Melbourne, Australia has an oceanic bay to its south. The city actually lies on the banks of a river, above the bay, which provides the availability of fresh water ( rather than salt water) from its location. I haven’t been here very long, but have already learned the importance of fresh water proximity to city locations. Anyway, one of Melbourne’s attractions is its proximity to wonderful coastlines and beaches. While there are relatively close beaches, the best are about a three hour drive to either the east or west. Today, I will tell you about the drive to the west along the “Great Ocean Road.”
The Great Ocean Road was originally constructed at the end of World War One. It provided jobs for returning soldiers, but also served as a memorial to the 60% of the Aussie soldiers who did not return. We began our drive by taking an inland route which brought us to the western boundary of the road. There, we encountered its most famous landmark, The Twelve Apostles.
These sandstone formations used to be 12, but one fell down a few years ago. This soft rock is continually being eroded by the salt and currents. The above photo on the upper right clearly shows the greater erosion in the closer rocks. Eventually, these formations will all disappear, to be replaced by new ones forming on the edge of the current sea cliffs.
The above photo shows the erosion of the rock that could one day become the next generation of Apostles. Anyway, this was a beautiful vista, well worth the drive. But a very short drive up the coast brought us to Loch and Gorge:
And Shipwreck Point:
We walked to points above these formations. I forgot to mention that we were not allowed to walk down to the beaches near the Apostles. These sands and the caves along the cliffs are homes to colonies of small penguins. The Aussies cherish these inhabitants and established National Parks to protect the animals and the shoreline.
We started back toward Melbourne on a road that veered away from the beaches, through beautiful countryside that was partitioned into grazing land. We saw horses and cattle, but mostly sheep. I took the pano below, looking away from Shipwreck Point:
We continued our drive through the countryside that started to become more forested. And then we found ourselves in a rainforest, stopping for lunch and a hike. It rained intermittently all day, which made the tree and fern grottoes even more lush.
Too soon, we were back on the road… But the ocean reappeared and the drive really began. The road wound like a snake just above the beaches. I was reminded of the Pacific Coast Highway, while Mrs Bear had associations to the shoreline highways of Hawaii. Either way, it really was magnificent.
We were also blessed with a rainbow at sea… While driving, I began to wonder what ocean we were skirting?? We were on the southern coast of Australia… When traveling further east and turning the corner toward Sydney, I knew we would be gazing at the Pacific Ocean… We had seen the Pacific from a new direction (for us) earlier in the year on the Vietnamese Coast.But this perspective from the South got me wondering if we were looking at the Antarctic Ocean. This would have been a new experience for us. None of the locals knew or seemed to care. So I looked it up, and it turns out that most sources call it the Southern Ocean, which IS an extension of the Antarctic. This brings us to four of the five oceans…Only the Arctic has eluded us.
We continued on, sometimes getting away from the ocean a little bit before returning. Then we saw a group of vehicles stopped near a cluster of Eucalyptus Trees. This meant only one thing: Koalas. So we stopped as well and I shot the pics below:
Koalas live a similar life to Pandas. They eat one specific leaf that provides a meager return of nourishable calories. They have to spend hours eating, and then they sleep most of the other hours in order to preserve the sustenance. Koalas are small little buggers whose coloring blends right in with the tree shades, so they are difficult to see clearly.
One more note about animals. At separate times, we saw flocks of cockatoos and parrots. I was not aware that these birds were native to Australia, but I guess anything is possible in a rainforest. It was great to see them in the wild.
We finally reached the end ( or the beginning ) of the Great Ocean Road. It was marked by an arch which is also considered a memorial to all the young boys who fought in WWI.
Here it is from both sides. This marked the end of our journey, and began our two hour ride back to Melbourne. While the locals say it is the best ocean drive in the world, I would have to counter with the Road to Hana, and the Ring of Kerry. But this was a day well spent and probably had no need to get into a comparison game.