With a now awake Soren, and excited Astrid, we headed East for the short trip back to Warrnambool for an afternoon of hanging out with friends (and some sightseeing and park playing). My lovely friends from uni days, Tabitha and Darren, happen to now live in Warrnambool with their three munchkins. Despite living in different cities to each other since uni, we had still managed to catch up every now and then. The last time we saw them, Astrid was an itti bitti 2 weeks old. Since then they have been living in Warrnambool, which is a fair hike from Canberra!
Luckily we were going to be visiting Warrnambool for our Great Ocean Road trip so we made sure to organise a catch-up. Astrid was beside herself with excitement about spending the afternoon playing with Alexander, Bethany and Anneliese. Once we arrived at Tab’s, Astrid got straight into playing with the kids while Soren had a feed. We then decided to make the best of the weather (it was at least momentarily sunny) and head to the playground. Warrnambool has a pretty awesome playground, Lake Pertobe Adventure Playground, which has a range of playground equipment for all different ages, in lots of different zones. It also has paddle boats, trampolines and various other fun activities for kiddies. We only ended up seeing a part of it in our afternoon there but it was certainly a hit with Astrid.
Astrid loved playing on the various slides, in the sand and on the merry-go-round. Some of the slides were quite large (Alexander had to help Astrid down one she got stuck on) and Tabitha got her weekly work out pushing all the kids on the tyre swings!. In typical Warrnambool style we got rained on, nearly blown over and periods of sunshine. The kids had a great run around (Soren eventually slept in the ergo) and the majority of the children ended up in mud at some point…
While the kids were playing, Anto had headed to the hotel to dump all our bags, and confirmed that while the accommodation was also from the 70s it was enormous, with separate living area, kitchen 2 bedrooms and a huge bathroom. There were also 3 single beds + a queen bed so Astrid got her pick of beds and Anto had options when Soren inevitably ended up in the bed in the middle of the night.
After the kids were all played out (well the adults were sick of standing around in the cold) we headed back to Tabitha’s. More playing with toys for the big kids and some free range crawling for Soren who was pleased to be out of both the ergo and the car. Tabitha was kind enough to put up with us and our 2 tired kidlets for dinner. Astrid was then reluctantly dragged away from her new friends so we could head to our hotel. After a lovely afternoon catching-up we hoped we could see each other again within 3 years!
It was a short 5 minute drive to our hotel. While Antony had done a great job of unpacking the car, he hadn’t noticed that every window in the apartment had been opened (behind closed curtains) and it was now freezing. We had to crank the heater in the lounge room area up to tropical to try and improve on the fridge like temperatures of the bedrooms. We managed to heat it up enough to all get some sleep. Astrid only managed to wake everyone up with one nightmare and Soren decided the bed was warmer than his cot, so Anto go kicked out again. With all the disruptions we all slept in til a bit after 7….. unheard of! Then it was time for a nice cooked breaky and to pack up and hit the road.
It was a lovely clear (but cool) morning and we were hoping for better weather for the day ahead. The first stop for the morning was Logan’s beach in Warrnambool. Logan’s beach often hosts whales for part of the year, and it was whale watching season so we were hoping for a glimpse. There is a large viewing platform at the beach and when we arrived there were quite a few people crowding the platform. In all honesty we didn’t expect to see any whales but as soon as we arrived, sure enough there were whales! They were a little too far away to get good photos of with the lenses we had with us but the black blobs in the photos below are in fact whales. We think there were at least 2, but there might have been more. We could see them moving around and the spray from their blowholes.
Astrid was struggling to see what we were excitedly pointing at but enjoyed watching the surfers. Soren was happily people watching while we whale watched. The beach was lovely and would have been great to walk around further but the Great Ocean Road called.
It was now a bit after 9am and we thought we should get moving. Soren was pretty much asleep minutes after getting back in the car, so Anto did a quick stop past the Golden Arches to find the adults coffee and we headed off. We had 213km to cover that day but via the Great Ocean Road it’s over 3.5 hours of driving. As we had already seen most of the sights between Port Campbell and Warrnambool the previous day the first hour of the trip was just driving without any need to get out. This worked well as Soren was napping. We had also driven this section East to West the previous day and it was nice to now drive it in the opposite direction as you get a totally different view of the cliffs.
The previous day, our stop at London Bridge was rained out. We planned to revisit this morning and Soren happened to wake up just as we pulled into the carpark. It was still a little damp, but significantly better weather this time around!
Back in the car we headed back through Port Campbell (weren’t we just here?) and just up the road to Loch Ard Gorge. This site involved a little walking from the car park and there were several different viewing platforms you could walk between. You could also walk down onto the beach and into some of the caves. At this stage, Astrid got hit with the ‘whingey tired toddler’ stick and was only placated with promise of biscuits. We narrowly avoided a full meltdown and after several walks to different viewing areas, we thought better of dragging her down stairs and onto the beach and headed back to the car for the 12 Apostles stop. There were a few short walks we didn’t end up doing but it was a nice stop and great views, if a little busier than some of the sites closer to Warrnambool.
A five minute drive further East is the very famous 12 Apostles. This is tourist central, with a huge carpark, kiosk, toilets and lots of helicopters doing the tourist flyovers. You can see the tiny black dots in some of the photos below, they are the helicopters, not smoosh on our lenses. The toilets were a welcome stop and then we headed down the track to the viewing areas. There was a reasonable amount of walking between the viewing platforms compared to some of the other sites, but it was a very easy stroll and there were lots of spots to stop and take photos. It was far busier than previous stops as this is where all the tourist buses stop on the day trips. We still didn’t have any issues walking around and getting a good look.
