Aussie Crawl – Victoria’s Fabled Great Ocean Road

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Hugging Victoria’s fabled surf coast for 279kms from Torquay to Port Fairy, the majestic Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s iconic drives.  So buckle up and let's go!

GET WET AND WILD

Just 90 minutes from Melbourne, the sandstone and metal sculpture of a giant wave welcomes us to Torquay, gateway to the Great Ocean Road and home of legendary surf breaks and surf brands. To get into the vibe, our first stop is the Australian National Surfing Museum where 100 years of surfing history is on display.

Epic tales of legendary waves are told through vivid surfboard graphics, surfie memorabilia from woolen bathers and wooden boards to modern fiberglass ‘Malibu chips’ and photographs that include the first one taken of an Australian surfer circa 1911.  surfworld.com.au   As this is the birthplace of Victorian surf culture, where better to learn to ‘hang five’ than to book a 2-hour surfing lesson at gorideawave.com.au, a mobile-friendly, go-to site that operates in Torquay and further along the coast at Anglesea and Lorne.

All the equipment is provided and their simple 2-step stand-up technique in waist-high water claims an 85% success rate.  From Torquay, it’s a short drive to Bells Beach, the surf coast’s heartbeat and home to the world’s longest continuously run surfing contest, the Easter Rip Curl Pro.  As great swells born in faraway storms deep in the Southern Ocean tumble and pivot onto the cliff-ringed beach, we watch in awe as experienced surfer dudes wetsuit up and tackle Bells’ deep bowl.

BIG SKY, ENDLESS SEA

The ocean’s energy is on full display as we sweep down the Great Ocean Road stopping at charming seaside villages dotted with cafes and surf shops and picturesque national parks where boardwalks trace rocky headlands.  At Aireys Inlet 30 minutes south-west of Torquay, we’re drawn to the red-topped, chalk-white Split Rock lighthouse where dramatic rocky formations born 29 million years ago float off the headland.

Taking the 3.3km surf coast walk to Sunnymead Beach,  a sea mist brushes the coastline with feathery lightness.  Between May and October, this is one of several lookouts along the surf coast affording magnificent views of Southern Right Whales on their annual migration to Port Fairy and beyond.  Driving further west, we reach Lorne, a Great Ocean Road gem famous for its beachside cafes, sophisticated boutiques and picturesque coastal walking tracks.

A 9km drive from the seashore and hike through sun-dappled Australian bushland, brings us to the enchanting Erskine Falls that cascade 30m into a lush, tree-fern gully before 44kms of serpentine road leads us to Apollo Bay, a fishing and farming village with perfect swimming beaches.

THE GOURMET TRIANGLE

Along the foreshore, waves foam flamboyantly like the flounce of a flamenco skirt as we park and join the queue at the Apollo Bay Bakery where velvety-smooth scallop pies have achieved legendary status.  Food fanciers are spoilt for choice in Apollo Bay particularly at the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse greatoceanroadbrewhouse.com.au where gourmet tastes of the region are on show.  With over 100 Australian craft beers and zesty fruit ciders available, we sample a paddle of 5 beers and a local cheese platter before customizing a six-pack of local brews to take away.

Down at the harbour, the fishermen’s co-operative is doing a steady lunchtime trade serving snapping fresh half-crayfish and chips as wooden-hulled fishing boats sway at anchor.  Driving inland, the road meanders through the Great Otway National Park, an area of dense coastal woodlands of rough-barked Manna Gums and heathlands.

Arriving at Port Campbell located on a scenic horseshoe-shaped bay framed by Norfolk Pines, our gourmet gathering continues with  a hamper of larder luxuries waiting in our dreamily serene villa at Anchors Port Campbell together with maps of  the 12 Apostles Food Trail visit12apostles.com.au/food-wine.

Idyllic rural scenes slide past the car window as we follow Princeton Road’s gourmet triangle punctuated by tasty pitstops at Apostle Whey Cheese, Gorge Chocolates, Newtons Ridge vineyard and Timboon Distillery before indulging in tea and scones in Schulz Organic Farm’s pretty country garden.  Fine entrees all to the main course which is to visit the iconic 12 Apostles!

ROCK AND AWE

Just 12kms from Port Campbell, the 12 Apostles are a chain of majestic rock stacks etched by sun and rain and pounded by thundering surf.  Emerging from the sea like rough-hewn sculptures, it’s a ‘wow’ moment as the afternoon sun casts the limestone cliffs in bronze.  Viewed from walkways that thread around the headland,  by descending the Gibson Steps for a ground zero perspective or taking a 15 minute helicopter ride for a sweeping overview, the Apostles are temporary remnants of a retreating limestone coast which, under relentless attack by the sea, erodes up to an astonishing 5cm each year. ...

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