Andrea hits the track for the Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk along the Great Ocean Road.
With its dramatic views, it’s no surprise that the Great Ocean Road is Victoria's most iconic destination for international and domestic visitors alike. And, as I’ve discovered, it's not really about the drive. It's a well-kept secret that the road less travelled is actually the track that should be walked.
Forget the crowds – don't board that charter tour or rent the hire car. Instead, spoil yourself by checking into the Twelve Apostles Lodge and be prepared for a very special experience. With travel, it’s sometimes all about the food, often it's your travelling companions and frequently the destination is the highlight. This, however, is one of those rare occasions where a getaway ticks every box on the travel checklist.
For those like me who don’t want to make the drive themselves, guests are collected from the Travelodge at Southbank and, after a three-hour drive from Melbourne, we arrive at the Twelve Apostles Lodge at Johanna. This stunning Eco-lodge, set amongst gum trees, was custom built in 2008 to support hikers on the track. Hosts Daisy and Zane are always on hand to ensure that you enjoy your stay and make the most of your journey along the track.
On arrival at the Lodge, we enjoy morning tea – the first of the many tempting dishes prepared by Zane. Darlene, our guide for the next four days, gives an overview of the walk ahead and distributes walking gear. Most of our required kit is supplied – from day packs, water bottles and walking poles to rain jackets, gaiters and even fly nets for when we become weary of giving the Aussie wave.
Darlene carries sunscreen, insect repellent and extra water each day. Her passion for the walk is obvious and she shares many stories about the history, folklore and characters along the way. Every evening Darlene outlines the itinerary for the next day, offering the choice of extending our experience with an endurance option, either before or after the day’s walk.
Our journey begins at Castle Cove along the cliff tops, with spectacular views out over the intensely blue ocean and its white-peaked waves washing onto Johanna Beach. It's a relaxed start to the four-day hike and at the day's end, there’s Daisy waiting with a revitalising glass of lemon cordial for us to enjoy before bundling us back into the van and homeward bound, to the blissfully soothing foot spas awaiting us on the deck. With a cold drink in hand and a sprinkle of mineral salts in the tub, the hot water works its magic on our tired feet.
After a rejuvenating shower, the evening begins with canapés and the chance to sample some of the locally produced wines and craft beers. Swapping stories with fellow guests, while sharing great food, is the perfect way to end the day. The sun has hardly set before we head back to our rooms. There is utter silence, with no traffic noise or street lights shining in your window. Once your light is turned off, silence and serenity reign.
Awakening to a gentle birdsong, we share breakfast with a mother wallaby and her joey, that hop into view and sit nonchalantly grazing while we madly scramble for our cameras.
The following days hold many surprises as we walk along the track. The tranquility of the forest trail from Milanesia Gate, as it winds down to the beach, is the perfect start to the longest day on the track. As we head upwards, our climb is sweetened by sampling the succulent berries from the numerous blackberry bushes, literally laden with fruit, that we pass. It is hard to tear ourselves away and keep hiking but thankfully there are other tasty tidbits along the way, including bower spinach and edible berries.
We find ourselves sharing the track with four sheep for several hundred metres, which is a bit of fun, but it’s the couple of slithery friends on whom we’re not so keen. The first encounter is just a brief glimpse of a black snake, as his tail disappears into the undergrowth. Peering under the log, we can see his beautifully patterned skin. The second slithery sucker is sunning himself along the side of the track, but happily he moves off as we pass.
Over the course of the day, we traverse some very different terrain, heading in and out of the open, up stairs and down bouldered paths, over stiles and through tree-lined pathways. But always, after veering away from the coastline for a while, we round another bend and there again are the amazing vistas of the ocean, a medley of blue, green and aquamarine.
Day three sees us heading out from Moonlight Head. Thanks to favourable tides we are fortunate to have the opportunity to get up close and personal with two shipwrecks, the Marie Gabriel and the Fiji, which sunk in 1869 and 1891 respectively. Darlene entertains us with the stories of the fateful journeys of both vessels, and their cargoes of tea and 260 tonnes of dynamite, as well as the misfortunes of the sailors and rescuers alike.
As we head across the lunar landscape on our homeward stretch towards the Gellibrand River, we stop to let a slothful echidna shuffle across the path before he rolls himself up in a shy ball. Emerging at the inlet of Gellibrand, we take off our hiking boots and socks, roll up our pants and wade straight into the water, lemon cordial in hand, courtesy of the delightful Daisy.
Our final day sees mobs of kangaroos watching us as we pass, even jumping across the track in front of us as we make our way to our final goal of the Apostles. We are able to walk along the beach to see the formations of Mog and Magog. Our journey ends with a helicopter ride over the coastline allowing us to just marvel at the beauty of this extraordinary scenery.
The Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk is a rare treat. It gives you the perfect opportunity to indulge yourself with incredible (and plentiful) food absolutely guilt-free, as you walk off any excess each day along the spectacular coastline of the Great Ocean Road.
To find out more about the Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk, visit Twelveapostleslodgewalk.com.au or why not watch the video below?
Andrea's stay was courtesy of Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk
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