My two friends, Heidi and Cayley, join me for three days of fun, hiking, exploring and adventures in the beautiful area of Apollo Bay and the stunning Great Otway National Park.
One of my favourite things to do is get away for a long weekend with friends to explore a new area I haven't been to before. The Great Ocean Road is one of those places where no matter how many times you visit, there's always something new to see and do.
For this trip, Cayley, Heidi and I were eager to explore the Great Otway National Park, check out the Redwood Forest, and hike a section of the Great Ocean Walk (apparently everything is "great" in that part of the world!").
Unfortunately the rain started not long after we met up with Cayley, but we passed the time telling ridiculous stories and chatting about the current state of the world!
Now, as with most of the world, we've been in lockdown due to Covid-19 here in Australia, but after a few months our state government finally rolled back some of our restrictions, allowing us to make this trip. It was a long weekend with a public holiday on the Monday, and it was only during the week before the trip that the restrictions were rolled back, so we immediately got online to see if we could book somewhere to stay.
After a lot of looking around on AirBnB, Riparide and Booking.com I finally found the Coastal Motel Apollo Bay. We booked a fantastic open plan unit that had 4 beds, a kitchen, bathroom and lounge area. The upstairs had 3 single beds and you could look over the railing into the rest of the unit below which made it seem really big and really airy. I will also mention, apparently this place has been through a complete renovation and it was absolutely awesome to stay there (we'll definitely stay again if we're down that way in the future).
Scroll through the images above to see just how amazing our room was.
We set off early in the morning and made the long drive down to Apollo Bay, hooking up with Heidi and Cayley along the way. We arrived at the motel just after lunchtime, checked in, and made our plans for the afternoon. As it was during winter, the days were shorter which meant we were running against the clock. First up was the most important part of the weekend for Heidi - the Redwood Forest.
Redwood Forest and Triplet Falls
Due to the windy roads and remote locations of most of the interest points in the Otways, it takes quite a while to get anywhere. The drive from our motel to the Redwoods took almost an hour, but it was well worth it. There's just something magical about being in amongst these massive trees. What I will say, is that whilst this was indeed a beautiful forest, I have to admit that the redwoods in Warburton are actually better (they're bigger, there's more of them, and they're all planted in rows which makes them look even cooler). However, it was still a fantastic place to visit, although I did take a tumble which the girls found hilarious (see the last image in the slideshow below)!
Scroll through the images above to see the beauty of the redwoods ... and my dirty butt!
From here we moved onto Triplet Falls, a further 25 minute drive from the redwoods. This is a relatively simple hike that takes you to three sections of waterfalls, with some really great viewpoints. In addition, the hike wanders through some truly stunning rainforest that also includes some very old relics of the steam engines that used to run in the area.
By the time we got back to the car it was starting to get a little dark and the rain had rolled in. So we packed up and headed back to our motel to take some hot showers and have some well earned dinner. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, we weren't able to actually eat at any of the restaurants, however we were able to get a really delicious takeaway meal from the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse which was just a couple of minutes walk from our room (our motel was in a really great location at one end of the main strip meaning we were within walking distance of all the shops and restaurants).
We each ordered chicken parmas with the works, picked up something to drink, and headed back to our room to eat at our little dining table together. It was a really great way to finish a long day - good food, good conversation and good company.
Great Ocean Walk - Blanket Bay to the Otway Lighthouse
The next morning we were up bright and early to prepare for our big day of hiking. We'd planned to do a section of the Great Ocean Walk (GOW) that was supposed to offer up beautiful views, interesting trails and varied scenery.
Now here's the thing, doing this hike is just over 9.5kms one way, which meant that as a return hike it was going to be over 19kms. I've never hiked that far in my life! I told the girls that I was only going to do it one way and then I'd either wait for them to do the return and come and get me in the car, or else I'd find a lift back. They swore I'd be fine and that I'd manage, but I was steadfastly sure that I'd be doing it one way.
Turns out, I was wrong.
We drove the 45 minutes to the start of the hike and parked in the campground car park. Along they way we very nearly collected a kangaroo that bounced out in front of us but luckily we were going slow enough on the dirt roads that we just missed it - a good warning to drive carefully!
The campground is one of your only places for a toilet break along the way, so make sure you go if you need to. Additionally, make sure you don't leave any valuables in your car and be sure you have everything you need with you - it's a long way back if you forget your drink bottle!
At the very beginning of the trail, you'll come to a shoe washing station. This is incredibly important as it helps protect the native flora and fauna from insidious diseases that can be carried in on the soles of shoes. You need to run your feet through the brushes to clean them off as much as possible, before submerging the soles in the wash trough (just press down on the panel in the floor until your soles have been washed, but be careful not press too hard or else you'll end up sopping wet!).
After hitting the loos, getting our gear on and cleaning our boots, we were away!
It was a brilliant day. As promised the walk was interesting, the views were stunning and the terrain was varied. The weather was typical for Melbourne; brilliant sunshine, pouring rain, warm one minute, cold the next and a few rainbows thrown in for good measure.
The hike includes a "river" crossing, which is basically a part of the beach where the water comes far inland. So unless you want to get wet boots, you either need to research the tide times to make sure you'll be crossing at low tide, or else get ready to take your shoes off. We were there about an hour and a half before high tide, but the water was still just a bit too deep to cross with our boots on, so off they came. We waded across and then sat down in the beautiful cove to have a snack and let our feet dry before putting our socks and shoes back on.
Following this water crossing is probably one of the worst hills I've done in a while - it sucked! It was steep, it was long, and it involved a lot of stairs (which I hate). Somehow we managed to make it up and from there it was pretty much smooth sailing all the way to the lighthouse.
The Otway Lighthouse is actually set up almost as a miniature theme park; it's completely enclosed and you need tickets to get in. Unfortunately due to Covid-19 the entire place was closed. So instead of having lunch overlooking the ocean cliffs alongside the lighthouse, we were stuck in the hideous car park, in the rain, eating our wraps and treating our blisters. I have to admit it was pretty disappointing, however, them's the breaks!
After a good hour break for lunch, I agreed to give the hike back a go. I wasn't feeling too bad, and at least on the way back I'd be going down that bloody hill rather than up it! And I'm pleased to say that I did indeed make it - 19kms (there's a screenshot of the tracking app I used in the slideshow up above as proof that I made it!).
After such a massive day of hiking, we made our way back to our motel for another round of hot showers and dinner. Cayley and I were so sore that we made Heidi go and get our food for us - she's 100% fitter than we are and wasn't feeling nearly as bad!
This time around we ordered noodles from Chopstix Noodle Bar, a fantastic local restaurant (they have one in Lorne too). We stuffed ourselves full, and then lay around watching some television before eventually falling into bed. I have to say, I think I was asleep before my head even hit the pillow!
Otway Fly Treetop Walk and Stevenson Falls
Day 3, and the last day of our trip. We were up, showered, fed and packed by 9am, ready to check out and head off. It was a little sad to say goodbye but we will definitely be heading back at some stage.
We had quite a long drive home so we'd made plans to only do two stops for our last day. First up though, was the Otway Fly Treetop Walk. This is a tourist favourite and well worth the stop if you get the chance. Luckily for us though, because of Covid-19 it wasn't nearly as busy as it can be due to international tourists being unable to enter Australia. This meant we were able to get in without having to queue up, nor was the walk itself very busy.
Note: If you book your tickets online you get a slight discount on the entry fee.
This park is absolutely beautiful, with lush rainforest, beautiful views and of course, the impressive treetop walk. Basically it's a huge metal catwalk that is built high up in the canopy of the trees, allowing you to walk around and look down into the rainforest below. We all agreed that it felt like we were in Jurassic Park!
At one particular point is a huge tower that you can climb up to give you an even bigger view. I'm afraid of heights (hence why I'm hanging on to both rails in the photo above) so the tower wasn't my favourite part. However, it does make for some cool pics...
After taking in our fill of this beautiful place and all our walking around, we headed off for our final destination - Stevenson Falls.
This is another lovely waterfall that is actually more my style because there isn't a massive hill to walk up! The carpark and the walk are all on the same level which means it's a lovely, easy walk to the falls. And whilst the falls are nice and all, it's actually the forest that I loved even more. It reminded me of the redwoods and had that kind of Middle Earth feel to it. The whole area was really pretty and we had a great time wandering around and taking some photos, before getting back into the car for the long drive home.
All in all it was a brilliant trip, made all the better by these two great girls. So if you're looking for a long weekend away with some awesome hiking, fantastic views and interesting places to visit? Then head to Apollo Bay and the Great Otway National Park.
Until next time,