On the 12 Apostles Lodge Walk everything is taken care of. Your only job is to put one foot in front of the other. We’ll show you the way, carry all the extras on our back and point out natural features along the way. We’ll supply sumptuous lunches to sustain you, daypacks and walking sticks, cool lemonade at the end of each walk and even apply a band-aid if required. All you need to worry about is soaking up the walk experience.
Day 1: Castle cove to Johanna Beach (easy)
Time to lace up in the ‘mud room’ and step out on track for day one. This is not before a lodge welcome and walk briefing over morning tea. It’s then a short drive out to Castle Cove to begin your walk, with a tasty hiker lunch tucked in your pack.
Today begins in the tea-trees with a few impromptu peeks out to the Southern Ocean. This will be your constant neighbour for the next four days. Enter a flawlessly-groomed grass tree forest and hear tales dating back 104 million years at Dinosaur Cove. Bring those boots to a halt and consider a time when dinosaurs occupied your very location.
Next, drop down onto Johanna Beach. This is an opportunity to kick off the boots and walk barefoot; wind-swept waves just metres away. This two kilometre stretch has a knack of clearing busy minds and washing away city stresses. Take your own pace across sands frequented by hooded plovers.
At the end of the beach is your cool water and lemonade greeting, a constant across all four days. Hop in the van or choose to walk back to the lodge under your own steam.
ENDURANCE OPTION: take a cruisy 3 kilometre meander back to the lodge.
Distance: 6.5km (+3km lodge walk in option at the end)
Walking time: 4 hours Rating: Easy
Ascent: 214m (269m) Descent: 236m (270m)
Day 2: Milanesia Gate to Moonlight Head (moderate)
Challenge delivers great reward. Wild, weathered headlands give sense you’re at the world’s edge. Day two is your hardest day out on track. But with it comes spectacular seascapes and personal triumph. Beginning at Milanesia Gate, it covers some of the most remote sections of the Great Ocean Walk. This is your day of wild. Your day of rugged. Strap that pack on tightly and don’t be afraid to put your head down and march up those hills.
The ocean is your steadfast companion across 12.5 kilometres of rolling terrain today, beginning with a descent onto Milanesia Beach. Here, your guide will point out a ‘natural rock wall’ that would be the envy of any budding young climber. After a fleeting beach visit, it’s a short but bracing climb that whispers of inclines to come.
Over the next hours, your trail carves its way through deep gullies with tree ferns and towering remnant Eucalypts. There’s 132 steps to ascend before trailing west out of the forest to Ryans Den. On suitable days, this is your lunch perch. The Den gifts with unsurpassed views across to Cape Volney and Cape Otway.
Further along the trail, as it mimics the tumbles and rising of the coastline, keep an eye out for Cape Volney. There’s a bench that, if time allowed, could swallow hours. Heaving seas disappear into watery caves. Views west travel to the horizon’s edge. And the entire spectacle is framed by the forest.
ENDURANCE OPTION (8km): Begin bright and early on Johanna Beach. Keep an eye out for kangaroos as you traverse rolling hills, including a country lane that rises to the Great Ocean Walk’s highest point. Today’s endurance option is for those who have done some additional training.
Distance: standard walk: 12.5km (+8km longer walk option)
Walking time: 8 hours Rating: Moderate
Ascent: 711m (1052m) Descent: 714m (898m)
Day 3: Moonlight Head to Princetown (easy/moderate)
Today is about shipwrecks, sandy pathways, exposed heathland and maybe even first glimpse of the Apostles. What better place to commence the walk and get your bearings than The Gables Lookout, one of Australia’s highest cliff-top vistas. After the challenging undulations of yesterday, day three is pleasantly less furrowed.
More than 300 ships have come to grief on this stretch of coastline. Your first stop is aptly named Wreck Beach. It’s a suitable reminder of those early days and treacherous ocean voyages. If conditions allow, you’ll drop down to Wreck Beach and hear tales of pillaging and misfortune including a ship which travelled from China whose cargo of tea coloured the ocean. Depending on tide, an alternate route leads through to Devils Kitchen, home to arguably Australia’s best lavatory vista!
Following lunch, notice how the geology begins to change from sandstone to limestone. Thick Eucalypt forest gives way to sections of moonscape, indicators of what’s in store. Keep an eye out for native rosemary, cushion plants and wild flowers in season.
Your first glimpse of the Gellibrand River marks the entrance to Port Campbell National Park. This freshwater river near the sleepy hamlet of Princetown is an easy downhill stroll. After some 12.5 kilometres, reward yourself with a cooling river dip.
ENDURANCE OPTION (5km): set off early, gently winding through native stringy bark forest before meeting the others at The Gables Lookout. Alternately, relax on the bus and explore an early 1900s cemetery at Moonlight Head.
Distance: 12.5km (+4.5 km option)
Walking time: 7 hours Rating: Easy/moderate
Ascent: 267m (377m) Descent: 388m (537m)
Day 4: Princetown to the Twelve Apostles (easy)
Today invites new heights. Not only will you conquer the final steps of your Great Ocean Walk but top this with a 15-minute helicopter flight. Depart from the quiet shores of Princetown by the Gellibrand River, beginning with an easy 30 minute wander to reveal your first full view of the Apostles. Gasps aside, keep an eye out for two resident mobs of kangaroos across the hillsides to your right.
There’s a sense of elation today as you draw nearer to the mighty limestone Apostles. No, there’s not 12, which may come as no surprise. But amongst the proudly standing 7, lie 5 recently discovered apostles beneath the ocean’s surface. Weathered but not beaten, those in view lose a couple of centimetres each year to the perilous swells and winds whipping up from the Southern Ocean.
Drawing closer, hear the romantic tale of Tom and Eva. Tom, a gallant local who swam more than an hour to rescue Eva from the Loch Ard, perhaps Victoria’s best known shipwreck. Of 63 on board, Eva was one of the lucky two to survive, whisked to a cave by Tom and ‘administered’ brandy to remain conscious.
The Apostles reveal gradually along this stretch, reappearing as the trail rises. There’s a viewing platform exclusive to walkers on the final stretch before your arrival to the Visitor Centre. It’s the official end to your walk and an appropriate locale to get cosy with the Apostles in a group snap.
If conditions permit, don’t miss the opportunity to descend 80-plus steps to the beach below. This final perspective gives a sense of the Apostles brooding heights, one 73-metres tall, nudging the equivalent of a 20-storey building. It’s here with sand under your boots, a sense of monumental achievement and wonder sets in.
Take to the skies to bid farewell with a 15-minute helicopter flight. Capturing the chiselled coastline from above gives scale not only to the Apostles but the trek you’ve completed. Follow this with a final lunch in the sleepy fishing town of Port Campbell before returning to Melbourne.
WALK: Princetown to the Twelve Apostles
Walking time: 3 hours Rating: Easy
Return transfer to Melbourne Airport (5-5.30pm for flights from 6.30pm) or Melbourne CBD central dropoff location (6.30-7.00pm).