JOHANNA BEACH TO PORT CAMPBELL

I’d like to be able to say that we were up at the crack of dawn, all packed and ready to hit the road in no time, but of course that was not the case!  After all we are ‘cruizin’ so we lived up to our name. 

So after a leisurely preparation we sadly said goodbye to Johanna Beach and headed back up the Red Johanna Road to rejoin the Great Ocean Road. 

We thought we would like to do the Otway Fly Treetop Walk, and to that end we had decided we would stay a night at Lavers Hill.  The closer we got to Lavers Hill the colder and foggier it became and add to that misty rain so it was difficult to see very far ahead.  We had to stop and ask where the Lavers Hill Hotel was because that was where the caravan ‘park’ was situated.  When we found the Hotel we sat and had a discussion re what we were going to do. 

Lavers Hill Hotel

 

 

Lavers Hill Roadhouse

 

Anyone Guess What This Is?

 

The weather was miserable.  We decided we wouldn’t be able to see anything if we did the Treetop Walk.  On checking out the caravan ‘park’ – park being the operative word as it just looked like a bitumen carpark; that fueled our reserve to soldier on and hope for better weather.  Make no mistake, we were under no illusion that this was going to be a 4 star caravan park, but given the weather and the bitumen we weren’t prepared to stop there.

Feeling rather disappointed, we elected to brave the elements and head inside the Hotel/Roadhouse for a hot coffee and some lunch.  I took a couple of photos at Lavers Hill but had to use my mobile phone (so please excuse the quality) as the batteries in the camera had died while we were at Johanna Beach.

Heading off into the mist again we started the descent down the range and at the end of the day into Port Campbell.   These would have been the worst driving conditions we encountered while on the Great Ocean Road.  Rob was contending with the steep winding road as well as the misty rain/fog and some wind.  Eventually we emerged from the cloud and the road improved making driving less stressful.

Of course between Lavers Hill and Port Campbell we had to pass the Twelve Apostles! 

 

This fact had somehow eluded my brain until we were almost there. 

Our first sight of the Apostles was unbelievable.  To realize that I was actually here looking at these pillars was incomprehensible –  but here we were! 

And to top it all off there was an amazing rainbow over the Twelve Apostles.  I couldn’t believe that we had such an amazing sight right before our eyes.

A Rainbow Over The Rocks!

 

I wasn’t going to waste this opportunity to get some photos, so the trusty phone came to the rescue again.  At this stage I didn’t know if we would be able to come back to have another look at the Apostles and I sure as eggs didn’t want to miss the photo opportunity.  I would just like to say here that there was ample parking at the Twelve Apostles Area.  There is designated areas for buses and caravans as well as the regular car parking.  It was the middle of the afternoon when we arrived and despite the weather conditions there were still plenty of people around and a few bus loads of tourists. 

There is an underpass crossing from the carpark to the Apostle’s side of the road, and plenty of wide designated paths. 

Underpass and Path

 

As with all the viewing areas along the Great Ocean Road there are warning signs posted along the paths indicating that the cliffs are unstable and you could die if you veer off the path. 

Danger

 

Gosh, I didn’t realize there would be so much to see when we arrived at the Twelve Apostles!  It was amazing and I was totally in awe of the view – whichever way you looked.  The paths were set up in such a way as to give you the best possible view, with platforms in strategic places.  I’d hate to think how many photos are taken here each day – there were people everywhere with cameras, phones and even Ipads lining up what they thought would be the best angle to record their visit to the Twelve Apostles.  It never ceases to amaze me just what people do take photos of!!

 

You can see from my photos it was pretty cool, and intermittent light showers were still floating over the Apostles but in between the showers the sun would poke it’s head out and I was grinning from ear to ear. 

I would have to say that for me seeing the Twelve Apostles was a ‘spiritual’ experience.  I was in awe and wonder not just at the pillars that are the Apostles, but the big picture which included the Southern Ocean and the amazing cliffs the Apostles were carved from.  It doesn’t matter how many photos you have seen – there is nothing like the real thing, and nothing will prepare you for seeing the Apostles in the flesh (or rock as the case may be!) 

 

Even Rob had to admit the Twelve Apostles area far exceeded his expectations. We had a pretty good look around, and I could have stayed there for hours just drinking in scene before me as it changed from showers to sunlight and back again.

Twelve Apostles I Was There!

Not wanting to arrive at Port Campbell too late, we took to the road again with a promise to come back for a longer viewing.

