Planning and Logistics


It has been suggested that some "technical" information on the walk would be of interest to anyone who might be thinking of undertaking this or a similar long-distance trek. This section gives a brief overview of the planning and logistics of doing the Great South Coast Walk - hopefully it will provide a few useful ideas.

Planning the walk

It is difficult to say when we first got the idea to do the Great South Coast Walk. It grew out of the fact that we both loved the parts of the South Coast of New South Wales that we knew, the realisation there were still many parts that we had not yet visited and, with impending retirement from the workforce, the need to do something challenging and special to mark that transition - in effect, it was "a rite of passage".

The Great South Coast Walk is not a defined track. When we first told our friends of our idea to walk the length of the south coast, they thought that we planned to walk down the Prince's Highway, a very unpleasant prospect. Our idea, however, was to avoid roads and stay as close as possible to the actual coastline. One of the challenges therefore was to tie together a series of marked tracks (ca. 230km) at various places along the coast, lesser known local access tracks (ca. 20km), forestry trails (ca. 70 km) and beaches (ca. 180km), while crossing a city, several towns and numerous coastal villages, into one continuous walk. Armed with a set of 1:25,000 CMA maps, it was surprisingly easy to pre-plan a route comprising 39 stages averaging 16km per day (max. of 24km). Clearly we planned a leisurely, enjoyable trip rather than making an heroic charge down the coast. Our plan was to avoid deadlines and time constraints, spend time at places that we really liked, do the odd side trip and bunker down to read a good book if the weather turned bad. I guess in the back of our minds we wanted to prove that a long trek can be undertaken and enjoyed in relative comfort by people who are not superfit, outdoor hero types. As a consequence we ended up doing the walk in 3 months, though any superfit outdoor hero could do it in under 40 days.

In the end, we only had a couple of sections which were problematic; one between Kiama and Gerringong where it was necessary to cross private land, namely the paddocks of several dairy farms that extended down to the cliff line. Our impression was that only one of the landholders had a major concern, with signs warning trespassers to keep out, forcing us to go around the base of a rocky headland instead of over the top. The other areas were south of Bermagui and around Aragunnu, on the rare occasions where we had to "bush-bash" through untracked terrain. Our GPS unit proved invaluable in these situations. In all cases, these "obstacles" could be avoided by following the road, but at the expense of extra kilometres and missing out on some stunning cliff and coastal landscapes.

We carried both a GPS and 1:25000 maps while walking and I found the combination of high and low tech excellent. GPS is great at telling you where you are and where you need to be, but without a decent map you still loose the bigger landscape picture. I was also carrying a lightweight notebook computer (used for updating the Great South Coast Walk website as we went) and mapping software, which I used to create and upload waypoints to the GPS for each stage of the trek, as well as map our track in greater resolution as we walked.

Water crossings

Many rivers flow out into the ocean along this walk and there are occasionally deep inlets that are better crossed than walked around. Where possible, we used the Yellow Pages to find local boat-hire operators, who were generally quite happy to ferry us across for a small fee; thus we crossed the Shoalhaven, Huskisson, Sussex Inlet and Narooma Rivers. Our good mate, Trevor, gave us a lift across the entrance to Bateman's Bay in his boat. A mobile 'phone was essential to both arrange the crossing and to let the boat-operator know when we had arrived and were waiting at the other side or the head of the river.

Nontheless, there were several times when this means was not available and for those we used an inflatable air mattress to ferry our packs across, Nello swimming from the front and me swimming at the rear. Electronic gear and valuables were stored in waterproof kayak bags for this and the packs sealed in heavy-duty garbage bags to prevent splashing. This was effective, but we soon learnt that you watch the tides very carefully when crossing rivermouths. NEVER cross on a fast outgoing tide!!! We often had to time our walk to reach a crossing point at low tide or just after it had turned in.




The one advantage of The Great South Coast Walk is that, while it passes through many National Parks and reserves and along pristine beaches and headlands, there is a regular spacing of towns and holiday parks. As a result, we only had to plan for 4 nights camping (plus and extra 3 during side-trips). For the rest of the trip, we stayed in cabins at campgrounds or occasionally with friends who now live at the coast. Thus we had the luxury of hot showers, a comfortable bed and usually a cold beer at the end of most of our walk stages. This meant that we had to book accommodation from one to three days ahead, for which a mobile 'phone was again invaluable. When camp out in National Parks, such as Royal National Park and Nadgee, it is essential to first obtain the appropriate permits. Overall, we never planned our accommodation more than 3-4 days in advance to avoid loss of flexibility.


Our plan was to travel as lightly and comfortably as possible. To do this we needed flexibility; smaller daypack or large overnight pack, boots or walking sandals, tent, sleeping mats and cooking gear when required, sleeping bags, towels and swimmers, extra clothing for when we stopped a while etc, which with water-crossing gear, the notebook computer, AA battery charger, cameras etc soon made for more than two packs could carry. We therefore created a "base kit" of all items not needed for the next stage and stored these in a large suitcase, which we sent on to our destination from one to three days ahead via local courier. We had checked out a list of couriers / taxi trucks in the Yellow Pages before setting out and it proved a cheap ($5 to $10 per shift) and effective way to move our base kit on. The sight of it sitting there when we walked in to a new cabin at the end of a stage was always a heartening experience, apart from two occasions where we arrived ahead of the kit. Again the mobile 'phone was essential to organise this. We also carried a small ceramic water filter, which proved useful in Nadgee, where drought had restricted water to a few isolated dank water holes.

This meant that we only needed to carry food and water for a day, which with protective gear and camera etc made for a light load on most days. Only in the far south, where civilisation is more widely dispersed, did we need to walk with a heavily loaded full size pack and camp out; on a 3-day walk from Bermagui to Tathra and on the 3-day crossing of the Nadgee - Howe Wilderness to Mallacoota.