Guest blogger: Gina Woodward - firstname.lastname@example.org
Disconnect to reconnect is something that the members of Great Walks of Australia often talk about – and their guests relish the opportunity to do just this, in their own time and with only nature (and knowledgeable guides) determining how their day ahead is looking. Each day on a great walk is a new day.
Great Walks of Australia has assembled a collection of premium guided walking experiences that engage walkers in some of the world’s most spectacular terrain. This collection of twelve member walks, ten of these making up the Signature Collection, inspire guests to explore Australia’s diverse landscape and reconnect with nature and themselves.
The walks cover coastal, inland and outback trails on journeys led by expert guides with a deep understanding and appreciation of the environment. All walk operators provide the utmost in style and comfort with great food and wine, plus accommodations including historic homesteads, wilderness camps, private huts and luxury lodges. They all offer a remarkable nature experience and the chance to take time out in unique locations throughout Australia including …
The Tasmanian contingent of Great Walks is currently represented by long established businesses operating The Maria Island Walk, Freycinet Experience Walk, Cradle Mountain Huts Walk and Bay of Fires Lodge Walk.
The latter two are offered by Tasmanian Walking Company who have been appointed as the official guided walk operator for the new Three Capes Track. Their walk experience is planned to be ready for walkers later in 2018.
Each walk in Tasmania offers a truly unique experience – some are lodge based, others are journey style (point-to-point) walks. Walkers can explore mountains, islands and pristine beaches including the Bay of Fires or the iconic Wineglass Bay on the Freycinet Experience Walk.
Wildlife is also a key feature of these walks – especially on Maria Island, a UNESCO World Heritage listed island with a very healthy population of wombats, wallabies and Tasmanian Devils. The Overland Track, covered on the Cradle Mountain Huts Walk, is the most popular guided walk in Australia and a real peak bagging experience (think Mt Ossa, Tasmania’s tallest mountain) for hikers inclined to tick boxes, conquer peaks and add rocks to evergrowing cairns.
Back on the mainland, Victoria’s Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk by Australian Walking Company explores 35 miles of the Great Ocean Walk. This is a lodge based experience, complete with an in-house chef and foot-baths, with transfers for guests available from Melbourne. The undulating terrain sees walkers exploring beaches, rock clifftop and open forested areas with views of the famed Apostles that remain. A scenic helicopter ride on the last day gives walkers a great sense of achievement seeing where they have just been on foot during the week.
In 2016, the Great Walks of Australia Signature Collection expanded to the first member walk for Western Australia, the Margaret River Cape to Cape Walk by Walk into Luxury. This 4 day / 3 night guided experience covers 25 miles of coast, limestone caves and Karri forests, the highlights of this renowned 80 mile trail. Combined with the magnificent food and wine of the Margaret River region, plus the luxury of Injidup Spa Retreat as the lodge base for walkers, this is a truly pampered way to walk in the west. Resting at day’s end in a private plunge pool overlooking the Indian Ocean at sunset would have to be one of life’s great pleasures ... with a glass of Margaret River wine of course. Spring is a wonderful time to experience whale sightings on this coastal walk and it’s also prime wildflower viewing season. The whole place just comes alive.
A unique addition to the collective in 2016 was Signature Collection walk number ten, the Murray River Walk by Luxury River Trails. Based out of Renmark in South Australia, this walk utilizes a houseboat as a lodge-based accommodation element. It’s a great way to relax on a hike and each day’s hike starts with the first step off the back of the boat. Magical sunrises await the walkers in this bird watcher’s paradise, as well as plenty of Australian wildlife, and wildflowers inhabiting the varied terrain of the Murray-Riverland. Food foraging is also part of the experience with new saltbush leaves, samphire and native river mint foraged to finish up on the dinner plates. Ending the day with a hot shower, a superb meal and some riverside campfire tales makes for a wonderful winter walking experience.
In this state, the collection also features The Arkaba Walk in the Flinders Ranges, a stunning four day walk through ancient landscapes and a 60,000 acre private wildlife conservancy. Their walking season is a beautiful time with spectacular sunrises and sunsets, plus cold nights and brilliant edge of the outback skies. Roaring campfires at night and glasses of South Australian wine are a fine way to celebrate and stay warm. Guests enjoy 'glamping-under-the-stars' for two nights, and finish with one overnight in Arkaba Homestead, one of the Luxury Lodges of Australia. The stars, sunrises and sunsets over red rock outcrops, and wildlife sightings are all highlights of this exploratory walking trip.
Since 2009, much work has been done to change the face of what was a working sheep station from 1851. The team at Wild Bush Luxury, operators of the Arkaba Walk, have put into place several successful conservation programs across the property, focusing primarily on feral species eradication and reversing the impacts of years of livestock grazing. The wildlife has returned and are now happily flourishing in their home overlooked by the Elder Ranges and Wilpena Pound. Seeing wildlife in their native surrounds is another one of those moments to be treasured.
This walk, along with The Maria Island Walk, are also now proud members of the newly created Australian Wildlife Journeys group.
This Great Walks of Australia collection is almost a 'bucket-list' for many people. Many guests have commented that although it’s exciting to hear about new walks, they wish more walks weren’t being added as they thought they had almost ticked them all off. Such a tough problem to have when you’re thinking about your next great walk.