Apollo Bay to Portland to Naracoorte
11.12.2012 - 14.12.2012 30 °C
Our stop in Apollo Bay was pretty spectacular, and was probably one of my favourite parts of our whole trip. We stayed at a fantastic hotel with a bath in the bedroom and a balcony which looked over the bay itself (I highly recommend the hotel if you ever find yourself driving the ocean road). Apollo Bay is a sleepy town with plenty of places to stay, not many places to eat and precious few tourist traps- in other words, perfect. You can imagine that if anywhere as beautiful was to be found in Europe, it would be overrun by tacky souvenir shops and noisy bars and clubs. Luckily Australia has so many beautiful places that very few seem to be like that.
We left the hotel reluctantly the next day and drove on towards Portland, stopping off regularly to see the sights. The coastline wasn't quite as spectacular as the day before, but there were some beautiful views and there is some lovely countryside running right up to the ocean which made for fantastic views. The road itself was very quiet- there weren't very many people around at all in spite of the fantastic weather. Our main stop during the day was to see the Twelve Apostles (of which there are no longer 12). It was by far the busiest and most touristy place that we stopped, with the obligatory bus loads of visitors milling around the car park and getting in the way of everybody else.
Having become quite a fan of Australian signs, I was pleased to see this:
After that we drove on a short distance to visit Loch Ard Gorge and Thunder Cave- the views were just as beautiful as at the Twelve Apostles, only more peaceful. Again, I was amazed at how undeveloped the area is- I'm sure that there are plenty of laws to prevent these places from becoming too commercialised, but it was still astounding to see that the only adjustments were good quality paths, a few signs and a small car park.
Our next main stop was at Logans Beach near Warrnambool- I saw a sign for a whale nursery and couldn't resist. Although we didn't see any whales at all (it was the wrong season entirely), the view was still worth it and the stairs down the cliff onto the beach made for a great workout after sitting in the car. Whale watching has been added to the to-do list for our next trip along the coast!
Portland was a very quiet place- most of it was shut by the time we arrived at about 5pm, with many of the restaurants and bars closed completely. Portland actually does what seems to be an industrial port- there was an odd mix of container ships and yachts moored out in the bay. Having walked around the main streets, looked at the house prices (cheap) and established that most places were closed, we got a takeaway pizza and called it a night in preparation for our drive to Naracoorte the next day.
Heading away from the coast to reach Naracoorte took us through Mount Richmond National Park for a short distance before we entered Discovery Bay Coastal Park. There we saw a sign for 'Ocean Beach' and decided to take the chance to go for a swim before we headed further inland away from the ocean- we weren't disappointed. We had the beach to ourselves, save a couple and their dog in the distance- a few km of white sand and very clear waters. It was a perfect last stop in Victoria before we crossed over into South Australia.
From there we made a stop at Mount Gambier for a quick lunch before driving up to Naracoorte through the town of Penola and the Coonawarra wine region. We made several stops on the way up, searching for a chopping board made out of an old wine barrel as a present for James' mum- it was a fruitless search but it was nice to see the vineyards, enjoy the scenery and prat about:
We had another great stay in Naracoorte- we lucked out with our booking as we had managed to book a whole cottage for the same price as a hotel room- having a sofa again was a novelty, and we enjoyed being able to cook our own breakfast the next morning. We ventured into Naracoorte, not expecting very much given our experience of Portland the night before, but we were pleasantly surprised. We'd picked out a place to eat which as luck would have it was hosting the end of year party for the local senior school. In spite of needing to cater for over 100 people in a kitchen you might expect in a reasonably large house, they were more than happy to cater for us and the food was fantastic.
Then we turned in early, ready for our trip to the bright lights of Adelaide the next day.