Our time at Bimbi Park Cape Otway was relaxing and we were ready to move on to our next Great Ocean Road Adventure.
Heading west our next stop over was to be at Johanna Beach. Total distance travelled this morning was a short 30 or so klm. We drove through some of the prettiest dairy country as we entered the Aire Valley. There must have been hundreds of acres stretching before us all dotted with black and white cows, with a sprinkling of sheep thrown in.
The Aire River valley really just took our breath away, around every bend we were ‘oohing and aahing’ at the scene opening up before us. When we saw the sign for Castle Cove, we decided to stop and take in the view, not only over the valley, but also of the coast. There was enough parking for cars and caravans.
We weren’t sure about this sign as it did not indicate which way we should be heading to use these ‘conveniences’. Considering there is 5.5klm to Aire River and 7klm to Johanna Beach we were bamboozled.
From our Castle Cove stop it was not far at all to the Red Johanna Road turnoff that we wanted to take, and since we were chatting away we almost missed it. We had decided to take the Red Johanna Road instead of the Blue Johanna Road as we had heard it is the better of the two, with less unsealed road. We actually saw the Red Johanna Road on this video by one of our Facebook friends – Thanks Tara for all the useful information you share.
And then we were at Johanna Beach!
Initially we drove right to the end of the road came to a stop near the beach and jumped out to investigate. We were amazed at the amount of space available for camping, so much so we couldn’t decide where to set up camp. So we made a cuppa and had smoko. Next we headed for the beach, and discovered there was a fairly rough track down to the actual beach. As well as that there is a lookout on the point which gives a great view in both directions. Up here was the only place at Johanna Beach where I could get reception on my phone (Optus Network), but Rob’s Telstra worked fine.
Taking the weather conditions into consideration we decided to set up in a more protected area and this is where we ended up.
As it turned out we were very thankful for the protection. The weather had been very changeable; one minute sunny and then across would come the rain which was usually accompanied by what I consider quite strong wind. Down on the beach you could see the spray flying off the breakers and the wind was quite cold. First night we were in the company of a couple in a motorhome, just them and us. Before long the rain came with the wind to the point that we pulled the pop top down so it didn’t take off. Since we were ‘free’ camping we had no heating, purely relying on the good old water-bottle so it was early to bed to stay warm.
Our second day at Johanna Beach dawned not looking any better than the day before. There were sunny (no rain) patches and then the rain would scud over accompanied by the wind. We tried to do as much as possible outside when it wasn’t raining. Consequently we walked up to the lookout point several times and around the area where we were parked. The valley was extremely green, almost as though it had been washed clean by the rain. The cattle certainly seemed to be enjoying the grass. Mid morning I noticed a lady preparing her horse for a ride on the beach. I watched and when her ride came to an end, she allowed the horse to roll in the sand before leading him back up to the carpark.
Because of the weather we were confined to the van for periods of time.
How to entertain yourself with no power? Obvious I would have thought.
And to keep warm?
Yes, that is Rob under all that.
Being the Great Otway National Park, there was a lot of birdlife – and these little wrens (I think that’s what they were) were very cheeky even coming up on our step.
So after managing to fill in the daylight hours again we battened down for our second night. Just on dark a car pulled up and a few young people tumbled out and proceeded to pitch their tent. At least we were not on our own – it’s a funny feeling being in such an isolated spot with no one else around. As the night wore on the wind increased in strength and the van was buffeted – I was extremely glad we were not in that tent!
I was a little anxious, so I took a chill pill and went to bed. Thankfully I slept through the rest of the night.
Day 3 dawned much the same as the previous two days, and we had survived the night. The tenters packed up and were gone pretty much before we emerged from our van and we were alone again. There did seem to be more patches of no rain today, so we headed off down to the beach. I thought it would be sacrilege to have been at Johanna Beach for 3 days and not even put our feet on the beach. It really was a goat track down to the beach, but I managed to navigate it without falling on my face.
Once on the beach we explored a bit among the rocks. The beach is virtually cut in two by a rocky outcrop on top of which is the lookout. We climbed over the rocks to the other side and had a good time exploring.
And just to prove we were both on the beach. . . . it was cold.
Later in the day we walked down the road back to the entry to Johanna Beach Camping area (we carried our umbrellas just to be on the safe side!). We didn’t realize until we actually arrived here just how big this camping area really is. The Great Ocean Walk passes through Johanna Beach, and there is a camping area designated solely for those intrepid walkers use.
It really is not terribly safe to swim at Johanna Beach, and even in the summer time there is no life savers patrolling the beach. Warning signs are posted at each beach entry point that make it clear if you do enter the water that you can expect the unexpected.
This is the beach at the first camping area you come to at Johanna.
From here you can see the two distinct roads into Johanna Beach – one is Blue Johanna Road the other Red Johanna Road.
You can see that the road in the actual camping area is quite solid despite having had quite a bit of rain during the 3 days of our stay.
Our fellow camper for tonight was to be a young Melbourne man who was planning on sleeping in his swag next to his station wagon. He was parked right next to the beach, altho still in a fairly protected position. As we returned from our walk we noticed him sitting in the back of his station wagon strumming on his guitar, so we chatted with him for a while then returned to our van to start readying ourselves for departing in the morning.
Well during the night quite a squall blew up, and when we emerged in the morning our fellow camper was no where to be seen. We are thinking he may have abandoned his swag during the night and hit the road looking for somewhere with no rain!
RANDOM FACTS ABOUT JOHANNA BEACH
I was not aware that when conditions are unfavourable for the surfing contest to be held at Bells Beach it is then moved to Johanna Beach.
Johanna Beach is named after the schooner Joanna. The Joanna was on it’s maiden voyage in 1843 when a northerly wind blew up and the captain brought them close to shore for shelter. The wind swung around to the South West and at 3am on 21st September the Joanna was washed into the breakers and stuck on the bottom. The survivors waded ashore at the mouth of a small river which was later named (and misspelt) Johanna. They set off east along the coast and were the first Europeans to traverse this treacherous area.
I am thinking that our experience of camping at Johanna Beach would be quite different to most other peoples. This place would be fairly buzzing during the holidays, and at other times during summer I can imagine there would be quite a number of people here all the time. When we were at Terramungamine Reserve near Dubbo another camper had told us about Johanna Beach and spoke so highly of it that we felt we should give it a try.
Although the weather was not altogether nice to us, we were able to remain warm and dry, and we did get to see the beach with it’s winter coat on – something that not a lot of others would do, or even be thinking about doing.
We do not regret for one minute our time at Johanna Beach and would recommend it for anyone embarking on a Great Ocean Road Adventure of their own.