Sorrento – 1st / 2nd March
Waking up after the storm it seemed we had faired better than some, there was an old Jayco pop up collapsed and held down with a ratchet strap, beds still sticking out each end. All we had was a few drips and some chairs to put away. The wind was the strange thing; when it came up there were no gusts, it was just a steady increase in strength until the pine trees above us were dropping cones like little bombs.
So farewell to Cape Paterson, onward to Sorrento. We weren’t sure what to expect of the Mornington Peninsular; sure it has great vineyards but its also prime territory for the Melbourne weekender. In reality there are 2 sides to it, along Port Phillip down to Rye its the built up resort we’d rather avoid, on the other side its rather pleasant.
But first lunch, and then the great strawberry rip off.
Lunch was at T’Gallant winery; great pizza, live music, pretty outlook over the vines and a thoroughly lovely spot. Shame we couldn’t say the same about Sunny Ridge strawberry farm; being from England pick your own fruit was a common sight back there, but this was the first time we’d seen it over here. So we thought give the girls a new experience, and pick a kilo for tea. Turns out it doesn’t work like that, everyone must have a box and pay for it – so for $26 we would have 5 boxes that in total would hold no more than 500g. The lesson turned into how to recognise a rip-off rather than how lovely picking fruit can be. It was amazing how many people were paying, one born every minute and all that.
At the recommendation of the camping office, we ditched Rye and stayed on the foreshore just outside Sorrento. A wonderful little spot looking north over the bay and steps to the beach. The girls highly recommend Mubble, the ice cream shop
Blanket Bay – 3rd / 4th March
An early start to get the ferry across to Queenscliffe. What a very pleasant way to travel, much easier than slogging through Melbourne on the freeway. Driving through Queenscliffe on the other side it seems a little like the channel ports of the UK, the glory days are gone but memories of them remain in the architecture.
The Great Ocean Road seems to be on everyone’s bucket list. Certainly with the backpackers given the number of signs saying “Drive on the left in Australia”; although if you haven’t worked that out since leaving Melbourne you’re lucky to be alive.
Around Torquay its obvious to see why this is the (self proclaimed) home of Australian surfing, long sand beaches, clear water, waves rolling in just right. Sadly we weren’t stopping; but it made for a lovely backdrop to lunch. Heading south the beaches disappear into cliffs and the road twists its way along before opening back out approaching Appollo Bay. Turn right here and its into Cape Otway, our destination, despite the best efforts of the Hema to send us down closed forest tracks on the way to Blanket Bay.
Blanket Bay sits at the end of Cape Otway, some 10km east of the lighthouse. This is also Koala central; on the drive into the park one adventurous fellow was showing off for the audience.
Set in the bush the sites are secluded, but the facilities limited – long drop, no water and take your rubbish home. Part of the pleasure of camping is the people you meet, with several hours around the (communal) camp fire chatting with some local chaps down for some fishing. Another part is the unexpected; hats off to the ranger (also the sculptor, below) who, whilst waiting for a school group to come through, gave Charlotte and I an impromptu lesson on local native plants (and not so native, with juice from the dandelion root apparently a natural Stop-Itch)
The lighthouse is worth a visit, a steep narrow climb to the top where it is amazing how small the motor is that turns the light around. There is also the telegraph station for the first line to Tasmania, history relating to dinosaur fossils in the area, an extensive area on local aboriginal culture and some great sculptures by one of the rangers, like the southern right whale the girls are sat on below.
Warrnambool – 5th March
The countryside leaving Cape Otway is picturesque, in a slightly bleak, hilly, windswept kind of way. As you approach Port Campbell this gives way to scrubby heath, rolling into the distance with no indication of the rock formations a few hundred yards to the left. Along this stretch of road is where the famous landmarks are found
The Twelve Apostles, actually rather fewer now, are very impressive. It helped the surf was up and the sun was shining, this would be a terrible coast in the driving rain.
London Bridge, although diminished by the collapse of the connecting arch, remains spectacular. Apparently 2 people were trapped on the seaward side when the collapse occurred, can’t have been much fun.
The Arch is a short hike to get to, and is not on the same scale as the others
The Grotto is also a hike, but worth the effort. Its also worth climbing down to the base as looking through gives the best view. With the surf up the waves throw spray up into the grotto itself
One more attraction after these is not so well signposted, the Bay of Martyrs. Just west of Peterborough this is a series of rock stacks within the bay; although not as high as the Apostles these are almost more impressive. No photos unfortunately, by the time we saw them we had missed the parking.
As for Warrnambool, OK looking place and the Discovery Holiday Park was a welcome return to hot showers. Other than that I can’t say, howling gales and rain don’t encourage sightseeing. The tent stood up to the wind much better than us, not a very restful night.
Princess Margaret Rose Caves – 6th / 7th March
With a long weekend upon us it was 3 day minimum time (will cover the 8th next post) and most places booked out in Discovery Bay National Park. One site was clear, next to the Dune buggies’ zone, I can see why. Looking further found this site in the Lower Glen Elg NP, north of Nelson, the added bonus of some caves to explore.
A bit of a twisty route for this one, turning north before Portland then east at Dartmoor to wind through the park / associated pine plantations. Nothing too adventurous but getting off the tarmac had its reward – 2 emus, and a wedge tail eagle disturbed in its meal of road kill roo; flying down the road ahead of us its wings looked like they stretched verge to verge.
The campsite itself was a delight – quiet with secluded sites, firepits, hot showers and flush toilets.
Photos next time.