A Day in the Grampians …

The Grampians National Park is one of Victoria’s jewels.

If you think of the Great Dividing Range as starting in north Queensland, sweeping south inland of Australia’s east coast and around the bend into Victoria the Grampians is where it makes its last desperate attempt to be mountainous. And a very scenic effort it is.

It and Wilson’s Promontory are the two Victorian parks under the greatest visitor pressure. At peak season the crowds are really bad, but don’t expect to feel lonely the rest of the year.

It has given Parks Victoria every opportunity to indulge itself in regulations, warning signs, railings and outrageous penalties. The rock climbing fraternity are the latest victims.

For a photographer who likes to use a drone as one of his cameras the frustration is immense. Drones cannot be flown without written permission on any Parks Vic property no matter how remote or lonely. Which locks away most of the great landscapes in the state.

Nonetheless it’s still worth a visit. My intention was to do some waterfall photography but I also felt the need for some exercise so I got there early with a view to climbing Mount William, the highest point. Although there was nothing on the Park’s website I found the Mount William Road closed. My 4 km hard hike had turned into a 24km hike, I wasn’t that early.

I settled instead for a ramble up to the Pinnacle via the Grand Canyon and Silent Street a 4.2km return hike from the Wonderland car park. There are plenty of excuses available to the photographer to rest along the way.

The view from the top is heavily polluted with man made constructions but with careful placement of the camera, towns, dam walls, railings, signs and tourists can all be avoided.

From there it was off to Mackenzie Falls for the late afternoon light.

Swimming, of course, is forbidden.

Isabella Was Here …

Captain John Hart saw Cape Nelson off to starboard and set his course for Adelaide. It was March 30th 1837 he was sailing from Launceston, Van Dieman’s land (known since 1856 as Tasmania) to Adelaide in the three masted barque Isabella with a cargo of livestock and the Pearce family as passengers.

Not long after that the Isabella was wrecked. She ran into the real Cape Nelson. Captain Hart had misidentified Lady Julia Percy Island.

Twenty five passengers and crew took to the boats and made it safely to Portland which had been settled about three years earlier, the first town in what would become Victoria. I doubt the livestock fared as well.

It’s a wild and woolly spot now guarded by a lighthouse.

The Classics …

Let’s start early morning …

The Twelve Apostles

I didn’t even attempt a sunset – the crowd scared me off. Early morning is a better option. Not so many people are prepared to get up before dawn and some of those that do prefer the east facing lookout to watch the sun come up. I was happy with long exposure blue hour shots looking west.

Loch Ard Gorge is not so packed. There’s plenty of room and several lookouts so to some extent you can pick the spot that best utilises the sun’s position that day.

Loch Ard Gorge

Once the sun had gone I went to an east facing lookout for another image …

Loch Ard Gorge

The previous evening I was on the beach at Gibson Steps for sunset. I certainly wasn’t alone but the crowd was limited to those fit enough to climb back up the cliff!

Gibson Steps

Great Ocean Road west …

This February has been an extremely busy month. I really needed a couple of days to relax so it was off to the western end of the Great Ocean Road to take a few photos of the iconic scenery. I visited the eastern end back in January and blogged about it from January 20 and following days.

This time it was under canvas at Princetown a spot that looks like this during the day …

and like this (sometimes) at night …

It is very handy for getting to the Twelve Apostles and nearby attractions and I will share the photos …

Bristling …

at Aireys Inlet

The strip of coast running from Melbourne west along Victoria’s coast is both splendid and accessible. I am particularly fond of Port Fairy at the western end but lets not get parochial. Anglesea and Aireys Inlet also have their assets a major one being Margaret Lacey. She has recently produced a very beautiful book on the birds her of patch. The photography is superb.

The region has a variety of habitats and Margaret gives the reader very useful information on where to find them all. You should buy the book! It’s well worth the $55. You can get it <HERE>. Mention this page and the postage will be free. Actually the postage is free.

