The route starts about a 90 minute drive from Melbourne’s city centre in the famous surf town of Torquay. The landscape from Torquay to Port Fairyis incredible: wild surf beaches backed by lush, rolling green hills, and rock formations that explode from the sea. Many of the towns along the coast have evolved from sleepy fishing villages to major tourist ports of call, such as Apollo Bay, but they all still have their fair share of low-key charm. Forget rushing; it’s all about taking your time here and enjoying the view.
Most of the beaches along this stretch of coast are beyond beautiful: rugged, windswept and often quite deserted. Johanna Beach is a favourite with surfers (it’s a Bells Beach back-up during the famous Rip Curl Pro surf tournament) and walkers, but it’s too rough for swimming. For something a little more sedate, pick a sandy expanse in Lorne, where the bush meets the beach.
Everyone looks at the spectacular landscape from the viewing platforms at Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge, but the 10-minute helicopter rides (+61 (0)3 5598 8282) that do a 25 kilometre-circuit above these landmarks give a unique perspective. They leave from behind the car park at the Twelve Apostles visitors’ centre.
Don’t go home without Hanging 10 at one of the surfing beaches in the area. Go Ride A Wave, located at Torquay, Anglesea and Lorne, has a variety of lessons available for adults and kids.
Get out of bed early – and we mean really early – and arrive at iconic offshore rock stacks the Twelve Apostles before sunrise. In the soft pre-dawn light, those with good eyesight will be able to see dark forms moving into the water below – they’re the local fairy penguins. Watch the colours explode as the sun comes up. At this time of day, the viewing platforms are least crowded. The Apostles lie just west of Princetown in the Port Campbell National Park, the start of a string of celebrated rock formations.
Books to bring
Read the tales of the boats that never made it in Australia’s Shipwreck Coast & Other Stories by Jack Loney. Wannabe waxheads can find inspiration in Murray Walding’s Surf-o-rama: Treasures of Australian Surfing.
Not surprisingly, locally caught seafood is in high demand, particularly the excellent crays. Slightly inland, you’ll find some excellent local cheesemakers and wineries.
Do go/don’t go
Spring and autumn are great times to venture here. Winters are chilly and you’ll need to rug up against the wind when you visit coastal spots such as the Twelve Apostles. The summer holidays, particularly around Christmas, turn these sleepy towns into heaving hot spots.