Whenever possible, if I’m planning on hiking a trail I purchase a copy of at least one, if not more, of the better known guidebooks. This is particularly the case when it’s a trail I have no firsthand experience with. Recently when Gill and I decided to do the Great Ocean Walk on the southern coastline of Victoria, that’s just what we did.
When I review guidebooks I tend to be fairly critical. I have a picture in my mind of the things I expect to see and the information I think will make my life easier on the trail. While this can appear to be a bit ‘nit picky’, I know I’m not the only one who wants this information.
This updated guidebook, authored by Julie Mundy and Debra Heyes and published by Woodsman Press, was released in early 2022 so the timing worked out well for us given we planned to do the Great Ocean Walk in late August/early September 2022.
This guidebook provides relevant and helpful information on doing this walk both as a day hiker doing sections as you go, and as a camper doing a thru hike. In addition it also discusses the guided option for those that are new to longer format hiking.
One criticism about many guidebooks is that they make assumptions about what end of the trail you will be starting at. If you’re planning to do the hike ‘in reverse’, then you’re forced to read the book ‘backwards’ which which can be difficult. In the case, while there is nothing stopping you from starting at the Twelve Apostles and walking back to Apollo Bay, however you’ll miss out the ‘reward’ of approaching the Twelve Apostles at the western end of the trail. This is one of those rare walks where it should done as designed – east to west. In addition, the physically harder sections of the trail between sections 4 and 8, are best left till later in the walk.
This guidebook is well laid out and provides plenty relevant information about the trail. It’s set out in the eight, day-length sections that the walk was designed around. We opted to do this walk in six days and this pace worked out well. The first four sections are short enough to combine into two longer days.
My only real criticism of this guidebook is that a slighter shorter physical format would be good – I like my guidebooks to be a particular size so this isn’t going to be an issue for most hikers. Another issue is that when the days are classified it’s based on the difficulty i.e. ‘easy’, ‘moderate’ or ‘hard’. This is harking back to an older Australia trail grading system that has since been replaced. The use of these gradings is subjective and we found in doing this walk that while the section from Joanna Beach to Ryans Den was suggested as ‘moderate’, it was just as hard as the next section (rated hard) if not worse due to the amount of mud we had to deal with.
The images in the book are reflect what you may potentially see on the trail and the simplistic maps allow you to see, at a glance, where you days travel will take you. We took this book with us sealed in a large ziplock bag and used it mainly towards the end of the day or at the start of the day as a prompt to what we would be seeing and what issues we’ll likely experience.
If you plan on doing this walk then this guidebook is well worth the investment. It’s small enough to that the extra weight to carry along with you on the trail won’t be a problem.
You can purchase The Great Ocean Walk Guidebook from Amazon Australia
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AUD $24.99 AUD
The Great Ocean Walk Guidebook
What’s inside, page spread example
This review was done with product purchased by Australia Hiker from a retail store