grazers in nearby paddocks. Pods of dolphins can sometimes be seen in the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park below, and Southern Right Whales can be seen from May through to October.


Great Ocean Road: Side Trips


12. Milanesia to Moonlight Head

Type: Car shuffle

Distance: 10.5 km

Time: 5 hrs

Grade: Hard

Start: Milanesia Beach Gate

Finish: Moonlight Head carpark

From the Milanesia gate, which is located at the end of Hiders Access, head down the track through forest and coastal scrub, with incredible views of Milanesia Beach. There is a heritage shack located on private land just in from the beach. Please respect both the building and owners’ privacy by remaining on the track. Cross the small river at the beach access with care, then head west to where the GOW heads inland and uphill. Note that the alternative route along Milanesia Beach should only be attempted at low tides and calm seas. This section takes you to Bowker Point, with dramatic views of the coast. Head west along the coastal cliffs for about an hour until you reach the turn off to Ryans Den. Continue west through diverse coastal woodlands before reaching an open paddock above the Cape Volney cliffs – with some of the highest and most spectacular cliff views along the walk. Continue along the Cape Volney 4WD track descending toward the beach at Submarine Rock, before meandering up to Moonlight Head carpark on Parkers Access Road.


13. Moonlight Head to the Gables

Type: Car shuffle or return

Distance: 3.5km one-way

Time: 2 hrs one-way

Grade: Easy

Start: Moonlight Head carpark

Finish: The Gables carpark

From the Moonlight Head carpark, head up Parkers Access for about 200m before turning left and descending into the forest. The track negotiates its way through a series of forested valleys and ridges, past patches of grass trees and She-oaks. The track eventually cross an old fishing track at its lowest point before heading up towards the spectacular high sea cliffs surrounding The Gable. Along the way, the Eucalypt woodland predominant at the start of the section gradually changes to low scrub, heath and She-oak forests.


14. Parker Hill to Pt Franklin

Type: Car shuffle or return

Distance: 1.5km one-way

Time: 30 mins

Grade: Easy

Start: Parker Hill

Finish: Pt Franklin

From the Parker Hill campground, follow the cliff tops to Point Franklin. Looking out to sea along the coast, the Cape Otway Lightstation comes into view. Whales can often be spotted out at sea along this section from July to September. Once you arrive at Point Franklin, walk 300m up the GOW to the carpark. If you have extra time, you can explore the rock platforms and Pt Franklin beaches or take a short walk from the carpark to the rockpools and beautiful beach at Crayfish Bay. You may notice a building on the cliff top above Crayfish Bay, please respect the owner’s privacy by remaining on the track as this building is on private property.


Have you been on one or more short walks along the Great Ocean Walk before? Please share with our readers which walk(s) you undertook and whether you would recommend it to other day hikers.