The Great Ocean Road – built by returned serviceman from the First World War in memory of those who lost their lives. This was going to be our next big journey. Starting just outside Warrnambool and finishing in Torquay, it would be a journey of rugged coastlines, lush forests and a distance of around 250km.
Having spent the night in Port Fairy, it wouldn’t take long for us to reach the start of the Great Ocean Road, but first we stopped at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village in Warrnambool. It was a museum, which had created a full sized model village based on an early Australian coastal port. We strolled through the village, which included among other things, an old school classroom, dressmakers, doctors surgery, lighthouse and some boats. It was interesting to see how the old village would have looked, but we were eager to hit the Ocean Road so quickly got on our way.
The drive started off in land, with very little to see other than fields and trees. There was one point of interest – Cheese World – but Barry point blank refused to stop there. I was disappointed, I love cheese and having been starved of it the entire time we were in Asia, I like to eat it any chance I can get. Barry told me recently he realised just how much I love it (and was missing it) after I stole a Laughing Cow Triangle that a couple had left unopened on their breakfast table when we were in Asia. It was a low point, near the end of our time there, but I was desperate!
After a short while, coming up to Port Campbell, we reached our first view point of the Bay of Islands. We parked up and walked the short distance to the coastline where we were met with a view of rocks stacked up in the middle of the sea, creating lots of little islands. It was amazing to think that once upon a time, these would’ve all been joined and years of corrosion has made them stand alone like this.
Islands seen, next stop was The Grotto. Not Santa’s but a small archway, which had been created in the rock face, with a little blue lagoon sitting in the bottom of it. We had to climb down a series of steps to get into it, but once down there it was well worth the exercise.
After The Grotto we visited London Bridge. Not sure why it’s called London Bridge, but sometimes now it’s referred to as London Arch after the natural bridge collapsed and a couple of tourists got marooned on the newly formed island. Now with the kind of luck Barry and I have, this is exactly the sort of thing that would happen to us. Luckily it happened to this poor other couple back in 1990 and Barry and I can could just look over the remains with relief that we weren’t here 24 years earlier!
Once we reached Port Campbell, we were onto our next lot of sights. Now I know Barry has previously moaned about the fact that I spend too much time reading everything and I know how annoying this can be as me and my sister used to moan about my Mum and Dad doing this all the time when we were little (yes Dad, despite what you say, you were just as bad as Mum!) BUT if I didn’t read everything, I wouldn’t have been interested in seeing the next sight and Barry later told me that this was his favourite piece of sightseeing along the route. So it pays to read! The sight I’m referring to is The Loch Ard Gorge. So called because back in 1878, The Loch Ard was sailing off the coast of Australia from England when it hit some hidden reefs and went down. There were only two survivors from the 56 on board and the gorge is where the two of them washed up. One of who climbed the cliff face to get some help. The gorge itself was a little bay, with a lovely sandy beach and hidden away behind were some caves no doubt filled with bats!
Now throughout our journey along The Great Ocean Road, we’d seen a few little tourist buses as you could do the drive as part of a tour. And we’d often bump into the same people when we stopped off at the sites, but when we got to the next stop this was obviously where EVERY SINGLE Asian tourist visiting Australia was hanging out. It was so busy that you had to park across the road from the sight and walk through an underground passageway to the other side of the road. Once we got onto the walkway by the ocean, you could barely move for tourists. I didn’t see this many Asians in Asia and every one of them was taking a selfie of some kind. It was comical really that a bunch of old rocks could attract so much attention. That being said, the ‘bunch of old rocks’ which is known as ‘The Twelve Apostles’ would’ve been quite spectacular had we of come across this first, but having seen rock formations like this already at the Bay of Islands, it wasn’t. There wasn’t even twelve of them we could only count seven.
The next lot of kilometres took us through some apparent rainforest, which was filled with winding roads going up steep inclines and then slowing sweeping back down again. There wasn’t a lot to see, but it challenged Barry’s driving skills, as the turns were sharp with some sheer drops to either side. Once out of the forest, we arrived at Apollo Bay where the term ‘Great Ocean Road’ really came to life. This time the road was right on the ocean’s edge and snaked round the cliff edge. The views were amazing, filled with miles and miles of ocean crashing up against the cliffs right next to the road.
Not long into this road, we reached what would be our campsite for the night – Kennett River Holiday Park. I picked this site, as I’d read that it had koala’s hanging out in the trees behind the park and at night it was filled with glowworms. So as soon as we’d checked in, we went for a walk along the road behind the park and sure enough just a few metres into the road, we were met with a koala snuggled up against a branch. This was the first wild koala we’d seen, so we were truly fascinated. There were also dozens of brightly coloured birds flying around. They were even landing on some of the heads of a tour group. Feeling satisfied that we’d now seen a wild koala we headed back into the campsite and as we were walking to our van, Barry spotted another koala just wondering around in the tree above. Is it me, or do koalas just seem way too big and heavy to be hanging in trees?
That night, tempted by the promise of glowworms, we headed out in search of them. We had to drive as it was about 6km down the road from the park. The road itself was pitch black and through the forest. I was in charge of looking out ahead for any rouge roo’s trying to cross the road, as Barry was too busy concentrating on just keeping us on the road and not plummeting down the sheer drop into the surrounding foliage. Having made it to the parking spot in one piece, we took the torch and went for a walk. The stars were amazing, it really was a Starry Starry Night (cue our friend, Tanya Herbert!). It was so dark; if it wasn’t for the torch you couldn’t see a thing. And of course, Barry being Barry took it upon himself to turn the torch off a few times when we were walking, plunging us into total darkness. But after walking a few metres, you could see the glow of the glowworms hiding amongst the trees. It wasn’t quite as amazing as I’d anticipated it to be, but it was worth the scary drive nonetheless.
The next morning, having made it back from the glowworms drive without hitting an animal or plunging off a cliff, we continued the drive along the Great Ocean Road. Our first stop was the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch, built to commemorate the men who built the road. Again, this was another big tourist spot, with lots of tour buses surrounding it so you had to fight your way to have a picture taken. We managed it though and quickly got on our way.
The next stop was a request by Barry – Aireys Inlet – which homed a lighthouse famous for being featured on the kids TV programme, Round the Twist. Barry simply HAD to have his photo taken here. See how excited he is in the picture? We looked around outside, but sadly the tour to go inside was fully booked by a school group so Barry missed out. Karma for the cheese I say.
After this, we had just one more stop to make before the drive came to an end – Bells Beach. Famous for holding the Rip Curl Surfing competition every Easter and also for being the place where Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves had their final showdown in Point Break. So after much persuasion by me that we had to go there as it was filmed there, Barry gave in and off we went. Just before reaching it, I re-read the exert in the book and suddenly realised that it said it was ‘in name only’ that Point Break was filmed there. I didn’t have the heart to tell Barry as we had detoured to be there, so I went along with it. I did tell him once we got on the beach and he gave me ‘the look’. At least we got to see some surfers out there, but it was a miserable day and the beach wasn’t a nice one so we jumped back in the van and completed the drive, ending at Torquay. It was a bit of an anti-climax; no sign to say that was the end (or if there was we didn’t see it) so we just continued our drive onto Melbourne.