Explore: The Great Ocean Road

Ask any Melbournian and they will recommend a visit to the Great Ocean Road, it’s a simple masterpiece. With a length of 243 km, the Great Ocean Road contains something new and exciting every turn of the corner, whether it be a different landscape, another vibrant coastal town or a forest. Starting in Torquay and ending in Allansford, the Great Ocean road covers hundreds and thousands of landmarks, towns and events. I will cover the major attractions that are along the Great Ocean Road and some advice for those who want to have a fun driving experience.

The most famous attractions lay beyond the Otways national park, but we will start our coverage of the top ten places to visit along the Great Ocean Road from the start (east end).

12 apostles

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Probably one of the most well known attractions along the great ocean road and would definitely need a visit. The 12 apostles, well actually only 8 now are giant limestone stacks that are just off the shore. They are an incredible site to see with their giant tall structures being crushed by the white waves, making it a fantastic piece to photograph and view. There is a dedicated discovery centre with lookouts and I would definitely recommend walking all the way down to the beach to view the 12 apostles. The stacks currently erode at 2cm per year due to the harsh nature of the southern ocean, hence I believe you must visit these mammoths before they all collapse and erode away.

Otways national park

The Otways national park is a fantastic national park along the Great Ocean Road and has some of the best roads to drive along. The national park itself contains 3 waterfalls which are a must visit and contain a huge range of different plant life, animal life and fungi. It is a perfect place for a picnic, mountain bike ride and camping. The Otways have a lot to offer which treetop adventures, hundreds of walking tracks and a seaside view at the edge of the national park. There are an abundance of lakes and rivers, making the Otways a photographers dream. Close to the Otways, there is a fantastic windy road which I would highly recommend any driver to visit, Turtons track. Make sure to have tyres with plenty of grip and are comfortable to drive on these windy roads. It is a fantastic drive with wonderful scenery and greenery that surrounds you, it truly is a magical experience.

London bridge

Remember the childhood nursery rhyme of London bridge is falling down? Well the London Bridge along the Great Ocean Road has in fact fallen down and has now taken on the name of London Arch. It is a natural arch caused by erosion and used to be connected to the mainland, however in 1990 the arch connecting the bridge to the mainland collapsed and thus now is called London Arch. It is still a fantastic natural arch to look at with and provides fantastic photography opportunities.

Loch Ard Gorge

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Just situated 3 minutes away from the 12 apostles, the Loch Ard Gorge is gorgeous. Visitors are allowed to walk down the beach and see in beautiful beach in all its glory. It is fantastic on a warm day and also provides moody photos on a cloudy day. It was named after a ship with ran around on a nearby island, leaving on 2 survivors out of the 54 on board. The Loch Ard Gorge has served many purposes in film and media and will continue to be one of the most beautiful attractions along the Great Ocean Road. Make sure to bring your towel and bathers if you would want a dip! The water is crystal clear and I couldn’t resist dipping my toes in the water.

Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay is a coastal town situated before the Otways national park and definitely deserves a visit for a lunch stop. There is a lot on offer in this town with fantastic eateries, sea-side views and even the chance to catch a few whales. Southern right whales are known to breed in the area and there have been many sightings of humpback whales in the vicinity. Other towns to visit include, Lorne and Torquay. In fact, I would recommend stopping at as many coastal towns as possible as each has a different vibe, atmosphere and culture.

The Razorback

The razorback is another rock formation that is situated very closely to the Loch Ard Gorge. The name is given to this rock formation with the way it looks due to the wind and water erosion the rock has experienced over the many years. The walking path is a loop and you have a fantastic view of the other rock formations surrounding the Great Ocean Road.

The Blowhole

No surprises here, the blowhole spurts out water on the viewing flatforms and surrounding rocks. It is a fantastic way to cool down on a hot summer’s day and also creates some very interesting long exposure photography. The blowhole is located near the Loch Ard Gorge, but mind you the sea-spray on a calm day can be little to none. The area is also heavily vegetated, so please be careful when making your way to view the blowhole.

The Arch

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The arch, different to London Arch, is a natural formation of an arch located not too far away from the 12 apostles. There is now parking and access to the arch and is a fantastic thing to view no matter what time of the day. It is a quieter attraction which is good to take a breather here and there. There are stairs and walkways to get close to the arch, however getting very close to the arch does require going off roading (with your legs).

