The Great Ocean Road

Highlights:

  • Lush forests and waterfalls
  • Expansive sandstone cliff coastlines
  • Ideal for all ages
  • Camping to luxury accommodation
  • Short and long walks

Early starts, wet shoes, and coffee. This probably describes a typical landscape photography trip when waterfalls and beaches are involved. And what place has majestic waterfalls and stunning coastline? The Great Ocean Road of course!

7am Monday morning I pull up to Jason’s (@tassiegramer) hotel in the city and he greets me with a take away latte and already wet sneakers. His whirlwind tour of Melbourne and surrounds has involved meeting just about everyone with a camera and wearing out his gear to the point of replacement.

We start the drive to the Great Ocean Road and take the scenic route from Anglesea and shoot through Apollo Bay to arrive at the Marriner’s Falls track, which is closed due to weather and flood damage. So we closed our eyes and blocked our ears until we had passed the signs and had Marriner’s Falls all to ourselves. Now my shoes were drenched too and my trousers covered in mud. Still plenty more to see!

A brief stop at the Redwood Forest brought about the discovery of a crack in Jason’s tripod leg and a new tripod on the shopping list. Hopetoun Falls was absent of tourists and some gorgeous light rays sat above the 30m drop adding to its already magical nature. Already wet shoes and muddy clothing made for a much more relaxed attitude towards cleanliness and warmth. A large volume of water at Beauchamp Falls created a wind and spray that made capturing this one trickier, and made the longer walk back seem to drag on. Next stop, Port Campbell!

Although camping and roughing it may seem more adventurous and exciting, having really good and inexpensive accommodation easily accessible is a much better option. A studio each at Port Campbell Holiday Park for under $100 means a comfortable and warm place to sleep, a shower, and power for electronic devices.

The 12 Apostles was on the cards for sunset. This involved wrestling with tourists for optimal viewing positions and tripod space. A number of fights broke out and people were thrown over the railing into the violent surf and rocks below. At least this is what I imagine was going on inside Jason’s mind as everyone was everywhere and shaking the platform and his limp legged tripod.

A brief dinner at the pub, then an editing session back at the accommodation before an early night before sunrise at the 12 Apostles. The nightmare of a sea of tourists at sunrise had us up early to camp out a spot and maybe get some astro shots. We were too late for really dark skies and well ahead of everyone else. Just enough people turned up to take up prime locations which made changing composition a risk of losing any spot to shoot. But what a sunrise!

Coffee coffee coffee then over to the Bay of Islands to work our way along the popular stops. The weather was perfect for a drive along the Great Ocean Road with clear blue skies and not too chilly. Not so great for interesting photographs though. We finally arrived at Gibson Steps where a high tide had us dashing between rocks to avoid being swept off our feet or against the tall cliffs. Again clear blue skies and limited mobility left us with more wet shoes and little to show for it.

London Bridge/Arch was the ticket holder for sunset. Not as crowded as the 12 Apostles but still popular enough to have us off the viewing platforms and on solid ground.

I probably spent most of my time here just staring at the waves through the fading light, contemplating the direction my life has taken for me to be able to do this kind of thing for a living. Watching the relentless power of the seas shaping a defiant coastline in an endless battle to no end. Seeing it as a metaphor for the power of time slowly wearing away at our lives. The end result may not be clear but the way it shapes us is beautifully intricate and unique.

Sunrise at Loch Ard Gorge was timed perfectly with the wrapping up of some early morning drizzle. I managed a long exposure selfie and Jason had more equipment woes with a misbehaving shutter remote, having to nearly break his thumb in order to hold the button for more than 30 seconds.

Coffee coffee coffee then a trip to Triplet Falls. Misleading signs had us make a longer than expected side journey to Little Aire Falls. Not a journey we would have made if we knew that access to the base of the falls was beyond our abilities with our intended itinerary. We still had plenty of time at the many tiered cascades of Triplet Falls. Climbing down muddy slopes, over rotten logs and mossy rocks, Triplet was a waterfall photographer’s playground of paths and tricky obstacles. More muddy clothes and wet shoes. I had lost Jason for a little while and was already preparing my condolence speech to his family and friends when he reappeared from behind a tree I had past only moments ago. After climbing to nearly the top of the falls Jason realised, after climbing back down, that he had been metres away from the continuation of the path we left at the bottom. At least we’ll know for next time.

Our last stop was Teddy’s lookout in Lorne, popular for its view of the Great Ocean Road as it winds around hills and over a river. This makes for interesting light trails and beautiful ocean scenery. It was difficult to tear ourselves away from our photography for the last time on this wet and muddy, caffeine fuelled road trip. Can’t wait to do it all again someday.

Essential Gear

  • Warm (wet weather) clothing in winter months
  • Adequate walking footwear
  • Camera
  • Snacks and water for longer walks

Activities

    • Bush walking
    • Ocean beaches
    • Waterfalls
    • Camping
    • Photography

Skill level

    • Something for everyone
    • Lookouts close to carparks
    • Reasonable level of fitness recommended for all activities

Distance covered

  • 3-4 drive from Melbourne
  • Coastal sights are carpark adjacent
  • Waterfalls range from 15min – 2hrs return with stairs.