9th March was a
Monday. We spent some time driving around central Ballarat, including an
attempt to drive around Lake Wendouree, which was thwarted by barriers sealing
off some streets for a parade for the Begonia Festival. We had visited Ballarat
for the festival in years long gone, when residents of Victoria. It is held on
Victoria’s Labour Day weekend. We didn’t get to see any begonias this time but
Ballarat was looking its normal trim self with its many well tended roadside flower
After coffee, we headed out
to the north east towards Castlemaine where we were staying with friends for
two nights. The road took us through Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, both towns
being of high tourist significance. Here again I must apologise for no photos.
I took quite a few, all on my smart phone, but they seem to have disappeared
along with those of the latter part of the previous day.
Both towns were full of
visitors taking advantage of the holiday long weekend. It was a beautiful
Victorian Autumn day, with the sun shining from a clear sky but with a slight
cool breeze that had us reaching for our jackets. But the locals were in shorts
and tee shirts.
Daylesford has botanical
gardens near the town centre on the top of Wombat Hill, with a road on which
cars can drive and a restaurant that, from the number of parked cars, seemed
popular. We found a parking space so that we could walk around to view the
We then drove out to Hepburn
Springs to check that town out before returning to Daylesford for lunch.
Parking was at a premium but sometimes you luck in and we did that day. As we
drove along the main street looking for our chosen eatery, a car pulled out
almost in front of it, leaving a vacant space.
My last trip to Daylesford
was in the middle of a cold winter’s night, with temperatures about zero. I was
delivering spare parts to a broken down truck. The impression today was rather
different than on that night.
After lunch we drove on to Castlemaine, arriving at our friends’ home mid afternoon. We have known Keith and Lynda almost forever. We have a sort of family connection but we lived near to them during part of our time in Melbourne. I sailed with Keith and one of our children went to the same school as their children. I think our youngest is about the same age as their eldest. Or something like that!
On the following morning we
all went into town for morning coffee and spent some time looking at the
historic buildings, of which there are many. The main point of interest was the old market building that is now their tourist
information centre. Although modernized in a heritage kind of way, the
facilities that allowed the market stall holder to back a cart up to a platform
and transfer the items for sale inside, have been retained.
Castlemaine was a gold
town but also developed other industries including beer and engineering.
The gold rush that
commenced in Ballarat came to Castlemaine in the early 1850s. Many of the old
buildings date from shortly after that time. The Bendigo, Maldon, Castlemaine
triangle was the most significant gold producing area in Victoria.
Castlemaine’s engineering expertise is
commemorated at the Information Centre. In June 1940 the liner “Niagara” left Auckland harbour
carrying over $5 million in gold ingots. The gold was the property of the Bank
of England on its way to America to pay for badly needed war materials.
Four hours into the
voyage, the ship struck a German mine and sank, without loss of life, in 73
fathoms of water, much deeper than the depth limit for conventional diving.
The Navy said salvage
was impossible but a private Melbourne company offered to do the job. They
designed a diving bell that would allow a diver to reach that depth and direct
the salvage cranes. The bell was built by the engineering company Thompson’s of
Castlemaine. In all, 94% of the gold was recovered.
When the diving bell
was retired it was returned to Castlemaine where it is now on display at the
historic Market Building.
Part of an embankment
to a street in Castlemaine has a rock formation called an anticline. Pressure
has forced rock into a natural arch. Anticlines are relatively rare. This one
was probably unearthed when streets were being constructed and left on display.
The rocks in an anticline are of different geological ages with the oldest
rocks at the centre of the formation. Google it if you want to know more.
With our family visit
concluded, we left Drouin in the continuing rain that followed the previous
night’s heavy falls.
Rainfall was evidenced
in flooded fields, overflowing drains and the odd closed road. As the day
progressed the rain eased to persistent drizzle. We travelled to Sorrento on
the Mornington Peninsular and caught the vehicle ferry to Queenscliff. Once
again we experienced smooth waters without a white cap in sight.
Queenscliff became the starting point for a short tour of the Bellarine Peninsular. We drove through St Leonards, stopped at Portarlington for lunch, drove through Clifton Springs and Ocean Grove, to our motel at Torquay.
Torquay seems to have
become the capital of surfing in Victoria. The local area is known as “The Surf
Coast”. Torquay has an externally impressive surfing museum.
We commenced the next morning
with a drive around Torquay. Then, in the true spirit of surfing, we dropped in
to Bells Beach. There we found some real waves pounding onto the beach but not a
surfer in sight. Although the sun was shining from a mostly blue sky the
surfers were absent. We did see some board riders a bit further down the coast.
In Victoria it was the
start the Labour Day long weekend so this area was busy with people away from
Melbourne for a break. In Melbourne it was Moomba weekend and the Formula 1 car
We drove in a generally south westerly direction along the Great Ocean Road and watched the weather deteriorate to a constant drizzle. We were able to see the points of interest and take short walks, but the windscreen wipers had been working for much of the day.
After Torquay the succession of settlements are mostly small towns until you reach Lorne. We took our morning coffee break at Anglesea and detoured from the main road at Aireys Inlet to take in the Split Point Lighthouse. The short walk to the lighthouse provided good views of the coast in both directions and a direct view of the sandstone island that gives the point its name.
We had thought that Lorne would be our lunch stop but we were a bit early and found the town to be crowded with no convenient parking available. So we passed it by, as a lunch stop, and drove on to Wye River, where we found a cafe with a covered alfresco deck with views over the ocean.
Before bypassing Lorne we had turned inland and drove about 10 km to Erskine Falls, a rather pretty spot with a short walk to see the actual falls.
