The Great Ocean Road Coast Line

Once Upon a Maritime History: The Shipwreck Coast

The Shipwreck Coast along the Victorian shoreline, extending between Torquay and Warrnambool is not only a splendour of waves crashing, rugged cliffs and Mother Nature’s elegance, it’s also a historian’s delight. Anyone interested in early Australian settlement history or that of the maritime, will marvel at the rich stories of sunken ships and struggle while walking along the pristine sands where these tales once took place.

One stretch of the Great Ocean Road, in particular, earns the title Shipwreck Coast more than other locations. Encompassing miles of cliff and Southern Ocean, what are now tourist attractions, were once fatal sea traps for the unsuspecting sailor. Loch Ard Gorge is one of them.

Loch Ard Gorge and its seascape rivals just about any other location in Victoria. It’s towering limestone structures and aqua blue waters easily distract from what really lies just below the surface.  If the weather turns rough, this paradise quickly turns hellish.

Around 700 ships are believed to have wrecked along this coastline, but Loch Ard Gorge – named after the famous 1700-tonne ship Loch Ard; that met its demise against the rocks – is the more iconic of them all.

Loch Ard Gorge

Loch Ard Gorge

Photo Source: Aral Bereux

 

Caught around 50 miles out, Loch Ard, back in 1878, was sailing from England to Melbourne. Almost at their destination, the iron-hulled clipper ship struck Mutton Bird Island, east of Port Campbell. The treacherous oceans, littered with rocks and cliffs quickly took hostage of the ship. Only 2 survived of the 54 on deck, with one cabin boy, an 18-year-old, washed into the Loch Ard Gorge.

This is one of many sights to see; and trying to understand what a battered and bruised young man, stranded in the Gorge may have thought at the time of this wreck, is nothing short of surreal as you walk in his footsteps along the sands.

Wreck Beach at Moonlight Head

Wreck Beach at Moonlight Head

Photo Source: Explore Great Ocean Road

 

If you follow the Great Ocean Road down towards Port Campbell, the Historic Shipwreck trail will lead you to some of the more well-known historical wreck sites. The Arch, The Grotto and the Bay of Islands, not to mention The Twelve Apostles, are but a few of these sites.

For a real maritime treat, Wreck Beach at Moonlight Head is still home to two rusted anchors – a reminder to all, of the lives lost along this coastline.

Matthew Flinders, the first explorer to map the Australian coastline once wrote on his experiences, “I have seldom seen a more fearful section of coastline.”

Beauty and tragedy, history and the surreal, this is what the Shipwreck Coast is all about.

 

Exploring The Great Ocean Road: Sunset Destinations

Sunsets, romance and the sound of the ocean rolling in. The Great Ocean Road offers some of the more memorable experiences as the sun lowers over the horizon. What is already pristine can become awash with watercolour hues, quickly turning the paradise into the surreal.

The limestone structures and rugged cliffs of the Victorian coastline can only be described in this sense. Isolated gorges, aqua to deep blue oceans coupled with a sense of being at the ends of the Earth; surrounded by a picture-book dusk, will take your breath away.  

Locals and those familiar with travelling the Great Ocean Road will often hint about the unsaid yet obligatory sunset visit to the Twelve Apostles. To get the most out of your experience, even in winter, travelling to this destination is about travelling to see the sun setting over these ancient ocean features.

And there’s good reason for the local’s insistence. The craggy coastlines, miles of deep blue ocean crested by white, during a sunset, is the ultimate delicacy for the traveller. The millions of years old limestone structures can radiate every last drop of colour that a sunset will offer.

 

Just a short drive from Apollo Bay, the Twelve Apostles is one of the easier locations to access, if you are tired from the day’s journey. And equally so, Apollo Bay can also offer impressive sunsets along the shoreline, as you relax for dinner in one of the cafés or restaurants across the road.

