TRAVEL DESTINATION: Rock formations of the Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Finding myself road tripping along the giant formations of the Great Ocean Road was one of my long-time dreams come true. The journey was initially full of anticipation and silly nervousness. What will I find out there? What if the reality doesn’t match my level of hype and blown-out-of-proportion expectations?
Deciding to take the scenic road trip down the Southern Ocean route turned out to be the best possible way to move around this part of Australia. I was able to make multiple stops, I could breathe in the beautiful landscape that surrounded me and make mental (and real) images along the way. No, expectations didn’t diminish the stunning reality.
If you haven’t already, then please do go and check the first part (HERE) of my Great Ocean Road journey, where I focused on The Grotto, London Arch and The Arch limestone formations. Further below is the second part of the story I got to experience among the giants of the Port Campbell National Park.
Loch Ard Gorge Area
Loch Ard Gorge is a bit wider area along the Great Ocean Road where you can dive quite deep into the exploration of the powerful rock formations. It is one of the busiest places around here and should be on your itinerary for all the wonderful reasons. Set aside a reasonable amount of time if you decide to see all natural features this area offers, and you won’t regret the moments spent among the giants here.
From the car park, you can decide to take a random trail or one of the three themed walks that are already laid out for you at the Loch Ard Gorge site. These connected and self-guided walking tracks are Loch Ard Geology, The Wreck of the Loch Ard and Living on the Edge. Each covers a specific landmark and they all touch on the history and natural transformations.
I stopped and lingered for a while near few of more known impressive rock formations in this area: Loch Ard Gorge, The Razorback and Island Archway (Tom and Eva).
Loch Ard Gorge
Loch Ard Gorge has an interesting history and carries many fascinating stories. It is a shipwreck site, named after the Loch Ard ship that ran aground near Muttonbird Island in 1878. The area has since become famous for its coastal scenery. The secluded golden sand beach here is wonderfully tucked away and can be reached from the bottom of the stairway. You’ll witness the clear blue water of this picturesque gorge, and will get the awareness of the forces that shaped the coastline.
Loch Ard Gorge is also the area of huge waves, stunning high cliffs, and spectacular views. Rocks around here are unforgiving. I came to this place at the sunset and was blown away by the intense play of nature. The last light of the day was providing an awesome background to the evening stories of the giants, while the ocean kept tirelessly crashing into the rugged coastline. Diverse moments of wonder and appreciation.
Island Archway (Tom and Eva)
Island Archway is yet another limestone formation in the Port Campbell National Park that has recently gone through significant changes. In 2009, the arch of the Island Archway collapsed into the ocean. Today we can witness only two separate limestone rock pillars, standing next to each other in the middle of the bay. They have been named Tom and Eva after the only two young survivors of the shipwreck from a couple of centuries ago.
The Island Archway lookout point is a great place to wait for the sunset and capture the moments of an ever-changing landscape with your camera. For me, this was quite a peaceful spot where I could observe and admire the tremendous power of nature. Weather conditions or water damage can instantly define and reshape reality around here. Being present in the current moment is the only way to be while visiting the Great Ocean Road giants.
The Razorback rock formation lies along the same path from the parking place as the walkway to Tom and Eva. It looks like a limestone rock stack and it sort of stretches in a half moon shape. This formation truly is massive. It’s quite hard to capture it fully from the viewing platform where you get the most direct vantage point. You are able to witness how the constant, powerful Southern Ocean water erosion along with the strong forces of the wind created unique shapes in the sandstone. They look like deep rough grooves and jagged edges. That’s how the formation got its name.
And there they were, 12 Apostles that eventually turned 8. For all these years they have been relentlessly trying to defy the harsh environment. They were a vision I was carrying with me for such a long time, they almost became engraved into my brains. Bucket list moment right there. Without a doubt, they seemed majestic to me from the very first glance. “Is there a way to get closer to them?” were the words that kept popping up in my mind. I wanted to come as near as possible to their vicinity. As if touching them, those giant formations would make this moment somewhat more real.
