I am an academic and writer living in Melbourne. I love to travel and I also love writing about all the things Melbourne, regional Victoria and other parts of Australia have to offer.
Published September 26th 2016
A great family weekend for all - even the dog
A double birthday celebration saw us heading down the Great Ocean Road for a relaxing weekend, complete with a beautiful, spacious, dog-friendly house. There was plenty of room inside and outside for everyone to relax, play games, walk the dog and prepare celebratory dinners.
But first the drive down. We took the Melbourne to Colac highway and then down through the windy, forested 36 km road towards the ocean. Due to mud slides caused by heavy rain the section from Lorne to Apollo Bay had some detours so the road away from the coast was a quicker option, if perhaps not as spectacular. All in all, it took us about 3 hours - a quite bearable amount of time for children, accompanying adults and a dog. After the recent rains the scenery along the way was full of colour; vibrant green meadows, bright yellow canola fields, fluffy white lambs and black Angus beef.
We stayed in Marengo, 5km from Apollo Bay on Cypress Hill. The house we had rented though Airbnb ( can also be rented though here ) was a modern, architect designed, ceiling-to- floor windowed house with 3 bedrooms and slept 8 people very comfortably. It had 2 bedrooms with queen beds and one bedroom with 2 bunks and a double bed. It had some very interesting features such as a front door salvaged from the Commonwealth Bank in the 1960s and a piece of the original Westgate Bridge. It also had a magnificient, very large wooden table and unique seating as well as very comfortable living and sleeping areas. Being a dog-friendly house there was a dog bed and dog house for our canine companion. A resident koala discovered on our first morning and some resident black-faced sheep as well as a Willy Wagtail and Kookaburra provided a very Australian flavour to our weekend.
On the morning of day 1 we explored Apollo Bay after a delicious breakfast at La Bimba. Following the hearty breakfast and excellent coffee in the upstairs terrace we were off to a good start to explore the Saturday Market, the town and the long beach with stunning views along the coast.
Great coffee and breakfast at La Bimba, Apollo Bay
The afternoon expedition took us to Shelly Beach – a short drive from Apollo Bay followed by a 1 km track through the bush. Exploring rock pools, climbing rocks, playing in the sand and taking wonderful photos of the wonderful views and rock formations kept everyone happy and amused. While the beach is considered hazardous for swimming it is a great beach to explore and to enjoy a picnic in the sun.
Our second day saw us driving to Cape Otway to visit the Cape Otway Light Station, named Australia's Most Important Lighthouse due to its position and role in maritime history. You can take guided tours of the Light station and even stay overnight in one of the cottages on site. The drive to the Light Station takes you through interesting bush vegetation with many koalas to spot along the way. Watch out for cars with tourists stopping when they see a koala in a tree. In their excitement they don't always pull over to a safe parking spot! Ghost gum trees lining a part of this road add an eerie perspective to the Australian bush and invite a stop for a photo opportunity. A turn-off to Blanket Bay gave us the opportunity to explore another of the many Great Ocean beaches which are mostly accessible by unsealed roads. A short track from the car park led to a beautiful beach and bay with only one other family in sight and we were once again able to enjoy stunning views of the coast and explore for treasures of the sea and rocks. This bay also has a small camping ground and a relatively safe area for swimming.
It is also part of the Great Ocean Walk which can be done through one of the licensed tour operators or by yourself (preferably in a group to reduce chances of getting lost).
Our weekend finished with a road stop at the Otway NouriShed, a café serving good coffee, scones, cakes and lunches. The many historic artefacts, historical documentation about early settlers of the Ottaways and many quirky signs resulted in a very pleasant half hour before our return trip to Melbourne.
Sorry to explain Olga but the trees you have referred to as Ghost gum trees are actually trees killed by the unmonitored overpopulation of Koalas translocated to this area originally from French Island. As they ate themselves out of house and home scores and scores of them have had to be put down due to the results of starvation. Tree planting that is being carried out only now will be of no use to the Koala population for decades.