Lorne to Warrnambool
As we left Lorne on the fifth day of our trip, we decided that we needed to pick up the pace if we were going to tick off all the places we wanted to visit, and we agreed to cover some more substantial ground that afternoon.
After a quick walk to Sheoak Falls, which I imagine would’ve been very pretty if there had been any water coming over them, and a quick lunch in the town of Wye River, we made a wildlife stop in Kennett River. We had been advised by the Lorne Visitor Information Centre to turn off the main road here and drive inland a short way for the best chance of seeing koalas in the wild. We found them easily, or at least we found the people pointing cameras up into the trees easily; the koalas themselves were a bit trickier to spot, but there were quite a few when you knew where to look. Most of them were high up in the trees lazily munching the eucalyptus leaves, but we came across one crossing the grass from one tree to another with its strange hobbly way of moving.
The road along this part of the Great Ocean Road was probably my favourite, winding its way up the cliffs to lovely viewpoints before coming back down to sea level to cross over creeks and streams. We made plenty of stops to admire the various views, including one at a beach just before Apollo Bay, where over the last couple of years people have taken to building little towers of pebbles balanced on each other. The beach is now covered with these stone piles, which makes it seem like they should have some kind of cultural significance, like the Canadian inukshuk, but as far as anyone can tell people just like balancing rocks on other rocks.
After a quick stop in the town of Apollo Bay we followed the road inland as it cut across Cape Otway through the forests of the Great Otway National Park, and came off the main road for a while to head back towards the coast to see the Cape Otway Lightstation. It was a nice drive through the forest, with plenty of wildlife spotting, and we had a quick glimpse of the lighthouse before moving on. Coming back to the main road we took another quick detour to see pretty lake along a bone-rattling bumpy track, before arriving at our campsite in the hamlet of Princetown. It was a pretty campsite with a nice view over the river and, most importantly, a kitchen with a fridge, toaster and kettle. Luxury.
The next morning we did our first proper walk, from Princetown to probably the most famous part of the Great Ocean Road, the Twelve Apostles. It was the final section of the Great Ocean Walk, a 105km trail starting in Apollo Bay, and the path took us across the river valley and through the sandy brush surrounded by tea trees and spiky shrubs, emerging on the cliff tops with lovely views of the sea and the Twelve Apostles. They are a group of dramatic limestone pillars in the sea, the highlight of a section of coastline scattered with gorges, caves and arches carved into the rocks by the ocean. Originally named the Sow and Piglets, with the Sow being Muttonbird Island to the north, the limestone stacks were renamed the Apostles in 1922 to encourage tourism, and despite there only being nine (one of which collapsed ten years ago), they are now known as the Twelve Apostles.
After retracing our steps back to Princetown, we had some lunch and had another foodie visit to Timboon Distillery and local produce shop, before heading back to the coast. We spent the afternoon exploring the interesting things that seawater does to limestone, from Loch Ard’s Gorge, named after a nearby shipwreck, to Thunder Cave where water is forced through a tunnel producing a pretty thunderous noise, and London Bridge, a limestone arch which aptly enough fell down in 1990, leaving two people stranded on the newly formed pillar, from where they were rescued by helicopter. This part of the coast, with its shipwrecks, caves and cliffs, reminded me very much of the Jurassic Coast in southern England and was my favourite coastal scenery of the trip.
From there the road turned inland through agricultural land to where the Great Ocean Road ends quite unceremoniously as the road joins the highway. After visiting the pleasant town of Warrnambool (which I’m still none the wiser how to pronounce), we camped in a roadside rest stop, ready to head inland the next day to the Grampians National Park.