Great South West Walk (GSWW) – Overview 

Distance: 250 km

 Easy, Moderate and Hard (this is my assessment and totally subjective 😊)

Great South West Walk Map


The walk is promoted as a ‘Symphony in Four Movements’, referring to its four distinct sections which are;

  • Cobboboonee Forest
  • the Glenelg River Gorge
  • Discovery Bay and Mt Richmond, and
  • the Three Capes and Bays.  

The 250km circuit was the brainchild of Sam Bruton, head ranger for the region and Bill Golding, principal of Portland High School. After years of planning, the walk was finally completed and is now maintained predominantly by the Friends of the Great South West Walk. 
Students from Portland High School built the first leg of the walk; the Sea Cliff Nature Walk, at Cape Nelson.

The walk has been developed as a bushwalking trail suitable for most ages and abilities comprising short 2 hour loop walks, full day walks, or for the intrepid, the whole 250km loop that officially begins and ends at the Maritime Discovery and Visitor Information Centre in Portland Victoria, Australia.

The track is well marked; posts with red arrow markers, however you need to keep your eyes open so you don’t miss a subtle route change.


There are a couple of different routes you can take at various points along the trail. The full breakdown can be found here

Below is the route via campsites my brother Frank and I did;

  • Day 1 – Portland to Cubbys camp 20km
  • Day 2 – Cubbys camp to Cobboboonee camp 24.4km
  • Day 3 – Cobboboonee camp to Fitzroy camp 12.5km
  • Day 4 – Fitzroy camp to Moleside camp 22km
  • Day 5 – Moleside camp to Batterbys camp 17km
  • Day 6 – Batterbys camp to Pattersons camp 13km
  • Day 7 – Pattersons camp to Kywong caravan park Nelson 20km
  • Day 8 – Nelson to Lake Monibeong camp 25km
  • Day 9 – Lake Monibeong camp to Swan Lake camp 16.5km
  • Day 10 – Swan Lake camp to The Springs camp 21km
  • Day 11 – The Springs camp to Trewalla camp 15km
  • Day 12 – Trewalla camp to new Mallee camp 14.8km
  • Day 13 – New Mallee camp to Portland 21.7km

Note with a few route changes along the way there was some kilometre differences at each of the camps – so we took the 250km as a sun total and treated the above kms from the website as a guide.

Each campsite has a really well built and useful shelter, one or two water tanks (three sites were on bore water) but be aware, these have the potential to run dry in the summer (we did the walk over Christmas so there was still a good amount of water in the tanks) however it is recommended that the water should be treated. 

Some of our water was a pretty pale yellow colour but treated tasted fine and we didn’t get sick at all.

Some of the early campsites had rock hard ground so was hard or near impossible to secure the tent pegs.

Well maintained accessible toilets with ample supply of toilet paper – which is handy and cuts down on having to carry a hardy supply.

Hiker Registration Books

These are often a hoot and a way to check on any warnings left by Parks Victoria and other hikers. 

It is also quite cool to track some of those hikers who did the entire walk. A lot of the comments were positive and glowing about the scenery – so much so you did wonder if you were doing the same walk 😊

And if anyone reads this before going on the walk, the noise you hear at Moleside walkers camp are koalas not a boar! we forgot to mention this when we were there.

Food and water drops

We did a Christmas Day food drop and two water drops – we weren’t sure if the first two camps had water access. 

If you leave food remember that there are possums etc around that will eat through cardboard so we packed ours in tins. We also labelled them to indicate when we would retrieve the contents and when we would pick up the empty tins. This was so if anyone came across them they would know they weren’t just dumped there.

There are service tracks or roads less then a kilometre, either just before or just after all camps so easy to stash and retrieve items.


  • My brother and I agreed if we were to do this walk again we would go clockwise from Portland and do the coast and beach side of the trail first. You would have fresh legs and be really enthusiastic about the walk and it would make the forest walks seem quite easy overall.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen – I did. I had short sleeves and got very burnt.
  • If time allows a Zero day in Nelson would have been really beneficial.
  • Don’t forget your fly nets – these will save your sanity.
  • Have a fresh set of clothes available at your end point – makes all the difference to the drive home.
  • Highly recommend the Portland Bay Holiday Park and the Kywong Caravan Park in Nelson the owners/managers are really good people and go over and above to help you out.
  • Wear gaiters! These will save sand and muck getting into your shoes.
  • I found trekking poles to be really handy, especially on the beach and scaling the sand dunes. I would have taken them anyway as I use these instead of poles for my tent.
  • If you do a food drop in Nelson, remember to vary your menu so unlike us you don’t eat the exact same meals for 13 days or more. 
  • Internet access is almost nonexistent across the entire Walk (apart from Nelson and Portland of course) so invest in the proper Meridian Great South West Walk map for $12.95 AUD. Two hikers we met missed a marker and it took them a while to find the trail again and wished they’d had this map.
  • If you smoke please take a portable bush ashtray with you:

    I would recommend this hike to anyone who loves a challenge and has the time to do the whole walk – it was a great experience 😊


    1. Thanks so much for sharing your journey! I’ve been looking into this trip since I saw it in a magazine and there are not really many first hand accounts.
      I’ll go back and watch your videos at some point – I usually read on the train so didn’t want to disturb folks.
      I think when I do it I’ll need to choose some interesting points to linger at and plan accordingly.
      Thanks again- very enjoyable blog.
      Congratulations on finishing this walk!


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