THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
322Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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THURSDAY APRIL 15 2010
Journey: Barwon Heads, Breamlea, Torquay, Bells Beach, Point Addis, Anglesea
Weather: Cloudy, fine, 16 degrees at 10.20
Overnight: Anglesea Holiday Park; $34 pn with power
We left Barwon Heads along Bluff Road and enjoyed stunning views back towards the Bellarine Peninsula.
It was a short trip to Torquay, the official start of the Great Ocean Road (GOR). This town is only 1 hour's drive from Melbourne and is Australia’s surfing capital, where iconic surf brands such as Rip Curl, Quicksilver, Globe and Billabong have their headquarters and the famous "Rip Curl Pro" Surfing event happens each year in March/April; we witnessed the dismantling of the set up with the event completed on Last Saturday at Bells Beach. By the way, Kelly Slater won the event, 16 years after he first won it in 1994; triple world champion, Stephanie Gilmore won the female title. We know little about surfing, but when you witness the ferocity of the ocean along this coast you have to admire their courage and skill!
We spent a couple of hours here at Torquay, checking out the surf shops with their latest gear, having lunch and just strolling around the town; the day had brightened to warm and sunny. The Cyprus Tree Sculpture on the foreshore was quite fascinating and so was its history; the original figurehead was rescued from the Inverlochy, shipwrecked nearby in 1902 and anchored in this spot. This was lost or burnt in the 1950s but a local artist, Mark Trinham, sculptured a replacement recently from the trunk of a dead Cyprus pine growing close by.
This coast has many shipwrecks resting in their deep ocean graves
Then it was onto the GOR and Bells Beach, internationally famous for surfing. It was a magnificent sight and we joined the other sight seers to watch the intrepid, wet suit clad surfers riding the big waves to shore. The white surging surf shone bright in contrast to the dark cream coloured sand far below us and we were hypnotised for a long time into staring at the beautiful action.
Point Addis further along the coast was a feast of views and look outs and with the clouds gone, the sun revealed the full beauty of the ocean and headlands.
The road stays close to the ocean -of course it does and that’s why it’s called the Great Ocean Road. Some say that this road is one of the world’s most spectacular drives and as you pass along it you can understand why. "Frommers Travel Guide" lists this drive as one of the top 10 road trips in the world.
It was built by the Australian soldiers returned from the First World War and started in 1918; without heavy machinery, the 3000 ex servicemen used picks, shovel and crowbars to tame the rocky coast and create a tourist route of “world repute. The road was open fully in 1932 and attracts huge numbers of local and international tourists, especially around the "Twelve Apostles", huge rock stacks jutting out of the ocean.The road weaves around the south Victorian coast passsing through lovely little towns and villages.
Anglesea, a small village along the coast was our overnight destination and the Holiday Park there was right on the beach and beside the river. The shops were close by and we bought some delicious local chocolate panaforte to have for dessert. The camp kitchen was huge, fully enclosed with an enormous TV, lounging chairs and sofas but after cooking up a very tasty spaghetti bolognaise we decided to return to the van for dinner.
Kath was up for sunrise next morning and snapped away to get pictures of the red cliffs along the beach, only accessible at low tide.
We took the walking track through the coastal heath and along the Southern Ocean for our “power walk” and the degradation of the track made it harder than anticipated but we achieved the 6kms without any major catastrophe and appreciated the native flora still flowering! Some of this area is designated national park, along with coal mining (Alcoa) and recreational use. Back to camp and a weight training session, and facing the beach in the warm sunshine, it was a pleasant task!
FRIDAY APRIL 16
Weather: sunny, 20 degrees at 10.30
Mileage: 14294 kms
Journey: Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Lorne, Wye River
Overnight: Wye River Holiday Park: $28 pn
On this gorgeous sunny morning we stopped at Aireys Inlet to walk to the Lighthouse, stretch our legs and experience more wonderful seascapes. This stretch of the GOR is spectacular and Kath was hopping out of the van frequently to snap another shot while Sheila drove carefully around the curves on the narrow road.
Then it was a stop at Lorne for lunch; this is a very attractive town with very expensive real estate and is a popular weekend and holiday destination for Melbournians and you can appreciate why when you see the beach of white sands and small even waves, so perfect for swimming and sun baking.
The esplanade has great cafes and shops and we chose a sour dough hamburger and strong flat white and sat on the footpath to enjoy the scenery. We almost stayed overnight but after inspecting the Foreshore Camping Reserve we decided it was a bit too noisy especially on a Friday night and we headed for Cumberland River Park, recommended to us twice but fully booked for a private function for 2 nights; yes it did look lovely beside the river and in front of the beach but never mind.
It was onto Wye River Holiday Park where we found a lovely camp site beside the trickling stream on impossibly green lawn and we were satisfied!