Bay of Martyrs

Situated closer to the west end of the Great Ocean Road, the bay of martyrs is one of the most beautiful sites along the great ocean road with plentiful bird wildlife. There are guided walks here and is a prominent sunset destination with its large open views with the limestone cliff edges, reefs and the sparkling water. Some have said the bay has better views than the 12 apostles and are less crowded. I would place this as un underrated spot to visit along the great ocean road.

Bay of Islands

The bay of islands, close to Warrnambool, has spectacular sights and is definitely worth the trip . Many tourists often miss the parts beyond London Arch, however I strongly recommend to travel further to these locations due to their fantastic views and low crowds, making it feel like a private beach. It is quiet and relaxing, a great escape from everyday life. Yet again, the locals have rated this higher than the 12 Apostles and I don’t blame them.

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When travelling along the Great Ocean Road, ensure to travel early in the morning to avoid large tour groups and parking can be limited so be prepared to park far away and walk for the most part. Ensure to pack plenty of water and snacks and definitely bring a DSLR if you have one. If you are unsure as to which DSLR to buy, refer to this guide. Make sure to put the Great Ocean road on your bucket list, you will not regret it. Summer, Winter, rain or shine, there is never a bad day to visit the Great Ocean Road as each climate has a different mood and different perspective.

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Explore: Warburton Redwood Forest

History

The famous Californian redwood trees were originally planted in 1930 by the board of works after they cleared the original eucalypt forest. The trees that were planted were: Bishop Pine, Douglas Fir and Californian Redwood. There were further plantings in 1960-63 as part of the Boards hydrology research program which included Radiata Pine, Western Red Cedar and Redwood. The results of the research program were not known. The forest is now heritage listed and will provide great tourism for the surrounding towns.

Why is it so special?

Well, there are over 1476 Californian redwood trees that range from around 20m to 50m in height and are planted in a grid which make it aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Once you enter the forest, you are surrounded by the silence of the trees, the coolness of the breeze and a refreshing smell. There is more to just trees in the forest, which locally created wild nests made out of twigs and branches that are large enough for us, humans, to stand in them and take some amazing shots. They are scattered around the forest and anyone can add to them or create a new once.

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What can I do?

Definitely bring a camera, some food and a picnic rug. There is a large open space opposite the carpark for the picnic and walking tracks for later in the day. These tracks are just as beautiful and are situated alongside a river. Take as many photos as you can, the sunlight that reaches inside is fantastic and diffused, however a flash is also recommended.

Where is it?

The forest lays 70 odd km’s from the heart of Melbourne and is easily accessible by car. The dirt is relatively flat, 4WD is not necessary at all. Type Redwood forest into google and it will automatically recognise it.

It is a perfect day-trip for all families to enjoy no matter what time of the year it is!

Mt Macedon: the winter experience

Without a doubt, Mt Macedon is just as beautiful in Winter as it is in Autumn and Spring. The greenery and smell of fresh air is something you don’t often see everyday. The lovely country town is less than an hours drive from Melbourne, being 66 km away from the CBD. Drive along the Calder freeway and you’re there. My girlfriend and I picked a week during our Uni break to get away from everything and explore the in’s and outs of Mount Macedon and the surrounding area. Here is a little recap of our stay.
Accommodation

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We decided to Airbnb our stay in the nearby town of Macedon, it was cheaper and closer to the essentials. I would highly recommend the place where we stayed, it was modern and contained everything we could possibly think of! It was a well furnished apartment with an amazing front garden. The place was not too far away from the main strip of shops and a 15 to 30 minute drive from the many places we were to visit.

Macedon

The first town we explored was Macedon which contained some amazing restaurants and cafes. We ate at Ida Red, a wood fire pizza place with a touch of Japanese. The interior decoration was warming and had a lovely atmosphere. (Do definitely try their vegetarian pizza). Another place we ate at was Mr Cafe. They had a wide range of breakfast options and we couldn’t resist having their eggs benedict with their apple hollandaise sauce. Both eateries were well priced. Just across the road was a small IGA, PSA: they have Ben and Jerry’s. The night we ate at Ida red, we went to buy some Ben and Jerry’s for our desert, however they had closed. We were determined to get our ice-cream and drove the distance to Kyneton to get our ice-cream, disappointingly it was a dollar more expensive than the smaller Macedon IGA. The town itself is very easily accessible.

