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Dana Ronan, Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk

You'll be packing lightly and ensuring the hiking boots are on top of the pile after hearing about the magnificent Great Ocean Walk from Dana Ronan, owner of Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk.

Accessed from Melbourne, Victoria's Great Ocean Road is a stunning coastal drive of over 200 kilometres (125 miles) that stretches from Torquay in the east to the striking 12 Apostles and Warrnambool in the west.

Walking the road

Dana could endlessly wax lyrical about the majesty of the Great Ocean Road, but ultimately she believes the best way to experience the coastline is to walk it. And by walking it, she means the 104-kilometre seven-day, six-night Great Ocean Walk from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles.

If that seems like a bit much, you can try one of the smaller sections, like the 52-kilometre four-day, three-night 12 Apostles Walk. The Great Ocean Walk offers exclusive, hiker-only access to parts of the coast not previously open to tourists.

'The Great Ocean Walk delivers a 'behind the curtain' experience of one of the world's great drives. It's a dedicated trail, separate from the road, and covers world-class, moderate-graded hiking all the way to the 12 Apostles. Walking it makes people slow down and see the coastline for all its detailed glory: The flora, the fauna, the markings left by Indigenous Australians, the stories and the freshness of the air.'

Each day of the walk covers a range of terrain from beaches to cool climate rainforest, exposed cliff tops and thick coastal heath, combined with comfortable lodge accommodation and creature comforts to boot.

Taking your time

Beyond the walk, Dana's tips for taking in the spectacle of the Great Ocean Road are just to allow enough time to enjoy it.

'Too many people think it's a day trip, so staying at least one night anywhere along the road will give you time to stop and enjoy the village atmosphere along the way.'

Dana's final bit of advice is this: 'If you can, get someone else to drive. Taking a tour is a great way to see more, and relax, rather than driving a difficult road in a foreign country. Many tour operators depart daily from Melbourne, and are happy to break your journey across two or three days, giving you the chance to stay a night or two in one of the coastal villages and pick up the return journey a day or two later.'

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Great Ocean Road highlights

Dana's wildlife tips

<p>As well as extreme relaxation, the Great Ocean Walk gives you unparalleled opportunities to spot quirky Australian animals in the wild. 'Expect to see koalas, kangaroos and wallabies, echidnas, over 50 types of birds and an array of reptiles. Even migrating whales can be sighted off the coast.'</p>

Dana's best beaches

<p>It's fair to say the beaches are a highlight for Dana, who reckons you can't beat Apollo Bay for swimming and Johanna Beach for walking. 'The beaches are so clean, and unspoilt, yet so close to a major global city like Melbourne. We are lucky how much respect people have for our natural surrounds in Australia.'</p>





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