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Victoria's Great Ocean Road takes on the world as a Great Drive touring experience Part 1

May 11, 2007
Victoria's Great Ocean Road takes on the world as a Great Drive touring experience Part 1

This morning Ross and Jo Whitty and Bill and Carolyn Juddleft Frankston for one of the world's Great drives. The spectacular Great Ocean Road, second only to Melbourne as Victoria's most popular tourist attraction.

The Great Ocean Road is a popular route to Adelaide for travellers with relaxed touring rather than time constraints on their mind. From upmarket Geelong, Victorias second biggest city via Warrnambool to Portland, birthplace of Victoria, the route via the Great Ocean Road is filled with constant change in scenery and interesting things to do. It is a world class Great Drive of Australia. So take the road with us. In this 3 Part Series.

The Great Ocean Road's wild beautiful seascapes have a deadly history.

It is believed that up to 163 ships have come to grief on this stretch of Victoria's coastline. Shipwreck Trail signs start at Lavers Hill and continue to Port Fairy.

Bass Strait is a graveyard of ships, which failed to complete the last lap of the voyage from England to young Australia.

The danger for captains often threading the needle in dirty weather with no opportunity to check their position against stars or sun was all too real.

Cape Otway and Cape Wickham on King Island are the sentinels on iron-bound shores on either side of the strait. As the toll mounted, Cape Otway lighthouse raised its guiding beam in 1848.

The lighthouse and keepers cottage are now an attraction and a solar powered light continues the role of guiding beacon to those at sea.

From upmarket Geelong, Victorias second biggest city via Warrnambool to Portland, birthplace of Victoria, the route via the Great Ocean Road is filled with constant change in scenery and interesting things to do.

At sea and riverside Anglesea we found a really quirky coffee slot just off the road as you come into Anglesea from Geelong. It is called thelaneway.

Lisa gets high on the Cape Otway Lighthouse
Lisa gets high on the Cape Otway Lighthouse

You could miss it so we include this photo. We stayed a few days in Anglesea and hooked into the funk band Squid at 38 South a few shops west of thelaneway. We kicked back for a great afternoon. Nice town, great coffee, friendly people.

Anglesea is a family favourite with a river and a beach ideal for surfing and swimming. At low tide long walks around to Point Roadknight get the body working and relax the mind.

On the way to Aireys Inlet, Point Roadknight has rock pools at low tide.

A few km's on Urquharts Bluff can provide good surf and a rock pool at low water.

The Anglesea Golf Course is noted for the kangaroos and wallabies, which graze on the 18 holes of this attractive country course.

Split Point Lighthouse at nearby Aireys Inlet is worth a stop with walks, which reveal more striking outlooks.

Nick brews up at thelaneway coffee slot Anglesea
Nick brews up at thelaneway coffee slot Anglesea
The red cap of the lighthouse is hard to miss and the Bark Hut near the corner of Lighthouse Road and Inlet Crescent is a replica of an 1860s settlers hut that gives meaning to pioneering.
Just put it in the back. Split Point lighthouse Great Ocean Road
Just put it in the back. Split Point lighthouse Great Ocean Road

Fairhaven is the main beach that is patrol by lifesaver from December to Easter.

Great gale drive seas constantly savage the coast and an icon stack of the famous ocean carved 12 Apostles crashed at 9.18am on Sunday morning, July 3, 2005. There was international interest in the fallen Apostle.

But the stack is the first to fall in the history of Europeans in Australia, says Port Campbell pioneer family member and caravan park operator Tom McKenzie.

'That is more than 200 years', he said. Toms family came to the area around Skipton as bonded shepherds in 1854 and after serving their six year bond settled in Port Campbell in 1860.

In European time the gale blasted rocks have a long history. The charts of the amazingly meticulous cartographer and navigator Matthew Flinders show the name 12 Apostles.

Matthew Flinders, George Bass and his young servant William Martin began an intense period of Australian exploration in 1795 in a cockleshell dinghy they called Tom Thumb. In 1801, at 26 he commanded the 334 tons sloop HMS Investigator. He was the youngest commander of his rank in the Royal Navy. From 1802 he charted the Australian coast.

Flinders died in London on July 19, 1814,the day after his new work A Voyage to Terra Australis was published.

Tom McKenzie says there were originally 17 rock formations, depending on how you look at it.

To arrive at that tally you must agree that the rock formation known as the Bakers Oven is part of the group and that Elephant Rock, which lost its trunk in 1936, also qualifies as an 'Apostle'.

The wild coastline is a work in progress.

Another icon of the Great Ocean Road and Shipwreck Coast, London Bridge, collapsed 17 years ago, in 1990 at 11am on Jan. 10, leaving two tourists stranded when the rock span fell and suddenly formed an island. They were retrieved by helicopter.

