I wouldn’t usually bother to write up two trips to the same destination so close together: I was only on the Great Ocean Road bang on 2 months’ ago, also exploring the towns of Lorne and Apollo Bay as well as around the Otway Ranges. However each holiday has been totally different! This time I visited a whole host of Ecotourism Australia focused businesses contributing to the local area, from accommodation lodges, to organic growers and sellers, and successful breweries. It was also the Lorne Sculpture Biennale, which was a true highlight and coincidentally the winning set of sculptures were all expertly crafted out of largely sustainable natural materials.
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3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
LORNE SCULPTURE BIENNALE | through pure chance, we happened to pass through Lorne whilst this incredible festival was in full swing; it’s held for 3 weeks in March during alternating years. Artist Jenny Crompton was presented with the major Sculpture Trail Award for her piece ‘Sea Country Spirits’ and a nifty $25,000. I’m fully onboard with this decision: I thought the individual sculptures made from wire, paint, bone, feathers and other native materials were absolutely beautiful. They’re so delicate and intricate. Also spend some time reading ‘Fridgehenge’ by Ben Laycock for some very poignant thoughts around consumerism and our health; this project is fascinating. Some of my other large sculpture faves included ‘Pandora’ the giant mosquito by Karleena Mitchell, ‘Love in March’ by Pimpisa Tinpalit and ‘Transflective Lawn’ which you’ll spot in the river by Aaron Robinson.
Also check out: Make sure you walk right to the end of Lorne Pier to see ‘William Buckley’ by Josh Muir.
GENTLE ANNIE’S | I totally fell in love with these berry gardens and small organic farm! Unfortunately we’d just missed the end of the Pick Your own berries season (December and January), so instead we shared a cheese board and some vino. The cafe smelt amazing as apparently Thursday is baking day. I’d love to go back for one of their Twilight Dinners that are hosted on weekends; a great example of promoting ecotourism Australia.
Also check out: due to the time of year, the Pennyroyal Raspberry Farm and Cidery was also closed so we couldn’t visit, but it sounds amazing! Raspberries + Cider + Gin = winning. However we spotted plenty of local produce along the roadside.
LORNE BUSH HOUSE COTTAGES | I have just written a full post on these Cottages and Eco Lodges, where we stayed thanks to the hospitality of owners Carol and Chris; the couple are keen promoters of ecotourism Australia. I wanted to stay in environmentally conscious properties during this two day trip, and this certified venue didn’t disappoint. I loved the novelty of staying in a posh tent with the door zipped open all night; the night sky was visible and you’ll be lulled/ woken by the sounds of native wildlife. During barely 15 hours there, kangaroos, cockatoos and kookaburra were all witnessed!
Also check out: Chris recommended the Swing Bridge Cafe, which was the perfect spot to grab a coffee then start the Lorne Sculpture walk. Pleased to see even the local fish and chip shop doesn’t give out plastic carrier bags.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
ALKINA LODGE | it was brilliant to see two very different definitions of ecotourism Australia on the Great Ocean Road: our first night’s accommodation in Lorne was very established and charmingly rustic; the second night at Alkina Lodge near Lavers Hill was a touch of luxury in a modern 24-occupancy establishment, whose aspirations include transforming the current property to be more sustainable. Management team and couple Jordan and Cindy have a background in running back-to-nature retreats in Canada, and want to introduce an on-site farm, honey, more recycling and potentially solar or wind power to Alkina Lodge in 2016. The only reason I haven’t popped this in the ‘Must Do’ section is because the higher price point means it’s one to save for special occasions – it’s perfect if you’re organising a large group trip away, as each of the 3 lodges sleeps 8 people.
FORREST | I’d read a lot of good things about inland Forrest, home of the Forrest Brewery Company and popular Forrest General Store. The good thing about the pub-come-brewery is that it IS open 7 days a week, unlike many places we came across. Unfortunately it was kind of early in the morning and felt a little inappropriate to pull over for a pint. Forrest makes an easy stop if you are already exploring the Otway Ranges rather than sticking to the coast, however I was surprised by just how small it was versus all of the PR it seems to receive.
GREAT OCEAN ROAD BREWHOUSE | whilst I think the sweeping bay at appropriately named Apollo Bay is gorgeous, I have to admit the town itself is less of a draw card (in fact, Lorne is a lot prettier). However this bottleshop/brewery – tucked away and attached to the large and slightly trashy looking Brewhouse – is so good I’ve popped in twice now. They do tastings in the back half of the room, as well as selling local produce and alcohol. 100% of the profits from the purchase of Otway Brewery’s Prickly Moses Spotted Ale goes to the protection of Australia’s last tiger: the Tiger Quoll.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
ROADWORKS | it always baffles me why governments choose to schedule major public maintenance works to coincide with key holidays: take Sydney and the huge redevelopment of the beach front in Bondi, which has interrupted the whole of summer 2015/16. In Victoria, they have kicked-off lots of roadworks around the Apollo Bay area and as far as the 12 Apostles, just before and I can only assume over the Easter long weekend. This did add quite a bit of travel time to the drive because of the stop-starts, on top of what is already a surprisingly long round trip.
WINTER | I’m reluctant to discourage travel in the off-season of a place so dependent on tourism, but it was frustrating that – even in March (so Spring, and not quite Easter) – so many of the venues on the Otway Harvest Trail had already ceased trading. Obviously they have to adhere to the seasons, however I’d encourage you to travel in December and January if exploring in land as well as, or even instead of, the famous coastal route is on your agenda.
RIP CURL PRO | there isn’t a sporty bone in my body, and whilst surfing impresses me I have zero interest in it. That said we thought it would be silly not to swing by the first day of this famous tournament in Bells Beach as it happened to coincide with our drive back to Melbourne. What I hadn’t realised was that you would need to pay: $10 for a day pass, or $25 if you want to keep visiting across a couple of weeks (positively kids at least are free). As such, we slacked it off and jumped on the motorway. As it turns out, conditions were too poor anyway so the men’s competition was delayed that day.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
JOHANNA BEACH | on this Great Ocean Road visit the weather was not in our favour, remaining overcast most of the time. Beaching it wasn’t really on the agenda, however I’ve been recommend Joanna Beach as a lesser known option, which was very near where we stayed at Alkina Lodge.
AND KNOW THIS: The company Ecotourism Australia has certified over 1500 products, focused on delivering and promoting ecologically sound practices at the forefront of the tourism industry. Get on board!