Views to take your breath away on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia
The Great Ocean Road (GOR) along the south-eastern coast of Victoria is a 243 kilometre (150 mile) stretch of road that is majestic and awe-inspiring in its rugged beauty. It is also the world’s largest war memorial. Between 1919 and 1932, the road was built by returned soldiers and dedicated to their comrades who were killed during World War 1.
There is a sense of freedom as you travel this road, a connection between you and nature. As you travel along the winding road through green farmland pastures and rolling hills, glimpses of the ocean appear at various turns. Being able to stop and walk along well defined paths to see more of this beautiful coastline is perfect. Stepping down onto the beaches and feeling the sand between your toes is getting back to nature at its best. Swim in the seawater at various beaches along the road, but always check those that are safe. This is a rugged and dangerous stretch of coastland.
Travelling from west to east, between Warrnambool and Peterborough is the 32km (20 mile) Bay of Islands Coastal Park. Lookout bays and carparks are well signposted at the Bay of Martyrs, the Bay of Islands, Three Mile Beach and Childers Cove.
The views are stunning. The limestone pillars reaching up from the ocean swirl the seas into white frothy waves. These same waves are slowly eroding the pillars over time. Once they would have been part of the mainland. Now they stand as slowly fading silent sentinels of time.
The Bay of Islands was almost indescribable in its beauty. The road hugs the coastline here. On one side are the green grassy farmlands and on the other the rough and rugged coastline.
The 130km stretch between Port Fairy and Cape Otway is known as the Shipwreck Coast, due to the 638 known vessels that came to grief along here. Famous English explorer Matthew Flinders (1774 – 1814) said of the Shipwreck Coast, "I have seldom seen a more fearful section of coastline."
One of the most famous ships to have wrecked here is the Loch Ard in 1878. The place where only 2 of the 54 people aboard survived is named after the ship, the Loch Ard Gorge.
Standing at this remote and desolate area, up on the cliff top, and looking down into the gorge, it is amazing to think that anyone actually survived.
London Bridge did indeed fall down in Victoria. The isolated structure in the sea below was once attached to the mainland, however in 1990 thousands of tonnes of rock fell into the sea, leaving two tourists stranded on the outer span. They had to be rescued three hours later by police helicopter. I would have needed a clean pair of underwear after a rescue like that!
Thunder Cave also had a rock collapse. At the entrance to the cave huge blocks of limestone rest on the sea floor, fifteen metres below the surface. Sea, wind and rain dissolved the arch until it no longer could support its weight. Standing on the designated pathway near Thunder Cave you realise it is appropriately named. The sound of the waves as they roar into the cave then rush back out, indeed sounds just like thunder.
One of the fascinating rock stacks has been named The Razorback. The elongated, sharp edged formation once extended further out to sea. If you look closely you can see the vertical cracks in the rock. These are widened by rainwater and form a line of weakness, to sheer off and collapse in the future.
The most famous of the landmarks on the GOR is the Twelve Apostles limestone stacks. There were twelve, but the ocean has claimed back four of these, and will capture the remaining eight as time passes.
The busiest of all the places I stopped along the GOR was at the Twelve Apostles. A large carpark, café and visitor centre welcome sightseers. From the carpark there is a pedestrian pathway under the road that leads you along a circular one way walk. Wheelchair access is available for part of the path here. Tourists were asking each other to take photos of them and I did pose for the almost obligatory selfie. Can you tell that I visited here in winter? The temperate was around 10 Celsius at midday. Signs warn people not to climb over the fences for photos. Remember, the cliff faces are dangerous if you stray from the paths.
The GOR is indeed beautiful and constantly changing. The movement of the sun during the day will result in different shades of pinks, violet, browns, yellows etc in the rocks. The different seasons will result in different views as well. People have asked me what is the best time of the year to visit the GOR? My answer, right now!