24 April 2014

Suitcase. The Great Ocean Road

I just returned from an amazing weekend roadtripping along the Great Ocean Road. This truly is a picturesque part of the world that had me wondering at the history of our beautiful country. Along this stretch of road, awe-inspiring cliffs loom over rocky beaches and all the while the Great Ocean Road winds delicately around the coastline. Every now and then the road winds into deep forest before you pop out again with the ocean in sight. It's an amazing experience.

We began our trip in Melbourne early Friday morning where we headed over the West Gate Bridge and on towards Anglesea where we first hit the Great Ocean Road. Following along this part of the coast, the road is set high above the water and there are plenty of places to stop for pictures with this great vantage point. Drive along the coast an hour or so and you'll hit Lorne. We stopped here for lunch and had a wander around town. What was once a sleepy fishing village is now well and truly a holiday hotspot. I found Lorne to be quite like the Noosa of Victoria, beachy shops, seaside restaurants and a lovely calm beach with rolling waves.

On the road again and we continued our drive towards Apollo Bay. This stretch of road remains winding around the rocky coastline and there are some great spots for photos. We reached Apollo Bay Friday night and this was to be our pitstop for the weekend. It's a sleepy little seaside town and whilst there isn't all that much to see and do in Apollo Bay itself, it does provide a great location base for exploring around.

Saturday morning we were up and about. We visited the markets on the sea front which were, as expected, very small but still a bit of fun. Then it was onto Cape Otway which is about 20 minutes drive west from Apollo Bay. We didn't visit the lighthouse itself but we walked along the tracks nearby for a view of the lighthouse and the old cemetary which is the resting place for several sailors and their families from the 1800's. This area of the coast proved treacherous for many ships and there are several wreck sites to be seen as you travel along the road. Along the road to Cape Otway you can stop at Bimbi Tourist Park which provides the start of the walking track down to Station Beach which has to be fiercest sea I've ever seen. The waves pound the coast here and standing down on the beach I was a little afraid that I could be simply washed away; it was the kind of water that once it takes you I doubt you'd ever return.

On the way back to Apollo Bay we drove through Beech Forest which provided some beautiful rainforest scenery. Be warned; this road isn't an easy drive, it's full of blind corners and tight turns with steep drop-offs but if you're a confident driver it's well worth it. Halfway up this road you'll find a beautiful plantation of Californian Redwood trees. It's a magical place. These great trees loom up towards the sky and in amongst them their canopy is so dense that very little light comes through and when it does, it is in a "peeking" fashion. There are also some spectacularly large bright red mushrooms to be found. I can't explain the feeling I got as I explored this forest other than I felt like I could have been in Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree forest. This is definitely a place to stop and explore.

A little further along the Beech Forest Road you'll find the Hopetoun Falls. There is a lovely rainforest walk to reach them that takes around 30minutes return depending on how quickly you take the stairs (there are 203!). It was such a tranquil part of the forest, if I was an artist I would have loved to plonk myself down with some watercolours. That night we ventured up Beacon Point (a mountain overlooking Apollo Bay) for dinner at Chris's. The restaurant is somewhat like a big tree house on the edge of the mountain with a spectacular view. It was an incredible meal and I'll put the review up very soon.

We stayed in Apollo Bay again Saturday night before continuing on our way towards Warnambool. Once you leave Apollo Bay on your journey west, a great deal of this road is tucked away in the forest and there is not as much ocean to be spotted as there is on the Anglesea - Apollo Bay stretch. But it's still a beautiful trip. We stopped for lunch at the only little cafe in Lavers Hill and had a lovely snack. This place is wooden and so authentic as are the country folk who work there. On we continued towards Port Campbell where we saw the 12 Apostles (I think there might now be only 8 left standing). When these incredible structures first appear out of the ocean as you round the coastline it's an amazing view and there are plenty of great spots for photos along the boardwalk.

A little past the Apostles you'll reach Port Campbell which is a lovely seaside town with a beautiful beach that I would love to go for a dip in in the summer months. Just out of town you'll reach London Bridge, another incredible structure in the sea left behind by the history of the land. The Apostles and London Bridge are the big names along the stretch but a little further on, the Bay of Martyrs is not to be missed. It's not so touristy and has an incredible view of a bay which features structures similar to the Apostles.

Past here and we were onto our last stretch to Warnambool where we spent our last night and explored town. I happened to go to the Sprint Car Races that night which was certainly an experience not be missed.

I'm so glad I took 4 days to do the trip, I think it was the perfect amount of time to explore this area and all it has to offer. Visiting in April was a little chilly and the weather was mixed but even when cloudy the southern coast of Victoria has a magical feeling that can't be ignored.

Photos by Krissie.