SAMANTHA KENNA and her family visit their favourite places along the route that inspired her Great Ocean Road Activity Book
My great grandmother fell in love with Lorne, a small coastal town along the Great Ocean Road, before she had even laid eyes on it. She loved receiving letters from a friend who lived there, describing the unique wildlife, lush green rainforests and the wild seas. She told me she knew that she would one day call Lorne, the place where the mountains meet the sea, home.
It is just over a century since she migrated from Lebanon and came to live in Lorne. Since then, my family has spent a great deal of time exploring and discovering the wonders of this magnificent part of Australia.
My love for this unique destination inspired me to create The Great Ocean Road Activity Book as a way of educating children about the wonderful wildlife, history and attractions you can experience when you travel along this iconic road. After a year of research, our family decided to celebrate the completion and release of my book by heading on the ultimate Great Ocean Road family road trip.
First Stop: Torquay
A car loaded with novice surfers, we couldn’t contain our excitement as we headed to Torquay, the surf capital of Australia and the official starting point of the Great Ocean Road. A visit to a museum doesn’t normally generate much enthusiasm from my husband Joe, but the Australian National Surf Museum, the world’s largest surfing museum, had everyone racing inside. The boys loved the vibrant displays of surfboards, and everyone was fascinated watching international shaper Eiji Shiomoto create surfboards right in front of us.
Inspired by our visit, we made a quick pit stop at the large shopping precinct, Surf City, for some retail therapy, before heading to check out the surf at the famous Bells Beach. We took our time strolling along the clifftop paths, stopping at the different lookouts to watch surfers riding the waves below.
Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery
Our walk had given us all quite the appetite, so we decided a stop at the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery was necessary. With more than 250 types of chocolate, it was very difficult to choose which delicious treat to pick from the menu. We settled on waffles with a shot of warm, melted chocolate, along with the Magical Unicorn and Smashed Pavlova Sundaes. The children let out “oohs” and “ahhs” as a tray, laden with decadent treats, arrived at our table. Through huge smiles, they devoured their sundaes and then went and played in the beautifully manicured gardens. We all left the chocolaterie content in chocolate comas, and headed 10 minutes’ down the road to Anglesea.
BIG4 Anglesea Holiday Park
For something new, we had decided to try the new safari glamping experience at BIG4 Anglesea Holiday Park. Our boys let out squeals of delight at the sight of a large crocodile sculpture standing guard at the entrance to our tent. A freestanding bathtub, barbecue and swinging chair adorned the entrance. Inside was just as glamorous, with a four poster queen-size bed, a charming wooden bunk, lounge, and all of the mod cons you could possibly need to make this a luxurious ‘camping’ experience. Family fun abounds here, with an indoor pool, adventure playground, toddler playroom, jumping pillow and a movie room. But we somehow managed to tear the children away from the park for an afternoon exploring the local area.
We spent the afternoon at Point Roadknight, also known by the locals as “Toddlers’ Beach”, which is nestled beneath spectacular cliffs. The children splashed about in the gentle waves while we adults took in the remarkable views. As the tide receded, we walked to the point, exploring the rockpools and admiring the prehistoric-looking stone formations.
Back at our safari tent, it was decided that explorers such as ourselves required pizza! A bath in the open air kept everyone happy while we waited for our pizzas to arrive. The bath was a hit with our boys, who would have gladly eaten their dinner sitting in there, if they had been allowed. A game of cards before bedtime was the perfect end to our day.
Early morning wake-up calls from the children – “What adventures will we have today?” – had us up early and heading off to investigate Coogoorah Park Nature Reserve. Threaded with a tapestry of walking trails that weave over and around the river, we spent the morning following trails across the waterways, spotting kookaburras, and playing in the sunken shipwreck playground.
Going Round the Twist
Leaving Anglesea, we cruised along the winding coastal roads towards Split Point Lighthouse, a much loved destination of ours, where the popular television series Round the Twist was filmed. Joe and I relived our favourite scenes while the children quizzed our lovely tour guide with a million questions, some relating to the lighthouse, some not! She happily answered them all and shared wonderful tales of the lighthouse before we walked the 135 steps to the top, where we were rewarded with 360 degree views of the coastline.
We popped into one of our favourite cafes, The Lighthouse Tearooms, located next to the lighthouse, and recharged our batteries. No menu was required, we had all been here before and knew that they made the most delicious, fluffy, homemade scones. Topped with jam and cream, they were the perfect morning treat.
