Great Ocean Road to Nullarbor plain: spectacular landscape and intriguing nature, to share with thousands of tourists, followed by the “great nothing”, the Nullarbor plain: landscape and nature, and all for yourself!
|Destination||Australia, Brisbane to Perth; this post: part 3, Melbourne to Fraser Range|
|How and when I got there||Campervan “Hitop” from Apollo via ADAC (“General German Automobile Club” (ADAC), please find the different campgrounds/holiday Parks in the Posts; Prices 30-60 AUS; February 2017
|Where I stayed (Melbourne – Fraser Range)||CityLights at Flinders Street (http://citylights-at-flinders-st-apartment.hotels-melbourne.net/de/)
Serafino Wines (https://serafinowines.com.au/stay/accommodation/)
|Restaurants||Torquay: Blackman’s Brewery (blackmansbrewery.com.au/)
Robe: Vic Street Pizza Project
McLaren Vale: Serafino Restaurant (https://serafinowines.com.au/food/restaurant/)
|Things to do||Watch the pros on Bells Beach
See one highlight after the other on the Great Ocean Road, don’t miss the spectacular Melba Gully!
Stay at one of the famous vineyards in McLaren Vale and try the vines
|Recommendations in a nutshell||our favourites: Bells Beach, Melba Gully, 12 Apostels, McLaren Vale: Mollydooker wines, Serafino wines
|Recipe||Pizza “Tandoori Chicken” (see at the bottom of the post)|
Here’s the third part of our journey along Australia’s coast from Brisbane to Perth: this part starts behind Melbourne and goes to Fraser Range in Western Australia. The first part of the journey (Brisbane to Sydney) is here, the second part (Sydney to Melbourne) here the fourth part (Esperance to Perth) here (link).
When we left Melbourne, we knew that the longest drives were ahead of us. After all, Australia comprises an entire continent. You realize this quite well when travelling from the east to the west coast. But before crossing the nullarbor plain there were some of the most spectacular regions ahead of us, like the Great Ocean road.
Torquay – Bells Beach: surfer’s world
Our first destination on the famous Great Ocean Road was Torquay, the famous surfer town. We stayed on the Torquay Foreshore Caravan Park (http://www.torquaycaravanpark.com.au/), which was quite crowded (i.e. booking some days ahead might be advisable), but close to the Torquay beach. Despite some rain clouds the surfer community was gathered on the beach, barely leaving any space in the water.
While our daughter exercised her newly acquired surfing skills at the local beach right in front of the Campground, we just watched her and the hundreds of other surfers (this beach was really crowded!). Due to the crowds in the water, surfing there was a bit strenuous. Therefore we decided to spend the afternoon on the dry part of a beach and went a few kilometers further to the famous “Bells Beach”. We were lucky: decent swell and many surfers there – watching them was amazing!
After an OK night (the campground being fully booked) we headed west for a stopover again at Bells Beach. The waves were as big as the day before, and the crowd was even bigger.
Bells beach is famous not only because of its big waves (it’s a real pilgrimage site for surfers and home of a famous contest every year), but also because every morning during the contest period, the organizers kick off the day with AC/DC’s “Hells Bells.”. Just standing there at the shore and watching the crazy guys in the water – it’s a show.
Apollo Bay – most expensive parking space ever…
Finally, we had to move on to our next destination on the Great Ocean Road. We stopped at the Split Point Lighthouse and realized with regret, that the Great Ocean Road – not unexpectedly – was a real tourist magnet. Meaning, where ever we stopped, parking war a problem.
At the lighthouse, we were lucky to get the last space in a small side street, only to come back to the car after 15 minutes and finding a parking violation ticket of approx. 130 AUS $. At least, payment of the fine turned out to be quite easy – we could pay just by credit card. So, this was one of our most expensive sightseeing.
From the lighthouse we followed the Great Ocean road along the coast to Apollo Bay, on the way impressive clouds above a really impressive coastal road.
We had a late lunch at Apollo Bay and a nice talk to a German working traveler who had managed just to go from Melbourne to Apollo Bay and decided to stay there and work in the café. From there is was just a short trip to our overnight stay on the Bimbi Park (http://www.bimbipark.com.au/). They caught our attention by advertising being the home of lots of Koalas (“Camping under Koalas”).
