Victoria 2006 – Part 3. The South West Corner

Saturday, Nov 25, 2006 at 17:01

Member - John and Val

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We were keen to reach the coast and hear the sound of the surf again. Heading south-west from Hamilton the road took us through many pine plantations and places with names like Dartmoor and Digby. We made a brief trip into the eastern edge of the Glenelg NP to see what the camping arrangements there were and get a glimpse of the Glenelg River. In the Discovery Bay Coastal Park we found a well set-up area with BBQs and flushing toilets, so spent the night there listening to the sound of heavy surf on the beach that was out of sight over big dunes. The walk to the beach took us over those big sand dunes and when we got on to the beach we found sharp jagged limestone outcrops. With the sun out, the sea was very blue, and although it was quite a calm day there were big rollers crashing into the beach.

A hot northerly wind was steadily rising as we headed into Nelson in search of a laundry. After a bit of searching we found the only one in the small town in the local caravan park, which covered what seemed to be a huge area. While the washing was drying we explored around the town and the estuary, but it was very windy. The sand whipped up by the wind made sightseeing quite unpleasant.

After lunch we ventured over the border into SA to Piccaninnie Pools, a large wetland in a limestone sink-hole. The water was deep but amazingly clear although the wind rippling the surface of the water limited visibility through the water. We did the walk that followed the outlet to the beach, then decided it was time to get out of the wind. So we went back away from the coast to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring along the river in the Glenelg NP. There is a riverside walking track that gives pleasant glimpses of the river, and a couple of campgrounds to check out. These were almost full despite a cumbersome booking system. The drive back to town took us through thick forest.

Back at the caravan park we were able to find a reasonably sheltered spot, as the wind was still strong. There were very few other campers.

The next day was very hot and still windy. There was a total fire ban in place and signs of smoke in the south-west. To add to our discomfort, as we got on the road we found that we had a flat battery and the batteries were not charging properly. We detoured into one of the riverside camps while we tracked down the problem – simple - a blown fuse. Continuing east along the coast we passed through green farmland until we came to Portland where we had a quick look around, particularly around the harbour and the aluminium smelter with its big stacks of shiny aluminium ingots.

Looking for somewhere to have lunch we took a side road to the mouth of the small Fitzroy River – nothing like its Kimberley namesake. Still, there seemed to be camping allowed at the end of the track and there was also good access for a boat. Despite the wind we walked along the beach to take photos of a big wind farm further along the coast.




Further on we turned south again to see the Crags, a spectacular but rugged section of coastline with rocky outcrops in the beautiful blue-green water. We were hoping to find a bush camp but we were in very lush dairying country where the farms ran right down to the coastal dunes. Moreover the country, originally fairly treeless, had no forested areas at all, so bush camping was not an option. So we drove on to Port Fairy past the dairy farms where long lines of black and white Friesian cows were lining up for the afternoon milking.




In Port Fairy we found a very fine caravan park that charged a very fine tariff for the privilege of staying there. We walked around the town and to the wharf, and saw numerous original buildings refurbished for holiday accommodation. Port Fairy was pioneered by Irish settlers and whaling became an important industry. There are many Irish street and place names around the town.

Leaving Port Fairy next morning our next stop was Tower Hill, one of many extinct volcanoes that dot this part of Victoria. The site is particularly impressive as it is large enough to drive into the original crater past the layers of volcanic ash and debris. We climbed to a lookout on the top of one of the cinder cones and had some wonderful views over the surrounding countryside and the nearby coastline. We also did a short walk on a boardwalk past a lava tongue. Unfortunately most of the lake that is contained within the crater was dry so there were few waterbirds to be seen.

A short distance to the east is Warrnambool where we saw the big whale watching platform, though at this time of the year there were no whales around. Still, there was a lot of information about whales, and there were plenty of tourists, many from overseas.

As we were leaving Warrnambool we came to a cheese factory so stopped to sample the local product. We tasted a few cheeses and although we found most of them rather bland, we did find a couple that we were happy to buy. Attached to the factory was a small museum displaying old dairying equipment, old engines and other farm equipment. There were also interesting photos of dairying in the “good old days” and one photo really caught our eye – it was of women milking in long skirts. Having had some acquaintance with dairies and milking cows, we reckoned that those skirts would have been really ripe after trailing about in the slush all day in an old style dairy.

Continuing east through more dairying country, we kept an eye out for a place to spend the night. We stopped at the Bay of Islands and the Bay of Martyrs and walked to various lookouts astonished by this amazing scenery. Scattered cloud bought shifting light, changing the colours in the rocks and over the water – just beautiful. There were plenty of rock stacks to admire and we particularly liked those stacks where seagulls were roosting.

After checking out a couple of less than impressive camping areas, luck pointed us to a cliff-top camp well off the main road, a spot apparently used by abalone divers. From there we were treated to a beautiful sunset over the southern ocean. Tomorrow we will continue the drive along the Great Ocean Road.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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