We flew into Melbourne the morning of March 29th, picked up our rental
car and took off for The Great Ocean Road (GOR for this journal).
Technically, it is a 250km stretch of coastal highway that stretches
from Torquay to Warrnambool and boasts a dramatic and unique coastline
along the thrashing Great Southern Ocean. In fact as I write this I
realize how many landmarks in Australia begin with the word "great".
Although the GOR begins at Torquay, the jumping off point for manytravelers arriving from Melbourne is Geelong, Victoria's second largest city and considered the gateway to the GOR. It is a primary hub for most of the highways heading in all directions throughout Victoria, and took us to the B100, leading to the coast toward our big adventure.
We arrived at Torquay, the surf capital of Victoria and home of RipCurl brand products. It is a bustling surf town with lovely beachfront areas. We just did a browse/drive through as, not being surfers, it reminded us of so many California coastal cities we've frequented. And besides, we were ready for some real adventure.
From Torquay, the road went somewhat inland and we lost sight of theocean, so since I bore easily I played Sudoku and looked up from time to time to read the map to Frank. We eventually arrived at Anglesea. I was anticipating some great vistas and a charming town, as promised by our Lonely Planet. It looked to us a little bit tired, worn and overrated, with few glimpses of the ocean from the highway. We forged ahead without stopping.
In and out, on and off along the way to our next destination wecontinued to glimpse pretty areas of coastline and noted the thrashing ocean below. It was admittedly getting prettier. We eventually reached the hamlet of Lorne. It was charming and inviting. Flocks of Cockatoos would fly overhead and seemed to gather in the grass along the roadside. We enjoyed a nice walk through the area and then settled on a hotel at the edge of town. Just about the time we were unloading the car, the hotel manager came out to feed his local bunch of cockatoos. He has rigged a little feeding trough along the top of the wood fence. I was thrilled to see them rush to the trough as he spread the food. They saw us watching and snapping photos and put on a grand show for us, strutting and posing for my camera, and although they came close enough for me to touch the manager warned that one quick snap of a beak would take my finger straight off. So I began to back away. We spent one night in Lorne, walked along the waterfront and hit the road again. The highlight here for me were the huge flocks of cockatoos that seem to thrive here more than any place we've yet been.
Next stop was Apollo Bay, where a nice 1.5 km walk took us to theMariner's Lookout. It is known for the beautiful views of the town and the coastline. Nice and quaint but still not blowing us away, so we ventured on down the road to Cape Otway where the guidebook promised lots of fun and interesting stuff.
Cape Otway was all that and more. We ventured down the 14 km unsealedroad toward the famous lighthouse, through Great Otway National Park, where we witnessed lots and lots of koalas hanging out of the trees all along the roadway. We stopped numerous times to take pictures. In fact Frank finally had to tell me we'd better get moving or we would never make the lighthouse, and besides, some serious weather was beginning to move in on us. Eventually we came to the end of the road to the station at Cape Otway.
We toured the station there and enjoyed taking in the history of thearea that marks the beginning of the Shipwreck Coast. We toured the telegraph station and the lightkeeper's house, read the history of the way of life there dating back to 1848 and viewed the photograph collection of the home, the family, crew of workers and various shipwrecks. It is amazing to me how thrilled we are to see and read about these tragedies but it really is fascinating stuff! The weather was turning blustery and nasty as we hiked out to the lighthouse and climbed the many, many steps to the top. Perched in the keeper's room was a gentleman (wish I'd written down his name!) who was the last lighthouse keeper in Australia. He was a salty old dog who regaled us with stories of what it was like way down here in this lonely, cold and windy place. He loved it though and, although now quite elderly, is happy to make that steep and narrow climb up into the lighthouse every day to meet and greet visitors. We enjoyed the view of the raging Great Southern Ocean and stepped out onto the catwalk, where the wind drove me sideways! I thanked goodness the organizers had cancelled our circumnavigation of Australia after seeing that coastline from up there. Wicked and dangerous stuff. We descended from the lighthouse to take a little walk throughout the grounds. Trails led us to some Aboriginal sites that we found both pretty and interesting. Then, cold and wet, we returned to the warmth of our car. Next stop – Port Campbell