The Kilboran's Great Antipodean Adventure - Episode Twelve - Three Long Hops to Kangaroo Island!!


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January 31st 2018
Published: February 7th 2018
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The Great Ocean Road


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It all starts here....
So, the next three days are a serious road trip. A total of more than 1200 kilometres over three legs from Melbourne in Victoria to Kangaroo Island in South Australia, via one night stops in Port Fairy and Robe. You can talk about your Route 66's and Pacific Coast Highway's, but the first leg of this route travels the world renowned Great Ocean Road and we were looking forward to yet more amazing views.

But first, we had to get out of Melbourne and that had its complications. Poor old Sue's knee was proving really painful, so we left her to get up slowly and carefully, while Tim, Mandy & I left the hotel around 8.00am for the 10 minute walk to the Avis office, to pick up our hire car. For some reason, Trailfinders had booked a station wagon (estate car, in proper English!), which we knew wouldn't be fit for purpose and we managed to get this upgraded to a Kia Carnival - a bit of a bus, but 4WD, with plenty of luggage space and no upgrade cost! All three of us went to ensure we were all named drivers, with Sue automatically included, as Tim's spouse.
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Apollo Bay in the distance......
While the paperwork was sorted out, I legged it down the road to purchase a road atlas - it's dangerous to only rely on Satnav in the wilds of OZ - and after picking up a few supplies for the journey from Aldi (!), we were back at the hotel, ready to pick up Sue and the luggage by nine. Having said this, Tim (as driver) had one little foible of the Melbourne traffic system to cope with and that was at right turns on roads close to the tram tracks. For some peculiar reason, when wanting to turn right, you first need to go in the left hand lane, indicate right and then move forward to a box on the left hand side, where you wait until the lights show that you can go ahead and turn right. All very bizarre.

Unfortunately, when we got back to the hotel, Sue's knee had taken a turn for the worse, but with the help of the concierge, she had found a place across the city which sold crutches and despite our urging that she should go to A&E to get it checked out, Sue was convinced that she would be
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.....the incredibly busy Apollo Bay beach!
fine with the crutches. Although, it was in the opposite direction to our intended journey, we found the place pretty easily and $60 later, Sue had some brand new supporters and we were heading back in the right direction.

As we began to leave Melbourne, a couple of hours later than planned but fully prepared for what lay ahead, yesterday's temperature of over 40C was already down to 30C and the clear blue skies were clouding over fast. In fact, for the next 4 days, we only saw intermittent glimpses of sunshine and the temperature barely got above 20C. Perhaps, we shouldn't have complained that it was too hot while in Melbourne!

Our first leg to Port Fairy was about 400 kms (or 240 miles) and a bit like the trip from Franz Josef down to Queenstown in New Zealand, although the journey should only take about 5 hours, we knew it would be longer with the stops to be made and sights to be seen, on the way. After heading west out of the city on the M1 to Geelong, we then switched due south to Torquay (!) where the Great Ocean Road officially starts.

Although
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The Twelve Apostles........some are hiding around the corner!
there are a number of look out points on the road before the town of Apollo Bay, about 200 km from Melbourne, we had been told by the concierge not to bother with these stops because the truly spectacular views only really start from Apollo Bay onwards and.........he was absolutely right. In fact, prior to that point, we all thought that the journey had been pretty dull and didn't really know what all the fuss was about. At one point, it had got so gloomy, either with the cloud coming down or a sea fog, that we couldn't see very much anyway!

However, we reached Apollo Bay and it is a pretty little town, with a massive and largely deserted beach and we decided to stop for coffee and toasted ciabatta and a review of how it was going so far! We were still in shorts, but only just and for the first time this whole trip the rain macs (who remembers Pac-a-Macs??) had been unrolled, ready for action. Spirits were a bit low, forgetting of course, that the weather back home was probably a whole lot worse than this!

