A writer sharing travels, experiences, a love of festivals & events. Life is a journey and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at https://www.travelwithirenke.blogspot.com
Published January 28th 2015
A photographer’s dream
I love a road trip and there is nothing more spectacular than driving along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. You can do this route many times and see something different every time. The landscape is constantly changing with the weather eroding the coast and its limestone formations.
My first trip along the Great Ocean Road was back in the 80's when the Twelve Apostles were twelve and London Bridge was still intact. Now there are only 8 Apostles left and London Bridge split from the mainland some time ago. Whilst on a trip to Melbourne last year, it was timely to go down this road again so that my husband and son could experience it - their first time.
We set out in the morning from Geelong and decided we could easily make it all the way to Warrnambool (I'd previously only been as far as Port Campbell) as it was only 4 hours or so driving time. I did not account for the number of times we would stop along the way. We did make it to Warrnambool but not until after dark. There are so many lookouts with breathtaking views that you just have to stop and the seaside towns do not disappoint either.
So after seeing the colourful, painted bollards on the Geelong waterfront, our next point of call was at Torquay (the official start of the Great Ocean Road) for some breakfast and a drive around this surfing capital of Australia. This is where brands Rip Curl and Quicksilver were born. A SurfWorld Museum gives a history of the sport in Australia and our contribution to its development around the globe. Everything from surfboards to wetsuits and celebrating our heroes. Beautiful Bells Beach attracts the top surfers for many a carnival and markets often grace the grassy foreshore as they did on Easter Sunday.
Continuing through to Anglesea, a popular tourist resort and spot for swimmers, there were more markets and traffic to contend with. Towering coastal cliffs are a feature of this little town. Activities abound and you can take surf, sailing and windsurfing lessons on the beach, hire a canoe and paddle your way around the channels or play a round of golf alongside some kangaroos. There's also an adventure playground at Coogorah Park that has the shipwrecked Inverlochy in the sand along with a treasure chest for kids to search for and play equipment to keep them busy.
On to Lorne and it was already time for lunch. Lots of activity here with some great cafes and restaurants, bakeries, gelato, and retail shops, mere steps from the beach. You can take in the view over Loutit Bay and fish from Lorne Pier.
It was then onto Apollo Bay with a stop here to stretch our legs and replenish liquid supplies. We didn't have to go far to spot the majestic Marengo Beach with surfers and swimmers out and about. This is the place to hop in a kayak, get up close with seal colonies or do some deep sea fishing. Seals we saw but in the form of a collection of wooden sculptures on the beach reserve depicting these and other ocean inhabitants as well as a dinosaur egg and poles of people.
Museum-wise, there is the Old Cable Station Museum with displays of relics from shipwrecks and local memorabilia whilst the Bass Strait Shell Museum has extensive specimens of shells and sea life as well as old photographs.
It was getting on in the afternoon and we had to get going as we still had an hour and a half's drive to Port Campbell but if one had more time there are also sunset beach rides on horseback to enjoy here as well as gift shops, galleries and tea houses. The hinterland is also not far away and the foothills of the Otway Ranges provide for some good mountain bike riding¸ wildlife to experience, bushwalking and the treetop walk along the Otway Fly gives a bird's eye view of the Ranges.
From Apollo Bay, the Great Ocean Road veers inland for the first time and we get some different scenery in the form of lush, green rainforest whilst passing through the Great Otway National Park. You could venture off track to see the Cape Otway Lightstation or some wonderful, plunging waterfalls but we wanted to get to Port Campbell for sunset and we just made it.
Port Campbell has changed quite a lot since the 80's and not just with the natural weathering of the rock formations. A large visitor centre exists with a huge car park that was almost full. When open, the centre has a lot of information on the area with walking and gourmet food trails, water sports, where to fish and where to stay.
The crowds were there to get that perfect photo. This place is a photographer's dream. Apart from the Apostles, you can see the nearby Gibson's Steps - an area of cliffs with a staircase leading down to the beach. We watched the sun going down and stared in awe at the sheer beauty of nature before moving on to Loch Ard Gorge, the scene of many a shipwreck, and Cathedral Rock.
The Arch, London Bridge and The Grotto are further along and by the time we reached the turnoffs it was too dark to see anything so we continued on to Warrnambool. I would have liked to have seen the Bay of Islands Coastal Park which is not far on from Peterborough and made a stop off at Allansford Cheese World and Museum. Oh well, I will just have to go back again.
A bit of history about the road - it was built by returned soldiers between 1919-1932, is dedicated to soldiers killed during WWI, and is the world's largest war memorial.