Somewhere between Apollo Bay and Port Campbell a baby kangaroo hops to the middle of the road – we stop our car as it scurries across the road. Woodlands surround us. Tall trees sift kaleidoscopic sunshine into patterns, lending an enchanting halo to the proceedings.
Vid and I are on our way to the Twelve Apostles Lodge, nestled deep in the Australian Hinterland. Both of us have driven along our fair share of stunning coastal roads (Croatia, Spain, Portugal) so we didn’t want to stop at driving the Great Ocean Road. Instead, we wanted to take this opportunity to really sink our teeth in and acquaint ourselves with some of Australia’s most iconic landscapes in depth and up close. The experience we’ve booked includes gourmet food, wine, and a 4 day walk through some of the prettiest and most remote sections of the 100 kilometer walking trail known as the Great Ocean Walk – a chance to explore some of the world’s most spectacular terrain without foregoing creature comforts.
An unpaved road leads to the Twelve Apostles Lodge in a clearing in the woodlands. Vid parks the car but I’m already examining the floor to ceiling windows of our cabin in the woods. It’s been a long drive, so a quick meal and round of introductions later, we pass out. Early next morning, we wake up to sunbeams glinting through cabin windows, the gentle hum of mosquitoes and twittering of birds. I can even see baby kangaroos(Joeys) scampering around the bush! After a quick breakfast full of laughs with 8 members of the Angus family, who form the rest of our walking group, we’re ready for our quintessential Australian bushwalking experience. We grab our walking poles, fill our bottles with water and our snack boxes with an array of sugary snacks, strap on our gaiters to protect us from snakes and leeches, and hop into a mini-bus with our guide.
We’re dropped off at a section of the Great Otway National Park. So starts Day #1. It’s a long yet easy walk through Australia’s windswept hinterland. On Day #2 the walk picks up pace. The 20 km stretch is full of hills, uphill climbs, staircases, rugged forest trails, and more. It’s tiring and rewarding in equal measures – we have access to sensational cliff-top panoramas as we sip on coffee and devour lunch. We walk past even more rivers, secluded bays, and rolling hills after lunch. By the end of the walk on Day #2, I’m devoid of energy but I feel truly immersed in the landscape. Melbourne’s urbanity seems like a distant memory.
Day #3 takes us past high cliffs, gorgeous forests, wide beaches, rivers, and secluded bays. The scenery changes dramatically as we get closer to the coast. We spot bits of rugged coastline at most bends and by the end of the third day; we even get a glimpse of the mighty Twelve Apostles. I begin to realise that the term ‘Great Ocean Walk’ is a bit of the misnomer – sure there are coastal panoramas aplenty but the 70 km stretch through the Great Otway and the Port Cambell National Parks has many secrets up its sleeves. There are otherworldly forests dotted with intriguing paper bark trees, vibrant daisies and tiny pink lilies. Kangaroos and koalas peer out of the bush to introduce themselves to walkers. Every once in a while snakes and leeches make an appearance. I will admit; we opted for the walk because of its coastal connection. But it surprises us at every step. I find myself falling more and more in love with Australia’s woodlands. The verdict amongst our group of 10 is unanimous: the Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk gives us the opportunity to commune with nature, far away from the maddening rhythm of the city.
We might be in a remote location but creature comforts are at hand. Every evening we come back to invigorating foot spas, li’l bubble baths for our weary feet. Following this we adjourn to the cozy dining room for canapés and dinner with our new travel companions. The Angus family makes us feel like we’ve known them for years. Within hours we’re introduced to inside jokes, childhood tales, and the banter just doesn’t stop 🙂
Except when dinner is served. A silence descends upon the table for the food here is something else: Chef Zane showcases the local produce of Victoria to perfection. On the first day we’re served a sumptuous pesto-infused chicken dish with fennel and orange salad. This feast is followed by his velvety smooth crème brulee. I choose the vegan option and get a scoop of fresh berry sorbet topped with caramelized sugar. All day next day, the ten of us fantasise about dinner all day and we’re not disappointed. On walking back to the lodge, we’re pampered with sensational tuna canapés, nibbles topped with freshly caramelized onions, and an opulent cheese board that disappears within seconds between 10 people who’ve been hiking all day! Soon enough dinner is served: pan-seared salmon on a bed of carrot mousse with large bowls of creamy mash, beetroot and arugula salad with shavings of parmesan cheese, and roast potatoes for everyone to share. Every bite is followed by oohs and aahs. Almost everyone at the table is full by the time dessert is served but the thought of skipping one of Zane’s delightful creations is alarming. So all of us opt for dessert – a warm date and walnut pudding with homemade ice cream. I wish I could make all of you taste his food but since I can’t I will say this: he spins magical tales on the plate with local ingredients, all the more impressive when you consider the remote location. Breakfasts are simple and tasty, targeted to fuel us walkers for the day: blueberry porridge bowls, poached eggs, warm breads, and chia puddings. Tiring days are dotted with snacks. The lodge provides snack boxes that can be filled with chocolates, dates, homemade trail mix, or gummy worms. Then there are fresh snacks made by Zane: flapjacks, coconut and cacao balls, and biscuits warm out of the oven. Lunches are healthy and rich in protein: marinated tofu with rice noodles; cous-cous with chorizo, shrimps, and roasted pumpkin seeds; stir-fried chicken and wild brown rice. One thing is for sure; you will not be losing much weight despite all that exercise.
