52 Great Weekends

No 27: Western End

Venture beyond the day tripper track and explore Port Campbell, Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland.

Those who venture a few hours beyond are rewarded with the wildness of the Western End. Some say the landscape here is even more spectacular than the East. Begin with the limestone structures that made this region famous before exploring the city by the sea, picturesque fishing villages and one of Victoria’s greatest walks. Some of Australia’s most exciting wildlife live here too. Nature lovers will get plenty of opportunities to experience close encounters with koalas, emus, kangaroos, whales, seals and Australia’s biggest seabirds too.

FRIDAY - PORT CAMPBELL & WARRNAMBOOL

6AM: PORT CAMPBELL

Get up early and have your camera ready to experience the regions famous limestone stacks at their best. Start your tour of this spectacular coastline at the 12 Apostles viewing platform and watch the colours change before your eyes. Descend the 86 of the Gibson Steps to walk to the wild beach below for a ground-level view – you’ll feel tiny as you gaze up at the pillars towering 45 metres above you.

Leave plenty of time to stop at lookouts over the cliffs of the Loch Ard Gorge, the unique rock formations at London Bridge and The Arch before discovering the hidden pebble beach of The Grotto. For the best views of this breathtaking coastline take to the skies on a 12 Apostles Helicopter Tour. It will give you a whole new perspective on these impressive icons.

LUNCH: 12 APOSTLES FOOD ARTISAN TRAIL

Take your taste buds on a trip and set out on onto the 12 Apostles Food Artisan Trail for lunch. A tasting of the award-winning whiskey at the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery is sure to put a fire in the belly soon to be satisfied by the generous share plates for lunch.

This is just one of the delectable stops on the 12 Apostles Artisan Food Trail. The gourmet path will take you on an indulgent road trip to chocolatiers, cheese makers, ice creameries, cellar doors, micro-breweries and friendly farm gates all just moments from this spectacular landscape.

PIT STOP: CHILDERS COVE

Port Campbell isn’t the only place with iconic limestone cliffs. Childers Cove is equally stunning but still a secret. Make sure to stop and stretch the legs as you head West to Warrnambool.

AFTERNOON: WARRNAMBOOL

Kick back in this city by the sea and delve into its vibrant art scene, complete with Melbourne-sque hidden laneways and cafes. Local artists have turned these hidey-holes into a maze of unexpected artworks with new pieces appearing nearly every week. Grab a coffee, check out the interactive map and get walking on this self-guided street art tour. You’ll discover over 26 pieces that tell rich stories of Warrnambool’s history while they lead you to some of the best watering holes in town.

Nestled on the South West Coast amid green dairy country and overlooking the Southern Ocean Warrnambool is blessed with natural beauty too. Breath in the fresh sea air as you wander the foreshore promenade or the family favourite, Lake Pertobe. The eight-hectare Adventure Playground complete with a maze, giant slides, flying foxes and boat ride is paradise for kids and adults will love the walking tracks around the lake and the tranquil picnic spots.

STAY: HEARN’S HOLIDAY ACCOMMODATION, PORT FAIRY

After a big day you’ll be ready to tuck in for the night at your own private holiday home in Port Fairy. Hearn’s Holiday Accommodation offers the perfect place to base yourself right in the middle of the West End. Located directly across the road from the Port Fairy’s picturesque Pea Soup Beach explore the rockpools as you venture to the wildlife sanctuary of Griffith’s Island. Then dine at the many fine food establishments in the charming old-world town or simply relax at your own private beach front holiday house – complete 5 bedrooms, fully equipped kitchen, alfresco dining and bbq area with swimming pool and spa.

Saturday - Port Fairy

AM: PORT FAIRY

Wander along your near private beach and on your way into the folk fishing village of Port Fairy. The team at Bank St + Co will spoil you with the best breakfast in town. It’s hard to choose from the many exciting options on the extensive menu influenced by the chefs travels through Spain, Morocco, France, England, Indonesia, America, Fiji and all corners of Australia.

Then stroll along the boardwalk of the Moyne river, follow the historic walking trails, cruise past old whalers’ cottages and grand public buildings then play a few holes at Port Fairy’s epic coast-front golf course.

