The ultimate road trip on the Great Ocean Road
01.05.2014 - 02.05.2014
I'm sorry for leaving you hanging at the end of the last post. Here's what we got up to after leaving Phillip Island, home of the Penguin Parade. As we had rented a car for this portion of the trip, we were ready for the great road trip: Aussie-style. The Great Ocean Road is one of the most famous touring roads and ocean drives in the world; and home of many, many beautiful pictures. First off, though, we needed to get out of Phillip Island. Turns out Phillip Island isn't too island-y, as it is easily reached by car via a very short bridge. However, if you were hoping beyond hope that we would get to go on another car ferry, you're in luck! In order to reach the start of the Great Ocean Road (GOR from here on out), you must drive back towards Melbourne and then onto the Mornington Peninsula, where you catch the car ferry from Sorento across to Queenscliff, which is a stone's throw from the start of the GOR. It was only a short, 45 minute ferry, which is good because I forgot to put the parking brake on.
Once we got to Queenscliff, we drove to Geelong, which is the OFFICIAL start of the GOR. If you thought it would be difficult to find, you are mistaken- there are large signs constantly pointing you in the correct direction. Once the signs stop actually saying "Great Ocean Road" and use the highway's official name of B100, they still keep it pretty straight forward by putting a large anchor picture on the signs so you remember to stay coastal.
Our first stop was in Torquay, arguably the surging capital of the world. and undisputably the capital of Australian surfing. This is home to Bell's Beach, where the Rip Curl Pro is held annually. This means that many surf clothing companies have their corporate head offices here, and also some factory outlet stores (read: shopping!!). So, we checked out the outlets first (our mothers' daughters to be sure) and then headed to the beaches. We saw some surfing lessons happening at Torquay Surf Beach, and then went to watch the pros at Bells Beach.
Next up we checked out the Split Point Lighthouse, because it's not a beach road if you don't see a lighthouse. It was pretty, and also offered some of our first views of the famous limestone beaches that make the GOR just so great.
We quickly(ish, I still made sure to stop at a few scenic lookouts, including the "historical arch" pictured below) made our way to Apollo Bay, where we would be hanging our hats for the night. Now, if you don't remember, the night prior we were spoilt by having a whole nice, clean house to ourselves. We surely paid for it in Apollo Bay, where we got to share a grungy, old house with six other people, one of whom was a real weirdo, and another of whom smelled really bad. Two of them were lovely medical students from Austria who had just finished doing an internship in Sydney, and who were also suitably baffled by my inability to find non-medical friends, even outside of my "real" life.
Not wanting to spend much time in the "creepy" (Lani's words) town of Apollo Bay (this is what you get for going to a beach town in the winter), we high-tailed it out of there at around 8:30 the next morning. Our first stop that day was the Cape Otway lighthouse, but actually that's a lie, because we did not go to the lighthouse. Rather, we went on the road that takes you off the highway to the lighthouse, as it is lined entirely by eucalyptus trees, and the internet GUARANTEED that I would see koalas in the trees. I was so excited, I adopted a special koala-spotting pose, which is basically just hunching forwards in my seat and putting my hand above my eyes like a visor. And saying "koalas, come out and plaaaaayyyy". It must have been a very effective koala-spotting method, as we saw NINE koalas sleeping, eating, and being ridiculously adorable in the gum trees overhead. (NB: Pictures aren't great as the koalas are overhead, but be sure that these are real, wild koalas that I saw with my own eyes and had restraint enough not to send home to be my new pet).
After koala spotting was sadly over, we started the 38 km stretch that takes you to the infamous 12 Apostles. I mainly napped for this portion by the drive, but Lani assures me I wouldn't have seen any koalas anyways, as it was raining and our windshield wipers are completely useless so you couldn't see through the windshield anyways. Well, by the time we got to the 12 Apostles car park and brilliant underpass which takes you across to the lookout, the sun had (kind of) come out. We'll take it! We got our iconic shots, and counted Apostles, or what we were willing to classify as Apostles. Experts say there are only seven, but I say there are nine, if you're feeling generous.
The Apostles are limestone stacks that have been carved out of the mainland, worked away by the ocean as arches first and then eventually left standing unattached: the cheese stands alone, so to speak. This means that the actual number of Apostles changes over time as some get worn away and others are just being formed. Anyways, the ocean creates some pretty spectacular scenes as it splashes and crashes against these limestone giants, creating some pretty powerful blowholes. This made for great conversation:
Liz: Did you see that blowhole?
Lani: What a blowhole. Ooh, check out this one, it's gonna be such a blowhole!
Liz: Blowhole! Blowhole!
And so on.
Our next stop was the Arch, which was probably as exciting to me as the actual 12 Apostles. It was super beauftiful, and water went over and through it it different ways. I shall show you this now, as I don't really have any other ways to describe it. I will let you know that I did say to Lani at one point "We have to leave before I lose this excitement! I love the Arch so much!".
One last stop was at the Bay of Islands, where we were underwhelmed but at least checked a cool beach. Lani tried to do some rock climbing and almost lost one of her new Australian flag flip-flops (thongs).
Then we high-tailed it to Hamilton to Abbie's house. Abbie is a friend of Lani's who lived in Guelph in Lani's first semester (circa 2007), and has since bought a house, got married, and had a child. Show off. She also has a really great job in Health Promotion in Hamilton, instituting a comprehensive early intervention program for oral health in "Kindy". Respect.
Anyways, Abbie is also a great host, and promptly set us up for showers, laundry (free laundry!), and cooked us an incredible meal (side note: when Abbie asked Lani what we wanted for dinner, her only request was VEGETABLES as we are so over pub food and pizza). All while caring for a 6 month old who was fighting a cold (I tried giving him some chest physio, but thought Abbie might not like me hitting her child when she doesn't know I do that for a living). Thanks so much to both Abbie and her husband Tim (and baby Hugo!) for giving us an incredible night, and a special thanks from me because I was treated as family, when actually I am a total stranger. I hope one day they will come to Canada or wherever I'm currently situated so I can return the favour.
Also, Abbie and Tim live on a great piece of land that has 11 sheep, and also eucalyptus trees. But no koalas; only the occasional kangaroo...
And that, friends, is the tale of our travels on the Great Ocean Road!