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Victoria's secrets: Best bits of the Great Ocean Road

Carrie Hutchinson
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Victoria's secrets: Best bits of the Great Ocean Road
The great escape: Victoria's coastal surprises. Image: Getty
"Take your shoes off on the sand, enjoy the salty mist on your face, and pick through the debris on the tide line for cuttlefish bones."
Carrie Hutchinson

Lots of people hire a car, drive along the Great Ocean Road, hop out at the Twelve Apostles Visitors Centre, take a couple of pictures, then head off again. Trouble is, if you don't hope out of the car occasionally, you're going to miss the best bits — the bits, in fact, we're going to tell you about here ...

Best for salty sea dogs

How cute are seals? With all their ducking and diving and big eyes that stare? If you want to get up close and personal with colony of Australian fur seals, book in for a tour with Apollo Bay Surf and Kayak. On double kayaks, you're led over the waves about 200m offshore to a rocky outcrop that is a pit stop for weary sea creatures. You'll see seals of all sizes, from dominant males to cute pups, who splash and flip around the flotilla of kayaks.

Best for splendid isolation

Follow the steep path down. The forest becomes thicker, and the light more filtered. Soon, you're sheltered by massive tree ferns. Tiny mushrooms and bright fungus grow from fallen logs. Finally you get to the base of Hopetoun Falls, just past the town of Beech Forest, where, from the viewing platform, you can watch as the water spills 30 metres into the pool below.

Best for early risers

There is no doubt that you must see the Twelve Apostles when you visit. But to avoid the bus-loads of happy, snapping tourists, plan an early start. A really early start. The explosion of colour above the famous monoliths is awe-inspiring. And, as the sun peaks over the horizon, peer down towards the beach: if you can see movement down there, it's the penguins coming home from a night out fishing.

Best for skywards staring

Head down the Otway Lighthouse Road and look for cars pulled to one side of the road. Along here, the koala population is huge and people often spot them while driving along. They're often just sleeping in the fork of a tree but you can get lucky and see them moving across the ground on their way to another tree.

Best for wistful wanderers

The Great Ocean Walk, a 104km trek from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles, is a great challenge and rather spectacular, but it's not for everyone. If you want to get a snapshot of what it's like, there's a seven-kilometre stroll from Castle Cove to Johanna Beach that is perfect: gorgeous scenery, not too difficult, and very few other people around. Take your shoes off on the sand, enjoy the salty mist on your face, and pick through the debris on the tide line for cuttlefish bones.

Best for gourmands

You'll need to replenish because there's actually nothing like fresh sea air to make a stomach grumble. Perched high on Apollo Bay (see video below) is Chris's Restaurant, where the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-influenced dishes — the kakavia soup, rich with mussels, prawns, calamari, scallops and salmon is highly recommended — will have you sated by the end of the evening. If you're thinking something a little more low-key might be more your style, head to the Jan Juc Fish and Chip Shop, load up on all sorts of fried goodness, and find a spot to picnic.

Best for small fry

High above the rainforest about a 50-minute drive from Apollo Bay is the Otway Fly. Everyone does the Treetop Walk, a 600m long platform that hovers 30m above the trees. There's also the Prehistoric Path, with dinosaurs that once lived in the area sneaking out of the bushes. For maximum adrenaline, there's also the Zip Line Tour, which lasts three-and-a-half hours.

Best for getting another view

Port Campbell is a cute town sitting on a sheltered bay. The locals swim backwards and forwards to keep fit, but it's also a good spot (during calm weather) for getting in some snorkelling among the kelp and fish. There's also a dive shop here that organises trips for experienced scuba types out to the reefs and wrecks.

Best for après drive relaxation

This isn't really the place for nightlife (unless you're talking about the sort that can be spotted with a torch), but we are well aware that after a long day spent staring at perfect scenery, you may be in need of refreshment. For the best choice, go to the township of Lorne. The stately Grand Pacific Hotel stands at one end of the town, but there are other options too: Cuda Bar has a cute terrace and live music every Friday and Saturday night.

Best for waking up to the sound of waves

Money no object? Rotten Point House, on a cliff above Johanna Beach, is breathtaking, both for the view and the architectural magnificence. But it does start at about $1500 for a two-night stay, which we understand might be a little pricey for everyone. At the other end of the spectrum is the Surfside Backpacker at Apollo Bay. As the name suggests, it's over the road from the beach and has accommodation in either dorm rooms or double rooms if you like a little more privacy.

For more information on the Great Ocean Road, including accommodation and attractions, go to www.visitgreatoceanroad.org.au.

Where are your favourite spots along the Great Ocean Road?

User comments
Hi Swanee of Melbourne. The picture above is Loch Ard Gorge, a beautiful spot on the Great Ocean Road near the 12 Apostles and Port Campbell. Find it on a Google Map at greatoceanroad dot com.
I used the Great Ocean Road App from the Apple Store, found koalas, kangaroos and booked through my phone. For $2.99 it is the best travel app I've used. Great area to explore, lots to see. Favourite spot - Wreck Beach
I have driven the Great Ocean Road many times and have never seen the beach where your lead photo was taken. It would be nice of you to tell us. Please.
www.barraboolhillsretreat.com.au for rustic accommodation, surrounded by beautiful artworks and countryside, on the gateway to the Surfcoast and Otways.
Hi We did the Great Ocean Walk and stayed each night at Bimbi Park camping area. They organized our drop off and pick ups each day. It was fabulous. We stayed in a cabin and there was a small shop on site and a huge camp kitchen and common dining and living area. Would definitely recommend them if you are considering doing the Walk

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