Anyway, while I was there I ran around trying to emulate her …

Singing Honeyeater

Birds with limited distribution are always very special. The Rufous Bristlebird is only found along a coastal strip from Torquay west to the mouth of the River Murray in South Australia (except around Port Fairy!) It is a denizen of coastal heath and dense stands of Coast Wattle. It’s a skulker and can be very elusive. I have seen it in varying places but the success rate at Aireys Inlet is exceptional. Look for it on the footpaths to the west of the lighthouse early or late in the day.

Rufous Bristlebird

The Great Ocean Road …

It runs from Torquay to Allansford a distance of 247km. It is splendid from Anglesea to Cape Otway and spectacular from there to Peterborough. Driving it east to west allows it to come to an appropriate crescendo like a well written piece of classical music. You could drive it in a day … but don’t.

The Great Ocean Road

Construction began in September 1919 and was carried out by servicemen returned from the First World War. It was open as far as Lorne by 1922 as a toll road – two shillings and sixpence for a car, 10 shillings for a wagon with more than four horses. Passengers paid one shilling and sixpence, many tried to avoid this by walking along the beach around the toll point.

Presently there is no toll payable but that may not last!

The full length of the road was opened in November 1932.

Great Ocean Road from Teddy’s Lookout, Lorne

A pinnacle still attached to land …

at Aireys Inlet

and a rock that isn’t …

Split Rock, Aireys Inlet

The coast as far as Cape Otway is called the Surf Coast beyond the cape it is called the shipwreck coast. Ship wrecks haven’t been as common since they switched from wind power to more reliable sources of energy.

My advice to the traveler is

  • remember to drive on the left side of the road
  • try to avoid the summer school holidays Christmas to early February
  • don’t rush, spend a few nights on the road
  • along the surf coast make sure to detour inland to visit the Otways forests and some of the waterfalls
  • take a detour to the light house at Cape Otway – always worth it but in winter there is the added possibility of a whale passing by
  • beyond the cape concentrate on the magnificent limestone stacks and cliffs at London Bridge, Loch Ard Gorge, Twelve Apostles, Bay of Martyrs
  • when it’s done treat yourself to a couple of nights in Port Fairy the nicest town anywhere on Victoria’s coast.


The Otways …

The hinterland of the Great Ocean Road is the Otway ranges. These are low mountains that formed in the rifting process that broke up Gondwana. The ranges were once clothed in forest and quite extensive remnants still exist in the Great Otway National Park.

Forests have everything to do with rainfall. If we look at a map of Australian Forests we find them concentrated down the east coast, across the wetter tropics and in the south-west. A rainfall map or a population density map look broadly similar. The white patch ranges from semi-arid to desert and shows how dry a continent Australia is.

I borrowed the map from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. You should have a look <HERE> if you need further information. Perhaps because Australia has relatively little forest the definition used is particularly generous. If there are trees that shade a fifth of the ground it’s a forest. Real forest, tall trees with extensive canopies such as we find in the Otways constitutes only a fraction of what’s shown on the map.

Rainfall in the Otway Ranges from 700 to 1400mm (27 – 55ins). If you lived there you’d have to mow your lawn every week not just a few times in the spring like I do.

The forest types include wet sclerophyl characterised by the magnificent Mountain Ash Eucalyptus regnans and temperate rainforest characterised by Myrtle Beech Nothofagus cunninghamii. This is the furthest west that you will find rainforest in Australia. Throw in some ferns and the odd waterfall and you have a very pretty spot for a picnic … watch out for the leeches.

Eucalyptus regnans Mountain Ash
Kangaroo Fern

Australian King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas may well join you at the picnic table while Gang Gang Cockatoos stay a little further back. The habitat is perfect for Lyrebirds and Pilotbirds but they won’t be joining you. They haven’t made it across the gap from the forests west of Melbourne. Nor has the Sooty Owl but this is the place to look for the elusive Grey Goshawk.

And there are the more common forest birds …

Eastern Yellow Robin

Some useful links …