The Victorian Road Trip Part 3 – the Great Ocean Road (Port Campbell to Port Fairy)

After dragging Astrid away from Eliza and the playground in Ballarat just before 12pm, we loaded up the car and headed South towards the Great Ocean Road.  Due to some scheduling with accommodation we decided to start our Great Ocean Road adventure at Port Campbell, do some sightseeing around that area and then head West to Warrnambool and drive back East to Torquay along the whole length of the road over several days. This gave us the best chance to see the bits we wanted to see around tired kiddies and visiting friends.

The drive to Port Campbell was meant to take around 2 hours 45 minutes, and we hoped to be in Port Campbell in time to visit a few nearby sights (like London Bridge) that afternoon.  Unfortunately Astrid had developed a very dodgy tummy and there were at least 6 unscheduled toilet stops….. Not a lot of driving was getting done.

We had packed lunch supplies into our esky and were planning on stopping at a picnic spot along the road.  After toilet stop number 4 or 5 we decided it was getting late, Soren was now awake and it was time for lunch. Unfortunately, it was somewhat arctic outside and we couldn’t possibly sit and eat without freezing the kids.  Plan B was go to yet another dodgy take away, in a small town, whose name we don’t recall. It was the only place in town (one of those 1 street towns) and while the adjacent picnic spot looked inviting, it was pretty much snowing, so fish and chips it was…… again. Soren and Astrid were happy. Anto placated himself with a hamburger and Nic ended up having a milkshake for lunch.  Full of some calories and warmth we headed back to the car and hoped to finish the drive without incident.

The scenery was quite pleasant, lots of farms and rolling hills. As we were heading to Port Campbell rather than Warrnambool, we were off the main highways but the roads were still very good.  Worryingly the GPS (which is normally pretty accurate) kept estimating our ‘time to go’ to be significantly greater than what it should have been given the speed limit and how we were travelling. We were a bit concerned that half the trip was going to be at 40km/h.  Eventually both kids had a much needed nap and the roads got dodgier……. although still not too bad. We had one that was a single lane road, a single narrow lane of paved bitumen over dirt, but entirely unpopulated by other traffic.  Then there was the inevitable turn onto a dirt road…. with 90 km to go. We opted to skip that, with the hope that the next option was an actual road. It was, but the GPS still thought it was going to take us a very long time to get to Port Campbell. We were seriously wondering if we were going to be pushing the car the last 10km.  Luckily, the GPS was wrong and we made it to Port Campbell very efficiently. All of a sudden the lovely farm countryside changed to dramatic cliffs and the sea.

We drove into Port Campbell and located our accommodation. With both kids still sleeping we decided to drive to some nearby sights and see what we could get done with both of them still napping. We drove up to Loch Ard Gorge and the 12 Apostles but both were quite busy, so we thought we should head back to our hotel and explore Port Campbell instead.

Anto had again managed to ensure each night our hotel was an upgrade over the previous night. A nice apartment, lots of room and an good sized bathroom and full kitchen. It was a shame we were only there one night! Sore after several hours of sitting in the car we unpacked, rugged up and headed through town for a walk and a look around.  The town centre was quite small but there was a playground, several restaurants and cafes, and a supermarket.  With tired kids and kitchen facilities we decided to purchase some items to cook for dinner, show Astrid and Soren the impressive Port and beach and have a play in the playground.

With a storm coming in the beach was looking quite impressive indeed.  Can’t beat this for a late afternoon view……

We hoped for some more impressive sights the next day. Astrid had a play and we took some photos and headed to the supermarket.

Part way through supermarket shopping Astrid’s dodgy tummy hit again and we had to head back to the apartment, without a play in the playground, much to Astrid’s disgust.  After some dinner and a not too late night for the kids we enjoyed some accommodation with good heating and some actual couches and internet!  Again we were quite sad we only had one night there.