On our fourth and last day on the track, I watch the scenery change dramatically. Coastal panoramas abound and it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed at the stretch we’ve covered over the past few days. We walk for a couple of hours before reaching a viewpoint that beats them all: yes we can finally see The Twelve Apostles. All of us excitedly click a few photos, marvel at the wonders of Mother Nature, and surge ahead in anticipation. Soon enough we’re at the Gibson Steps, the stairway that leads to a wide sand beach overlooking the Apostles. It’s the end of our walk – there are hoots, whistles, and Vid can’t stop taking photos. We couldn’t have asked for a better day to be here – the sky is a stunning shade of blue. I close my eyes, breathe the moisture-laden air, and let the romance of the place sink in.
Soon enough we’re ushered to the neighbouring helipad for a flight over the iconic Great Ocean Road to commemorate our adventure. Before we know it we’re boarding a helicopter with our walking buddies. Within minutes we are floating above ocean. I can see the Apostles surrounded by glistening waters and The Great Ocean Road snaking past it. This is our third chopper ride in the past few months but it’s definitely the smoothest. Vid and I hold hands to take in the moment and all it has to offer. I don’t want it to end. But end it does!
Somehow I find my way back to the beach for one last look at the Apostles. As I dip my toes into the Ocean right in front of the mighty 12 Apostles, I realize this is it – the end of a carefully curated experience. Over the past 4 days we walked through windswept forests, hiked to the top of high cliffs and relished cliff-top lunches, marvelled at rivers and secluded bays. We saw days morph into evenings in front of our eyes, spent lazy evenings making new friends and relishing meals made from Victoria’s fresh produce, and sampled wine produced in the Australian state famous for its reds. We woke up to the sun glinting through our cabin windows and baby kangaroos scampering in the bush. It’s quite a dichotomy: an active adventure in the Australian bush in comfort and luxury lubricated by banter, exquisite surroundings, foot spas, and gourmet food. To us, at Bruised Passports, it’s a match made in heaven! 🙂
- The Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk provides the perfect opportunity to connect with nature and it’s ideal if you’re craving an active holiday, garnished with gourmet food and wine. It is for you if you, like us, enjoy adventure and remote wilderness lubricated by creature comforts, small luxuries, gourmet food and wine.
- We walked a 70 Km stretch of the Great Ocean Walk that goes through Great Otway National Park and Port Campbell National Park
- If you’re visiting Australia, then this is a good introduction to the great Aussie tradition of a bushwalk and a unique way to see the Great Ocean Road. You get to walk a stretch of the Great Ocean Walk everyday and you’re driven back each day. Next day, you start from where you left.
- The group is small and intimate and the size never exceeds 10-12 people. If you’ve scrolled through the photos you probably know we made great friends on the hike.
- The food at Twelve Apostles Lodge is definitely one of the highlights – from cheese platters and dainty tuna canapés to hearty roasts and sumptuous breakfasts, we were truly spoilt for choice.
- As I mentioned in the article, there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options for all meals – just make sure you specify your dietary requirements beforehand.
- The experience includes transfers from Melbourne, accommodation at a luxury lodge for 3 nights, all meals, hiking equipment, and the helicopter ride over The Twelve Apostles. The entire experience costs approximately £1000. More information on their website twelveapostleslodgewalk.com.au.
- Fitness: You can choose your own pace on the walk. There’s no rush to complete the walk. But you have to be fit. There’s a lot of hills, climbs, descents, especially on the second day of the Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk.
- Packing: Just take 3-4 sets of comfy clothes, hiking shoes, hat, and mosquito repellent. Everything else including sunscreen, walking poles, waterproof jackets, backpack, water bottles, plenty of snacks, refreshments, and meals is provided onsite.
- Getting There: Transfers from Melbourne are included in the experience but if you, like us, are on a bit of a road trip in Australia then you can drive down to the lodge independently as well. We combined a road trip along the Great Ocean Road with the Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk.
- Wifi: You know how it is with fast wifi and me? I’m pleased to report that despite its remote location, wifi is available at the Twelve Apostles Lodge. I don’t know about you but that makes this digital nomad very happy.