Victoria's Great Ocean Road takes on the world as a Great Drive touring experience Part 2

May 11, 2007
Victoria's Great Ocean Road takes on the world as a Great Drive touring experience Part 2

The Great Ocen Road is an Australianworld classroadtouring expereince for all seasons. Autumn is a great time to visit the Great Ocean Road with stable weather typical. Plant and animal life come alive in the spring. Peak period is during summer, which is mild and occasionally hot.

Cape Otway Lighthouse is heritage listed. Built in 1848 on a wreck strewn coast, it is the oldest in mainland Australia. The surrounding pristine National Park includes interesting walks, a variety of beaches, waterfalls and an abundance of wildlife.

On the Great Ocean Road, in our opinion, 80 kmh is definitely the upper limit for safe towing on this amazing switchback road with its many sudden climbs out of creek and river gullies.

Yes, the Great Ocean Road is a great engineering feat and one of the worlds great ocean drives, but by its nature it demands respect and too much speed will certainly get you into trouble.

Touring is about good times. If you and your caravan, camper, campervan or motorhome are leading a traffic parade help others to drive safely, stop when you can on one of the many pullovers and let others pass while you take in the view.

Heading west of Aireys Inlet upmarket Lorne has an ambience all of its own. It has been a special holiday place for more than a century

Facing Loutit Bay and backing on to the Otway forests, Lorne has a caf society and attractions which have made it a popular place to holiday for generations of visitors.

It is touched by the caf culture but rejoices in the natural splendour of rainforest and the cascade of Erskine Falls.

Nearby Cumberland River is pure beauty personified in rugged cliffs plunging down to the river and surmounted by dense bush.

Cumberland River is so perfect it is hard to believe that such beauty can be found in our frantic society.

Apollo Bay is the next destination on a section of the Great Ocean Road, which has few equals in the world.

Cape Otway Lighthouse  is Australias oldest
Cape Otway Lighthouse is Australia's oldest

Apollo Bay lives on fishing, farming and tourism against an emerald backdrop of rolling hills. It is a sea town, which has a salty tang. Crays from the fishermens co-op are available as part of the daily catch.

Near the town Marriners Lookout gives a sweeping view over Apollo Bay and the ocean.

Sunrise on this coast produce colours, which will captivate artists and photographers.

From Apollo Bay, the towering timber of the Otways is fanned by the cool green of ferns, which create another special place at Maits Rest. There is a boardwalk, which protects the area while giving visitors direct contact with the mighty Myrtle Beech trees.

Wildlife in the area includes tiger quolls, gliders, koalas, possums and grey kangaroos. This certainly is the place to experience Australias diverse flora and fauna.

A birdseye view of the rainforest is available from the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk near Lavers Hill. It can be accessed from the Great Ocean Road or over the Otway Range from Western District Colac on the Princes Highway.

The Candle Lady Apollo Bay Saturday Market
The Candle Lady Apollo Bay Saturday Market

The Fly walk is 25m above the ground and the highest and longest in the world. It rises through mountain ash, and blackwood. The attraction is about 15 minutes from Lavers Hill.

A moonlight stroll along Madsens track in the Melba Gully, just past Lavers Hill, will also reveal thousands of twinkling glow-worms amongst the ferns and ancient mossy trees.

The forest includes a massive 200-year-old messmate with a mighty 27m girth. The tree is a living reminder of the giants, which brought the timber industry to the Otways.

The Port Campbell National Park is outstanding touring. Near Port Campbell, the Bay of Islands is another example of the immense power of water driven by great gales.

Bays in the area reflect tragic past events. Local lore has it that Massacre Point, Bay of Martyrs and Little Massacre Bay are comment on the treatment of local tribes at the hands of white settlers.

Port Campbells Norfolk Pines are landmarks on the narrow bay that laps on the shores of a village that has developed trendy touches.

A few minutes west of the 12 Apostles lookout, near Port Campbell, the iron clipper Loch Ard foundered taking all but two of her 54 passengers and crew with her.

This 1878 tragedy has a prime place in the unfortunate loss of hundreds of ships along this section of the Shipwreck Coast.