Port Fairy was still about 190 km away
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Mandy and Tim, with a few apostles behind them....,
(120 miles) away with a lot of key sights on the way, so on we pressed and although the weather didn't improve very much (and got a whole lot worse at some points), we saw some fabulous places, including:

* The Twelve Apostles - a collection of limestone pinnacles off the coast of Port Campbell National Park, that were originally part of the cliff face, before becoming arches and then the pinnacles, by way of sea erosion. There have only ever been nine stacks, but this was reduced to eight, when one 50 metre stack collapsed in 2005;

* London Bridge - two pieces of rock, that were joined until 1990 (hence the name London Bridge and now commonly known as London Arch), when the middle collapsed, leaving two tourists stranded on the far side. They had to be rescued by helicopter;

* Loch Ard Gorge - a natural limestone gorge, also off the coast of Port Campbell National Park, named after the clipper ship Loch Ard, which foundered on the nearby rocks in 1878, at the end of a 3 month voyage from England; of the 54 people on board, only 2 survived;

* The
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Poor old London Bridge has fallen down!
Arch - an eight metre high arch carved out of the limestone rocks yet again;

and

* The Bay of Martyrs and Bay of Islands - two bays forming part of the 32km long Bay of Islands Coastal Park between Peterborough and Warnambool containing numerous reefs and limestone stacks.

By this time, we were 'viewed out' and after passing through Warnambool, Port Fairy was in sight and we pulled up at the delightfully named Merrijig Inn just before 7pm. This is lovely, quirky old place where we had two super suites, in a very quaint, almost chintzy style, but with some very nice little touches, such as tissue paper with the 'Who gives a crap?' brand. As we were quite late and also pretty tired, we had dinner at the Inn and to be honest, it was a bit if a disappointment.

The food itself was very tasty, but the portion size was outrageously small. However, this was no haute cuisine fare; we all had the rump steak but the size of the steak was less than tiny! In fact, we had all originally decided to go for the Rib-Eye on the menu, which was for
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Port Fairy harbour...
two to share, but unfortunately, they had just sold their last ones. When our second choice of rump steak arrived, we thought there might have been a communication problem and they had assumed that we wanted to share that instead. In actual fact, when the plate arrived, I thought it was just the salad and potatoes and they would be bringing the steaks out separately, but no......the steak was hiding under the salad!!

I decided to politely question whether this was the case and ask if our steak had been shared between the four of us, but no.....believe it or not, we each had a full serving of rump! Well, perhaps it was the rump of something like a hamster, cos it wasn't the size of any cow that I'd ever seen! And the thing was, it certainly wasn't cheap!! The restaurant was full of seemingly happy diners and we weren't about to make a fuss in full view of everyone else, so we declined dessert and took our drinks into the lounge and the waiter said he would bring the bill through for me sign and charge to our room. Well he never did and after a while,
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Loch Ard Gorge from the beach.....
we trotted off to bed.

Breakfast next morning was already prepaid and to our amazement, 'included one cup of coffee/tea, but......with any further cups being added to your bill', something I'm not sure that I have ever seen before! Whilst breakfast was fine, by this time I was ready for a 'debate' on checkout, but the wind was taken out of my sails, by the lady on reception (who I think was probably the owner) apologising for the meal the previous night and handing me a bill which had been substantially reduced! I couldn't ask fairer than that, especially as in all honesty, we really liked the place, so we parted happy and on good terms.

Port Fairy is a pretty little fishing village, although for us was really only a stopover on the way to Kangaroo Island and we didn't see much of the place. We had a quick look around the harbour, but today we were moving on to our next stop on this road trip, of Robe, 280 km away (or 170 miles). The owner of the Merrijig did ask about our journey and highly recommended a slight detour from our route of about 30km
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Loch Ard Gorge in all its glory!
roundtrip to Cape Bridgewater and the Bridgewater Blowholes near the town of Portland. This is another massive, beautiful and deserted beach, save for the owner of the cafe, walking her dog.

