The South-Western Victoria coastline is a heavenly place in good weather but when it turns rough, this area can just as quickly turn hellish and nasty for anyone, but especially for mariners.
This is why it is known as “The Shipwreck Coast”.
There is a possibility that along this Victorian coast at least 700 ships were wrecked and it is believed that less than one third of them were ever discovered.
For instance, an iron-hulled clipper ship named the Loch Ard was lost in 1878 on its way to Melbourne from England. It may be the most famous of the lost ships.
During the voyage, the Loch Ard was engulfed in disorienting, continuous fogs. She was believed lost because the captain mistakenly thought he was at least 50 miles away from the treacherous cliffs and rocks of the southern Australian coast.
Instead, the land was dangerously close and they struck Mutton Bird Island east of Port Campbell on June 1, 1878. The 1700 ton ship was dashed on the rocks when frantic efforts to save her failed.
Of the 54 souls aboard, of crew and passengers, only two survived. A young woman by the name of Eva Carmichael was washed into the cove on wreckage and a cabin boy named Tom Pearce helped her survive. The cove is now named Loch Ard Gorge. The two survived by spending the night in a cave. Pearce eventually climbed the cliffs of the gorge and found help.
During the summer Loch Ard Gorge in the Port Campbell area is a place you must visit. Take a picnic lunch and plan to spend the day. It is a wonderful place where you can muck about, have a swim or relax on the beach, just be careful as the ocean can get very rough.
The Twelve Apostles, the famous limestone towers to the east of the gorge, stand 45 meters from the Great Southern Ocean’s pounding waves.
The soft limestone is undermined by the churning seas and when the limestone collapses, it leaves a formation to stand out from the cliffs. In this way, the magnificent structures have been formed over many thousands of years.
You can expect to have a great treat when you travel along The Shipwreck Coast in any season and you see the Twelve Apostles.
You can rug up warmly during wintry, blustery conditions and watch the powerful Great Southern Ocean crash into Australia. In the cold months, the lighting is fantastic when a perfect backdrop appears on the landscape for the setting sun, often against storm-black skies.
You will sit and marvel for hours in warm weather at the beauty of nature in the fabulous colours of the rocks and the sea itself.
Quite a bit of tourist development has taken place in the last 20+ years and this has not always been the best thing to have happened. Years ago you could park your car close to the cliffs and walk about enjoying the view with only a few visitors. At present, you park near a tourist centre across the road and trudge on through a tunnel with several hundred other people under the Great Ocean Road. This brings you out to the viewing platforms and the wooden walkways.
From the road you will see sign posts to the east for Gibson Steps. That route will take you to the shoreline close to The 12 Apostles. This will allow you to experience the spectacular crashing waves and appreciate a close-up view of at least two Apostles. The Gibson Steps are a bit slippery at times and fairly steep, but once down, you will appreciate this special vantage point.
When you have been driving a long time and the kids get cranky, getting out for a while near the waves will do all of you some good. Just be careful you are not caught down there in high tide, though, so keep a watchful eye on the waves.
Port Campbell is a good place for a base because, as mentioned, it is centered in the National Park area.
For a wonderful couples night out, try the Port Campbell pub. The hearty meals are a good value and the friendly staff and open fire make this an excellent place to spend an evening.
Another good base is Peterborough and the Bay of Islands National Park west of Port Campbell.
From this part of the coast you will see wonderful sights such as London Bridge, the Arch, the Bay of Islands and the Grotto.
Although all are worth seeing, London Bridge is the most stunning. It is so named because of its resemblance to Britain’s London Bridge. In 1990 an arch collapsed and thousands of tons of rock crashed into the sea. Two tourists were fairly terrorised when they were stranded by the collapse.
Surely, then, enjoying a great meal at the pub at Port Campbell and enjoying the scenery from Port Campbell National Park and surrounding area are highlights that make the Great Ocean Road a favourite place for a spectacular weekend.
Another point to remember is that Warrnambool is just down the road in an easy drive from Port Campbell. There you will perhaps have an opportunity to watch whales. This fabulous part of Australia will surely be a highlight of your journey, whether it is for a weekend or a longer holiday. It is an area that should not be missed when visiting Victoria.
A well planned tour beginning with Apollo Bay then Loch Ard Gorge and taking in all the sights and sounds along the way is a journey that you will never forget. You and your travel companions will make memories that will last a lifetime.