AFTERNOON: TOWER HILL

Venture into volcanos at the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, an easy 10-minute drive. Join your experienced guide for a 90-minute walk exploring the dormant crater that last erupted over 7000 years ago. The explosion created the enormous 11km crater rim and was thought to be as forceful as 4 atomic bombs. You’ll explore the majestic landscape, learn of its historical importance and meet the wildlife who call the re-vegetated park home. Some of Australia’s most iconic animals live here and if you’re lucky you might see emus, koalas, kangaroos, echidnas and wedge-tail eagles just to name a few. Make sure to visit the Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre and find out more about the reserve’s Aboriginal and geological story.

DINNER: MERRIJIG INN

Top off the day with dinner at the historic dining room at the Merrijig Inn, Victoria’s oldest inn. Enjoy cocktails in the enchanting cottage garden whilst listening to live local folk music before enjoying a decadent degustation in Victoria’s oldest dining room. A new menu is written daily showcasing the best produce from the Merrijig garden and local farmers. Chef Tanya Connellan uses traditional and European techniques to create her magic – flavourful hearty dishes that look like works of art.

Sunday - Portland

AM: THE CRAGS

Some of the best stops happen with a slight detour. On your way to Portland make sure to stop at The Crags – a stunning coastal lookout 12 kilometers west of Port Fairy. It’s not just the natural beauty that makes The Crags so special, it is also a very significant cultural area to the Gunditjmara people, including protected burial sites and middens. It looks towards Deen Maar (Lady Julia Percy Island) which is an offshore volcano that now hosts a boisterous seal colony. Whilst you’re taking in the view make sure to look at the rock surfaces of the cliffs, nature has been keeping a record of past sea level changes. The Crags also hosts a monument to air crew who crashed on Lady Julia Percy islands in 1944.

10AM: GREAT SOUTH WEST WALK

Get back to big nature in this harbor-front city. Set out on the ocean section of the Great South West Walk and traverse some of the highest coastal cliffs in Victoria overlooking the deep-blue waters of Bridgewater Bay. The coastline follows the rim of a huge, ancient volcano crater leading you past a seal breeding colony, the Petrified Forest, The Blowholes and onto the seemingly endless deserted shores of Discovery Bay.

3PM: SEALS BY SEA TOUR

The Seals by Sea Tour is located at Bridgewater Bay, (approx. 20mins drive from Portland) is one of the most popular tours in the area. When you get so close you could pat these cute little ‘sea doggos’ it’s obvious why! In just 3 exhilarating minutes our guide Jo had our zippy Zodiac boat at the seal breeding colony, the only one on mainland Australia and the one we had seen earlier on the Great South West Walk. For 45 minutes we cruised the dramatic cliffs in an up-close and personal experience with a small group of fellow nature lovers. The seals love showing off for an audience and we were lucky enough to see lots of playful pups. And playful adults too.

4.30PM: POINT DANGER GANNET COLONY

There’s nothing dangerous about Australia’s only mainland colony of Australasian Gannets. Birdwatchers and sightseers alike flock to the elevated platform at Point Danger, where 300 pairs of huge sea-birds nest. Bring a pair of binoculars to see 12000 of their buddies nesting on the nearby Lawrence Rocks, 2km off the mainland. It’s the perfect finale to a great weekend!

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Top 5 things that made the weekend great

  • Discovering the lesser known but equally spectacular limestone structures

  • Enjoying a private beach house in the sophisticated, old-world town of Port Fairy

  • Exploring Warrnambool, the cosmopolitan city by the sea

  • Playing an ocean front round on one of Victoria’s most impressive golf courses

  • Seeing some of Australia’s favourite wildlife in their natural habitat

Venture beyond and be rewarded with the wild side of the West End.

 

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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawuurung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Ancestors, past present and emerging. We recognise and respect their unique cultural heritage and the connection to their traditional lands. We commit to building genuine and lasting partnerships that recognise, embrace and support the spirit of reconciliation, working towards self-determination, equity of outcomes and an equal voice for Australia’s first people.