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Published: February 14th 2016
From Torquay to Apollo Bay I
One of the surf beaches in the area of Torquay.
After I had arrived in Melbourne Mizzi and I only spent a day in the city and then went on a road trip along Great Ocean Road. We left Melbourne on a Sunday morning and took things slowly. Our first stop over was Torquay, the official beginning of Great Ocean Road. It is only an hour’s drive from Melbourne, has a lot of beaches, and is home to some of the country’s most well-known surf beaches. We had a coffee at one of the cafés along the beach promenade and then went for a stroll along the beach. They are located along a bay and are nice and flat – and unusually populated. A few kilometres out of town there is Bell’s Beach, home of the annual Rip Curl Pro, an important surfing contest.
From there we made our way to Lorne and enjoyed the beautiful views along the road. This part of the coast has flat beaches and beautiful bays. In Lorne we stopped for lunch and afterwards continued to Kennett River, where one can see koalas in the trees. We could also see a helicopter take up water from the sea in a large container and fly it
From Torquay to Apollo Bay II
View towards the east from a viewpoint between Lorne and Apollo Bay.
inland, where there were still bushfires burning. We had been lucky. There had been bushfires along our route in late December and early January, and Great Ocean Road had only just re-opened after having been closed for quite a while. We could still see where the fires had burned.
In the late afternoon we arrived at Seacroft, a former monastery just 15 minutes east of Apollo Bay, where we were going to spend the night. Nowadays Seacroft is a hostel where one sleeps in the bedrooms in which the monks used to sleep. There is a kitchen and living room that everyone can use. The owner lives in what used to be the church. Just across the road from the monastery there is a small track that leads down to the beach. Mizzi and I took a walk along the beach and after a while arrived at a spot where visitors built many, many little cairns. We sat there for a while and watched tourists come and go, build cairns, and take photos. Then we walked back along the beach and drove into Apollo Bay for a Thai dinner. Apollo Bay is very small, with only a few shops,
... in one of the trees in Kennett River, between Torquay and Apollo Bay.
hotels, and restaurants. There is also a carnival. And of course the village has a nice beach. We did not stay long, though, but returned to our hostel and spent the evening reading our books in the lounge room.
The next morning we had breakfast at Apollo Bay and then continued on Great Ocean Road. Shortly after Apollo Bay the road leads inland and into Otway National Park rainforest. After a while we turned off to Cape Otway Lightstation. There is a lighthouse and telegraph station built in 1848 on top of sea cliffs where Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean meet. The lighthouse was built because a lot of ships had sunk in the area. So it was important to build a lighthouse there, but even getting there from inland in order to do so was not easy and it took several attempts and the help of Aborignes to find the spot. It took ten months to build the lighthouse.
For many immigrants coming from Europe this was the first sight of Australia after having travelled on a ship for months. Occasions like this always put things into perspective for me. We complain about not enough legroom,
I have never seen one of those in Australia before, only on Great Ocean Road. There must have been quite a few accidents with tourists driving round in rental cars.
bad food and poor movie selection on planes, although our journey from Europe to Australia takes about 30 hours, with a very low risk of dying or getting sick on the way. How courageous and tough must those who first settled in the country have been – or how desperate and poor!
The telegraph station was built in 1859. Its purpose, apart from sending information on ships that were passing the cape to Melbourne, was to be a relay between mainland Australia and Tasmania. It took several attempts to install the submarine cable that ran to Tasmania via King Island. Those working at the lighthouse and telegraph station used to have quite a lonesome life, with the next village being far away. Groceries were delivered a few times a year, and children went to school right at the cape. There is a museum in the former telegraph station outlining what life must have been like in the old days. The lighthouse provides a nice view of the cliffs.
We returned to Great Ocean Road. After some time, the road led us back to the coast and we arrived at Twelve Apostles. Now the road ran along the top
The former monastery that we spent our first night on Great Ocean Road in it, just 15 minutes east of Apollo Bay.
of high cliffs. Our first stop over was Gibson Steps, stairs leading down to the beach so that one can get a ground view of the cliffs and Apostles. You can never see all of them at a time. Here we saw a few, with the more remote ones fading in the mist. Then we went to a few lookouts from which one can see the Apostles from the top of the cliffs. They consist of limestone and used to be part of the coastline before the rock eroded by the constant surf, forming bridges first that then collapsed into the sea. All of them are different. Some are square, others are long and narrow, and in each of them one can see different layers of rock. They are impressive, but I also have to say that I find them a bit overrated – like probably the entire Great Ocean Road. It is beautiful and very scenic, but I do not know whether I would really rate it as a true must see.
When it started to rain Mizzi and I drove to Port Campbell for lunch and then continued to Port Fairy, an old fishing village. We had
... on the beach not far from Seacroft.
a coffee and walked along the main street and then went for a walk on Griffiths Island, a beautiful peninsula just out of town. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant and then drove back to Warrnambool, east of Port Fairy, where we had booked a room, and had a lazy evening reading our books.
The next morning we had breakfast in a nice café overlooking the bay at Warrnambol. Afterwards we went to Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, a park located around a lake that is in the crater of a volcano. There are a few walks one can take, and so we went up onto a mountain to enjoy the view of the park and its surroundings, and we walked along a boardwalk through a swamp. There were quite a few emu that were not shy at all, and there was an Aborigine teaching tourists how to throw a boomerang.
Afterwards we started driving back towards Melbourne via the inland route. The drive is quite boring, through flat farm land. We made a stopover for lunch at Ballarat, a former mining town, and had a most fantastic Quiche Lorraine – not to be expected in such a
Cape Otway Lighthouse
... in Cape Otway National Park.
place. Before returning to Melbourne we went to Mount Macedon, a small town 64 kilometres north-west of Melbourne in the mountains. The area is lush, green, and not as hot as the land below. There are nice houses and gardens, and the reason why we had gone there was Forest Glade Gardens
, a private park that is like a secret enchanted garden. We were the only ones there and enjoyed a beautiful walk. I spring the garden is full of beautiful flowers; Mizzi had sent me photos of it, now there was more green. We then returned to Melbourne for the night and we were looking forward to a trip to Mornington Peninsula the next day – but that’s the next post.
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