On the way back to the main road we drove into Teddy’s Lookout. That vantage point is located on the top of the hill directly above Lorne and provides great views of the road, snaking along the foot of the coastal mountains and views out to sea. The weather made the sea view rather bleak.
Mariners Lookout, on a hill overlooking Apollo Bay, also provides great views over that town but unfortunately not for us. As we arrived at the car park the rain got serious again. So we drove on to our motel and booked in. The motel has very effective reverse cycle air conditioning so Apollo Bay will wait until tomorrow, when there is the promise of a better day.
When we checked into
our motel our car was almost the only one in the car park. Overnight the car
park filled up and so did the town. Saturday was market day and the long
weekend crowd was out in force. With the town so full it was a good time to
leave. We had more sunshine than forecast but not enough to attract people into
From Apollo Bay the
road turns inland to negotiate the mountain ranges that run down to Cape Otway.
We took the indicated turn and drove to the lighthouse. I think we had been
there a long time ago but I couldn’t see anything familiar at all, so perhaps I
was remembering somewhere else.
You don’t get to see
the lighthouse close up unless you part with the best part of $20 and walk
about 500 metres. Then Parks Victoria will give you a tour. The walk was too
far for Ruth and I was disinclined to do it on my own so we decided against it.
But a 350 metre walk down the Great Otway Walk got me to a point where I could
see the top of the building over the trees, so that had to do.
We returned to the Great Ocean Road, turning left to make for Port Campbell and the sandstone wonders of that part of the coast.
After we emerged from the mountainous inland section of the Great Ocean Road we travelled through an area of valleys and hills until we reached the village of Princetown that overlooks the estuary of the Gellibrand River and a caravan park that is larger than the town.
Just past Princetown the highway ascends a coastal hill that provides a pull off point for a lookout that gives the best ocean views for a while. At about the middle of the beach immediately below the lookout, if the tide is right, the remains of the timbers of a wrecked ship are clearly visible.
A bit further on, and just before you reach the Twelve Apostles you come to Gibson Steps that used to give access to the beach but no longer do due to their poor state of repair. They are locked off with a gate part way down.
When we were last in that area parking was beside the road, for a short walk to the cliff top. Visitor numbers have forced an upgrade. Now there is a huge car park on the inland side of the road and an large visitor centre. Access to The Twelve Apostles is through the visitor centre and on a path under the road to an elaborate arrangement of platforms, boardwalks and lookouts.
There are not as many
apostles as there used to be. Constant weathering has removed some of them and
reduced the size of the others. There will be a time when they will not exist
at all. Even in their reduced numbers they draw an ever increasing volume of visitors.
A couple of kilometres
towards Port Campbell, Loch Ard Gorge is a gap in the coast named in
remembrance of the clipper ship of the same name that beached on adjacent
Mutton Bird Island on 1st June 1878, with only two survivors. The survivors
made their way to safety through the gorge.
The walks around the
gorge give access to some fantastic rock formations and expansive seascapes.
Wooden steps lead down to one of the most protected beaches that you will ever see.
Our motel in Port Campbell overlooked the small protected port, itself a gap in the cliff, into which a stream flows at the western end of the beach. It is almost as sheltered as Loch Ard Gorge but somewhat larger. A substantial concrete wharf is tucked into a sheltered corner and is used by fishing boats and land based anglers.
Port Campbell is a
tourist town. Many of the buildings in its main street have been converted to
restaurants and bars or other eateries or offer accommodation. It has two pubs
and several motels. Many houses are B&Bs or private accommodation of some
It is a most
attractive town. We would like to have stayed longer but were lucky to get a
booking for one night on Saturday of a long weekend.
Sunday dawned another fine day but we again had rain overnight. There was a bit more cloud than the previous day. The temperature may have reached 20C.
There were now only three things to look at to finish the Great Ocean Road. They were The Arch, London Bridge and The Grotto. All are past Port Campbell towards Peterborough. We visited them in that order.
The first was about a
200 metre walk with some steep parts and stairs in the path. The second was an
easy 50 metres to an extensive observation deck. The third was a walk of about
350 metres with steep sections and with about 70 steps to get the best view
from near sea level.
I had just climbed back up the stairs and decided to look at the photos that I had just taken. When I tried, I got a message that told me there was no data card in my camera. Shock horror! I checked, and sure enough, the card was not properly seated. I had not put it back properly after transferring yesterday’s photos to my phone. I do this at the end of each day to make it easier to select photos for my Facebook posts.
So back down 70 steps
again and then a return to the other two locations to retake the photos that
otherwise would be lost. By the time we did all that and had coffee it was
about 11.00 am. We had thought that we would go all the way to Port Fairy,
which is the official end of the Great Ocean Road, but that would take us 60 km
out of our way. We turned for Ballarat on the road out of Port Campbell. But we
did drive on as far as Peterborough before turning back.
We travelled via
Cobden and Camperdown, then through a number of small towns to reach Ballarat.
All of the holiday weekend activity was on the coast, with very little action
in the towns that we passed through.
As we drove away from
the coast the pastures became less green but there were still plenty of cattle
and sheep in the paddocks. I think, apart from the sheep, we travelled through
mainly dairying country today.
Our Ballarat accommodation was out on the Melbourne side just off the Great Western Highway. Once checked in and settled we returned towards Ballarat city in search of our evening meal. Good old Domino’s Pizza came to the rescue.
Unfortunately the photos
that I took as we drove from the coast to Ballarat were taken on my phone. For
some reason they cannot be found. I don’t know why they deleted, but they are