The Great Ocean Road – part two – Port Fairy to Adelaide.
Having eaten in a local restaurant we decided to go for a walk around Port Fairy which for several years had been voted one of the world’s most liveable cities with a population under 20,000. It was early Saturday evening so I was expecting the town to be full of people out eating, promenading the streets, drinking in the bars and enjoying the Australian summer.
Where was everyone? Apart from a couple of restaurants nothing else appeared to be open. We passed one restaurant which should have been open according to the `opening times` posted on their door but it too was closed. The only life seemed to be in the tree tops!
As we walked into town the noise coming from the dark treetops was incredible – squawking parrots filled the air. It was odd as we walked listening to the noise as we could not see any of the birds in the trees because it was too dark but we could hear them moving about on the branches as they made their presence felt.
The Galah can be easily identified by its rose-pink head, neck and underparts, with paler pink crown, and grey back, wings and undertail. Birds from the west of Australia have comparatively paler plumage. Galahs have a bouncing acrobatic flight, but spend much of the day sheltering from heat in the foliage of trees and shrubs. Huge noisy flocks of birds congregate and roost together at night. Birds in backyards.net
Port Fairy was a pleasant small town with some heritage listed buildings but we perhaps should have arrived a couple of weeks later in March for the Port Fairy Folk Festival to experience the town at its most vibrant. The festival has run continuously since 1977 for over forty – one years. There have been over 3,500 acts performing to an audience of over a million.
The following day we decided to take a walk to nearby Griffiths Island which holds a large breeding colony of short-tailed shearwaters or Australian mutton bird. During the breeding season of September–April a viewing platform is constructed to allow visitors to watch the birds as they return in a swarm to their burrows at dusk. We were visiting the island at the wrong time of year so we saw nothing but the estimated 100,000 burrows.
The low-lying island is about 1.5 kilometres (0.93 miles) long and 0.8 kilometres (0.50 miles) wide at its widest point, with an area of about 31 hectares (77 acres). It is bordered on its northern side by the Moyne River. Some 80–90 bird species have been recorded from the island especially seabirds and waders. There are a number of other animals resident on the island including swamp wallabies, short-beaked echidnas, blue-tongued lizards and tiger snakes of which we saw none! It was a lovely walk around the island and we sat for a while taking in the sea views near the small lighthouse. I had read that there were tiger snakes on the island so I stuck closely to the paths!
We went for a walk around Port Fairy to check out the restaurants for the evening but the heavens opened up. It rained only a couple to times whilst we travelled the Southern coast but when it rained it was very heavy and short. Many people were caught out in their tee shirts and shorts having to shelter under the wide front shop canopies.
We found a lovely restaurant for the evening `Gregorys`and I enjoyed a nice Butter Chicken Pie which tasted like a curry pie and my wife had a chicken and tomato pasta dish. We also tucked into Arrancine rice balls filled with ragu meat and tomato sauce, mozzarella and peas coated in bread crumbs then deep fried as a starter. Lovely! The staff were very friendly showing a genuine interest in our trip and the food was excellent. We thought it was a superb restaurant with wonderful staff.
The following day I realised just how big Australia really is. I was expecting a short drive from Port Fairy to Robe but it was a very, very long drive with few stops. We had to restrict the number of times we stopped or we would have missed our check in time at the hotel in Robe. We stopped to look at the blow holes at Cape Bridgewater but the tide was too low so there was no show but we did look out expectantly across the ocean hoping to spot a whale or the odd dolphin. We didn’t! We strolled across to look at what was described as a petrified forest but it was in fact not a former forest at all but limestone straws which with the help of sea action over many thousands of years had created the forest trunk effect.
On our way back from the Cape we spotted a group pf about twenty kangaroos in a field. When I stopped the car to take pictures they decided to make off across the field. We watched them for some minutes – they were as curious about us as we were about them! They were a long way off but we could see them bounding across the fields and jumping fences in a single bound. A definite highlight of the day as they were the first roos we had seen alive! We had seen many dead wallabies and roos alongside the road which was a sad sight but somewhat inevitable I suppose with an open road with many cars and trucks passing through their habitat.
As we headed west the land use changed from cattle ranching, logging, sheep farming onto our first vineyards. We saw many more vineyards as we closed in on the Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills. As we drove in to South Australia we lost thirty minutes due to the change in time zones.
I had been looking forward to playing Golf in Australia and at Robe Golf Club that wish became a reality. We were able to hire all of the equipment we needed. The club is run by volunteers except for a small number of part time paid officials and they could not have done enough for us. When we arrived at the clubhouse the lady that greeted us had arranged everything including a buggy. An interesting course frequented by many parrots. We also saw a Fantailed Eagle drop down from a tree attempting to kill a magpie in an unsuccessful kill.
In the afternoon we drove straight onto the beach at Long Beach. There was so much space with cars giving each other plenty of personal space on the beach. A great way to spend the day without the inconvenience of carrying everything onto the beach. For our evening meal we went to The Robe Hotel on the sea front. It had the feel of a British working Mens Club with a large dining area, public bar and Gambling machines in another area of the hotel. Food and drink was also appeared to be a lot cheaper than in other parts of the town.
After Robe which we liked a lot we had another long drive to Adelaide stopping off at a vine yard,`The Lane` for a short wine flight and a few tasty canapes. We tasted fine champagne and five other different wines and a short tour of the process plant. It was a pleasant break in the journey and I got to learn a little more about viniculture thanks to our well informed and friendly guide.
We stopped off at Hahndorf an original German settlement but I felt the whole of the town had been given over to the Australian Dollar, it was a tourist town of very little interest to us. Many of the original buildings had been converted into gift shops selling material goods which had a stereotyped version of Germany and its culture. We didn’t stay long before departing. We arrived in Adelaide on the one of the hottest days of the year the temperature was a crazy scorcher at 45c.
The travelling times given are those listed in guide books – we took much longer to travel these distances because there was so much to see! Plan to be driving for much, much longer!
Melbourne to Apollo Bay 184km 2.56 hrs
Apollo Bay to Port Fairy 189km 2.45 hrs
Port Fairy to Adelaide 587km 6.15 hrs
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