Today we started getting into the meat of our road trip and made a leisurely day of driving the 70 miles from Geelong to Apollo Bay. After packing up and eating some delicious passion fruit yogurt we hit the road. Lynn was driving today so she could get some practice on the other side of the road and we quickly made our way down to Torquay where the Great Ocean Road begins. For those not familiar, the Great Ocean Road is basically Australia’s version of the Pacific Coast Highway in California and provides a very scenic drive along the southern coast of Victoria. It’s split into two major parts, the Surf Coast leads to Apollo Bay and is the home of world famous surf beaches and sleepy beachside towns. Shipwreck Coast leads from Apollo Bay up to Nelson and is most famous for its rocky outcroppings known as the 12 Apostles (even though there were only ever 9 and now there are only 7) as well as the over 180 shipwrecks along the dangerous coast.
Torquay is the beginning of the surfer portion and the town looks the part. There were surf shops the size of smaller Home Depots and a National Surfing Museum. Every intersection had a sign pointing the way to the various beaches on the outskirts of town. We made our way through and stopped off at Bell’s Beach which Lynn knew of as the home of the Rip Curl Pro, one of the stops on the World Championship Surfing Tour. As we pulled up, the parking lot was full of middle aged men with sun bleached hair pulling on their wet suits. We stepped out of the car and immediately felt the brisk wind blowing in off the ocean and thought they must be crazy to get in the water in these temperatures. We walked down a little path to a lookout and saw that the water was full of near a hundred surfers riding waves at least as tall as they were. We also soaked in the views and realized this was going to be a very picturesque day of driving if the rest of the road looked anything like this. Orange limestone cliffs jutted out into the grey sea that was teeming with foam as it lashed against the rocks.
After watching a few waves pass through the crowd we got back in the car and headed to the nearby town of Anglesea to pay a stop at their visitor center and plan out the rest of our day. A very friendly lady walked us through a map of the coast and pointed out the main sights. Lynn also perused the brochures and grabbed a dozen or so for us to read in the car to make sure we didn’t miss anything good.
The first stop of our new itinerary was the Split Point Lighthouse, 15 minutes away. We parked at the base of the hill it was on and walked the 500 m to the top where we took in the views. The lighthouse was the last to be erected on this stretch of shore and is still operational today. The better part of this stop though was the amazing Eagle Rock sticking out of the ocean. We poked around the lighthouse a bit and made our way out to two viewing platforms before heading back down to a picnic area for lunch near where we parked. We feasted on cold left over fajitas and carrot sticks while we fended off some very curious gigantic birds. A sulphur crested cockatoo (which are MASSIVE) parked him (or her) self at the end of the picnic table and started slowly scooching towards Lynn and only flew away once I started swinging the bag of tortillas at it. We ate the rest of our lunch keeping a very close watch on the other birds and never letting them get too close.
After lunch we made a brief stop at the Memorial Arch which was erected in honor of the ANZAC soldiers who died in World War I and to whom the Great Ocean Road is dedicated. The road itself was actually built by over 3000 WWI veterans upon returning home and looking for work. We read a few historical markers and then headed down to the beach to actually feel the water. It wasn’t quite Cape Cod cold, but it was certainly much colder than either of us were comfortable getting into. We settled for a handstand contest in the sand instead, which Lynn very much won.
The next stop was Lorne where we drove up the side of the hill behind town to a spot called Teddy’s Lookout. We’re not sure who Teddy was but he had great taste in lookouts. It was just above a valley that spilled into the ocean and there was a great panoramic view stretching from where the river emptied all the back into what they called the “hinterland.” Quite satisfied with the stops the Anglesea woman had set up for us so far we drove through the rest of Lorne and onto the one Lynn was most excited about, the small town of Kennett River.
Kennett River is famous for its local koala populations that live in the eucalyptus trees outside of a cafe at the center of this town. As we pulled in, we saw that “town” was very generous, the cafe was basically the only thing around except for a few houses. Just outside the cafe we saw a group of ten or so people looking up in the trees. Up near the top was a big old fat koala lazily munching on some leaves. Lynn quickly noticed another further up that was curled up in a ball and napping, not too surprising since we learned that they sleep for 18 hours a day. The folks crowded around seemed to have moved past the koala excitement that we had and were now busy entertaining a host of brightly colored birds. It honestly looked as if a pet store had let loose its bird collection and a flock of bright orange, red, and blue birds along with our friends the sulphur crested cockatoo were jumping from person to person eating seed out of their hands. A nice man offered us some of his seed and we were immediately landed upon. The birds seemed to not mind at all and even took to landing on our heads if it meant they would get some seed. We did not really care for that part, though we enjoyed laughing at each other not caring for that part.
After shaking off the birds and finding a few more sleepy koalas we headed down through Apollo Bay to Otway National Park for a coastal walk before the sun got too low. A lady at the Apollo Bay visitor center (they have a seriously amazing number of visitor centers) recommended an hour and a half walk for us that we could fit in this afternoon. After getting a little lost, we managed to find it and set off into the eucalyptus forest towards the coast. We quickly noticed the large number of flies that seemed to make this forest their home but refused to let their constant nuisance keep us from enjoying yet more stunning views. The walk took us to a beach where we rock crawled along the coast for a bit, avoiding the giant waves crashing just offshore. We ended at a second beach absolutely covered in sea shells and we picked through them for a little bit. After each picking a favorite shell that we plan on doing…something…with we headed back to the car and into town to find dinner.
Apollo Bay is one of the largest town along the Great Ocean Road and we thought would make a promising place to find dinner. It seems this status was not enough though to give the town anything other than a handful of fried seafood restaurants open after 5 pm on a Sunday. After walking the length of the road to be sure, we settled on one and ordered a seafood platter for two. We had somehow forgotten our lesson from our last fish and chips experience but were immediately reminded when a giant platter of food appeared in front of us. We did our best to finish it but both were feeling a little nauseous at the thought of another bite of fried batter about 3/4 of the way through and called it quits. Thank goodness it came with a salad to cleanse our pallets.
Bellies disgustingly full, we headed to the outside of town to our Airbnb and met Katie, our host, who showed us our very adorable room and left us to our own devices. After relaxing for a little bit, we thought it would be best to walk off some of our dinner so we headed out for a stroll around the neighborhood. It was at this point that we decided Australia, or at least this part of it, looks like what would happen if Dr. Seuss painted Virginia. There were rolling green hills, but that”s about where our familiarity ended. Every plant seemed to be a fambloyant version of some North American cousin. They all had very fluffy and brightly colored flowers, one looked like corn on the cob and another like Koosh Balls (remember Koosh Balls!). Flying between the trees were more insanely brightly colored birds including two gigantic ones the size of barn owls. Sufficiently impressed with our new surroundings we walked back home and tucked in for the night.
Daily Walking Miles : 10.2 miles
Fun Facts :
- You have to pay for ketchup almost everywhere. It’s a huge let down to order fish and chips and then have to go back up to the counter and pay a dollar each for tartar sauce, malt vinegar, and ketchup.
- About half of the cars here are trucks with snorkels for their diesel engines. It’s making us a little concerned for our little Hyundai i20.
- Australians are really fond of shortening words and adding “ie” as an ending. For example, breakfast is called brekkie, crocodiles are called salties or freshies depending on whether they are saltwater or freshwater, and a rashguard is called a rashie.