Australia has a spectacular coastline with quite a few places that give you that edge of the world feeling. There are a number of spots where rugged cliffs drop off into the sea and the wild ocean slams against rock, creating wind and wave weathered formations. Perhaps the most well-known area to see this is along the Victorian coastline in the Port Campbell National Park and Bay of Islands Coastal Park.
Along this stretch of coastline you can see a number of named rock formations including Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge, Bay of Islands, Bay of Martyrs, the 12 Apostles, The Grotto and Gog and Magog, all of which are visible from viewing areas and in some cases by traversing steps to reach the sandy beaches below.
The battering waves and strong winds are literally altering these formations daily, so much so that the 12 Apostles are now actually only a collection of 7 limestone stacks jutting out of the water. The Southern Ocean continues to carve these iconic rocks and eventually in time they will disappear.
Take the formation known as London Bridge for example which used to consist of two arches until a collapse in 1989 left two people stranded on the outer side. They had to be rescued by helicopter. Today that one arch is separated from the land and you can still see the daily pounding it receives from the ocean, carving a deeper arch every day. One day it too may be eroded by the waves to such a degree that two separate ‘apostles’ are formed.
Another pair of renowned massive rocks are Gog and Magog the nicknames given to the two giant limestone rocks rising out of the sea just offshore from the 70 metre cliff face. Steps take you onto Gibson Beach but they can be closed off at times of high tide or when large ocean swells make it too dangerous for visitors.
Loch Ard Gorge can be viewed from vantage spots on top of the cliffs or by venturing down onto the beach via a series of steps and landings. This area was named after the shipwreck of the clipper sailing ship ‘Loch Ard’ in 1878. Tragically of the 54 people on board only 2 survived when the ship drifted off course and struck land. The wreck is still in the water and can be viewed by experienced divers at certain times of the year when conditions allow.
One of the more picturesque spots is The Grotto, an eroded limestone cave and sinkhole that you can view by following a 700 metre return set of steps leading down the cliff face. The reflections in the pool are pretty spectacular, as is looking through the cave to the ferocious waves crashing in from the other side.
The Bay of Islands Coastal Park is between the towns of Peterborough and Warrnambool and it together with the Bay of Martyrs is another breathtaking area to spend a bit of time and marvel at this ever changing coastline. This coastline was created by the huge swells from the Southern Ocean, with waves reaching sometimes 30 metres high. That along with winds from Antarctica have shaped these rocks.
All of this spectacular scenery is visible along the Great Ocean Road scenic drive, with Port Campbell National Park being around 380 kilometres from Melbourne and the Bay of Islands Coastal Park a further 20 kilometres west.
This is a drive that needs to be revisited over time to see the changing seascape. And, just to be clear, all of the photos were taken from easily accessible, safe and legal places to be, some using zoom lens. It just goes to show that you don’t have to be going dangerously off track to appreciate and show these incredible scenes.
Enjoy them while they are there.