A Love of Lorne
Back in the car we enjoyed the scenic drive, stopping to take a picture at the official Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch before continuing on to our next stop, Lorne. O’Sullivan Beach House would be our home for the next four days. A family-friendly home, nestled between towering gums with a large balcony overlooking the ocean, this was the ideal place for us all to unwind and relax. Our balcony worked as a lovely outdoor eatery as well as an animal viewing platform. Laughing kookaburras, friendly cockatoos and bright coloured rosellas would join us for breakfast. The children loved feeding these curious and rather social birds with the supplied bird feed.
We spent our days picnicking at the Sheoak Picnic Area, swimming in the river, walking along the pier admiring the local fishermens’ catch, playing at the foreshore playground and walking through the rainforest. In the afternoons, we relaxed at The Swing Bridge Cafe. Set on the river, our children were kept busy playing in this natural playground, splashing in the water, spotting ducks and building sandcastles, while we enjoyed our coffees on the balcony.
On the day we left the surf was pumping, so we headed to Kennett River, a favourite swimming and surfing spot of ours. Cruising around the twisting roads, taking in the panoramic ocean views, our journey came to a sudden stop as an echidna slowly ambled its way across the road. We all watched in delight as this usually shy animal crossed the road, and then put on quite a show scratching the dirt, before continuing off into the bush.
Kennett River, a peaceful sheltered bay, is a great place to take young children. The children spent the morning playing in the shallow waters and creating beach huts from the driftwood while my husband and I took it in turns enjoying the surf at the connecting beach. We picked up some legendary homemade sausage rolls from Kafe Koala, opposite the beach, before continuing on our journey.
Apollo Bay and Great Otway National Park
Not only does Apollo Bay have a beautiful beach and foreshore, but it is also the gateway to many family-friendly hikes in the Great Otway National Park. The California Redwoods are simply incredible; like something out of a fairytale. Our childrens’ little jaws dropped as we stepped into these woods. Standing in awe, with our heads craning back, we took in the wondrous sight of these trees, towering 60 metres.
A 10-minute drive from the Redwoods is Triplet Falls, where I strapped on the baby hiking backpack and we set off on a 2km bushwalk loop. Our little ones loved spotting and examining remnant artefacts, from the site of an old timber mill, displayed along the track. Walking through this ancient rainforest, we heard the falls roaring well before we saw them. The three-tiered, cascading fall was an impressive sight. Mesmerised, we sat at the viewing platform, snacking on sandwiches, taking in the impossibly beautiful scene.
At dusk we arrived at Melba Gully, ready to find some glow worms! A night bushwalk was a new exploit for our children and one they were very eager to experience. The rain heightened the scent of the eucalypts, whilst the canopy of trees acted like an umbrella keeping us sheltered from the rain. Armed with torches, baby snug in the pram, we trekked down the forest path. As night fell, tiny silver lights started to appear. Our boys quickly discovered that loud noises scared the glow worms away. Quiet was required to see them, which made this a lovely, tranquil experience.
Exhausted from our latest adventure, the children slept peacefully in the car, as we drove on to Peterborough, a small town located 40 minutes away. Peterborough’s simplicity is part of its charm. There are no streets lined with boutiques and cafes, just quiet roads where our children could ride their bikes, rock formations that rival its famous neighbours, coastal walks, and stunning beaches which we often had all to ourselves.
12 Apostles Gourmet Trail
The 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail was always something we had on our to do list. It was a slow-paced day, strawberry picking, chocolate and cheese tasting and sampling ice-cream, finished off with a stop at the Sow and Piglets for one of their carefully crafted beers. We thoroughly enjoyed our day tasting our way through this gourmet food trail.
On the final night we wanted to do something special, and what could be more special watching the sunset over the famous Twelve Apostles – seven rock formations, believed to be over twenty million years old. It was truly a sight to behold, sitting there watching the sun paint the sky a vibrant array of pinks and orange, above these grand limestone sculptures.
The next morning, we couldn’t resist prolonging our return home, so we stopped in at Childers Cove. As I stood on the beach, watching my children chase the waves, taking in the natural beauty surrounding me, I felt a great sense of accomplishment. The creation of my activity book had been a monumental undertaking. I set out to create an interactive book for children that would educate and introduce them to the wonders of the Great Ocean Road, a place so dear to my family, and had succeeded. This road trip had been a true celebration, and the perfect way for our family to come together.