Astrid managed to wake everyone up very early…….. There was grumpiness from the adults but we had a nice cooked breaky, packed up and headed off for some Great Ocean Road sightseeing.  It was a wet, windy and cold day but we were keen to see what we could on our journey West. The plan was to spend a couple of hours seeing all the major sights West of Port Campbell, head through Warrnambool and through to Port Fairy to Griffith Island then back to Warrnambool for the afternoon, to catch up with friends.

The first cab off the rank for the mornings sightseeing was ‘the arch’. It was cold wet and windy but still fairly spectacular. Astrid was already enjoying ‘her adventure’ and watching the huge waves.

Next was ‘London Bridge’.  Only a few minutes drive down the road and we were there.  Of course as soon as we got out of the car it started raining quite heavily, with sleet coming directly into our faces.  Not many shots since we didn’t want to get the camera soaked but check out these awful photos that shows how windy and wet it was…..

Feeling a bit wet we bundled into the car and headed a few minutes down the road to ‘the Grotto’. It had stopped raining heavily and was just spitting. There were lots of stairs down to this one and they were a little slippery but Astrid managed well and Soren was still all tucked up in his ergo with the rain hood on.  We managed to stay (mostly) dry and enjoyed being able to walk right down into the rock formation and see the waves up close.

Somehow in all the wet and cold Soren finally fell asleep while we were at the Grotto and we even managed a successful ergo to car transfer and maintained blissful baby sleep.  About 5 minutes up the road was ‘the Bay of Martyrs’.  This can be viewed pretty much from the carpark, so with a sleeping Soren, Antony grabbed some photos while Astrid and I viewed in the dry and warm.

Back in the car and another 5 minute drive and we were at the ‘Bay of Islands’. This was on our must do list and many people have said it is better than the 12 Apostles. With a still sleeping Soren we decided to keep him warm in the car and take it in turns.  Nic and Astrid got the first go and then Anto.  It was certainly quite impressive, and we would have spent longer there if Soren had of been awake.

The Bay of Islands was the last big rock formation we wanted to view on our drive West so we headed off towards Warrnambool.  We were all a bit cold and hungry (and the adults were running low on caffeine, and the car low on fuel) so we stopped in Warrnambool to refuel the car and the humans. Soren was now awake so the kids demolished biscuits and the adults coffees, and we bundled back into the car and headed through Warrnambool and further West towards Port Fairy.  Although the Great Ocean Road technically ends at Warrnambool we were keen to see Port Fairy and the lighthouse so figured we might as well do it before heading back for our afternoon in Warrnambool.

After every other tourist attraction being well signposted, we figured Griffith Island and the lighthouse would be the same…… sadly not and we managed to drive through Port Fairy and out the other side without finding them.  The GPS was pulled out and we headed back, and found them on the second go….. the signposting was pretty non-existent until on top of it so we wouldn’t have found it by accident.

It was now lunch time but we wanted to walk around Griffith Island and see the lighthouse, so we made some sandwiches with supplies from our boot esky and decided to eat and walk. It was about 3km to do the Island loop, but it looked like a good walk and quite scenic.  Astrid was thrilled to be having a ‘walking picnic’ and happily munched on her sandwich while walking.  Soren was in the ergo but was happily being fed his sandwich.  The walk started out as boardwalk, and Astrid helpfully did not decide to fall into the chilly water.

…..But, around the corner there was sand, rocks and beach to scramble over.  Soren was asleep by this point. Astrid was alternating eating with walking and did quite well over the sand, rocks and grass, with only the odd bit of carrying. It was a very picturesque walk and we finally made it around to the back of the Island with the lighthouse in the distance.

Astrid was particularly excited by the lighthouse and we had the obligatory photos  – even one with all 4 of us in it, taken by a kind person also hanging out with is family.

Then it was time to head back to the car. The second half of the walk was mostly path and boardwalk, but a tired Astrid managed to con the ‘Dad horse’ into giving her shoulder rides.  Ahh they looked cute…..

The whole walk took us a little under an hour with our gentle stroll, lunch eating, baby carrying and toddler wrangling, photo-taking pace and was definitely fun and very scenic.

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