They are the star of Australia’s state of Victoria. They’ve made their way to every postcard that’s sent from the Great Ocean Road. I’ve had the chance to visit this place in the morning, midday as well as the evening. I loved all those visits, but would myself chose the morning time again before all others. There was a certain freshness of new possibilities in the air and the landscape seemed rested from the previous day.
12 Apostles get the most attention among the formations along the Great Ocean Road. A definite must see! The area is packed most of the time, especially late afternoon. Mornings seem to be more relaxed and not too hectic if you want to shoot the beautiful landscape and to enjoy the stroll down the boardwalks. You can slow down and take in the beauty of this dramatic coastline from many viewing platforms around the cliff tops. Just being in this place can fill you with inexplicable vibrant energy for days.
Giant limestone stacks of the 12 Apostles reach up to 50 meters above the Southern Ocean. They were created 10-20 million years ago by the blasting winds and gradual sea erosion of the limestone cliffs. It’s not hard to imagine how these isolated pillars used to be connected to current mainland cliffs. The last time a pillar stack collapsed was in 2005. It seems that new ones are slowly being created out of the giant mainland cliff stretches. That’s how nature rolls, creating yet another makeover of this iconic landmark.
Gibson Steps were for me the best surprise of this road trip. Two offshore limestone stacks are named Gog and Magog. I first noticed them from the 12 Apostles lookout point. They were stretching out to the left side, basking in the evening sun. They are actually part of current 8 Apostles that resist strong forces of nature. What was so fascinating to me, was that people were actually strolling down the sandy beach near these two limestone stacks situated out in the water. They could all get down so close to the giants! I decided right then that this was my place. This was going to be the spot where I can finally experience standing next to them. Side by side. Among them.
To reach the beach I first needed to climb down the narrow stairway carved into the face of the giant vertical cliff. I was almost running down with the anticipation. The morning tide was at its high, but that didn’t stop me from jumping over the incoming waves to reach the next secluded spot along the beach. I did the best and went as far as I could under the conditions. Time stopped for a moment as I was watching the ocean water persistently sculpting the limestone formations. My own 5 minutes with the giants.
As much as the experience of visiting these two giants was mind-blowing for me, it was even more humbling. I felt quite sheltered, standing between the 70-metre high cliffs on one side and a couple of golden limestone stacks rising from the sea on the other. Visiting the giants of the Gibson Steps was an unforgettable experience that helped me better understand the scale and the power of nature, its undeniable beauty and many features of amazing Australia’s coastline. I came to find my own little place among the giants.
Obviously, there are many other beautiful off-road spots and locations along the Great Ocean Road where you’re able to witness the greatness of rock formations. They are scattered around Port Campbell National Park. Few of the locations that are still on my wishlist are Bay of Islands and Bay of Martyrs. They are located a bit further down the road from the Port Campbell. Taking a scenic helicopter ride would definitely be another amazing experience. Take a chance if such opportunity shows up for you. And take me with you.
I wish I was able to stay in this area longer (at least for a week) to really dive into the beating heart and soul of the natural sculpting and shaping that is happening in the landscape of the Great Ocean Road. Soaking up multiple sunrises and sunset, witnessing the endless crashing waves of the Southern Ocean and capturing all unique vantage points with my camera would be a big dream come true.
Nothing much changed from those early internet days when I was browsing for inspirational landscapes. I am still flicking through images that inspire me. Every day. My online platform of choice is now Instagram (please check and follow my profile HERE). I love exploring the visual world of so many exceptional landscapes that exist on planet Earth at this present time. They need to be discovered. By you, by me, by all of us. After all this time, I am reassured that dreaming and creating is the best way to discover new places and to travel through this life.
TRAVEL TIP: Bring a very wide angle camera lens for this trip. There are few formations that are too big to be captured fully without the proper gear. You’ll definitely want to shoot these rocky features of the Southern Ocean from different viewing points. It’s worth sticking around here for the sunset and the first morning light. Just great for your photography!
→ Also check: Giants of The Great Ocean Road (Part 1)