12 December 2018
OCEAN'S ELEVEN - GREAT OCEAN ROAD TOP 11 ITINERARYby JACK MURPHY
1. Shut up and drive!
It’s arguably one of the best drives in Australia, winding through the rainforest country of Great Otway and over the escarpments, peeking over the 12 Apostles along the way. For the most part, you don’t even have to leave the warmth of your heated car seats to score some impressive visuals. If you do leave the car, don’t forget good walking shoes, beanie, binoculars and a camera. Clothes, too. Maybe even a bottle of local red, although then you run the risk of mislaying your clothes.
2. Surf’s up at Bells Beach
Torquay is the gateway to The Great Ocean Road and definitely worth an early pit stop. This energetic coastal town has plenty of great shopping and is known as the surfing capital of Australia. And for good reason — Bells Beach is just down the road and when the conditions are right, it produces one serious slab of surf. Bells Beach is also home to the world’s longest continuously run surf competition. It started back in 1962 and is now know as the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. In the movie Point Break, Bodhi (actually his stunt double) paddles out in a 50-year storm at Bells Beach. Except, er, he didn’t. It was actually filmed in Oregon. Damn Hollywood!
3. Lunch at Lorne
After checking the surf at Bells Beach, keep trucking down the Great Ocean Road until you hit Lorne, home of the Falls Festival over Christmas and New Year. Create your own festival by grabbing lunch and heading down to the beach for an impromptu picnic. If you’ve got more time to kill, it’s a 15-minute drive inland to check out Erskine Falls. Standing there, watching the torrent plunge 30m into the lush tree fern-filled gully of the Erskine River, you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of an Evian commercial.
4. Beer o’clock at Apollo Bay
Next stop, and just over an hour (not including lookout stops) from Lorne, is Apollo Bay. It’s especially picturesque from the water and is the home port to some classic (still-working) timber fishing vessels. Pick up supplies for dinner and stop in for a quick bevvie at Great Ocean Road Brewhouse. I recommend the Prickly Moses Otway Pale Ale on tap. It’s a great one for southern sojourns.
5. See the light at Cape Otway Lightstation
Apollo Bay is a great halfway spot to stop for the night. If you really want to impress the missus, head out to Cape Otway Lightstation (the oldest surviving working lighthouse on mainland Australia) where you will have already booked the Lightkeeper’s Cottage for the night. Built in 1857, it sleeps eight and has mega views of the lighthouse and over Bass Strait. Keep your eyes peeled for koalas. If you take it easy, you’ve got a great chance of spotting them in the eucalyptus trees.
6. Get back to nature at Hopetoun and Beauchamp Falls
If you’re feeling perky after coffee and brekky at the Lightkeeper’s Cafe, shoot inland to the Hopetoun and Beauchamp Falls. These two spectacular waterfalls are relatively easy to access and the trail passes through massive mountain ash forests, with large myrtle beech, blackwood, Californian redwood and thick ferns. It’s an easy walk and all that nature has got to be good for the soul.
7. Bow down to the, er, Seven Apostles
Drive an hour sou’west from the waterfalls and you’ll run into the 12 Apostles. Just remember to brake. These precariously picturesque limestone stacks attract tourists from all over the world and are one of the most famous natural attractions in Australia. However, a name change is well overdue as there are only seven Apostles still standing (the eighth collapsed in 2009). Turns out that ancient limestone is no match for the winds and tides of Bass Strait. That said, you still must see this.
8. Sand between your toes at Loch Ard Gorge
Equally as beautiful — and only five minutes down the road from the 12 Apostles — is Loch Ard Gorge. If it’s not too cold and the water is calm you can even swim at this amazing natural wonder. It’s named after a famous shipwreck on nearby Muttonbird Island in the late 1800s. Everyone aboard the Loch Ard drowned except for two teenagers, who were swept into what is the only safe gorge on the coast. There are some 600 known wrecks along this coastline. No wonder it’s called the Shipwreck Coast, eh?
9. Whale watching off Port Fairy
Port Fairy is perhaps the most “ye olde fishing village” on the coast and hasn’t changed much in more than 100 years. Nineteenth-century bluestone cottages and stone churches line the wide streets behind proud Norfolk pines. Head out to sea and count on running into dolphins, seals and even whales. The Gum Tree Caravan Park offers accommodation with great trailer boat facilities. If you buy Pete, the owner, a beer he’ll even tell you where the bluefin are biting. More info at: gumtreecaravanpark.com.au
For a slightly more offbeat sleepover, check out the Overland, a “red rattler” first-class train carriage built in 1905 to run between Melbourne and Adelaide.
10. Go fishing — finally
With a few of Pete’s fishing spots up your sleeve, head out to try your luck with the bluefin tuna. If your other half doesn’t want to join in the sashimi session, suggest she has brunch at Bank St + Co. I can heartily recommend the smashed avocado on toast with poached eggs, Persian feta and almond dukkha. Once you’ve caught your fill of bluefin, throw on the wetsuit and have a look for a crayfish or two. You’ll find some great rocky grounds in close off Warrnambool.
11. Crayfish and sashimi picnic
After hauling a giant bluefin into the boat and plucking mouth-watering crayfish from their rocky lairs, it’s time to bring home the bacon, er, seafood. Grab the soy sauce, wasabi, and a couple of lemons and set up a tastebud-tantalising crayfish and sashimi picnic.
And guess what? You just won the Husband/Boyfriend/Dad of the Year Award and got to go fishing at the same time. Win-Win. You owe me a beer.
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