Rachel Down Under!

Gore from the GOR

Posted in Adelaide, Australia, Melbourne by rssmith218 on March 15, 2011

Four crazy girls + one extremely patient Thomas + one tiny car + one glorious week off from work = GREAT OCEAN ROAD TRIP 2011!

And what an epic journey it was! We traveled from Melbourne to Adelaide, touring the Southern coast despite frequent rain, flying insects, and the deteriorating cleanliness of the backseat of our rental car. I will try to be brief as I recount the journey, but here are some highlights from a truly unforgettable trip.

Weekend in Melbourne:

1. Philip Island

My trip began with a weekend trip to visit Thomas’s relatives in Melbourne, although upon arrival in Melbourne, we quickly relocated to their beach house in Phillip Island, a small island located off the coast of Melbourne, as you can see below.

Our time in Philip Island was truly relaxing, as we spent our weekend drinking good wine, enjoying the beach, and as always, checking out the tidepools.

What do you see out there, Rach?

Beach time!

We also enjoyed a quick icecream in the island’s main town of Cowes- perhaps reaping rewards from some local cows?

2. Penguin Parade

Aside from its beautiful beaches and delicious ice cream, Phillip Island is also home to the famous “Penguin Parade”, as the island hosts the world’s largest colony of Little Penguins.

Which way to the penguins?

Every evening at sunset, Little Penguins come in from the ocean to spend the night on land. We joined hundreds of other tourists in watching the penguins make the perilous voyage from the ocean to their burrows onshore. We weren’t able to take photos of the penguins, but here are some photos from the Phillip Island Nature Parks website.

Groups of penguins in the water are called “rafts.” When rafts of penguins make their way on land, they are known as “waddles.” Could that be any cuter?

Overall, Thomas and I had a wonderful and relaxing stay in Phillip Island. Thank you, Fay and Gary, for a great weekend!

Great Ocean Road:

Our return to Melbourne marked the beginning of our Great Ocean Road trip. We met up with Aisha, Lindsey, and Sarah early on Monday morning to begin the journey. Here is a map of our trip…

…and now a day-by-day view!

Day 1: Melbourne to Apollo Bay

Although it took us several round-abouts and more than an hour to navigate our way out of Melbourne, we finally managed to get on the road, and after a coffee stop in Geelong, we found ourselves in coastal Queenscliff with a lovely view of Port Phillip Bay.

We were excited for our first view of the ocean on our “great” road trip!

Our next stop was the famous Bell’s Beach, home to the world’s longest-running and “most prestigious” surf competition, the Rip Curl Pro Surf & Music Festival. I was expecting the waves to be huge…

…but we caught the surf at Bell’s Beach in the calmest possible conditions.

Do you even see any waves?

Our afternoon continued with a gorgeous drive through the coastal towns of Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, and Lorne.  Along the way, we took advantage of the stunning lighthouses and amazing views.

For example, Split Point Lighthouse,

and Eagle Rock were both prominant roadside distractions.

Finally, we reached the official start of the Great Ocean Road (!), which is known for its cliffside curves and incredible views.

This photo shows off both the curves and beauty of the Great Ocean Road.

At last, we made it to Apollo Bay, our endpoint for day one. We enjoyed sunset views from both the ocean,

and from the top of Apollo Bay’s largest hill, where we also enjoyed the company of some local cows. Pretty beautiful!

Day 2: Apollo Bay to Port Fairy

We awoke early for our biggest day of sight-seeing along the GOR. We started out with a rainforest hike in Otway National Park, where we hiked within a giant beech and eucalypt forest.

The trees were truly enormous….

…as were my favorites, the giant ferns!

We continued to drive through Otway National Park, where we were lucky enough to spot some koalas- my first time to see them in the wild! We saw perhaps 50 koalas within a stretch of roadside trees, so of course I had to take photos!

You can’t really tell from these photos, but they were everywhere!

And finally, we reached the most famous stretch of the great ocean road- the site of the 12 Apostles!

The 12 Apostles are giant limestone stacks that have slowly eroded from the cliffs that frame the Southern Ocean. The formation used to be known as the Sow and Piglets although the name was changed in the early 1920s to improve tourism. Mysteriously, there are only 9 stacks in the 12 Apostles, and one of them collapsed in 2005. Ready for the view?

Pretty amazing, eh? And now from a bit further away…can you tell it was about to rain?

The road following the 12 Apostles was riddled with more rock formations. Here’s a quick recap…

1. Loch Ard Gorge

2. London Bridge

3. The Grotto

4. Bay of Islands

Equally as impressive as the 12 Apostles? Maybe just not as photogenic…

Day 3: Port Fairy to Coorong

Much of the next day was spent driving towards Adelaide, but we still managed to sneak a bit of sight-seeing into our trip.

For example, we stopped in Mount Gambier to see Blue Lake, a crater lake that changes from brilliant cobalt blue in the summer to a dark grey in the winter. We were lucky to catch it at the tail end of summer-you can see where the lake gets its name from!

This photo from the Mount Gamber tourism website accentuates the color of Blue Lake.

Another oddity in Mount Gambier was the Cave Garden, a giant sinkhole that makes the craters plaguing my mom’s garden seem inconsequential.

On our way to Coorong, we also passed by Larry the Lobster, one of the most impressive of Australia’s Big Things.

Run, Rach!

The Big Things are giant sculptures that are located all over Australia. Mostly, they act as tourist traps that break up big stretches of road in the great Australian wilderness. We also unknowingly came across another Big Thing at the end of our trip, the Big Church Block Bottle, which is composed entirely of wine corks!

Day 4: Coorong to Adelaide

The last stretch of the trip was not nearly as scenic as the previous days, but I feel that we got a good taste of the typical South Australian small town. For example, we pulled into Meninghe (which sounds like some sort of disease) for breakfast, and found that one of our only options was the local Coorong Mullet (a remarkably smelly whitefish) on toast, for a whopping $12.

Mullet for dinner, too? Yum……

Needless to say, we hurried on to Adelaide, where we attended a Fulbright dinner for the newly selected 2011 Australian scholars.

In the lovely surrounds of the Adelaide convention center, I happily toasted the new scholars, and enjoyed the company of the American-Australian Fulbright family.

Time to toast!

Overall, our great ocean road trip was a GREAT success, and it was wonderful to have a break from fieldwork. I now feel refreshed and I am ready to jump back into my experiments! 2 more weeks of counting plates before the next great adventure- New Zealand!


One Response

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  1. Lenore said, on March 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Hey, I thought you were WORKING this past week! Looks like a good time was had by all!

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