(One of the world’s most scenic coastal drives)
By: C. Kamalaharan
The fantastic drive along the Victorian coast in Australia is a lifetime memorable experience. The wonderful rock formations along the lengthy coast present breathtaking views. I was completely dazed on seeing the superb panoramic views as I took snaps from vantage points standing on hilltops. The spectacular scenery that came into view each time we negotiated a bend as we sped along the winding coastline was mind-blowing. Favoured with a bright clear sky throughout our drive it was a real visual treat for us to watch the dazzling seascapes.
The long stretch of road along the South-Eastern coast between the cities of Torquay and Allansford built by the returning troops between 1919 and 1932 in memory of the slain soldiers during World War 1 formed The Great Ocean Drive. The road considered as one of the longest war memorials traverses through rainforests beaches and cliffs which are susceptible to sea erosion.
One of the most memorial experiences we felt during our drive was at Philip Island a popular tourist attraction 140 km South-South East of Melbourne. When we arrived there nearing sunset the place was already bustling with tourists seated on elevated platforms to get a conspicuous view of the little penguins returning to their burrows. Though they are birds they are flightless as their wings are modified into flippers which are adapted suitably for swimming. The penguins leave their burrows early in the morning before daybreak and slide into the ocean where they catch prey for their young ones. It was a delightful sight watching them returning from the ocean at sunset and parading in single file across the beach to reach their burrows where they feed the young ones and rest for the night.
Another tourist attraction we came across during our drive was the famous Twelve Apostles which are magnificent rock stacks off the coast of Port Campbell in Victoria’s dramatic coastline. The Twelve Apostles were formed by the constant erosion of the limestone cliffs of the mainland millions of years ago. The stormy southern ocean and the blasting of the winds gradually eroded the softer limestones forming caves in the cliffs. These caves due to further erosion eroded to become arches which later collapsed resulting in the formation of rock stacks up to about 45 meters high left isolated from the shore. Due to continuous erosion only 8 stakes remain there. The Apostles present beautiful sights at sunrise and sunset as they change colour under bright sunlight.
Another natural geological formation we saw was the Grotto a tourist attraction in Bruce Peninsula National Park. A grotto is a naturally formed small rock pool. To reach the Grotto wooden steps wind down the cliff to the bottom where a spectacular view of the sea beyond the pool at low tide could be seen. The water in the pool is fed by the ocean spray. It was pretty cool there and one can see the stillness and clear water in contrast to the ocean.
The London Arch near port Campbell is another natural formation by the process of gradual erosion. Originally it was a complete double-span attached to the mainland. Due to its resemblance to the London bridge it was known as London Bridge. Unfortunately as the arch closer to the mainland unexpectedly collapsed in 1990 the structure’s name had been changed to London Arch.
The Loch Ard Gorge is the most spectacular sight we saw during our drive. Only three minutes drive from the Twelve Apostles it was named after the ship Loch Ard that ran aground at Mutton Bird Island near port Campbell after a 3 month journey from England to Australia. Due to constant erosion gorges were formed with rocky walls rising several meters high. There is a narrow opening from the sea to the interior of the gorge where a lovely beach could be seen. Stairs from the cliff take tourists down to the beach where they frolic swim and relax. The formation of gorges inside resulted in the formation of coves outside along the coast.
The Great Ocean Drive helicopters take tourists on a scenic flight for a bird’s eye view of the coastline from above. Stunning views of the London Arch the Twelve Apostles the Loch Ard Gorge and other structures can be viewed from the helicopters. The Loch Ard Gorge is a suitable location for film producers. The 1982 movie ‘Pirate Movie” and many T.V serials were filmed here. The popular Tamil movie ‘Kadhalar Dhinam’s (Valentine Day) love song sequences were shot here for the song ‘Enna Vilai Azhagai’ with Kunal Singh and Sonali Bendre in the lead romantic roles. The sequences were shot precisely from a revolving helicopter. I was able to photograph the beautiful exhibits of nature from a helicopter. The fabulous scenery spread far and wide along the coast was an unforgettable lifetime experience.
Besides these wonders of nature there are other tourist attractions, recreational activities like surfing cycling horse riding hiking and camping in addition to the presence of an abundance of wild life. It’s really worthwhile going on a trip along this memorable drive and enjoy the entrancing beauty of nature.