But if it’s the Twelve Apostles you have your sights set on, then be sure to consider the also close by Bay of Islands and Loch Ard Gorge. However, given that the life of a sunset is short, try and make the most of these locations over several evenings.

Bay of Islands

Reminiscent of The Twelve Apostles, the Bay of Islands adorns your ocean views with its million-year-old edifices. Coupled with the backdrop of sunset oranges and pinks, this is one world to mesmerize your senses.

Loch Ard Gorge

As beautiful as the Bay of Islands and Twelve Apostles are, Loch Ard Gorge – a ten-minute drive from The Twelve Apostles – will make this sunset worth waiting for.

More like something out of a book, Loch Ard Gorge is both unexpected and full of splendour. During a sunset, it is even more so. Chances are, if you take the steps down to the sand during the cooler months, you’ll experience a sunset-washed Gorge in solitude. Pick one of the large boulders on the sand to sit upon, wait, and enjoy the best show that Mother Nature has to offer.

But be warned, the area is susceptible to high tides. Follow any instructions posted on signs and keep an eye on the ocean.

Alternative Accommodation

If you are looking for an alternative place to Apollo Bay, to enjoy the sunset from a town you can stay in, consider Port Campbell.

Nestled away from the hustle and bustle that can sometimes be the Great Ocean Road, Port Campbell offers stunning sunsets while enjoying a fresh seafood meal. If you want to get closer to the shoreline, to appreciate a panoramic view, stroll down to the port and enjoy the custom of fish and chips by the ocean.

All in all, venturing out along the Great Ocean Road to watch an Australian sunset is akin to visiting the Canadian landscapes for the Northern Lights. Everyone needs to attempt the experience at least once in their lifetime to appreciate the wondrous beauties our world has to offer.

Photo of The Twelve Apostles courtesy: WallPaperUp.com

Great Ocean Road

Victoria’s Paradise: The Great Ocean Road

There are plenty of ‘paradises’ to visit in this world: The Northern Beaches of Oahu, Fiji, Cuzco for its sweeping landscapes, and then there is the Great Down Under; a country to rival the above and more, for its own unique landscapes.

Every state of Australia has its own niche. For the Northern Territory it’s Uluru and the outback, for Queensland, maybe it’s a visit to the tropics – Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation. Visiting New South? Sydney and her Opera House can’t be surpassed. All worthy opponents of Victoria, but not the official winners.

Victoria offers an abundance of rolling meadows, rainforests, beaches, historic regional towns, rugged isolation for those who trek and one of the world’s most livable cities, Melbourne. And what’s better, for the most part, you can drive down to an easily accessible Great Ocean Road to experience all of the above, ah, baring Melbourne. But if you’re smart, you could include that in your trip, too.

The Great Ocean Road offers diversity. It’s what makes it Australia’s paradise. Yes, a little bit of bias from someone who lives in Victoria, but the truth just slaps you in the face on every turn of the Great Ocean Road. The truth, dare I say, is in the pictures and the experience.

Driving the Great Ocean Road should be done over 3 to 5 days to get the full experience, but if you’re strapped for time, a reputable tour for a day will help with seeing some of the more notable sights. In all likelihood, if you opt for a tour, you get two benefits: stress free driving and the obligatory mecca of the Great Ocean Road, the Twelve Apostles.

Everyone loves the Twelve Apostles (now currently eight). It is all that they say it is, particularly at early morning and on dusk. This Victorian pilgrimage is for the photographer, landscape connoisseur, historian, geologist and storyteller alike.  There’s something for everyone.

But it isn’t just about the Twelve Apostles. The journey there is just as important and will take you along winding roads overlooking the Southern Ocean, rugged cliffs, and lush rainforests. You’ll be surprised at the regional towns along the way, particularly Lorne and Apollo Bay, two of the more popular destinations offering a glimpse into local life.

What more can be said? The Great Ocean Road is one of those places to see. If you’re serious about getting the most out of a trip to the southern regions of Australia, to Victoria, then this paradise is a step in the right direction.