Rob Gassman

The Great Ocean Walk was very beautiful, enjoyable and invigorating.  We particularly loved the natural diversity we encountered along the way, encompassing coastal trails with panoramic ocean lookouts and views, lush inland forests with varying foliage and wildlife, gorgeous ocean beaches that ranged from sandy to rocky, lovely inlets and river valleys, and even historical sites such as the Cape Otway Lightstation and Wreck Beach.  Additionally, we were able to have plenty of solitude and quiet as desired, but also had opportunities to interact with a few other hikers along the walk as well. Once again, walkers can shape this to be the personal experience they desire.

Parks Victoria obviously invested a considerable amount of time, thought and dollars in building appropriate infrastructure (steps, boardwalks, bridges, benches, trail enhancements, signage / markers, boot cleaning stations, etc.) both to preserve and protect the environment as well as improve the walkers’ comfort and safety.

The only suggestion I can offer for Parks Victoria is to possibly look at adding a few more distance signs / markers along the GOW, particularly in stretches where the distance between key points is several kilometers.  This could help walkers more precisely understand where they are in any moment so they can better plan their pace & timing, rest breaks, water & food consumption, bathroom breaks, coordination of pick-up points for transportation, etc.

We first learned of the Great Ocean Walk in by watching the 2010 documentary, “The Art of Walking”, streaming online on the Amazon Instant Video service.  We had watched several travel / destination videos, and “The Art of Walking” eventually showed up as a recommendation that Amazon thought we would like. After viewing it, we then researched the GOW and learned about Parks Victoria, who provided on its website a listing of possible GOW guide / tour companies to help walkers plan and manage their trips.  Walk 91 was listed as one of their recommendations to check out, so I researched and ultimately selected that.

Our communications and information flow with Walk 91 occurred mainly through email, which proved to be easy, fluid and thorough.  That helped keep the planning process simple and straightforward, and resulted in the development of an excellent itinerary that worked very well for us (and ultimately was executed as planned).  It was rather amazing to me that we were able to easily gather and share information with Walk 91, shape up an amazing trip that felt customized to our needs, and organize and finalize everything from halfway around the world (in the U.S.A.) without difficulty or hassle.  Despite the great distance and 14-hour time difference, it all came together well and made our planning so much easier than I initially had anticipated when we first started thinking about organizing and making this trip.

Other things we particularly appreciated about the preparation of the itinerary were:

We were able to select the timing and dates that we wanted, and then determine the number of days and specific configuration of our particular walk in a way that met our desires;

• We could choose whether we wanted catered or self-catered meals. This allowed us to create an experience that was exactly and uniquely what we wanted; and
• We eat a somewhat unconventional diet in that we follow a plant-based approach without meat, fish, dairy or eggs. Walk 91 accommodated our preferences and provided great food (and plenty of it) within those guidelines.  Delicious eating and good nutrition were not a problem!

We were very pleased with the preparations and planning as well as the actual walk, accommodations, meals and logistics.  I feel that our Walk 91 package met (and exceeded) our expectations and was truly worth the time and money we invested.  We believe we chose well in connecting with Mark and Nancy and selecting the Walk 91 team as our partners on the journey!

The accommodation aspect of our walk was a delightful surprise, and I don’t have any specific suggestions for improvement.  We had anticipated good accommodations along the way, but our expectations were exceeded both in terms of the actual accommodations as well as with our respective hosts. To a location and person each night, our experiences were positive and pleasant, and very welcome at the end of the physically demanding days on the GOW.  Especially being outsiders from a different country, we felt very welcome and cared for, and found our hosts to be genuinely interested in and committed to our hospitality, comfort, well-being and satisfaction.  They also served as terrific “ambassadors” for the region and the GOW; they obviously are knowledgeable and (justifiably) proud.  The opportunity to interact with and get to know our respective hosts on a more personal level was a genuine bonus, and made for an even richer experience for us as we felt we really had the chance to get to know the uniqueness and beauty of southern Australia – the landscape, the ocean, the culture, the lifestyle and the people.

The combination of Mark’s pre-walk briefing, the highlights / marks he made on the Parks Victoria master map for us, the supporting map copies for accommodations provided by Walk 91, and the photos of the meeting sites from Walk 91 helped ensure we were able to easily find the correct meeting location each day.