Fog and haze prevented Loch Ards Captain Gibb from fixing his position, and the towering cliff close to the mouth of the gorge near Port Campbell, which now bears her name, was the first and last sighting before the loss of a fine ship.

Survivors Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael reached the beach at the head of the gorge after Tom rescued Eva from the pounding surf.

Excellent interpretive signage combines with a walk and stairs down to the beach and a lone monument and desolate graveyard give a real experience of tragedy and history.

Twenty minutes drive west is the Bay of Islands Coastal Park.

This area, not as well known as the 12 Apostles is certainly just as spectacular. The best times to visit the Bay of Islands are at sunrise and sunset when the changing light paints surf, sea and land in striking shades.

Kitty is Transported  by the Otway Fly
Kitty is Transported by the Otway Fly

From Port Campbell the well maintained, sealed highway offers spectacular sights all the way to the charming colonial township of Port Fairy via busy rural centre Warrnambool.

Southern Right Whales visit Logans Beach Whale Nursery, at Warrnambool each winter between July to October to calve.

Viewing platforms, five minutes drive from Warrnambool, have been built to cater for the increasing number of whale watchers.

Hunted almost to extinction, the Southern Right was the first whale to be protected by international agreement in 1935.

A Southern Right Whale is an impressive sight. Adults weigh between 60 to 100 tonnes and average 15 metres in length. Calves are between five and six metres at birth and the 40 per cent fat content of the whales milk can double a calfs growth in its first week.

Since 1980 Federal law has banned all whaling within 200 nautical miles of the Australian coast and in 1981 saw Victoria made whaling illegal within three nautical miles of the states coast. Twenty-one members of the whale family have been sighted in Victorian waters since, and the population of two of these - the Southern Right Whale and the Humpback appears to be increasing.

The Lake Pertobe Park and Adventure Playground on the Warrnambool Foreshore is a year round attraction. It is fun for the whole family and it is free.

There are walking tracks, barbecue and picnic areas, with a huge playground, flying foxes, mazes and giant slides.

Warrnambools Flagstaff Hill is a tourism icon on the Shipwreck Coast.

The excitement and hardships encountered by those who sailed Victorias rough seas during the 1800s can be seen at this recreated maritime village.

Flagstaff Hill combines history and 21st century technology into a world-class laser sound and light show Shipwrecked.

Depicting the perilous voyage from England to Australia on board the 80m clipper the Loch Ard, Shipwrecked is an exciting theatrical experience that chronicles how Victorias Bass Strait coastline earned its name as the Shipwreck Coast.

The Flagstaff Hill museum also houses the priceless porcelain 1.5m Minton statue of The Loch Ard Peacock, washed up amazingly intact in its packing case two days after the Loch Ard disaster.

Bookings for Shipwrecked are essential.

About 12 minutes from Warrnambool is Tower Hill State Game Reserve nestled inside an extinct volcano.

Today the reserve is a haven for wildlife, including koalas, emus, kangaroos and water birds that roam and fly freely throughout.

Walking tracks and picnic areas are a feature with some wheelchair access. Significant wildlife can be seen close to the car park.

Aboriginals lived and hunted in the area for more than 30,000 years.

Cutting back near Aireys Inlet
Cutting back near Aireys Inlet

At pretty Port Fairy the Griffiths Island mutton-bird colony is an easy stroll from the centre of town via a causeway which links its sandy shores to the mainland.

It is Australias only mainland colony of mutton-birds and thousands of burrows pockmark the island, hidden in the marram grass, rushes and succulents.

On Griffith Island alone the colony is estimated at several tens of thousands of mutton-birds, or Shearwaters, as Captain Cook called them. A few hundred metres along South Beach, thousands more of these pilgrims of a 30,000km Pacific migratory flight-path add their crooning, wailing cry to a chorus which reaches a fervent pitch at dawn and dusk.

Beautifully presented Port Fairy is a charming fishing village. Its historic buildings and quaint cottages mask a rugged seafaring birth. Port Fairy, along with its heritage buildings, has a caf culture of food, wine and unique accommodation.

Editor's Note: Also see -

Time to stop. Port Fairy
Time to stop. Port Fairy