Duck poo was the only negative! Unfortunately Sheila had a fall on some loose gravel as we trod “Paddy’s Path” late afternoon and needed to rest her bruised knee so it was 2 nights here, taking it easy and getting through 2 weekend newspapers. The General Store and the local pub have earned reputations for good food and even though we did not indulge we noticed they were both doing great business. An extra day here allowed for a big load of washing for $3 which quickly dried in the hot sun – yes it was a t-shirt and shorts day again. Lovely!
A special treat here was the resident koala in the tree by our camping spot; he was quite tame and even posed for pictures. He seemed to like resting in the sheoak tree but had to move to the eucalyptus tree to grab the leaves and eat. This area is renowned for koalas and we did sight a few more as we travelled. Campers were arriving in numbers, but not too many chose our section that had no power. We met our neighbours, a couple in their 50s from Geelong, on just their 2nd camping trip with a tent. They had seen the weather forecast and decided to go camping for the weekend! We all got nervous when streams of dirt bike riders drifted into camp but they were well behaved and were accommodated in the cabins further into the park and had dinner at the pub so Saturday night was a quiet one!
SUNDAY APRIL 18
Weather: Cloudy and 20 degrees at 10.30 am
Journey: Wye River, Apollo Bay, Marengo Beach
Overnight: Marengo Beach Holiday Park $24
Sunday morning was a time for packing up and we did so as well. Sheila’s knee was feeling better (must have been the Arnica that Kath applied) and we took to the road with a cloudy mist over the ocean making for muted scenery. Apollo Bay was a disappointing stop for us; it seemed a bit old fashioned and its title: “Paradise By The Sea” didn’t ring true.
We visited the Fishermen’s Coop., hoping to get fish and chips but they didn’t cook their produce except for crayfish at $75 per kilo and prawns $35 so we rustled up coffee and food in the van and drove onto Marengo Beach where we were the only inhabitants of the unpowered camping area in the Holiday Park. $24 pn and it was a lovely quiet spot just at the entrance to the Great Ocean Walk, which Kath tackled the next morning after photographing the very colourful sunrise. Lots of holiday house along the coast here and the track passed a sheep farm but the sheep just ran when Kath tried to take pictures.
The Great Ocean Walk is a 94km track that goes as far as Princeton and we hopped onto it where we could for short return stints.
MONDAY APRIL 19
Weather: a little cloudy; 24 degrees
Mileage: 14375 kms
Journey: Marengo Beach, Apollo Bay, Cape Otway, Johanna Beach
HAPPY BIRTHDAY NELL, Kath’s mum, 92 today!!!
...and welcome to the world to Sheila's nephew!!!
After a grocery top up at Apollo Bay we drove to Cape Otway, the most southern point of the GOR and home of Australia’s oldest lighthouse, 80 metres above the Southern Ocean. We took a short stroll on the Great Ocean Walk but decided not to pay $16.95 entrance fee to go to the lighthouse on this strangely white day- the sky and ocean merged into one misty white seascape apparently because of easterly winds and definitely no sign of deep blue ocean today. We had planned to stay at Bimbi Park advertised very effectively as sheltered amongst Manna gums with koalas, possums, kangaroos etc. with world class amenities; it sounded perfect but on arrival the proprietor was reluctant to let us drive in to check it out so Kath walked around the unpowered sites and was less than impressed but admittedly there were koalas hanging off the trees, so that part was true!
We located the Johanna Beach Campground, recommended to us last November when we were camping in Girraween; we had been a bit apprehensive about the condition of the road in but it was fine and the camp ground was superb and free.
Johanna Beach is one of the beaches where the international surfing event is held and when Bells Beach surf lets the surfers down and once again you have to use words like spectacular, impressive amazing. No good for swimming because of the force of the surf and the rips but a magnet for surfers who were hanging out when we arrived. By Tuesday the surf was scrambled and inappropriate so we only saw 3 guys go in and they really struggled to get back to shore – we felt nervous watching their attempts and breathed a sigh of relief when they put feet onto sand. We later realised they were French tourists, perhaps not aware of the dangers and they were smart enough not to try again. A guy from Goolwa, South Australia, on a surfing holiday, gave up on these surfing conditions after waiting until midday; he gave us some information about the conditions and my goodness it is another language!
We took to the Great Ocean Walk track for the morning “power walk”; it was mostly along an old 4 wheel drive track and very scenic. Strolling the wide beach to the source of the Johanna River was tough on the calves, as the sand was soft and giving; the odd delinquent wave broke closer than expected and warnings about these events are posted along shore. The mist from the rolling surf threw up some pretty rainbows. Checking with a fisherman on shore, they mostly catch mullet and white salmon off the beach but this guy had not been lucky.
This is a beautiful place to linger and our first experience of free camping in Victoria. There are pit toilets and running water, although not drinkable it is great for washing up etc. and that is it for amenities. The camping area is grassed and spacious and importantly, tucked behind the dunes and sheltered from the winds. Our co campers are from all over with daily visits from locals checking out the surf. Tuesday was warm, just cooling down late afternoon and a perfect day to hang out at the beach.