Great Ocean Road: The Shipwreck Coast

Onward we went on the Great Ocean Road, but not before a quick backtrack to collect some goods from the Apollo Bay IGA: roast beef for lunch, ice packs for our Cool Bag, paper towels for the inevitable messes we would make, and a knife to appease Doug’s need for something sharper when we’d be cooking at our Airbnb stays. A quick drive later we found ourselves heading down a narrow road through the rainforest on our way to Cape Otway, what we’d hoped was the furthest point on mainland Australia (on further Google Maps inspection, this is not actually the case). We continued on the winding road until spotting four people on the side staring up into a tree. It looks like we’ve had a koala spotting! Not to miss any chances to see the adorableness, we pulled over to the side of the road, parked, and walked back to bask in the cuteness. There our koala friend, only 7 feet above our heads, pleasured us by munching on some eucalyptus, scratching himself with his hind legs, and slowly crawling higher, sloth-style, after spotting more deliciousness to feast on.

Day 3, the Great Ocean Road along the shipwreck coast from Apollo Bay to Port Fairy.
Day 3, the Great Ocean Road along the shipwreck coast from Apollo Bay to Port Fairy.
Hello koala friend!
Hello koala friend!

On the verge of dying from the cuteness, we hopped in our car and continued on our way until reaching the parking area and entrance to the cape’s lighthouse only to be disappointed to learn that you have to pay $20 AUD to walk to the tip of the cape. All we wanted to do was walk the grounds, not enter the lighthouse or visit their fake ship wrecks. So, we settled on a quick hike into the surrounding “bush” (Australians like this term for woods, so I’m adopting it) where were able to see the tip of the lighthouse from a nearby hill.

I see you expensive lighthouse
I see you expensive lighthouse

Satisfied with our viewing of Cape Otway, we jumped back in Mickey and continued on the road through the bush to Wreck Beach. As you can probably tell from the title of this post, this part of the Great Ocean Road is no stranger to ship wrecks and on Wreck Beach you can view some of the remains of Marie Gabrielle and Fiji, two ships who found their final resting place here. We had seen many signs stating that you should not descend the 366 steps and walk the beach unless it is low tide. And, well, we had no idea what the tide was, but we thought we’d walk the steps to check it out anyway. We figured if the steps were covered in ocean water, then that would be our sign to descend no further. We got down there pretty quickly and found the surf a good ways out leaving a comfortable amount of beach so onward we went, through sand and over rocks admiring the strength of those scary looking waves and the resulting formation of the cliffs. We quickly found what we were looking for – two giant rusty anchors and an axle, remnants of Marie Gabrielle, embedded in the rock of the surf. After some picture taking we looked down the beach to spot where the Fiji anchor was to determine if it would be safe to pass. The beach was clear for the most part, but there was a portion where the water was hitting the cliff. Being a bit overly confident in our ability to make it between waves, we continued on our way, properly timing our moves over rock faces until we made it to the anchor. Looking behind us, with increasing trepidation, we realized that it was becoming high tide, not low tide like we had initially believed. With this new realization, we quickly headed back across the rocks with an increasing pace until we reached the stairs we had descended on. Back up we went, decreasing in speed as we went, finally arriving back at Mickey.

Down the steps we go
Down the steps we go
On our way to see some wreckage
On our way to see some wreckage
Marie Gabrielle wreckage
Marie Gabrielle wreckage
Attempting to avoid being swept away to sea
Attempting to avoid being swept away to sea
Fiji anchor
Fiji anchor

It was now time for some lunch, so we prepped our roast beef, cheddar, and mayo tortilla rolls before chowing down in the front seat of the car free from flies and nosy birds.

Finished, we took off once again in Mickey until we reached the first viewing area for The Twelve Apostles and were immediately stunned. This coastline is certainly different than yesterdays with huge water battered limestone cliffs and pillars. And the waves, my goodness, we could not get over how large they were. Several times over the remainder of the coast, one of us would say something to the effect of, “You’d be dead. There’s no way you would survive” in reference to being in these waters. The waves were easily at least one story tall and some of the most powerful that we have seen in our lives.

