Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Finishing off the Great South West Walk

I may have previously said some evil things about this walk, I take all those things back. Having now completed the 250km trail, it is, upon reflection of its entirety, the Great South West Walk is a fantastic trail. It is spectacular, with good facilities and well maintained.

Great South West Walk, Discovery Bay Conservation Park and Coboboonee Forest

We walked the eastern 100km back in Easter, and have just walked the remaining 150km western section. At Easter we walked from Moleside, down the Glenelg River to Nelson, then along the beaches to Mt Richmond. This time we walked from Mt Richmond, along the coastal cliffs and headlands to Portland, then through the forest back to Moleside.

The coastal section here is spectacular. The coastal section from Nelson to Mt Richmond had been dominated by long walks on the beach, perhaps that sounds like something from a dating website, but about half of the beach is avoidable with alternative inland routes. This trip's section was dominated by clifftop walking along headlands, and short beach sections in small bays. It is spectacular. A narrow national park follows much of the coastline. The waves pound at the base of the cliffs, so there is always something good to watch with awe-filled eyes, until a general giddiness and and lack of head-for-heights drags you back from the cliff edge. Much of this area has been formed by volcanic action, so there are different rock types which add much interest.

Our first campsite, at The Springs on Cape Bridgewater, provided a fascinating insight into local geology. Where were the springs, I wondered. The last place I expected! The fresh water is to be found on the large rock platforms a little above where the waves crash, at the base of the coastal cliffs. Yep! I did wonder how the water got that high. Freshwater seaps out of the cliff onto the rock platforms, some of the volcanic rocks is impenetrable, so it flows out horizontally to the cliff edges.

There are many wind turbines along this coast, but on the upside, and much to Graham's disappointment, popular opinion sees them as better to look at than a coal plant. If you are a bit down on not seeing a coal plant though, take heart, walking into Portland you walk three sides of a large aluminium smelter. Curiously, who knew this, depending on where you read though, this single smelter uses 18-25% of Victoria's electricity. It looms large on the horizon, quite why it is sits on a prominent headland I'm not sure, but clearly it needs to be close to the port facilities of Portland, and the large conveyor belt disguised as a massive pipeline from the port to the smelter gives a few clues as to why I suppose. Don't be discouraged though, it is only seen for one day, and if you pivot your head to the right the coastline is still spectacular, the first half of the walk out of Mallee campsite is stunning, you hardly notice the plant. And it's not like we don't all use aluminium, at the very least much of our hiking gear is made of it.

The track is well maintained. We met quite a few locals who knew someone who got out and maintained the trail. Much of the trail in this area needs to be mowed, yes, that will sound strange to a South Australian, but indeed it is mowed, and foliage cut back. The trail is well signposted, we had no trouble following it. There are many interpretive signs along the way, I really appreciated these, so many fascinating things to learn.

A good map, better than the map on the Great South West Walk website, is the map produced by Cartographics and Meridian Maps. It's 1:50 000 scale, topographic, recent, and very accurate with lots of good info marked. It can be purchased online or locally at Portland at the Portland Visitor Information Centre or Davis Newsagency.

Hikers will be pleased to hear there are two cafes along this coastline, which is not bad for a four day section. One is at the beach and carpark called Cape Bridgewater, and another at the Cape Nelson lighthouse. Yum yum, no objections to supplementing our hiking rations here. The guys out at Cape Nelson lighthouse were so friendly and welcoming to us, even offering to top up our water supplies. Such a hiker-friendly attitude is so rarely seen!

The campsites were superbly set up. Each of the six campsites we stayed at, and the three we walked through, had a good size shelter with table and bench, picnic table in the open (for the sunny days), water tank, fire pit and toilet. Some were grassy, some had plenty of shade and protection from the elements, some tent pads, and one with a coastal viewing platform. Each of the campsites came equipped with several others hikers, which was good, I quite like that feature. It was good to chat to others hiking the trail, some were walking in the same direction, others the opposite, some for four or so days, some the complete trail. For the seven days on the trail we chased someone around the trail, but failed to ever catch them as they were walking super fast it seemed. From what I have read every campsite is being upgraded with shelter installations like these, certainly even back in Easter only half of these campsites were listed as having shelters.