Unfortunately, there was none in the park during our stay, but there are trustworthy reports by many others of koalas being there. Like our campground neighbors: they managed to meet a Koala on their way back to the main road. It was just sitting in the middle of the dirt road, so they had to stop their campervan and wait for it to move on. They showed us the respective cell phone movie, when we later met again at Port Campbell. Too bad – we had passed this dirt road just minutes ahead of them…
Great Otway National Park – fern trees, Koalas and more
There are several places to see in Great Otway NP, like the “Otway Fly Treetop Adventures”. We went there, but decided on the spot that for us it was too high-priced and crowded to be fun. We went instead to the Melba Gully trail (https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/great-otway-national-park/things-to-do/melba-gully) just around the corner of “Fly Treetops”. And that was a very good choice. In the beginning we thought “well, just another nice rain forest with a lot of fern trees”, but this fern gully turned out to be the most spectacular we saw in Australia.
Another spectacular scene on this dramatic coastline is Johanna Beach. We had the entire beach for ourselves and though it looked pretty unsafe for swimming, the enormous waves were a spectacular sight.
12 Apostels – spectacular, but crowded
Following the Great Ocean Road, the next stop were the 12 Apostels. The weather gods were gracious on that day – blue skies and just the occasional small “fine weather cloud”. Parking is NOT a problem, there’s a huge parking lot across the street. Of course, there’s always crowds of people, but still – the landscape is VERY beautiful. We took our first pictures around mid-afternoon:
and decided to come back for the sunset:
We stayed at the NRMA Port Campbell Holiday Park (https://www.nrmaparksandresorts.com.au/port-campbell/) and got a really lovely space, next to the Port Campbell Creek. Overall, we can really recommend this Park: spacious, good location just around the “city center” and friendly folks. And – at least during our stay – not crowded at all. But then – we just stayed for a short night, and for that almost everything would have done.
The real challenge at Port Campbell turned out to be the dinner. We came back from our “12 Apostles sunset tour” around 9 p.m. and found almost every restaurant closed. The only place that was willing to provide us with an “after-closure dinner” was the “Waves”, and only because they still had a large group inside that was not supposed to leave soon. The dinner there was OK (but not cheap), and if we had known before, we probably had taken care and shopped some food before.
From Port Campbell to MacLaren Vale
The next day starting with a decision: go into the Grampians or along the coast? We decided for the latter and – although the nice pictures we saw of the Grampians later – we did not regret our choice, going along the coast to Robe.
Robe itself turned out to be a small and in the after-holiday-season quite empty place, including a nice, really empty beach.
In Robe, we discovered an interesting Pizza place: “Vic Street Pizza Project“, serving unusual toppings – delicious!
From Robe we went straight to McLaren Vale, the famous wine region near Adelaide. The road passes endless deserted regions, and after many days in a rain forest regions, we considered it a nice change.
McLaren Vale – the vineyard region
We love Australian wines, and one in particular: the “Boxer” from a small vineyard, Mollydooker (https://www.mollydookerwines.com.au/). So, travelling in the area anyway, we definitely wanted to visit them. Arriving at McLaren Vale, we were surprised about the extremely high concentration of well-known vineyards (Chapel Hill, Rosemount, d’Arenberg, Coriole…just to name a few) – basically all located in this valley.
At Mollydooker’s we were offered a nice wine tasting – all of our favorites, and some more expensive ones. Of course we could not resist –after all, the vines were considerably cheaper than in Germany, and bought 6 bottles – four of them are still in our cellar, waiting for the right occasion.
For our stay in McLaren Vale we opted for nice hotel rooms (instead of the campervan) at a vineyard with a good restaurant. As Mollydooker does not offer rooms, we chose Serafino’s. Good choice: very nice rooms, a deserted swimming-pool just for us and an excellent dinner, including fine wines. A perfect evening!
