Things to see and do: Torquay to Apollo Bay
The lively town of Torquay, 95km west of Melbourne, marks the start of the Great Ocean Road. This is Australia’s surf capital, a lively, outdoorsy community home to numerous surf schools, surf gear stores and some of the best surfing beaches anywhere.
Spend a night here to soak up the laidback coastal atmosphere and shake off the city. Choose the Crowne Plaza hotel
on the Esplanade
for magnificent beachfront views and enjoy the indoor and outdoor swimming pools before having dinner in the SeaSalt restaurant
overlooking Zeally Bay – the perfect set-up for what’s to come. The next morning head first to Bells Beach
, the legendary surf spot top of every surfer’s must-do list thanks to its range of Southern Ocean swells and large breakers, before driving on along the coast towards Anglesea
Here, you are almost guaranteed a sighting of a relaxed troop of eastern grey kangaroos – simply call in to the Anglesea Golf Club
where a large number of 'roos have made the course their home and are so used to people that they don't mind getting fairly close to them.
Just north of town, the Anglesea heath provides a natural haven for many species of birds and animals. Look out for the brightly coloured crimson rosella parrot which feeds on the stringybark gumnuts and grass seeds and keep your eyes peeled for the echidna, a spiny, long-nosed monotreme which can often be seen digging for ants. Travelling further west, Split Point Lighthouse
at the small town of Aireys Inlet
is a good place to break the journey. Take a guided tour of the lighthouse for stunning sea views from the balcony just below the lantern room and expect to see more kangaroos lolling around in the surrounding grasslands.
The landscape changes as you head towards Lorne
, a picturesque town at the foot of the heavily forested Otway Range. This is a beautiful setting in which to spend the night and the town provides numerous opportunities to sample local produce including some fantastic seafood.
The next morning head slightly inland to explore the lush timbered ridges and fern gullies of the Angahook Lorne State Park
. This temperate forest is home to numerous blue gum trees (a variety of eucalyptus) and tall umbrella ferns which provide the ideal habitat for a number of birds including the yellow-tailed black cockatoo, the gang gang cockatoo and the bassian thrush. Red-necked wallabies can also regularly be seen here and there are several tracks for short walks around the area.
Don’t miss the 30-metre-high Erskine Falls
, where a steep but only moderately challenging track takes visitors from the lookouts above the falls to the river at their base. Just a few kilometres west of here is the Kennett River
, a great place to stop off for a walk. The Kennett River Koala Walk provides almost-certain sightings of koalas as the route winds along the peaceful Grey River Road
passing through the blue gum forest – a koala favourite. Bring binoculars and look high up in the trees for the best chance of sighting them – in the spring you may even see mothers with their babies.
Spend the rest of your day making your way along the coast to Apollo Bay
. Be sure to stop at Cape Patton Lookout
for expansive ocean views and, if you have time, Skenes Creek
where there are some wonderfully rocky short beach walks and great rockpooling at low tide. Apollo Bay is fabulously picturesque and makes a great place to spend a night or two.
Spend two and take an early morning trip inland to Forrest
where the Paddle with the Platypus tour on Lake Elizabeth
promises a 95% chance of seeing this rare indigenous animal, one of only five extant species of monotremes (mammals that lay eggs) remaining on the planet.
Back in town, get out on the water and explore the Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary
, just offshore.
This protected area is not only home to an abundance of corals, sponges and other invertebrates but also a sizeable colony of Australian fur seals which can often be seen lounging around sunning themselves on the reefs. Simply slip on your snorkel and swim out to the reef for up-close-and-personal encounters with some of this fascinating marine life.
For something a little more active, Apollo Bay Surf and Kayak offer kayak trips out to the seal colony, as well as surfing lessons for beginners which promise to help you gain confidence in the water, learn how to catch the waves and even have you standing on your board before the end of the first lesson.
Find more routes around the Great Ocean Road
Responsible Travel would like to thank Tourism Victoria for their sponsorship of this guide