We booked into the Port Campbell Caravan Park and pretty much had our pick of where we wanted to park the van.  Now it’s one thing to be told “Go to site 14” but when you have free reign there always seems to be a great debate as to which site is actually the best!  When we arrived there was only 1 other van and reception had suggested a site next to them, however we decided that since there was the whole park we would prefer to be a bit further away from neighbours.  Bear in mind here that there had been a considerable amount of rain and the whole park was pretty much a quagmire.  Well that might be a bit harsh, but it was fairly wet all round.  After much discussion with the new ‘neighbours’ we decided on a site and got on with the job.  Well a picture tells a thousand words, so this should cover a few thousand words.. .. .. .. .. ..

"Right," said Fred, "Both of us together One each end and steady as we go."Tried to shift it, couldn't even lift it We was getting nowhere

After strainin', heavin' and complainin' We was getting nowhereAnd so we had a cuppa tea.

"Trouble with Fred is, he's too hasty Never get nowhere if you're too hasty."

As you can see we encountered a spot of bother when unhitching the van and the drawbar hit the mud!  Our new neighbours Tim & Sue came to the rescue with his hi-lift jack and we were soon sorted.  I’d be interested in hearing any other stories of hiccups during set-up, surely we are not the only ones!!

Boy was it good to have a nice H O T shower again after our 3 days of free camping.  It’s great to be able to appreciate the simple pleasures in life like hot water on tap!

 

 

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JOHANNA BEACH–3 DAYS

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.

DAY 2
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.  Who me?

DAY 3
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.

 

 

 

 

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CAPE OTWAY

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True to it’s claim we did ‘sleep under koalas’ at Bimbi Park!

 

 

There seemed to be koalas everywhere.  We could hear them calling during the night, and at first wondered what the noise was. 

The locals seem to think there are too many koalas for the tree area, as a lot of the trees are dying because the koalas are stripping them bare.  However they are a great ‘tourist attraction’ as we discovered on our morning drive down to Cape Otway Lighthouse.  People would stop their cars wherever they spotted a koala which made driving interesting.

While on the way to the Lighthouse we were stopped by a young couple in a purple/green camper.  They had stopped to photograph a koala and were unable to start their camper again – flat battery – so Rob came to the rescue with our jumper leads.  I was so busy talking to the couple from Switzerland that I forgot to take a photo!  Can you believe that??

 

We drove over the grid into the Cape Otway Lightstation area.  Cape Otway Lighthouse is Australia’s most significant Lighthouse.  Cape Otway Lighthouse has been in operation since 1848.  It sits on cliffs that tower 80 metres above sea in the area where the Bass Strait meets the Southern Ocean.

The Lighthouse was built because many ships were wrecked off Cape Otway with a large loss of life.

Being on a budget we decided we would not pay to visit the Lighthouse but would save our money for the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk.  Hence I am unable to go into great detail of The Lightstation area and the Cape Otway Lighthouse.

 

After looking in the Lighthouse shop at the entry we decided to join the Great Ocean Walk to the Lighthouse lookout.  Being a National Park no bikes, dogs or horses were allowed, and there was a warning sign for snakes.  Here we were able to see the Lighthouse in the distance.

 

 

On the way back to Bimbi Park we thought the scenery was quite different.  We saw some cattle, so there is obviously areas of private land where they were grazing. 

 

 

 

As I mentioned earlier people just stop wherever they see a koala, which makes driving quite hazardous on the not too wide road.

 

 

As we rounded the corner someone was waving to slow us down, we wondered why but soon discovered that a koala had decided he didn’t like his tree and was crossing the road to another one!  He was surrounded by tourists; us included;  until he found a tree and climbed up.

 

The entire time we were in the Great Otway National Park it was showery, and I loved how the dampness made the trees look as they formed a canopy over the road.

 

 

Bimbi Park is a rather large camping area and they cater for all kinds of ‘camping’ from tents to dorms, onsite vans to cabins and obviously caravans.

 

 

As I mentioned the koala population is really creating a problem, so quite a few trees have metal bands around them to prevent the koalas getting a grip on the trunk to climb them.  This only really works where trees are isolated from other trees, as koalas just go from tree to tree via the branches!  They’re not silly…..

The tree on the left of the first photo has obviously been decimated by the koalas.

 

 

Bimbi Park also caters for riding camps, and this is one of their horses. 

 

During our stay at Bimbi Park I did something I thought I would never do – see photo below!  In my defence I did have cold feet and I was heading to the shower (hence the thongs). 

 

When we were packed up and ready to leave we couldn’t find Cruizer and had to go looking for him.  We finally found him trying to get into the climbing wall and he had nearly made it!

 

As we drove out of the Cape Otway region the sun came out – finally.

 

We had reached the Great Ocean Road again and were headed for the next installment of our Great Ocean Road Adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

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