The Shipwreck Coast

It’s so easy to enjoy the splendour that the rest of the world has to offer, and yet so easy to miss that which sits in your own back yard.

Australia is well renowned for its natural beauty, from white sandy beaches, to the unique flora and fauna. There is so much still to be seen (in fairness, this country of ours is huge), however there are some small pockets we have seen, and this is one of those.

Back in April of 2010, Sarah and I took a short trip down Victoria’s South-West coast. The season was Autumn, however the weather was certainly leaning towards Winter!

Leaving Melbourne on a Friday evening after work, we didn’t travel too far that first evening, pausing for a nights rest at a B & B just outside of Torquay, home to one of Australia’s most famous surf locations, Bells Beach.

Our first nights lodgings: Memories of 'Deadwood'

Our first nights lodgings: Memories of ‘Deadwood’

With its wooden paneled walls, and pine tree by the main entrance, this cute cottage made me feel like I was in the Black Hills of Dakota (at least as I know them from the HBO TV series “Deadwood”).

The sun shone as we continued on down the coast, but as the day wore on, the blue sky became far patchier and as the winds increased, so did the grey clouds.

This stretch, known as the “Great Ocean Road” snakes along the coastline, and there is something more fitting that the weather be a little rough. The cliffs start to rise here and with good reason, this area is known as the “Shipwreck Coast”.

Since the 1830’s, over 600 vessels have sunk along this stretch of coast, two thirds of which have never been discovered, so it really is an appropriate name indeed.

It’s the area around Port Campbell and beyond where this coast has really gained its fame. The area is a popular day trip destination for its spectacular coastal scenery and it’s not uncommon to see helicopters flying overhead as they run tours over the incredible sights.

Most famous of course are The 12 Apostles, twelve free standing stacks (rock formations separated from the mainland). Erosion from both weather and the pounding ocean has seen several tumble over the years, leaving closer to 7 or 8 of them in any decent condition.

The 12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles

Nearby is also the infamous Loch Ard Gorge, named after the unfortunate ship which sunk in 1878, lost with all hands bar 2, who happened to wash ashore in the location that now bears the ships name.

Looking down on Loch Ard Gorge

Looking down on Loch Ard Gorge

The mouth of the gorge

The mouth of the gorge

This incredible stretch of coast continued to surprise, and it was a less famous location not much further along our journey that left us in awe and was probably our highlight of the trip.

The Bay of Martyrs sits in between Peterborough and the west Victorian town of Warrnambool and is part of the Bay of Islands coastal park.

Perhaps timing is everything, as our our evening arrival allowed the setting sun to illuminate the sea mist, giving this view down the coast a magical feel. Sadly, the photos could never do it complete justice.

Late afternoon at The Bay of Martyrs

Late afternoon at The Bay of Martyrs

We spent that night in the regional city of Warrnambool, the highlight being the delicious desserts at our hotel, The Sebel. Chocolate & Coconut Fondant and a Lime Tart (we shared the two).

Warrnambool itself is an old historic township boasting a maritime museum, complete with functioning lighthouses on a hill overlooking the ocean. It was all interesting enough, but it was the smaller township of Port Fairy, around 30km further west that was areal gem.

This area of the coast boasts some of the oldest non indigenous settlements in Victoria, and situated where the Moyne River meets the sea, this was a gorgeous little historic town.

The gorgeous Port Fairy harbour on the Moyne River

The gorgeous Port Fairy harbour on the Moyne River

It was a quiet Sunday morning, so there really wasn’t much happening. We took the time to have a wander around this peaceful village and take in some of the historical buildings, of which there are many (something like 50 buildings in this town of only a couple of thousand people are heritage listed).

The historic village church in Port Fairy

The historic village church in Port Fairy

We took one last opportunity to take in the spectacular coastal sights on the return leg, this time stopping off at the other of the Great Ocean Roads famous stacks, London Bridge.

It’s incredible to think that this wonder of nature originally had another span that linked it with the mainland. When i collapsed back in 1990, it did so leaving 2 tourists stranded, shipwrecked without a sailing vessel (eventually they were rescued by helicopter).

London Bridge, as it currently stands

London Bridge, as it currently stands

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