In March we drove down the Great Ocean Road, making our way to Melbourne, and over to Tasmania to attend our good friends, Nicola and Mike’s wedding.
We wanted to take our van over but left things a bit late and we weren’t able to get a return trip on the boat when we needed to, so we opted to drive to Melbourne and fly to Tassie and hire a camper van for a few weeks.
The trip down the Great Ocean Road was pretty incredible.
Our first stop was at Naracoorte in South Australia. We camped overnight at the showgrounds and then the next morning visited the amazing Naracoorte Caves.
The limestone caves, which are the only place in South Australia that is world heritage listed, are around 800,000 years old and with the fossils that paleontologists have discovered here, much of the history of South Australian and Australian wildlife has been pieced together.
There are 28 known caves in the area, one of these, the ‘bat cave’, is one of only two known places where the endangered Southern Bent Wing Bat breeds. You are able to look into the cave with infra red cameras and watch them flying around without disturbing them. It was pretty amazing to sit and watch them. Many people don’t like bats but I think they are remarkable! Anything that can sleep upside down has to be.
From here we ventured into the Coonawarra wine region. I was allowed to choose two wineries to stop at and do a lightening quick tasting (and buying). So thank you to Brand’s Laira and Katnook. I got amazing attention and enjoyed my brief visit to both cellar doors. I would very highly recommend a visit to both these amazing wineries if you are in the Coonawarra. Safe to say I don’t have any of the bottles left now.. lucky I bought the drink now bottles and not the cellar for 10 years ones.
Before we knew it we were over the border and into Victoria. We overnighted in Portland and the girls were very excited to spot their first lighthouse of the trip. There was much discussion about whether Grandpa Rabbit lived in the top of the lighthouse and whether he would help Grandpa Pig find his way. (Only those with young children who watch Peppa Pig will understand).
We stopped for lunch on the third day in Port Fairy with some aggressive seagulls, had at a quick look around Warnambool, visiting the Whale nursery but obviously the wrong time of the year, before we really hit the Great Ocean Road.
The coastline along here is seriously amazing! We stopped at most of the lookouts including London Bridge, the Arch, The Grotto, the Bay of Islands and lots of others. The story around the falling of London Bridge back in 1990 was amazing, helicopters had to rescue people were stranded on the other side of the structure after it fell into the sea. However even more amazing is the stories you discover about events like this from other sources. I love that when I posted a photo at the time, a friend shared that his parents knew the couple that were stranded and, lets say it was a very public outing of a relationship between two people, who were married to other people at the time.
We stayed overnight at a lovely little town of Port Campbell before continuing the next day to the 12 Apostles. Amazing! We walked to the Gibson steps so we were able to see them from the lookouts and from the beach. On our travels I am so constantly in awe of the landscape that we are so lucky to have access to.
Keen to climb a lighthouse, our next stop was at Cape Otway, where we were able to climb to the top of the lighthouse (and almost get blown away!) before stopping at Apollo Bay for the night.
Apollo Bay meant we had now passed the shipwreck coast and were heading down the surf coast. Amazing beach after amazing beach! Lunch at Lorne, then a quick visit to the mecca of surfing, Bells Beach, before stopping at Torquay.
Before making our way to Melbourne we visited the National Surfing Museum at Torquay, which is a fantastic place to learn the history of surfing in Australia. However, we needed to move on so we could board our flight to Hobart and begin our Tassie adventure.
The girls were very excited to be flying again, despite the fact they spent most of the flight fighting over who could look out the window *sigh*
We splurged our first night and stayed in a hotel!
Ha that was shortlived and the next morning we picked up our camper van… I knew it would be small but even I wasn’t prepared for just how small. Makes our tiny van look like a three story mansion.
Anyway it is what it is and we just had to suck it up and put it in the compartment of experience.
All folded into the van we headed north, where we stayed overnight in Ross on route to Derby where I was registered to run in the Tassie Trail Fest half marathon on Sunday, through the amazing Blue Tier forest.
What a fantastic race festival. We camped on the river in Derby on Saturday night.. even spotting a platypus.. before heading to the start line at Weldborough. The trail was on the mountain bike trails which have been developed through Derby, which have completely revitalised the town. I managed to complete two of my three goals of the day.. I finished and I didn’t come last. I wanted to do sub three hours but didn’t quite achieve that one.
At least it gave me a good taste of what I’m in for in May when I run the UTA50 in the Blue Mountains in NSW! Yikes.
