We took three and a half days to tour the Great Ocean Road and examine some of its diversions such as the Great Otway National Park, Erskine Falls, Blanket Bay and other natural beauties. We were fortunate in the fact that it was the end of the tourist season so we pretty much had the run of the road to ourselves. We weren’t so fortunate in the weather, however, which resulted in our decision to just take some day walks in the Otway forest rather than doing a three day section of the Great Ocean Walk (they are not too original with the names here…).
We started in Torquay, watching a beautiful sunrise at Point Danger as we ate our breakfast, and ran down the car battery by accidentialyl leaving the key in the ignition withthelights on and the computer charging. Oops. It took a half hour to find anyone with jumper cables, but the guy who ended up helping us was a wonderfully interesting Australian miner who had been gone from the area for two years but had just returned the previous day. After we got the car started we stood around talking to him for a good half hour and he gave us lots of advice on walking in the area and places to visit. What luck! We must be on some sort of local info kick, because this is the third person we have met in as many days that has told us nice places to go and things to see and a bit about the history of the place. They have given us a feel for the people that we had been missing out on, seeing as how (since we are penniless) we don’t frequent any of the businesses that are not grocery stores or gas stations or parks/exhibits with free entry.
Anyways, we left Point Danger and headed to the Torquay Surf Museum. In the late 60’s surfers around Bells Beach, Winkipop and other legendary breaks started making boards; those companies turned into those such as Rip Curl and Quiksilver, who still have huge outlets in the tiny city. Behind these storefronts is a surf museum that holds a lot of the regional and national surf culture. We visited the informaiton center there and an incredibly nice woman loaded us down with maps, brochures and descriptions of a mind boggling array of activities, sights and hikes around the Great Ocean Drive area. Armed with her maps and the words of our helpful car friend we headed off down the 180km of the Great Ocean Road.
It is something to watch the surfers at Bells and Winkipop. Even with the waves at a minimum they were some of the best live surfing I have ever seen.
The GOR is the world’s largest war monument, having been created by veterans of WWI in memory of soldiers lost after they returned from battle. They chipped the road out of what at times was solid rock 75 years ago, but their effort was worth it all; the drive is *beautiful*. Further along the road we came to Point Addis, where the rain kicked in but instead of soaking our fun it just created a series of gorgeous rainbows that carried on past Point Roadknight. We visited a riding stable nearby to see how the local poines lived (in incredibly large, beautiful fields full of shady trees and long grass. Pony heaven.) and passed the views of split point, cinema point, eastern view, and the spit before finding a picnic site tucked away in the Otway surrounded by a forest of gum trees, huge ferns, and twittering birds.
The public golf course at Anglesea is home to a troop of kangaroos that rule the green. We drove by hoping to spot them and there they were, snacking on the green and just lolling around in the sunshine. It looked soooo odd.
We spent the night in Otway near Erskine Falls, eating dinner in a beautiful wooded picnic area while watching the local bird life, including our first Kookaburras. How cute and puffy, we thought… until one of them swooped down and stole all of my turkey and cheese right off of the sandwich I was in the middle of making.
Australia 1: Jen 0. Kookaburra: no longer considered cute by this roadtripper.
There seems to be a large variety of tiny songbirds with large tails that stick straight up in the air. They waggle the tails all over the place as they hop around. We thought the first one we saw was either having seizures or was drunk. Not so, and now that we know they aren’t about to die right there the waggling makes them even cuter!! (this guy is actually a bright blue – he is beautiful!)
Visit to Erskine Falls. Not so big on water action, huge on plant action! The ferns especially were gorgeous!
Please beware of the following:
On our second day of driving we had passed about 50km of mind boggling beauty driving along the ocean then turned inland after Apollo Bay to drive through a stand of gum trees. And there there were, jsut hanging out in a stand of trees near the road. The greatest of all Australian traffic-stoppers – the KOALA!!!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! They were so cute and had puffy ears and big noses! There were about five of them. I tried to fit one or two in the car but couldn’t coax them out of the trees. Anyways, I can leave Australia happy now. 😀
Lookout over Apolloo Bay from Mariner’s Lookout, a popular paragliding site!
We decided to camp for the night at blanket bay, one of the stops along the great ocean walk. We couldnt’ have lucked out more, as there was only one other car in the whole campsite which left us with our choice of sites. We chose this one, with a lovely view of the ocean, our own black-footed wallaby, and a nice campfire spot. The tide was out along the bay, leaving behind a plethora of tidepools that were just begging to be explored by us, the only people on the beach. Our evening was perfect, with ocean waves and beautiful stars that came out from behind their blanket of clouds and a nice dinner with the rain just holding off to let us sit outside with barely a sprinkle. Until, of course, I went to the car to get our extra-special treat of M&M’s that had been on super sale at the grocery store. Instead I found our car door open, our snack box empty, and muddy paw prints all over the inside and outside of the car, clearly identifying the culprit.
Australia 2: Jen 0. The Wallaby: no longer considered cute by this roadtripper.
Blanket bay – all for us! For free!!!!! Yay camping late in the season!
Our last day’s drive took us through the rain and rainbows from Cape Otway to the highlight of the 12 Apostles. The first part of our drive was through some exceedingly pretty farming countryside followed by jaw-dropping views of the rock formations standing out amongst the breakers along the shipwreck coast. It was scenic even in the bad weather, but I would like to say that Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along Lake Superior is just as beautiful (if not more so, really) than this section that is so highly regarded. Go Michigan.
A view of the farmland to the left and the ocean to the right from a point before Princetown.
The 12 Apostles.
We finished our drive in Warrnambool where we re-filled our tank with $6.50/gallon petrol (it is killing us) and headed north towards The Grampians National Park, a rather flat and featureless drive but at least it went trouble free!