HOW I DID 3 DAYS OF THE GREAT OCEAN WALK IN LUXURYby ZOE STRAPP
If you want to do the entire walk from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles, it takes eight days and covers 104kms of of Australia’s most iconic terrestrial and marine ecosystems, including towering stringy bark forests, wide open beaches and sandstone cliffs. There are also countless shipwrecks.
Due to my schedule, I chose the 'Long Weekend' option of the 12 Apostles Lodge Walk. The guided, group tour run by the Australian Walking Company gave me three full days of walking with a group of friendly, interesting and fun people. We were treated to luxurious accommodation, foot baths and great food and wine!
Here's a run down of my trip!
DAY 1: Castle Cove - Johanna Beach
In the morning, I met the group at the 12 Apostles Lodge, a forest hugged eco-luxury lodge in Johanna.
After being warmly welcomed by our friendly guides, I was shown to my private lodge, which was nestled among the lush Otways rainforest and surrounded by active bird life. This lodge is the perfect place to relax and disconnect from your phone, work or daily life and reconnect with nature.
As a personal advocate for sustainable living, I was overwhelmed by the low impact nature of this luxury accommodation. Designed by a Melbourne architect with minimal impact in mind, the lodge can be disassembled and removed, leaving the space virtually untouched and ready to rejuvenate.
After unpacking and meeting the other hikers, we were served morning tea and provided with all of our hiking necessities, including a pack, gaiters, walking poles, drink bottle and a packed lunch.
Then, it was time to jump in the van and head to our starting point, Castle Cove.
Under sunny skies, we were all smiles as we warmed up with the relatively short 7km walk along the cliff top; flanked by the vast, open ocean. After a delicious, healthy lunch we finished the walk with a trek across Johanna’s exposed surf beach.
Here I was delighted when Hugh, our guide, pulled out a Tangaroa Blue bag and encouraged us all to pick up plastic debris on the beach.
We were welcomed back to the lodge with a glass of local wine, canapés and a warm foot bath. I must admit, I was happy to learn this was going to happen each night!
A delicious dinner (with more wine) was served in the sun lit dining room and, as a group, we reminisced about our first day on the Great Ocean Walk.
DAY 2: Moonlight Head - Gellibrand River
After a deep sleep thanks to the peaceful lodge surroundings, I fuelled up on breakfast; grabbed my pack, morning tea and lunch and jumped in the van to start a much bigger 17km hike that day.
The group was excited as we travelled to Moonlight Head, enjoying the rolling farmlands and feeling lucky with the sunny weather. Whilst on the walk we were immersed in the rainforests of the Great Otway National Park and a sense of calm solitude came over the group as we spread out along the track and spent time alone in nature. This was one of my favorite moments.
Due to the high tide and large swell, we were unable to climb down the steps to Wreck Beach, but we had a magnificent view from the cliff top as we had morning tea and listened to our guides tell stories about the local shipwrecks and the remnants of ships now resting in the sand.
Later, we arrived at the Devils Kitchen campground (where the humble toilet has a million dollar view) and appreciated the beauty of the Southern Ocean from The Gables lookout, before lunch.
As the geology began to change and thick eucalypt forests turned into open limestone and salt bush, our guides educated us about the native plants that were highly valuable to the Traditional Owners, and we saw evidence of wildlife like echidnas and wallabies (what were a bit shy that day!).
Finally, we emerged from the scrub to a magnificent view of the Gellibrand River at Princetown and were welcomed with a cold glass of champagne, chocolate and a refreshing dip in the river. Sounds too good to be true, right?!
That night we all sat around the camp fire and talked under the stars.
DAY 3: Gellibrand River - 12 Apostles
As we wound our way along the coastline, we had sneak peeks of the famous limestone formations before finally stepping onto the iconic Twelve Apostles viewing platform, where we were all smiles and eagerly taking selfies and photos to remember the moment.
Did you know there were never 12 Apostles, but only nine, with seven currently remaining due to natural erosion impacting on the structures?
But the excitement wasn't over at that stage because we went on a 15 minute flight with 12 Apostles Helicopters! What a way to finish the journey!
A note about the Long Weekend Experience
The beauty of this walk is that everything is taken care of: accommodation, meals, and tour schedule. So, if you're flying into Melbourne from Sydney or Brisbane, you literally only need to pack some hand luggage (walking clothes and boots)...do the walk and head home again!