The first part of the Great Ocean Road was amazing. The two lane road tightly hugged the picturesque turquoise coastline as it snaked around lush green cliffs dropping straight into the ocean.
We spent our first night on the Great Ocean Road in Lorne. The first day there was a nearby music festival and great summer weather. The beaches were definitely being taken advantage of by locals, festival goers, and tourists alike. I hadn't realized such a small beach town could adequately accommodate such an influx of visitors all at once. They must have come enjoyed the beach and weather and then passed thru to the rest of the Great Ocean Road because by the time sunset came around there really wasn't too much going on....although, I was surprised there was a bar pumping out dance music on the esplanade. Not sure if anyone was actually in there, but past that there was really no cars or people on the esplanade after a certain hour.
We sussed out a cozy secluded spot for the night in the hinterlands. We knew the weather was going to be stormy and rainy the next day so we planned on taking advantage of the waterfall territory Lorne is also known for.
From Lorne, there are about 12+ waterfalls that you can either start your walk from Lorne or drive to the trail head a couple kms up the hill. We started with Erskine Falls. From the parking lot, it is a couple minute descent down some stone stairs to the viewing platform.
The weather got real hectic and in passing some rangers, they had advised most everyone to head back down towards Lorne as the amount of rainfall was making some of the trails unsafe. We headed to another waterfall anyways. We noticed people must have cleared out and followed the advise because there was virtually no one on the trail. We had the waterfall all to ourselves and the weather had actually cleared up to sunnier weather.
Once we felt satisfied with our waterfall chasing, we continued on the Great Ocean Road to see how else it was going to surprise us.
The Great Otway
This Park was an unexpected treat. We stopped thru this park solely because it was on our way to the 12 Apostles and the rest of the iconic Great Ocean Road.
We had researched a couple roads that never failed on Koala spotting and they were tried and true. We parked our car at the first location and got out and walked a couple meters before spotting one in a low branch on a tree near the road. Stoked on seeing our first Koala out in nature, we wanted to test out our luck on the other known spots in the Otway. The second road we took was the road that takes you to the lighthouse. If you take this road, look for cars and tourist pulled over pointing up at the trees. We stopped every time we saw this and saw heaps of Koalas. We saw baby koalas climbing around being independent while their mom slept on a nearby tree branch. It was such a cool experience. I always look at animals and think I wonder if they are as stoked to see a human as I am to see them. I often hope so, but who knows...they probably feel Hollywood stars feel where every move they make is photographed and watched by someone :-/
After Koala spotting success, we continued on to Hopetoun falls. The parking lot was tiny and packed with cars and more and more kept arriving. The walk down to the base viewing platform descended many flights of stairs.
After hanging around the waterfall for a bit, we headed back up the stairs to the car park and to find a place to have a nice picnic. We read about a California Redwood Forrest that was planted in the early 1900s with a nice picnic area. So we headed there. We whipped up some lunch, impressed some older ladies with our portable stove as we made healthy and fresh veggie bowl. One of the ladies had come over to tell us how inferior her sandwich felt next to our colorful vegan dish. We told her how they worked and how convenient they were and I am pretty sure she went straight to the nearest K-Mart to pick one up. :)
We finished our chin wag with the ladies and headed into the the Redwood forest. The drive to the Redwood forest and even into Hopetoun falls snaked its way thru some of the most beautifulvibrant fern and Gum tree forest. A bit of fog made for a great ambiance as well. It was crazy how quickly the terrain changed into a little rainforest oasis right when you got over the hill from the great Ocean Road. Even if you didn't get out of your car in this area, the scenic detour would no disappoint.
The Redwood plantation was genuinely awesome. The ground was soft and hollow just as any other redwood forest I had ever been to in California. The air was crisp and misty like Redwood forest usually are. It felt like you were transported to another place when inside the plantation. There were some nearby gums that were equally as old as some of the redwoods and still the Redwoods dwarfed them. If you have never experienced breaking your neck looking up at the tallest growing trees in the world, I would recommend it. In your mid-neck break gaze towards the top of the tree keep in mind that this plantation is quite "young" for the species of trees. And some of them in California are hundreds of years old tripling the girth and height and they really do make you fall a bit backwards trying to look towards the top of the tree.
All in all, we were grateful that the Great Ocean Road had broken away from the ocean and made it's way thru the Great Otway. It is some beautiful country to be experienced in there.
We made our way towards the 12 Apostles. This part of the trip was probably the most tourists I have ever seen in one area. Seriously, I am sure it pulls in more visitors than the Sydney Opera House or Harbor Bridge or maybe even the Great Barrier Reef for that matter. There were tour buses after tour buses parked at this place. It was too crowded for our liking. So we decided to wait out the crowds by cooking an early dinner in the van. We've noticed in more remote places that involve a drive back for tourists, people seem to clear out around 6 pm or just before dusk to avoid road encounters with kangaroos and other wildlife. And that's around magic hour for pictures anyways. We stayed out and around in the area till the Milky Way came to hang out. The stars were so bright without any light pollution near by that we would turn off our head lamps and be able to navigate down the path pretty easily just by starlight!
We sussed out a sleeping spot that was close enough to make a sure we were the first ones to the parking lot at Loch Ard Gorge in the morning. We got up 40 mins before the sunrise to make sure of it as well. We had the place to ourselves till about 8am when cars began arriving. It was really a magical time. The day previous had me wondering if I was allergic to crowds of people ;) With the popular area all to ourselves, we were really able to explore and enjoy the epic scenery nature has carved out of the cliffs with it's pounding ocean without getting smacked in the head with a selfie stick every 5 minutes.