Camels Hump

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A view you have to see, unless it’s foggy. We had to visit Camels Hump twice, first time we went up when it was really foggy and we could barely see past 10m in front of us, would not recommend unless you want some moody misty photos. The second time we went up was for sunset, the trek up is easy and is done within 15 minutes. The view blew our minds, you could see other country towns, hanging rock and all. There even is a plaque which points to other famous landmarks you could possibly see. The sunset view is gorgeous and I would highly recommend visiting Camels Hump as a sunset location.

Memorial Cross

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One of the major attractions of Mount Macedon includes this 21m tall cross commemorating those who gave their lives to the first world war, 1914-1918. There are many looks out to view nearby towns and on a clear day you can spot the Melbourne CBD in the distance as well as the Dandenong ranges. At Sky-high, the plague points towards Mount Macedon. The gardens leading up to the cross are gorgeous, even in winter, and looking out into the distance, all you can see are fields of green and forestland. It is an incredible look-out and a perfect walk. Be wary during winter, the road can be covered by frost as well as fog.

Forest Glade Gardens

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When I was younger, I visited this garden during Autumn and it was absolutely stunning, the colours and atmosphere was lively. As this garden is open all year round, we decided to explore the garden and see what has changed and I got to say, it keeps getting better. The greenery was incredible and there were still plants shedding their leaves. We were the only two visitors in the garden during our visit, which gave the garden a sense of peace and tranquility. The sculptures and different gardens within the garden are a sight to behold. Everywhere you looked, you could see the different landscaping techniques and styles and the wide range of plants. It was a delight to photograph in this garden and I strongly recommend anyone who has an interest in photography to come visit, prime lenses would be the recommendation to capture the crispness of the flowers. The $10 entry fee is definitely worth it.

Hanging Rock

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Situated within a 10 minute drive from Mt. Macedon, the infamous Hanging Rock and its mysteries lay bulging out of the flat land. To many, Hanging Rock would be best known and recognised for the story and film adaption; Picnic at Hanging Rock. Inside the park contains many different rock formations, which all follow a trail. The walk is rather steep and it is recommended to take breaks when ascending to the top. Be mindful the rocks can be slippery when wet and there are no safety barriers if you happen to slide off the edge. The view from the top is incredible, you have a complete 360 degree view, barely being intruded by other rocks or trees. Furthermore, there is a cafe and race-course nearby which adds tourism to the rock. I recently learned about the deal Frontier touring have with the Macedon shire council, which means they are to host 4 shows a year at Hanging Rock. In 2017, the announced tours include Ed Sheeran, Bruce Springsteen and Midnight Oil. There is a entry fee that is based off the vehicle you enter in, a car being $5.

Turpin Falls

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Do not shy away from the dirt road and death warning signs, this is a hidden freshwater swimming hole gem! The billabong is larger than an Olympic swimming pool and is a very popular diving location. Be warned of the water level as there have been several injuries. Unfortunately it was winter and we didn’t go for a swim, however I would definitely revisit this waterfall in the summer. It was a great picnic location and was completely secluded. The waterfall itself has plenty of water flowing. Be mindful the car park is small and has been reported to be very crowded during the summer months. Fortunately we were the only ones there.

Trentham Falls

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In order to maximize your experience here, avoid the signs at your own risk. The path has been blocked off due to unstable cliffs, however when we visited, everyone was walking along the path. There is a viewing platform a short walk from the car park, but it barely captures the essence of the waterfall with trees hindering your view. Once you walk down the trail, you see the wonderful nature of this waterfall, it is absolutely stunning. We walked to the bottom of the waterfall for some photos and also down the creek. The waterfall is so much more impressive from the bottom and along the creek. The flowing water and the greenery along the creek made my jaw drop. With the sun just peaking through the clouds, a rainbow can be seen at the waterfall, making the entire experience majestic. I would recommend shoes that have grip, unless you want to slide down your bottom. The location is easily found and is definitely worth a visit.

Closing thoughts

My girlfriend and I had an incredible time at Mount Macedon, exploring the various landmarks and eateries. We would definitely recommend spending at least two days to capture the beauty of the place. In order to capture the beauty of the town, the locals we spoke to work in Melbourne but are willing to spend an hour or two to travel to and fro as they don’t want to leave the peace and serenity of Mount Macedon. Every place you visit is unique and will be an unforgettable experience.