The Apostles stack which crashed has been a long time going. Tom says the erosion rate is about the thickness of a match every 10 years. It an interesting marine environment. Not only do Apostles tumble, but in nearby Port Campbell a curious whale cruised to within metres of the towns jetty.

Sarah and Dean Hellessey of the, Great Ocean Road Tourist Park, Peterborough, say whales can be seen at Logan's Beach in Warrnambool, and occasionally at Peterborough from June to October.

Their Tourist Park is right on the mouth of the Curdie's River Inlet which forms the boundary of Port Campbell National Park and Coastal Reserve

Apostle down 2005
Apostle down 2005

In fact the Apostles are only a part of the amazing coastal and hinterland showcase.

Continue 13km west of Port Campbell and the great ocean touring experience includes peaceful Peterborough, Curdies Inlet, excellent surf and fishing, beaches to die for and the breath-taking beauty of the Bay of Islands.

Many people say it is better than the Apostles.

Then there is the Bay of Martyrs, Childers Cove, which includes Murnane Bay and Sandy Cove and the popular beach at Cofts Bay.

Editor's Note: Dean and Sarah Hellessey of Great Ocean Road Tourist Park Peterborough have just added a new special to their website. Kids stay free during this June/July school holidays. This supports the Fun 4 Kids Festival in Warrnambool. Further information can be accessed at www.fun4kids.com.au

Dean and Sarah saywhales should be arriving in Warrnambool within the nexttwo weeks!!
Great Ocean Road Tourist Park Peterborough Ph: 5598 5477
www.gortp.com.au

Victorias heritage kicks in further west at Port Fairy and Portland.

Portland was the first permanent settlement in Victoria, established in 1834. It has 200 historic buildings to show for it. The Botanic Gardens are among Victorias 'originals'. There is protected swimming and good surfing for the beach set too.

Apostles  on guard 1998
Apostles on guard 1998

In the mid 1820s Port Fairy and the security of the Moyne River drew the attention of Captain James Wishart and his cutter Fairy, which gave its name to the port. Fort and Battery Hill has cannon from the 1860s, nearby Griffith Island has a mutton bird colony.

There are tours to see the seals of Lady Julia Percy Island. The Local Historical Society in Gipps St keeps up with the past and about 12km west of town The Crags are cliffs with a view. Whalebone Gallery is a fresh experience and nearby Yambuk Lake is popular for fishing, boating and the attendant birdlife.

After shopping the Apollo Bay weekend market we chose Bimbi Park at Cape Otway as our destination for two nights camping. It is one of the Family Parks chain and it should be called Bird Song. Never have we heard so many happy feathered friends sing their hearts out.

Quirky cottage in heritage haven Port Fairy
Quirky cottage in heritage haven Port Fairy

We will take a good tape recorder next visit and add their stress busting chorus to our suburban home.

There are koalas too and it was mating season, so while those sounds were also natural the challenge grunts of the males gives a clear idea that the Big Bad Bunyip is about to get you.

Add to that the mad cackle of a colony of Kookaburras at dawn and it is a wonder the early settlers stayed at all. The local wildlife at the nearby 165 acre Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology next to the Otway National Park includes tiger quolls, gliders, possums, wallabies, kangaroos, pottoroos, wedge tailed eagles, king parrots, yellow tailed black cockatoos, blue winged parrots and a legion of small bush birds that include fantails, yellow robins and blue wrens.

Master chef Morrison. Bimbi Park Cape Otway
Master chef Morrison. Bimbi Park Cape Otway

We toured the Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology with Shayne Neal. Shayne is a director of the centre with his partner Lizzie Corke. Lizzie graduated from Melbourne University in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Zoology.

With interests in Australian wildlife biology, ecology and conservation Lizzie and Shayne (BSc NRM), created The Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology, an exciting award winning Advanced Ecotourism initiative which offers guests from around the world the experience of a lifetime, sharing spectacular scenery and intriguing wildlife.

On World Environment Day, 2005, Lizzie became the first female and youngest ever recipient of the Prime Ministers Award for Environmentalist of the Year.

Editor's Note: Also see -

Cape Otway Swamp  wallabies love apples. Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology
Cape Otway Swamp wallabies love apples. Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology
A young possum  peeks from its recovery shelter. Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology
A young possum peeks from its recovery shelter. Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology
Anglesea Beach first day of spring 2006
Anglesea Beach first day of spring 2006
Cabins with an outstanding location courtesy Great Ocean Road Caravan Park, Peterborough
Cabins with an outstanding location courtesy Great Ocean Road Caravan Park, Peterborough

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