The Great Ocean Road
Friday, 24 April 2009: We left sunny New Zealand and landed in a gray and wet Melbourne to meet Sandy and Susan in the city. They’d just spent a wonderful week in Tasmania, and were here to visit us! We had a nice lunch in Melbourne’s Greek district, and then took the train back to Geelong. We took a bit of time to unpack/repack, and then loaded up into the car for our long weekend road trip on the Great Ocean Road.
Australia’s big sights are summed up as the reef (Great Barrier), the rock (Ayer’s/Uluru), and the road (the Great Ocean). We took the inland road to Warrnambool, on the western end of the road. We stayed at the wonderfully charming Stonecutter’s Inn:
We arrived in the evening, and Gary, the owner, met us and took us on a tour of the apartment (ours was the upper left unit). He salvaged the interior sandstone from one of this historic buildings in Warrnambool, repurposed planks from the Port Fairy pier for the countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms, and used a bit of wrought iron gate from an old cemetary for a pot rack!
The Inn had a deal with a local restaurant for delivery, and we took them up on it. Dinner was delivered on actual plates, right to the door. Perfect.
Saturday was Anzac (not Aztec) Day. Most shops were closed in observance of the holiday, but we were out to sightsee. We drove further west to Port Fairy, where we enjoyed our brief period of sunshine with a breakfast of pies and pasties (not those kinds of pasties… vegetable pasties) and sweet treats outdoors before watching the small Port Fairy Anzac day parade (local veterans) and memorial service.
From there, we drove further on west to Portland, and the weather took a turn for the worse. The winds kicked up and the rain starts falling. We had a nice lunch, and then bravely ventured out to see the Petrified Forest (that wasn’t) through the sand and rain storm. There were some lovely looking hikes as well, but we had to pass. We finished up the day with a visit to the Portland Maritime Museum, and drove back to Warrnambool for dinner and another night’s stay at the inn.
Sunday morning, M made his super awesome banana buckwheat pancakes, which filled us up for the rainy drive east into the heart of the Great Ocean Road. The evening’s storms were loud enough to wake us in the night, and the winds and rains stayed strong through the rest of the day. We made a stop at Cheeseworld, an indoor respite from the torrential rains and hurricane-force winds outside. There, we poked about the antiques on display (dairy-related, household goods, cars, tools, etc.) and then had a cheese tasting and watched a video on cheese-making.
Onward! Through the storm, we drove, and stopped to see the sights. We got out for short, wet walks for views of the churning sea, and read the placards on geology and the history of many shipwrecks. In that weather, it was not hard to imagine what it might’ve been like holding on for dear life as your ship collided with rocks and reefs…
The main highlight of the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles (actually, it’s eleven, but the name has not been amended). We later heard that the winds reached speeds of about 130km/h (if not higher). That’s just over 80mph. It was exciting!
Needless to say, the seascape was dramatic.
The evening’s accommodation in Glenaire, at the Whispering Seas Bed & Breakfast, proved to be just the comforting retreat we needed after a day out in the storms. Susan and Andrew welcomed us in for tea in front of the fire, in the most beautiful home, with the most spectacular view of the valley and the ocean. We’d booked a room for Sandy and Susan, but had planned on camping out on the property. Thankfully,given the meteorological circumstances, the proprietors had prepared a room for us instead (thank you thank you thank you!).
We drove into Apollo Bay for dinner at the Apollo Bay Hotel, where it was agreed that their chips (fries) are the best, ever.
Monday morning, Andrew made us a lovely breakfast of eggs, bacon, ham, homemade bread, cereal, yogurt, tea, coffee, and juice while we learned all about their daughters and the varying degrees of fertility. Interesting breakfast conversation.
We drove out to the Cape Otway Lighthouse, and managed to tick off all the sights to see indicated on this road sign:
Interestingly, I think we saw them in that order: birds (parrots), koalas, ‘roos, and then the cows…
The remainder of the road back towards Geelong is much like the Pacific Coast Highway. We enjoyed a largely rain-free drive, stopping a few times to admire the views, and read the plaques.
Truly, a very fun (and exciting) road trip.
(Apologies for the completely uncoordinated photo sizes. Technical difficulties.)