Ceduna – last break before the long way to the West
We skipped Adelaide and moved on, being aware that we had the longest road sections ahead of us. We had divided the journey to Esperance into three legs: from Adelaide up north to Ceduna and then via the Nullarbor Plain to Fraser Range, leaving a comparably short last leg from Fraser Range to Esperance.
Despite our fears concerning the long drives and boring landscape, this part of our journey turned out to be really nice. On our first “road day” we managed to make the roughly 800 km in 8 hours, stayed at the Shelley Beach Caravan Park in Ceduna and went to bed early, after a short glimpse on the beach:
The trip so far was pretty unspectacular. Aside from the detour that we had to take because we ignored the last gas station at Augusta and decided after approx. 50 km to turn around and get some gas…better save than sorry.
Nullarbor Plain – a VERY long straight road
The next morning started very early, basically at dawn, with the next leg to Fraser Range, the longest on our entire journey. Google Maps calculated 1100 km and 11.5 hours, and with some stopovers in between we needed 12.5 hours. But the drive itself was nice, including the very funny moment when our cell phone navigator told us to “go straight for 995 km and then turn left”. The Nullarbor plain did justice to its name, as there were no trees for hundreds of Kilometers. However, there were at least colorful small plants. And the landscape, in particular the vastness and the pure distance is quite impressive.
We stopped at the “Great Australian Bight Marine Park”, a lookout in the middle of the Nullarbor Plain, one of the few places with access to the coast (despite driving for hours and hours in parallel and pretty close to the coast), and we were quite surprised to find another car at the carpark of the lookout, as the area is pretty empty and deserted otherwise…
And when we left, another car arrived, so there was quite some traffic…well, not really. When driving this coastal highway, you are pretty much on your own. Beforehand I found this solitude a bit scary, but then on the road it was just fine. And the advantage is obvious: you can make your miles and miles quite undisturbed, except the occasional meeting with a road train:
We stopped again at Eucla, which marks the
Border to Western Australia
We were extensively questioned by the “border control” (“did you drink alcohol or use any drugs?”). In addition, they examined every car in great detail in search for any plant and animal products (which are not allowed to import into Western Australia). We had done some shopping in Ceduna and had been well informed at the local supermarket – they even provided us with a list of “goes” and “no-goes”. So all went well at the border and we were free to continue.
We passed the “longest straight of Australia”, the 90 miles straight – we counted the miles and it was indeed 146 km.
But then it doesn’t look like, as there’s some up and down in the landscape.
As advised by many tour guides, we tried to avoid driving in the dark, and we reached Fraser Range Station just after sunset.
A perfect timing, except that the Fraser Range Station campground was pretty empty and dark – no beer and Pizza waiting for us…We didn’t care – just fell asleep after 5 minutes.
|My Australia-Robe Recipe: Pizza “Tandoori Chicken”
The menu of the “Vic Street Pizza Project” in Robe contained a lot of unusual toppings; we liked all of those we tried. Here’s the Tandoori Chicken variety, which we found most unusual.
Pizza dough for 2 round pizzas:
Mix yeast and lukewarm water, add the other ingredients after approx. 10 minutes. Keep warm (approx. 40°C) until the dough has doubled the size. Spread the dough into 2 round pizza tin plates or onto a baking tray. Spread slices of mozzarella on top.
Pre-heat the oven to 250 °C, bake the dough with cheese for approx. 6 minutes. Then add pieces of roast Tandoori chicken, capscium, red onion, baby spinach, cucumber, herbed yoghurt, cantina kick sauce (or any other red hot Mexican Chili sauce) and bake for another 6 minutes.
Greetings from the Nullarbor Plain:
|Part 1: Brisbane to Sydney||and Part 2: Sydney to Melbourne – February 2017||Part 4: Esperance – Perth – February – March 2017|
*According to a German Court decision, all texts containing links to commercial pages (e.g. links to Tripadvisor, Airline, hotel or restaurant websites) have to be identified as “commercial” (in German “Anzeige”). As my texts do contain links like that, I therefore identify each post and page containing a link as “Anzeige”. However (and referring to the “About Me” page) I would like to point out that I do NOT post any sponsored content in my texts; I pay for all my trips myself.