Even from the top of the cliffs at Castle Cove in southwestern Victoria you can feel the power of the massive surf reverberating through your body. Icy Southern Ocean waves pound the beach below and you begin to understand why this part of the coastline has seen more shipwrecks than any other in Australia.
It’s an exhilarating start to our four-day 12 Apostles Lodge Walk, and already the Melbourne weather has lived up to its reputation and given us four seasons in a day – in just 15 minutes.
Our day starts on a cloudy grey Melbourne CBD morning as we clamber into a mini bus to begin the three-hour journey to the coastal town of Johanna, our base for the next four days.
We are staying at a privately owned hiking lodge in eco-luxe villas with ensuite bathrooms. Nestled in a natural rainforest setting that comes with resident wallabies and kookaburras.
Here we meet our guide and the live-in chef who'll be catering for us on this adventure. We are given an overview of where we'll be trekking as well as waterproof jackets, water bottles, backpacks, gloves, beanies and walking poles (if required).
Groups can be up to 12 strong and age is no barrier as long as you have a reasonable level of fitness and a zest for life. Our group, for instance, is made up of two over 50-year-old Sydney gentlemen, a couple from Brisbane around the same age and five effervescent single women from Sydney (2), Brisbane, Ballarat and Canada. For obvious reasons (I wasn't going to ask) I’m certain they’re over 21.
Shortly after the meeting, lunch is packed and we're driven to the Castle Cove drop-off area to begin our walk through some of Australia's most rugged wilderness and coastline.
From Castle Cove the walk follows the west end of the trail known as The Great Ocean Walk. Our ultimate goal is the 12 Apostles. By the time we arrive there we will have trekked 40-56 kilometres.
Everyday day we are dropped off in a new location to begin the walk and then picked up and driven back to our luxury lodgings.
Expertly designed the level varies from easy to quite challenging. Its not a race and there are lots of breaks to enjoy the outstanding Southern Ocean views, catch your breath, have tea breaks and enjoy the treat of the day from chef which varies from white chocolate and ginger cookies to chocolate rocky road brownies. There are healthier alternatives if you are that way inclined.
Along the way our knowledgeable and personable guide Jenny gives us history lessons about long past Aboriginal tribes who once lived here as well as fascinating yarns about the places we pass through along this stretch of rugged coastline.
Our first day introductory walk is a short three-hour trek back to Joanna Beach, which finishes in a two-kilometre soft sand walk.
The next few days will see us hike through some of Australia’s most beautiful coastline, bush tracks, wilderness, rainforests and deserted beaches.
The second day is the most challenging physically but with strategic breaks to take in the lush bush and vistas makes this day the most satisfying. At different times during our walk kangaroos and wallabies bounce by and amongst the chirping birds and eucalypts, we look for elusive slumbering koalas.
At the end of each day we gorge on hors-d’oeuvres ranging from freshly baked scones and cream to selections of the finest local cheeses and wine. This is then followed by restaurant quality meals - I’d come back just for the food.
The four days go way too fast and by the end we are all talking about what next ‘great walk’ we plan to do. We don't want this classic adventure ever to finish but finish it does – and they’ve saved the best for last.
For, after an easy eight kilometre morning stroll, we are buckled in to a Robinson R44, a four-seat light helicopter and are soon swooping over the world famous 12 Apostles. The views on the short 10-minute flight- part of the 12 Apostles Lodge Walk package are quite simply breathtaking – and the perfect end to a perfect getaway.