We stayed at a motel in Portland, cheap at $100 per night. The Admella motel was good, it had a catchy tagline emphasing how cheap it was, it was clean and neat and had been renovated. Once again, a friendly crowd. A local told us that Mac's was good to stay at for trail hikers cheap at $70 a night for the older rooms in the motel behind the main pub. On the main esplanade too just off the trail, good if you are walking in from the south, and close to take-away foodies.

Google Map of the recent 7-day walk

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Google Map of the whole Great South West Walk hiking trail

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Download the GPS map files for the Great South West Walk hiking trail

Load the GPX files onto your handheld GPS unit to hike the Great South West Walk. Download the KML files to view the trail in Google Earth.

Download all files:

Or, download individual track files:

GSWW 01 Portland to Cubbys Camp GPX file KML file
GSWW 02 Cubbys Camp to Cut out Camp GPX file KML file
GSWW 03 Cut out Camp to Cobboboonee Camp GPX file KML file
GSWW 04 Cobboboonee Camp to Fitzroy Camp GPX file KML file
GSWW 05 Fitzroy Camp to Moleside Camp GPX file KML file
GSWW 06 Moleside Camp to Post and Rail Camp GPX file KML file
GSWW 07 Post and Rail Camp to Pattersons Camp GPX file KML file
GSWW 08 Pattersons Camp to Simsons Camp GPX file KML file
GSWW 09 Simsons Camp to White Sands Camp GPX file KML file
GSWW 10a White Sands Camp to Monibeong Camp via inland route GPX file KML file
GSWW 10b White Sands Camp to Monibeong Camp via beach GPX file KML file
GSWW 11 Monibeong Camp to Swan Lake Camp GPX file KML file
GSWW 12a Swan Lake Camp to Tarragal Camp via Mt Richmond GPX file KML file
GSWW 12b Swan Lake Camp to The Springs Camp via beach GPX file KML file
GSWW 13 Tarragal Camp to The Springs Camp GPX file KML file
GSWW 14 The Springs Camp to Trewalla Camp GPX file KML file
GSWW 15 Trewalla Camp to Mallee Camp GPX file KML file
GSWW 16 Mallee Camp to Portland GPX file KML file

Or, download just the 16 hike-in campsites along the Great South West Walk:


Great South West Walk - eastern half
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
26/12/11 27/12/11 28/12/11 29/12/11 30/12/11 31/12/11 1/1/12
Mt Richmond to The Springs campsite The Springs campsite to Trewalla campsite Trewalla campsite to Mallee campsite Mallee campsite to Portland Portland to Cubbys campsite Cubbys campsite to Cobbo-boonee campsite Cobbo-boonee campsite to Moleside
Distance 20.58km 17.43km 17.22km* 23.47km** 21.48km 25.56km 32.66km
Start Time 1.07pm 8.37am 8.16am 7.30am 7.43am 7.52am 7.36am
End Time 6.37pm 2.29pm 2.02pm 2.04pm 1.24pm 2.56pm 4.38pm
Moving Duration 4h02m 3h40m 4h00m 4h39m 4h10m 5h03m 6h25m
Stationary Duration 1h25m 2h12m 1h46m 1h59m 1h29m 1h59m 2h32m
Moving Average 5.1km/h 4.7km/h 4.3km/h 5.0km/h 5.1km/h 5.1km/h 5.1km/h
Overall Average 3.8km/h 3.0km/h 3.0km/h 3.6km/h 3.8km/h 3.6km/h 3.6km/h
Oodometer 20.58km 38.0km 55.3km 78.8km 100.3km 126.0km 158.7km

* Due to the GPS unit being inside at the cafe at Cape Nelson, this figure is probably 1km too high
** This is to our motel in Portland, not the Portland trailhead. The following day we walked back from the motel to the trailhead.
These three things are not corrected for in the above mileage figures. The Google Map and GPS file downloads are corrected.

More info: