Great Ocean Road

It’s been a while since the last post so I’ll be putting some of our days together in a feeble attempt to catch up with the blog and get the narrative back on track. When I last left you, we were just finishing with the oddness of Mt. Gambier and heading out along the coast towards Melbourne.

Our target for this second day out of Adelaide was to get to Port Campbell, a 250km drive along the coastal route, but scheduled to take 3 hours, according to Google Maps.

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En route, we stopped first at Portland to see the Gannet Colony at Point Danger. Our journey over the next few days is partly characterized by detours to see birds, so get used to it.

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We generally combine these stops with a coffee, but this time we wanted to press on to our next stop: Port Fairy. This town was named in 1828 by the crew of the whaling ship, The Fairy. The reason we wanted to stop here was to try to catch a glimpse of a Short-tailed Shearwater. There is a colony of these birds in Port Fairy estimated to number over 30,000 so we reckoned we had a pretty good chance.

We were wrong. Shearwaters, of course, spend the whole day at sea fishing, returning to land only at sunset. So we had no chance of seeing one arriving there in the middle of a scorchingly hot day. Nevertheless, we had a pleasant walk around the Griffiths Island Reserve.

DSC_0523.JPG After our walk, we got back in the car to carry on towards Port Campbell. We were receiving regular updates on the mileage ahead from the Great Ocean Road signage.

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We knew we’d be getting to Port Campbell in good time to relax for the evening and see what the town had to offer. The rest of the journey was nice and straightforward and we checked into the Southern Ocean Motor Inn early in the afternoon.  This gave us a chance to play our instruments for a while. We’d been neglecting our practise a little recently so it was good to pick a couple of tunes again.

Early evening, we walked through the town, which didn’t take long, and picked out a place overlooking the beach where we had dinner. After dinner, we had a brief walk along the beach and admired the local male and female dragon boat clubs practising in the surf just offshore.

We had an early night since the following day we had our final, 300km drive to Melbourne ahead of us. We were up and out the door nice and early to get some miles under our belt but our first stop was just a short way down the road at the Twelve Apostles visitor centre. We wanted to get a look at these shoreline structures, carved by the elements and, sadly, now somewhat fewer than twelve.


The day had started gloomy and overcast and by the time we got to the apostles, there was a steady drizzle falling, all of which served to make the view more dramatic. It also reduced the time I was willing to spend lingering there, despite Ishbel’s famed imperviousness to the elements. We compromised and wrapped up the visit once she had the shots that she wanted and we were once again on the Great Ocean Road.

The road itself is a lovely drive, winding its way along Victoria’s southern coastline and presenting spectacular views ahead and behind (weather permitting). The day brightened up as we ate up the miles although the nature of the road, carved as it was out of the rock faces of the coast, means that there is a constant program of repair and maintenance which necessarily slows progress on the drive.  The road is a remarkable testament to the people who built it. Ex-servicemen returned from the battlefields of World War 1 built the road between 1919 and 1932 as a monument to their fallen comrades. Today, it constitutes the world’s largest war memorial.


Before getting to Melbourne, we stopped for a coffee in Geelong – a name I only knew previously as an AFL team, so it was interesting to see the town itself. After this, we made  the final, short press into Melbourne and settled in to our AirBnB. Our Great Ocean Road journey was over, and it was time to explore an Australian city neither of us had previously visited.

Wine is also red

McLaren Vale is a name with great resonance for anyone who enjoys Australian wines. And our wonderful friends had decided to drive us up to the region for a couple of tastings on Saturday so we could enjoy the local produce to its fullest. Roadworks on the main road out of Adelaide meant we saw quite a bit of the South Australian countryside before arriving at our first stop: Chapel Hill winery.


The gothic windows that feature on the labels are omnipresent at the winery itself. We enjoyed a range of delicious wines here. They charge a nominal amount for the tasting, but waive it if you buy wine, which we did. They had a really nice shiraz so we grabbed some of that.

After Chapel Hill, we moved on to Coriole. This is a name I am less familiar with and I don’t think we see as many of their wines back in the UK, but the winery is a McLaren Vale veteran. They have been growing some interesting grape varieties on the estate so the tasting here was not the usual grape varieties.


They have a farm shop here as well and produce their own olive oil, which is very popular with visitors.

After Coriole, we went on to another winery and a very familiar name: d’Arenberg. I first became aware of their wines many years ago when I discovered a bottle they named “The Custodian”. As I was working for a Global Custodian, it appealed to me, and it tasted pretty good as well.

D’Arenberg has upped the ante on where tastings are hosted with their new building: The Cube.


Tastings are hosted on the top floor of the building. There’s a museum/gallery on the ground floor and a reputedly excellent restaurant on the first. There’s an entry fee here to get in to the gallery and tastings, but it’s reasonable and they were fairly generous with the tastings.


We passed a pleasant time here then headed back downstairs but we had been told that the men’s toilets here were a must-see so stopped off for a look.

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The time had flown by and as we finished at d’Arenberg, it was time to head back to Adelaide for a lovely home-cooked meal and a chat.

Sunday was our last day in the city and we had arranged a couple of activities. First was a drive over to Adelaide port and a trip on the dolphin watching boat that goes out into the harbour. Dolphins are pretty much guaranteed on these trips and we were not disappointed on this occasion. The only problem is that they are out of the water so briefly and you have no idea where they will pop up so it’s difficult to get a photo.


After the boat trip, we took a little stroll around the port area which is undergoing a renovation/gentrification project, then drove over to the Wheatsheaf Hotel where we had tickets for our second Adelaide Fringe Festival event of the weekend: Ukulele Blues Explosion. And if you thought the ukulele was an inappropriate instrument for playing the blues, these guys would put you right.

After all this excitement, we just had time to get back to the house and freshen up before heading out for a farewell dinner at another splendid Adelaide pub: The Colonist. Either Adelaide has a wealth of excellent pubs or our friends are particularly adept at finding them. Or Both.

That was it for Adelaide. Monday was the start of our long drive back to Melbourne using the Great Ocean Road.

Roses are red…

Valentine’s Day on the road is not all hearts and flowers. It had almost slipped our memories, but we remembered to wish each other Happy Valentine when we woke up in Ararat. No cards though so take that, Hallmark.

Our task today was not to be romantic fools, but to get to Adelaide and visit some old friends that we met many years ago when we were all (one of us very briefly) studying in Glasgow. We left Ararat and drove to Horsham, where we stopped for brunch.


Horsham is another one of these film set towns that Australia appears to have in abundance. Maybe one day, someone will drive through lots of UK towns and admire the way the centres were ripped out of so many of them in the 60s and 70s to be replaced by brutalist concrete structures. Or maybe not.

After that, we drove out of town and passed a hitch-hiker. It was probably his guitar that inclined us to stop for him. He was a 22 year old German lad called Fred who was travelling around Australia. He was headed for Adelaide, so it was no problem for us to pop him in the back of the car and continue on our way.

The drive was fairly uneventful and we made it to Adelaide by late afternoon, despite the many dire warnings of the roadside signage.


We dropped Fred in town in an area where there seemed to be a choice of backpacker hostels from which he could select. We then drove out to the leafy suburb in which our friends (A&C) lived. To be honest, all of Adelaide seems quite leafy with many streets lined with trees. It was delightful to see our friends again. It’s odd thinking that we’ve now known each other for 40 years and, even though we’ve seen each other only sporadically for the last 30 of them, we just pick up right where we left off when we get the chance to catch up again.

Upon arrival we were immediately caught in the embrace of their legendary hospitality and were directed to the beer fridge for something cool and refreshing. C had prepared a lovely meal for us and we spent the evening sharing recent news, ancient reminiscences, and red wine. Our friend A had to work the following day and we had driven a fairly long way so we all had a surprisingly sensible early night.

Adelaide had undergone a heatwave quite recently with temperatures up in the 40s, but Thursday had seen a very comfortable high of 23°C. Friday was destined to be a bit hotter. We decided to follow what has become something of a tradition for us on our travels and visit the Adelaide Botanic Gardens.

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With the outside temperature pushing 30°C, we couldn’t spend long inside the greenhouse structures, but Ishbel was once again snapping away at the exotic plants scattered around the gardens.

After our visit, we headed back to the house and organised our evening. Coinciding with our arrival, the Adelaide Fringe Festival was opening today. We did some research and decided to get tickets for “Choir of Man“, a musical show set in a pub. With free beer. Definitely my kind of show. We ate at the festival grounds and enjoyed the show before taking a wander through the city. We passed by the festival grounds and the Adelaide Oval before stopping for a nightcap in The Tap Room bar in the Adelaide Festival Centre.

We then headed home since Saturday was scheduled to be a big day – off to the McLaren Vale wine country!