Great Ocean Road, Mt Eccles and Mt Gambier Region
Easter Long Weekend
The first part of this holiday was an extended family holiday in Apollo Bay. We rented a unit in the back of Apollo Bay which served as our base and we had a relaxing 4 days exploring Apollo Bay, relaxing on the beaches, visiting the craft market and also exploring some of the Otway National Park.
James spotted a penguin playing in the swell off the jetty at the boat harbour one evening, which he was quite chuffed about.
We also went on the Mait's Rest Rainforest walk where we spotted an unusual black snail slithering across the path, which we lifted up and placed in the bracken at the path edge to protect him from being trodden on. An information sign further on indicated that this was a rare Otway Black Snail, so we wandered back up the trail in search of the snail for a photo!
We also drove along the Barham River Scenic Drive, and came to Paradise Point, which is a magical picnic location on the river, with tables under the tall tree ferns. We came back here after dark and saw a number of glow worms on the embankments of the path edges, which the kids, and the adults thought fantastic.
We also drove along some of the back country roads behind Apollo Bay, where we enjoyed some great views of the rolling hills, ocean and rainforest, and Liam and I walked along the rocks at Marengo to the incoming tide.
Saturday Shazzy, Clark, Arthur & Glenda, Gards and myself went on a fishing trip with Moonlight Fishing Charters, where we fished for Snapper off the Lighthouse at Cape Otway. The fishing wasn't too great, with only a few undersized Snapper and Flatties being caught, and a decent sized Blue Throated Wrasse that I caught. We baked this for dinner, but it wasn't particularly tasty. Though the fishing wasn't too great, the views and the boat ride where enjoyable, except for a couple others who suffered sea-sickness!
Sunday we had Easter lunch at the pub, and then Michelle, Sharon, Glenda, James, Liam, Shannon and myself drove along the Great Ocean Road to visit the Twelve Apostles and some of the other sites. The Twelve Apostles was quite different to the last time we visited, some 15 years earlier, being very touristy now. Gone is the small carpark on the side of the road and the dirt walking tracks meandering through the salty scrub; replaced with a large tourist information centre, hoards of tourists, landscaped paths and highway underpass and the constant thrumming of the helicopter joy flights. We also visited Loch Ard Gorge and walked down on the beach, as well as the Thunder Cave and Blowhole.
On through to ANZAC Day
With ANZAC Day falling straight after Easter this year, it was the perfect opportunity for an extended break without using up much Annual Leave.
We said our goodbyes to all of the Tuffens, and Michelle, I and our kids continued onto the next leg of our holidays.
Our first stop was the lighthouse at Cape Otway, very historic with the lighthouse built in 1848, powered originally by whale oil, and the old buildings and various artefacts on display including the anchor from Eric the Red, a ship wrecked on the reef 3 kilometres offshore on it's way to Melbourne, laden with exhibits for an exhibition at the newly opened Melbourne Exhibition Buildings.
After exploring the grounds, the views from the lighthouse and a nice morning tea at the cafe we set off exploring some of the tracks in the area for future campsites.
There was a nice campsite at Parker Hill, near where the stone that the lighthouse and buildings was quarried. There were toilets here, but the walk down to the beach was a very long way; still this was a nice sheltered camping site. A better site close to the beach was at Crayfish Bay, but this lacked any facilities. We spent some time here exploring the rock pools which were quite good, with a number of colourful pink starfish, glass shrimp, anemones, gobies and other critters spotted. We also found the other anchor for the Eric the Red, embedded in the rocks!
We also drove down to Johanna Beach campground, which too seemed a very nice beach campsite with the added advantage of toilets. No fires are allowed here, same as the other campsites along the coast.
Having seen a number of the sites along the Shipwreck coast the day before, we were able to drive past Port Campbell before our next stop, The Arch. As well as viewing some scenic rugged coastline, there also was an echidna walking along the path!
From here we had to visit London Bridge. The last time Michelle and I saw London Bridge it was still a bridge, so we had to see it with the collapsed arch. All signs of the arch had vanished into the sea, and the kids were pretty impressed that we had walked on the new island, something I guess they will never be able to do.
Time was now running short. We drove past the Bay of Martyrs and the Bay of Islands past Peterborough and headed into Warrnambool for fuel and food supplies.
We arrived at Mt. Eccles just before dusk and quickly had the tent set up. A chat with another camper identified a farm house down the road where firewood could be purchased, so it wasn't long before we were relaxing around the campfire and entertained by Brush Tail Possums, as well as having a close encounter with a Boobook Owl!
Tuesday we woke to kookaburras and other bird calls, and after a campfire cooked Bacon & Eggs breakfast, we walked around the Mt Eccles crater rim and explored the lava cave, and the kids made some friends with some kids who camp at Mt. Eccles each Christmas and Easter. Lunch was an easy cold meat and salad sandwiches amongst the Superb Fairy Wrens, who were totally oblivious to us, hopping around our feet through the campsite. After lunch, we drove to the Natural Arch, a section of un-collapsed lava tube.
For dinner we roasted a chicken in the camp oven, which we are still getting the hang of. A small chicken could easily be done in about an hour; while some of it and some vegies were overdone, it was still generally a very tasty roast dinner, and being prepared for the possums tonight we had some apple ready which they very much enjoyed.
Wednesday we walked down and around Lake Surprise after another Bacon & Egg breakfast, spotting a koala and a number of other noisy kids on our way, then returned to camp to pack up and head to Mt. Gambier.
At Mt. Gambier, we explored a few lookouts before looking for a caravan park for the night, settling on Pine Country Caravan Park, in a comfortable cabin. We cooked up a big BBQ dinner and then at dusk headed to the Umpherston Sinkhole to feed the friendly and cheeky possums.
Thursday morning we circumnavigated Blue Lake, which was still a strong blue colour given the time of year, and also drove down into the other crater for a quick explore. We then drove down to Mt. Schank, where James, Liam and I climbed the summit and descended into the crater to leave our mark. From the crater rim, I had a magnificent close up view of a goshawk as it flew across the rim just metres in front of me.
From Mt. Schank we continued on down to Port MacDonnell for some Fish & Chips, and a quick explore along the coast here. We lunched on Shelly Beach, and the kids and I had a quick snorkel, though it was getting quite cold! We also went to Port Northumberland, the southern most point in S.A. where we viewed the site of an old lighthouse, which was removed for fear of it collapsing into the sea.
From Port MacDonnell, we left around 2:00pm for our long drive home, arriving in Ballarat about 6:30 for dinner at Mum's and eventually getting home late Thursday night.