Astrid was amusing tourists with her endless chatter and questions about all the signs (they seemed determined to warn us that climbing off the fenced areas was a bad idea), and helicopter watching. We did manage to get all our obligatory tourist photos done, and was indeed quite an impressive site, despite several of the apostles now being in the sea. You could see that there were other areas that were wearing down and were likely to crumble at some point in the future.
After a good wander around we headed back to the car for the next bit of the drive. It was another 2 hours driving to our stopping point and we thought we should get moving before it got too late. Our plan was to stop at a picnic spot along the way for lunch and enjoy a leisurely drive into Lorne. Just after the 12 Apostles the road heads inland slightly and you head through farmland and rainforest for awhile. It was a nice drive and we saw lots of sheep with very scenic views! While it was a scenic drive there weren’t any spots we really needed to stop for the next 40km. The kids were getting restless for lunch so we picked Lavers Hill as a stopping point. There were quite a few cafes in this small town but we found a picnic spot and made some sandwiches.
Despite it looking nice outside there ended up being quite a cool wind and it was a bit of a chilly picnic. Luckily there were some horses in a paddock next to the picnic table which distracted Astrid and Soren was just happy to be out of the car and eating. After our lunch we headed back to the car and hoped both kids would have a nap during the last hour and a half of driving as they both desperately needed it.
Nic ended up sitting in the back to keep Soren distracted so Antony could concentrate on driving. There were a few spots were were considering stopping to do short walks and some sightseeing but it was going to depend on how the kids were going when we got to them. As we were staying in Lorne for a few days we had the option of driving back West and seeing some of the towns at a more leisurely pace another day. We had decided though that Apollo Bay (45 minutes to 1 hours drive West of Lorne) was as far as we were willing to backtrack so all other sightseeing before Apollo Bay had to be done today. The next half an hour was scenic rainforest driving but no real stops. Of course the stop we wanted to do Maits Rest Rainforest Walk, near Cape Otway, happened to be 5 minutes after Soren FINALLY went to sleep! We voted for not waking him up and kept driving. The perils of travelling with small children but there were plenty of other places to see and he really needed the rest and we were keen to get to Lorne so in the end it was a good decision.
The drive through Apollo Bay was lovely and it looked like a good place to have a walk around. With Soren still sleeping we voted to drive from there straight through to Lorne and backtrack later in the week. From Apollo Bay the road really hugs the coast and winds around the coastline. You drive through quite a few picturesque towns and some stunning coastal scenery. The camera remained in the car though, but we were looking forward to returning to take some pictures.
Astrid stubbornly refused to nap but Soren napped for most of the drive to Lorne, but wanted out of the car once he woke up. The last 10 kilometres took us an eternity as we got stuck behind a car that was going 20km/h below the speed limit (in good conditions) and refused to pull over and allow cars to pass. There ended up being a bit of a line of traffic but we eventually made it over the top of the hill and found our hotel, the Grand Pacific Hotel.
We had 3 nights at the hotel and were looking forward to unpacking and a couple of days with slightly less driving. Astrid and Soren were thrilled to be released from their car prison and we located our apartment, which despite being up a fair few stairs from the carpark, was enormous. We somehow got upgraded to a 3 bedroom apartment, with a full kitchen, laundry, 2 bathrooms and a huge living area and balcony. It was enormous and we promptly filled it up with all our bags and let the kids roam. It was about 3 times the size of apartment we lived in in Paris so we thought we’d done well!
After Soren was fed and Astrid had run around excitedly and claimed each of the single beds in turn (there were 4 to pick from) we thought we should go for a walk to stretch our legs. We needed some groceries and a walk so thought we might kill two birds with one stone. The friendly reception staff informed us that there was a boardwalk adjacent to the hotel that we could follow down along the beach into town and past some playgrounds and to a supermarket. It turns out it was about a half hour walk to the supermarket but we never quite made it.
The boardwalk was more of a stone path but was very scenic. We didn’t take the camera on this outing but vowed to do so the next day. We made it down to the beach and the main shopping area. Astrid spied the playground, which was large with lots of slides and a boat! Nic stayed and played with Astrid (and tried to convince Soren to nap in the ergo) while Anto went in search of the supermarket and dinner options.
It was now rapidly approaching kiddy dinner time and we were all tired so we thought we might grab something for dinner and leave the cooking for another day. There were quite a few cafes and restaurants but a few were closed as it was Winter and some were not open until later. Astrid wanted fish and chips, Anto also seemed keen. Nic vetoed the idea and decided to get some spring rolls from a nearby noodle bar while the others got their fried sea creature. Food purchased, it was rapidly getting dark, so we opted for a quick walk back up the hill to the hotel. Astrid was tired after a big day so Anto ended up having to carry her most of the way. Soren napped in the ergo (finally) and we made it back to the hotel in less than 15 minutes.
Despite the delay in getting back for dinner, it was still unbelievably hot. The fish and chip eaters got a variety of fried sea creature and potato types and all seemed to enjoy it. We vowed to cook them actual vegetables the next day……. The hotel had the bonus of a bath in one of the 2 bathrooms so the kidlets got to splash water everywhere and went to bed tired but happy. The adults were looking forward to a hopefully more relaxing couple of days ahead!