After a cold shower at the Weldborough Hotel, we headed to Launceston. I have a special connection here, as I lived here for around a year and a half back in the early 2000’s when I worked for the amazing Michelle O’Byrne MP. Back then she was the Federal Member for Bass when we spent most of our time travelling backwards and forward between Launceston and Canberra. Now she is a very respected and highly effective State Member for Bass, and while currently in Opposition in Tasmania, she has been a very respected Minister in the previous Tasmania Labor Government.
It was so good to catch up with Michelle, as well as some other old friends – Lee-Anne, Mark, and Michelle’s Mum and Dad – Colleen and Brian. It was great to also able to show my family some of the places that were important to me here.
From Launceston we took a few days to travel down the east coast of Tasmania. Stopping at some places I had been to before but many more I never got the opportunity to see when I lived up the road.
St Columba Falls, just north of St Helens was amazing. One of the biggest waterfalls in Tasmania at 90m metres high. In summer 42,000 litres of water flows down the falls per minute, this increases to an incredible 200,000 litres per minute in winter!
We stayed overnight in Bicheno on the east coast. I had never been here before and I loved it! We chose here because we wanted to treat the girls to a night time penguin tour. So glad we did! The guides were great. They have set up such a special encounter with the penguins that give the tourists a close enough look that you can almost touch the animals but far enough away that the penguins are not scared.
Avalon and Marla thought this was a highlight and were very impressed that they could see the penguins waddling up the beach. Of course from then we all had to walk like penguins for two days.
Thankfully, they forgot to walk like penguins the next day though when we hiked to the Wineglass Bay Lookout at Freycinet National Park. I love this place. However, while I had previously stayed at the Lodge, I never actually walked to the lookout. Its a great walk and very achievable with kids. As long as you leave enough time and have enough food for them. We did have a close encounter with a local though when we were sitting eating lunch. One of the wallabies got a bit upset we weren’t sharing our sandwiches and jumped right over Avalon’s head. Only just missing her!
After our big walk I got to quickly run into Devil’s Corner winery and pick up a couple of bottles of amazing Tassie Pinot Noir before heading to Kate’s Berry Farm at Swansea for some amazing ice cream…. which Avalon may have eaten far too much of because she threw it all up in the car around an hour later *sigh*
So that meant we need to find somewhere to stay the night that had washing machines…
Triabunna was the place, a cute little town where the ferry to Maria Island leaves.
Next day we headed back to Hobart for the whole reason we’d made the trip.. the wedding of the year… Mitchell and Mike!
I even made it to the girls dinner a couple of days before hand.. after remembering how to apply make up, I had a fantastic night out in Salamanca Place with Nicola and her girl crew.
The next couple of days we hang around Hobart, exploring a bit before the wedding on Saturday. Including a side trip to Port Arthur… what an experience! This place is amazing. I just can’t fathom what the people who were incarcerated here and lived here experienced.
It was so special to be there to see Nicola marry Mike. Nicola and I have been friends since she was an ABC journo in Launceston and I was a political staffer trying to get my MP some media space.. she was always kind enough to turn up to our media events, and then we’d go for a drink. Eventually, she moved to Brisbane and I moved to Adelaide but we always stayed in contact and saw each other when we could. If fact, I was on a road trip through the Flinders Ranges with her when I met Dave…
So thank you Mitchell.. It was a privilege to share yours and Mike’s special day.
After the wedding is when things turned to shit.. so you could say..
I thought I was hung over the day after the wedding but it turns out I had a severe tummy bug and our plans to see and hike across the west coast were reassessed. We did travel up the west coast but mostly what I saw was from the car, or I can tell you where every public toilet is from Hobart to Burnie.
This is a trip we need to go back for. There is so much I want to see up the west coast, especially through the Franklin Gordon Wilderness. Next time..
We did make it up to Burnie and then back down the midlands to Hobart to fly back to Melbourne.
We did drive back up the Great Ocean Road but only stopped at a couple of places we wanted to go back to. We stayed at Apollo Bay again on the way home and met up with Dave’s sister Kathleen and her troupe who were on holiday. We were all going to do the Forest Walk together but of course the one day of the year we wanted to do it the weather was so bad they shut it down!
So just before we made it back to Port Vincent we stopped at Mount Gambier and got to visit the incredible Blue Lake! Wow! The color of the water is because its a dormant volcano but its amazing to see water that color. Then the weather turned on us here too..
We did however get to catch up with an old school friend of Dave’s who lives on a farm out of Millicent – thanks for the visit Wombat! And congratulations to you and Leonie on the new baby Wombat 🙂
What an epic adventure.. I haven’t even touched on how we fared in the teeny tiny camper van.. some things are best forgotten, or put down to survival.
Until next time..
The GudLanges xx