When we reached Apollo Bay, we checked into the Apollo Bay Holiday Park,which we’d definitely recommend. All facilities were clean and tidy, you can rent DVDs from reception, there is a nice pool (although too cold when we were there!), there is a massive playground if you are taking kids, and there is a HUGE kitchen area with everything you could need.
On our first morning, we went to Marriners Lookout which provides stunning views over Apollo Bay. The lookout is located about 10 minutes walk away from the car park, so it’s not much of a hike. There is a slightly harder option if you fancy a bit more of a walk – about 1.5 kms north from Apollo Bay along the beach or Great Ocean Road, there is a steep hill which climbs for around 1.5 km before reaching the lookout track. This is also a popular take-off point for hang gliders, so with the right conditions you may see someone take off! Unfortunately it was drizzling with rain and was generally a bit miserable, so the views weren’t as good as they could have been, but we could still see for miles across the town and beach.
After our wet morning walk, we drove to the historical shipwreck coast, home to the famous Otway Lighthouse, which we reached by driving through Otway National Park. The coast, and lighthouse are steeped in history and we spent a good couple of hours investigating all the different buildings (e.g. the old telegraph tower) and exploring the lighthouse. We also listened to a staff member (dressed in typical 1800’s attire of course) explain it’s haunted past. It’s situated within beautiful grounds and the vertigo-inducing views from the lighthouse are pretty special. Beware! It’s really windy up there!
OTWAY NATIONAL PARK
Our drive to the Otway Lighthouse took us through part of the Otway National Park (also known as The Otways). Here, the trees were overflowing with koalas and we were finally able to spot them in the wild. We drove at a snail’s pace to make sure we didn’t miss anything and even had a competition to see who could spot the most! Word of warning – if you drive the route, you will almost certainly encounter idiot drivers!! People get so excited about koalas that they forget the basic rules of driving. Luckily it’s a quiet road but you’ll still find cars on the opposite sides of the road, parked awkwardly in the middle or stopping suddenly with no warning… because they’ve spotted a koala. Keep your distance and be prepared for a slow drive and you’ll be fine!
GREAT OCEAN ROAD WILDLIFE PARK
On our way to the 12 Apostles, we saw a signpost for the GOR Wildlife Park. Being a massive animal lover, I had to stop and check it out! The park is fairly small – it’s a family run business and with the help of volunteers, they have transformed the park in to an animal sanctuary and natural self-sustaining farm. It cost us about $14 each to get in, which was definitely worth it! The weather wasn’t great when we went, so some of the animals were hiding away but as many of the pens are interactive and you can go in, we were still able to get close to (and even feed) many of the animals. The park is home to emus, dingoes, kangaroos, wombats, wallabies and more. We were really lucky – when we went, the park’s dingoes had recently had puppies. The owner walked past us as we were cooing over the puppies through the wire fence and asked us if we fancied getting in with them… Errr.. YES!!! So we spent 20 mins playing with dingo puppies 😀 We were then allowed to go in with the adults too. One took a liking to Gary and tackled him to the floor to lick his face.. Ha! The dingoes are now one of the park’s main attractions and for $5 you can go in with the now full grown pups.
CHOCOLATE & CHEESE
After our exciting unscheduled stop at the Wildlife Park, we set back on our path to the 12 Apostles. Instead of heading straight there (which would have taken around 15 mins), we decided to go on another slight detour. This time, we drove north on a 20 minute drive amongst lush countryside and rolling hills, to reach GORGE Chocolates. Sandwiched between dairy farms, GORGE is a working farm and shop selling artisan products – mainly high quality, Belgium chocolates! The shop itself is actually a farm shed in which one section has been fitted out for the shop and chocolate making room. The rest of the shed still serves as a farm shed for the 100 acre property. There is a small cafe if you fancy a coffee (with fresh-ground and locally roasted beans!) or a rich hot chocolate. We bought some chocolate covered honeycomb, milk chocolate frogs and a coconut chocolate bar; all of which (honeycomb in particular) were TO DIE FOR! Gary also tackled one of their rich and gooey hot chocolates.
Following a good chocolate fill, we weren’t finished with our Great Ocean Road food-crawl just yet! We continued towards another farm – this time for cheese! We stopped at the Apostle Whey Cheese Farm which was just 5 minutes away. Here we were given sample after sample of a range of different award-winning handmade cheeses; garlic, smoked, blue, crumbly, smooth and more! The cheese is produced by the family’s farm with milk from their herd of Jerseys and Friesians. EDIT: I obviously wasn’t vegan at this point…!
Just 15 minutes later, we had reached our destination! The 12 Apostles are a famous landmark; a collection of rugged limestone rock stacks that appear to rise majestically from the surrounding coastline. They have been created over time due to constant erosion (over millions of years) of the mainland’s limestone cliffs by stormy seas and blasting seaside winds. Caves were eroded in to the cliffs and were eventually reduced to arches as more and more rock eroded away. There are eight apostles left and are supposedly best viewed at sunrise/ sunset as the rocks change colour with the light. We got there in the afternoon, so no sunrise or sunset for us – but the view was spectacular nonetheless! The weather was still miserable by this point, but we managed to get a couple of good photos despite the rain 🙂