We grabbed takeaway coffees from the cafe and then drove a bit further up on to the Cape, to see the blowholes - basically a series of caves in the cliffs into which the sea blasts in and out - worth seeing, but we've probably seen a better version at Boscastle in Cornwall! We drove back to reach the main route to Robe and a bit further on came across a sign for 'Fresh Strawberries' and a punnet of fruit sounded a good way of helping pass the time on the journey. We popped into the small shop and picked up a kilo for $8 and very nice they were too. While there, I asked if they had a loo and was promptly taken out back, through the ladies sorting through the picked strawberries in the 'factory' and out into the yard, where the 'pickers' were having a tea/beer/fag break, and on to the door of the first 'dunny' that I've seen in OZ.

'Looks like one
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Yet more Loch Ard!
of the fella's 'aving a turn at the mo, so just 'ang on here for a bit' my tour guide explained and so I did just that. A couple of minutes later and a strapping young man came out wearing shorts and wellies, which did make me wonder a bit about the state of the floor, but in I ventured and it wasn't too bad, although it was dark, which probably helped! Fortunately, my needs in this facility were quite modest, if you know what I mean, but as I stood there, quietly whistling Waltzing Mathilda to myself, there was a loud banging on the dunny door! Was this my 'Deliverance' moment? Could I hear 'Duelling Banjos' playing outside? No and no was the answer, it was simply the previous occupant, who hadn't popped back to wash his hands, but explained, 'I think I left me mobile on the side mate!'. And indeed he had and very pleased he was to have me pass it out to him, with my spare hand!

Our only major stop on the way to Robe was in the town of Mount Gambier, where the two sites we wanted to see were Umpherston Sinkhole
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The Arch in close up.....
and Blue Lake. Umpherston is a fascinating sinkhole acquired by one James Umpherston in 1886 and turned into some beautiful gardens in the large crater. Well worth a visit and good ice creams in the visitor shop and cafe too! Blue Lake is small, relative to many of the lakes we have already seen on this trip, and fills one of the many volcanic craters in the area . Its claim to fame is that the colour of the lake turns a vivid blue between December and Marich, although nobody seems to know why, but believe me, it certainly was blue! Personally, I think they just stick blue dye in the water to attract the tourists, but as the only people we saw at the lake was us four and a cable tv engineer on his lunch break, I'm not sure that my theory is that robust! Again, definitely worth a visit though.

Mount Gambier done, we pressed on for Robe and pulled up at Robe House, apparently the first building ever built in Robe in 1847. The owner was cutting the grass and before we had lugged our bags out of the car, he came over to introduce
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.......and, a bit further away!
himself and then remind us that we were actually staying in their other property in town, a two bedroomed place called Victoria Cottage. It was only a short drive away, but he suggested that we take a slight detour to the edge of town first, to check out the views. The cloud had cleared and it was a lovely late afternoon and the Robe coastline was just plain beautiful.....an unexpected surprise.

The cottage was perfect, although Mandy would have loved to have got hold of it to do a complete renovation job. We had the chance to do so some washing - I use 'we' in the royal fashion, of course! And, with the nearest couple of restaurants closed on a Tuesday, we opted for a takeaway from the local chippie (next door but one to our cottage) and an excellent change it made too - snapper in batter was fab for me and the other three enjoyed some cracking chicken!

So, it's on to leg three and the journey from Robe to Kangaroo Island; an estimated 520 km (or 320 miles) and five plus hours of driving. Although we do follow the coast road north for a
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The beach and cape looking very good!
long way, there really isn't that much to see, because just offshore all the way up from a bit north of Kingston town (although not the one about which, UB40 once sang) until we reach a place called Meningie, is a stretch of land called the Younghusband Peninsula; apparently a haven for birdlife and fishermen, but not much of a view for the passing motorist.