The start of the Twelve Apostles
The start of the Twelve Apostles

The breathtaking views continued one after the other with The Twelve Apostles, the Loch Ard Gorge, the Arch, London Bridge, and the Grotto. We also had a brief stop at a lookout over the town of Port Campbell, but the highlight was not the town itself but the brief moment when we spotted a kangaroo along the walking path!

More of The Twelve (::cough:: 7 ::cough::) Apostles
More of The Twelve (::cough:: 7) Apostles
Be careful
Be careful
No, you would not survive.
No, you would not survive.
The waves hit every 14 seconds sometimes forming caves in the limestone.
The waves hit every 14 seconds sometimes forming caves in the limestone.
Inside Loch Ard
Inside Loch Ard
The trail right after Doug said "Oh look a kangaroo!" and started moving towards it.
The trail right after Doug said “Oh look a kangaroo!” and started moving towards it.
The Arch
The Arch
That is some powerful surf.
That is some powerful surf.
London Bridge without the bridge
London Bridge without the bridge
The Grotto
The Grotto

We did take a brief side trip up into the town of Timboon to partake in the Twelve Apostles Gourmet Trail that was advertised at all the information centers along the route. The first stop was at the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery, which we learned upon arrival was closing in 30 minutes. To maximize our time there, Doug both had a taste of their whiskey while sampling the homemade Timboon orange and cardamom ice cream. Lynn opted for the honeycomb ice cream, with actual honeycomb. Back in the car we started heading towards Berry World, to pick some farm fresh strawberries, only to realize that they aren’t open on Mondays so instead we turned around and headed to the Timboon Cheesery to sample some cheese. Luckily we made it 5 minutes before they closed so we each got our 3 samples before heading back out in Mickey.

Getting Doug some whiskey
Getting Doug some whiskey…
And Lynn some ice cream.
And Lynn some ice cream.
Cheeeeeeeese.
Cheeeeeeeese.

After taking in the various limestone formations and completing our side trip we started on our way towards Port Fairy, where we would be spending the night. Though we didn’t make it very far before we made one last stop overlooking the Bay of Islands, a stouter, but equally as stunning version of The Twelve Apostles.

The Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands

One more time we headed on our way with a quick stop for dinner supplies before making our way into the very quaint town of Port Fairy. Without much difficulty we found our Airbnb and started cooking. Midway through the meal we met our hosts, Loren and Sam (who we have not yet met), who proved to be a truly fascinating people. Loren had just returned from her basketball game pumped since they had beat a very difficult team which may let them win the championships next week. Over the course of the evening we learned that they had had lived in Cambodia doing various consulting projects, recently purchased a rundown sailboat to fix up before Port Fairy’s Wooden Boat Festival even though neither of them sail or know anything about boats, and are truly wonderful hosts.

Dinner! Lamb, cucumber salad, bread, and potato wedges Aussie style (with sour cream & sweet thai chili sauce)
Dinner! Lamb, cucumber salad, bread, and potato wedges Aussie style (with sour cream & sweet thai chili sauce)

After dinner, the two of us took a walk along Port Fairy’s charming river and calm beachfront while the sun set before settling in for the evening.

Moyne River in Port Fairy
Moyne River in Port Fairy
East Beach in Port Fairy
East Beach in Port Fairy

Daily Walking Mileage: 11.7

Fun Facts:

  • Only 240 of the believed 638 wrecks along Shipwreck Coast have been discovered.
  • In 1990, part of the London Bridge collapsed. Luckily no one was on the bridge at the time, but two tourists were stranded on the remaining formation and needed to be rescued by helicopter.
  • In 2012, Port Fairy was voted the world’s most liveable town amongst those with populations less than 20,000. We have found it quite adorable thus far even if we have yet to find Main Street.
  • Port Fairy used to be named Belfast after the landowner’s hometown in Ireland.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *