After a heavy lunch at Apollo Bay Hotel, it was time to walk off those calories at Maits Rest Rainforest Trail, located 15 min west of Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road. It is an easy self-guided circuit walk about 800m through the ancient and cool temperate rainforest, part of the Great Otway National Park. A wooden boardwalk has been built over the tree-fern gullies and moss covered roots, providing a unique view of the forest.
It was gloomy weather the whole day, but we were fortunate that the rain only became heavier towards the end of our walk, else it would have been slippery on the boardwalk. There was also a gigantic tree in which we all took photos with it, where its roots were much taller than me and I could walk right in!
Next up on the itinerary was going down the Gibson steps onto the beach to get a close-up view of the 2 offshore stacks. The name Gibson Steps refers to the staircase leading down to a long stretch of beach. It is believed the steps were first carved into the cliff possibly by the original Kirrae Whurrong inhabitants and later maintained by a local settler, Hugh Gibson. The many steps on the staircase can prove to be a challenge on the climb back up but the view on the beach is really breathtaking, so it was worth climbing! 🙂
I counted the total number of steps to get to the beach and I got 83. Lucky I was not too far off from the actual number of 86 steps as indicated online hehe. Apparently the 2 offshore stacks seen here are not part of the 12 Apostles, they are known locally as Gog and Magog.
A short distance away from Gibson Steps is Port Campbell National Park – world famous for its extraordinary collection of wave-sculpted rock formations and the Twelve Apostles. Loch Ard Gorge, site of a 19th century shipwreck ‘Loch Ard’, as well as the Island Archway and London Bridge are other highlights. The Island Archway collapsed in 2009, highlighting the fragile and ever-changing nature of Victoria’s coastline.
Actually no matter how you count, you won’t get to see 12 apostles here at Port Campbell National Park, because there are only 7 rock stacks that comprise the Twelve Apostles – 6 are on display in the classic view enjoyed by millions of people over the years, with the 7th located several metres away from the corner of the main viewing platform. Originally there were 8 rock stacks when the Twelve Apostles were named, however, 1 of the stacks collapsed dramatically in July 2005. The remains can be seen from the main viewing platform, not sure if I can account for all 7 correctly or not. 😛 Let me know if you are confident of your count of the 7 famed rock stacks. 😉
The Loch Ard Gorge, about 3 min drive west of the Twelve Apostles, is a visible example of the erosion process in action. It is steeped with history from the night of 31 May 1878. This location saw the dramatic survival of only two young people, Eva Carmichael as a passenger and Tom Pearce as crew. They were on a 90-day-journey ship from England to Melbourne when it struck an outer reef. Sadly over 47 perished in The Wreck of the Loch Ard with only 4 bodies being retrieved and buried.
A short walk away from the main viewing platform of the Loch Ard Gorge is the remains of the Island Arch. In June 2009, a large section of the iconic rock formation on Victoria’s west coast, had succumbed to the elements and crumbled into the sea. All that remains following the collapse are the 2 rocks that previously supported the arch, as seen in my photo below. It is sad that the Island Arch collapsed, but in a way it is also amazing that’s the way nature works…
I must have missed taking photos of the stunning Razorback rock formation at Loch Ard Gorge, probably due to the frequent showers throughout the day. What a pity! Probably a good excuse to visit Great Ocean Road again in the future hahaha… Anyway the last amazing rock formation for the day was the London Bridge. On the evening of 15 January 1990, the main arch connecting London Bridge to the mainland cracked and fell into the sea. Fortunately no one was injured, but according to Doug, the 2 people – 1 guy 1 lady rescued on the new island rescued hours later by helicopter hit the headlines. Why? Because they were married, but not to each other, yet they were found together on that arch. 😉
It was almost 5pm by the time we finished all the sights at Great Ocean Road. A bit too early for dinner but no choice, our dinner was at a little restaurant at Port Campbell before we headed back to Melbourne city. Thus I followed Doug’s suggestion to order a cheese pie with salad for dinner as it sounded light compared to the other main courses like burger and steak, since I was still full from the heavy lunch earlier on. The pie was quite small, but too cheesy for my liking. Fortunately the hot chocolate saved the meal. Nonetheless it was a good time to get to know my tour mates better as Doug gave us more time to relax in the restaurant, since we were ahead of time. We left the restaurant around 6pm and arrived in Melbourne city 8+pm. A long day of more than 12 hours!
Overall, I would recommend joining this Great Ocean Road tour by ATWAD as it is really value for money with inclusion of 2 full meals and having a smaller tour group allowed us to keep to the time better. Most other tour operators only provide lunch, or worse, just water and biscuits for the long day at similar price. It was also more flexible with a smaller group and we could also move around easier in a small tour bus. If the pre-tour service could be improved, it would definitely be a perfect tour!
Great Ocean Road is really an attraction not to be missed should you visit Victoria, Australia. It is an amazing road journey to witness and marvel at the way nature works to create all the breathtaking views we get to see!