After a quick stop at Kingston to refuel, it was a slog north with nothing much to report. However we did spend a very entertaining 45 minutes at the Coorong Hotel Motel in the 'metropolis' of Policeman's Point; POPULATION '2', namely two brothers Ray & Graham, who emigrated from Scotland, at a guess, about 50 years ago and who took over the hotel a couple of years ago. They have four rooms at the hotel which they reckon to fill most nights with passing traffic looking for an overnight stop, or from fishermen/birdwatchers. The TV was on in the lounge showing Fiona Bruce on Antiques Roadshow - which all seemed a bit surreal in the middle of nowhere in Australia!

There was nobody else around when we turned up and the boys were
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The blowholes!
keen to talk. Graham, in particular, was a right laugh with a very dry sense of humour. We ordered coffees and he explained that they've got all the mod cons in Policeman's Point, dishing up Flat Whites and Cappuccinos, no trouble at all. Ray is obviously the chef and he gave us some delicious complimentary pancakes - you've got to have something sweet to go with your coffee, according to Ray!

We did take the opportunity of asking Graham what the collective noun was for a group of kangaroos. Before we get on to his response, maybe I should give a little background as to why we asked in the first place. I did mention that this leg of the journey was a bit uneventful, although we did get to see our first kangaroos in the wild, at a distance! However, to show how uneventful it was, not for the first time this trip, our conversations had become a wee bit banal. We had been trying to guess the collective noun for kangaroos and had come up with some real corkers such as, a hop, a bound, a bounce, a jump and even a Skippy to name but a
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The gardens looking fab!
few, but it turns out that the actual word is 'a mob'. However, before we found out the real word, we asked good old Graham what the word is and it turns out, he is not a big fan of the pesky critter and quick as a flash, he tells us that his personal version of the collective noun is........'a f***ing nuisance'! Brilliant!! Policeman's Point by the way, is named after the point in the trail where horses used to be changed for stagecoaches, etc., and tended to be the place where policeman used to congregate to ensure there wasn't any trouble.

Our next stop was for a driver change in the town of Meningie, which is at top end of the Younghusband Peninsula and the mouth of the Murray River, one of Adelaide's three main rivers. We pulled up on the shores of Lake Albert, just as a couple of TV News teams were filming clips about some film premiere or other - the crew weren't that keen on talking to us and were more concerned with getting their shots, with the weather still being pretty dull. The 'precious' reporter was getting a right cob on with the
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The Blue Lake.....looking very blue,
cameraman, because he couldn't get his shot organised!

From this point, we didn't look to be that far away from our destination of Cape Jervis at the bottom of the Fleurieu Peninsula and where we picked up our ferry to Kangaroo Island. We simply had to drive north from Meningie, cross the Murray River at Murray Bridge (at the top of the Murray estuary) and down the Fleurieu Peninsula to Cape Jervis. However, that little jaunt on the map, took the best part of three hours - this really is a huge country!

But, after passing through the pretty coastal towns of Port Elliot and Victor Harbour, we finally pulled into Cape Jervis and the terminal for the ferry to Kangaroo Island. We were booked on the 6pm ferry, but arrived in good time to switch to the 4pm and as I was driving, I got the honour of taking our vehicle on board, while the others had to walk on. So, that was it, our mega road trip was pretty much over; only the 45 minute ferry journey to KI to go and that'll I'll leave to the next episode. Three long hops for this 'mob' of
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....the Blue Lake again!
travellers, as opposed to kangaroos and despite slightly disappointing weather, it was a really interesting journey and, if you have the time, well worth doing, with the towns of Port Fairy and Robe definitely worthy of a visit.

Of course, I can't finish without a couple of quiz questions, so today's entries are:

* We stopped in Apollo Bay, but which Apollo mission was the first to land on the moon?

* Other than the London Bridge on this journey, name two other places in the world which have a 'London Bridge'?

That's it folks!

TTFN


Additional photos below
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The oldest building in Robe!
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The beautiful coast at Robe....
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.....the sea was so blue!
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What a great detour!
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There could be kangaroos ahead....
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....and guess what...there were...
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......and his mate!
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Graham and Ray's place!
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Tim, Lake Albert and not much else!


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