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Great Ocean Road — Wonder down under

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Victoria's Great Ocean Road stretches along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Geelong and Warrnambool. It is proudly the world's largest war memorial, built between World Wars I and II by returned servicemen in honour of their fallen comrades.
The arduous task took
16 years to complete and was all done by hand using picks, shovels and dynamite. It is a triumph of ANZAC spirit and engineering.

It's a wonderful drive with many diversions. Around 25 beaches, 13 waterfalls, eight lighthouses, eight shipwrecks and delightful towns. And of course, plenty of lovely cafés and restaurants.

As you start the drive at its eastern end, it doesn't take long before there are exciting things to see. Three kilometres south of Lorne you can take a moderate one-kilometre return walk to the Sheoak Falls. It's rather spectacular with water passing over a dark rock face within a natural amphitheatre.

After the exercise, you may fancy stopping at Chris's Beacon Point Restaurant and Villas. Overlooking Bass Strait, high in the Otways, it has become a mecca for gourmet travellers. Chris's passion for the food of southern Europe and his use of fresh and pure produce has made him very well-known and highly regarded. Glass and timber and cleverly angled and tiered architecture make the most of the outlook.

The Pole House in Fairhaven is instantly recognisable and it is now available for holiday rental. The vision of architect and engineer Frank Dixon, it miraculously survived the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires. Mr Dixon had the vision of a beach house supported by a pole jutting from a cliff and it came to fruition in 1978.

The pedestal houses a bedroom area, bathroom, kitchen and sitting area with a walkway connecting to the rest of the dwelling on solid ground. Footings were sunk eight metres into the ground. Those who have been there describe it as like being in an aeroplane.

After all the beauty, food and relaxing in gorgeous accommodation, you may fancy some exercise.

The Great Ocean Walk stretches 91 kilometres and traverses many untouched places in the Great Otway and Port Campbell national parks. It passes many places of interest and was designed so walkers can step on and step off the trail after short, day or overnight hikes. Overnighters can camp or stay at one of many accommodations.

You will be rewarded by spectacular coastal and forest scenery, rocky platforms, sheltered beaches, estuaries, tall forests, heathland and coastal woodland.

It is home to kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas and koalas, parrots, cockatoos, eagles, owls and many species of sea birds. Stop at a coastal lookout along the track and you may see dolphins riding the waves and between June and September, magnificent migrating whales.

For overnight explorers, Walk91 gets in ahead of your arrival and sets up campsites, so after a hard day, you just settle in and enjoy the surroundings.

They can arrange transfers along the way, hire of camping equipment, overnight packages and can even arrange food drops and a guide if you wish to learn more about the area.

The Twelve Apostles, rising majestically from the Southern Ocean, are the central feature of the rugged Port Campbell National Park. The giant stacks are remnants from constant erosion of limestone cliffs which began 10-20 million years ago.

The stormy Southern Ocean and blasting winds gradually eroded softer limestone and formed caves in the cliffs. Eventually the caves became arches and when they collapsed, the enormous stacks were left isolated from the shore. As waves continually erode their bases at the rate of two centimetres a year, four Apostles have collapsed, the last one going in July 2005.

Sunrise and sunset offer most impressive views as the Apostles change colour from dark and foreboding in shadow to brilliant sandy yellow in full sun. Boardwalks, tracks and viewing areas ensure the best views.

The same forces of nature have created other stunning features along the coastline including Pudding Basin Rock, Island Arch, Razorback, Muttonbird Island, London Bridge and the Grotto.

The Shipwreck Coast extends from Moonlight Head, 130 kilometres west to Port Fairy. The temptation for ships to cut 1200 kilometres from the journey between England and Sydney by negotiating the unpredictable Bass Strait resulted in at least 160 ships coming to grief.

Road signs and plaques indicate wreck sites and detail the story of around 50 of the wrecks.

While you're there …

You may fancy a detour to the Grampians, Victoria's largest national park. It's a beautiful place — 1000 square kilometres of mountain peaks, waterfalls, rock formations and sprawling valleys. Wander through forests of towering gums, black wattles and sheoaks, which provide shelter and refuge for kangaroos, wallabies, emus, native flora and countless birds.

You can take walking tours, cycle, motorcycle or take your 4WD into the area. Halls Gap in the heart of the Grampians is a good place to start and there are plenty of other hospitable and historic townships to visit.


Between Geelong and Warrnambool.


Chris's Beacon Point Restaurant serves delicious three-course meals for around $70 per person, including wine.

Pole House starts at $355 a night. Bookings should be made through Aireys Inlet Real Estate.

Walk91 two-day one-night packages start at $220 a couple.

Virgin Blue has one-way flights to Melbourne. They are on sale from 8.30pm, August 3, 2006, until midnight, August 4, 2006, for travel between November 1 and 30, 2006.

One-way fare from;
  • Adelaide, $59
  • Canberra, $79
  • Brisbane, $89
  • Perth, $149
  • Darwin, $149

There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares are Internet-only and one-way. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at August 3, 2006, and are subject to change.

Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

For further information

Chris's Beacon Point Restaurant
280 Skenes Creek Road
Apollo Bay Vic 3233
Ph: (03) 5237 6411
Fax: (03) 5237 6930

The Pole House
Aireys Inlet Real Estate
Shop 3 28-30 Great Ocean Road,
Aireys Inlet 3231
Ph: (03) 5220 0200
Fax: (03) 5220 0222

Great Ocean Walk

Walk91 — Great Ocean Walk
Eco Beach YHA
5 Pascoe Street
Apollo Bay Vic 3233
Ph: (03) 5237 1189

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