28.01.2014 - 02.02.2014 25 °C
We had a final push for the Great Ocean Road which officially starts just after Warrnambool, if you're travelling from Adelaide.
So what can I tell you about this famed road, billed as one of the world's greatest drives... well, it's 163 miles long, was built by 3,000 returned servicemen from WWI as both a memorial to those lost and to provide mateship work for those who returned. The back-breaking work started in 1919 and the road was complete by 1932.
It offers stunning vistas of sea-shaped cliffs and stacks, sweeping bays, beautiful cool rainforests, fern gullys, waterfalls, rolling hills, seaside towns and world class surf. Torquay, at the other end of the Great Ocean Road and known as Australia's 'capital of surf', is where two huge surf brands... Rip Curl and Quiksilver started up.
I've broken the trip out into three distinct parts - the Shipwreck Coast, Falls & Forests and Lighthouses & Surf.
The Shipwreck Coast
Driving east, this stretch was first up. Its name due to the fact that over 200 ships were claimed by this perilous coastline between 1830 and 1930.
The main lookouts and points of interest are all clearly marked and we were able to see the Bay of Islands, Martyrs Bay and The Grotto before getting to our campsite in Princetown.
The campsite was picturesque with an elevated view over a meandering river and a field of 'roos. Super quiet too... just how we like it.
There were yellow-tailed black cockatoos in the trees and blue wrens darting in and out of the hedgerow. A nearby boardwalk which took us out to the river and closer to the roos made for a lovely evening stroll. Lovin' this campervan melarky.
Our van can be spotted - the middle and smaller one of the three
The next day was cooler by about 18 degrees! Bizarre eh. There's such extremes here - if there's a north wind blowing from the outback then it's roasting and if the wind direction switches from the south (Antarctic) then of course it's pretty nippy. Melbourne is renowned for experiencing the oft quoted 'four seasons in one day'.
We completed the main sites along Shipwreck Coast...
Loch Ard Gorge
Other lookout points on the coast
I'd seen most of these before when I came to Oz in 2009 and did this stretch on a backpacker tour... but as it was a different season it was still good to see everything in another light... and of course to share the experience with Cookie!
We hoped for a good sunset at the Twelve Apostles but it didn't really get going. Still, got some nice pics as the light faded on the stacks.
A rare photo of us minus the sunglasses. We also had to wrap up warm, there was a really cold wind!
Well there's one thing definitely to be said about this campervan experience... variable sleeping conditions. The second night in the campsite was ffffffreezing! It got down to about 8c and I went to bed with three layers on and still couldn't get warm.
We woke up around 6am probably because our bones had fused in the cold or something... but on the plus side it was quite special to see the early morning mist on the river.
Falls & Forests
Most people power through the GOR in 2-3 days, some even as a day trip from Melbourne, but we had given ourselves plenty of time for a leisurely schedule. This allowed us to head inland and explore some of the other treasures which many tourists don't see.
We discovered a gourmet food trail which took in artisan goodies and local produce such as ice-cream (best ever!), beers, cheeses, chocolates and a berry farm producing strawberries. Not good for our ever-increasing waistlines. We seem to be eating and drinking our way around the world, ah well. Friends may not recognise us on our return home...
Our gourmet booty!
We continued on to discover the walks and waterfalls of Great Otway National Park... and to find the cute little grey fellas up in the trees.
Triplet Falls is the more visited and talked about of the national park's waterfalls, but we much preferred Beauchamp Falls which was both a nicer rainforest walk to get to and more beautiful (in our opinion).
Triplet Falls and walk
Erskine Falls was the busiest of the waterfalls we'd been to and was probably the least impressive.
The loop we took in the camper took us on Wild Dog Road which was both breathtaking and terrifying (well, if you're like me and don't have a head for heights). The narrow twisty road was so high looking down on the deep valleys below and there were very few barriers. Just us and the endless sheer drop bends. We also had the added frisson of having a lowish fuel guage and were trying to calculate how far it would get us and how many k's to the next town. Cripes. I was like a coiled spring.
It was time for some koala spotting. They're not widespread across Australia and there are only a few (albeit large) pockets across some of the States where you can see them. We even got lucky and saw one running along the ground which is probably a fairly uncommon sight. They're surprisingly speedy considering the rest of the time they're slumped in a comatosed fashion from all the munched eucalypt leaves.
Eerie dead tree forest - complete with one koala
Lighthouses & Surf
We paid for entry to Cape Otway's Lighthouse and braved the blustery top for fabulous views.
We passed through Lorne, one of the larger tourist places along the GOR. We didn't stop for too long as the town didn't look that appealing (busy, touristy, not much character) so we just picked out a great viewpoint, Teddy's Lookout.
We stopped at Split Point Lighthouse for a walk around the base and headland it's located on, and couldn't resist a cream tea in a cute tearoom nearby.
Bells Beach of Point Break fame with a sea mist rolling in
General views from the Great Ocean Road...
As it was a Saturday and we were nearing Melbourne, the GOR was quite busy and campsites were looking chocker. We couldn't face the thought of one rammed with tonnes of families so we headed out to the one furthest away from the main tourist spots. The goods news... it was peaceful and out of the way... the bad news... it was more of a trailer park with mostly permanent residencies which had seen better days. Camping options have definitely got worse on the east side of the GOR... for what we were looking for anyway. And to rub salt in, they were more expensive the closer we were to Melbourne.
We consoled ourselves with fish & chips in Torquay (sounds rather British eh) and enjoyed a great view of the beach and sunset from the campervan.
Great Ocean Road - done!