Melbourne-Warrnambool, via the Great Ocean road, 12 Apostles and Bay of Islands

Last time I was in Melbourne I got busy in the city alone. This time, inspired once again by Seat 61,  I took a trip by train and bus out to Warrnambool. The site suggests doing this trip as a replacement for a day tour from Melbourne, and so connecting with a direct train from Warrnambool to Melbourne in the evening.

I decided instead to stay for a couple of nights, to have a look around and run the parkrun. It also saved me a 3+ hour train ride at the end of a train/two buses ride.

The trip involves getting the 9.10 train to Geelong, then changing to a bus to Apollo Bay, and another bus from there to Warrnambool, in time to get the 5.30 train back. The full-distance train takes just over 3 hours. Arriving at Geelong, though, we were informed that the bus along the Great Ocean road to Apollo bay was getting held up by holiday traffic, so those of us needing to connect would be taken by an inland route instead. Which is a pity, missing a large chunk of the route, but unavoidable. That first bus was half full, but most of those people weren’t on the connecting bus, so either they got confused, or they were just in a hurry to get to Apollo Bay.

Apollo Bay
Apollo Bay, in the rain. Beach not pictured. Busy avoiding the rain.

The weather was pretty filthy – we got the rain that was later to hit Melbourne and rain off the cricket. As a result of taking the inland bus we had longer in Apollo Bay, an hour rather than half, but it wasn’t great. Tourists sheltering under cover and mobbing the shops rather than being able to enjoy the beach. It made for a quiet day for the lifeguards, at least, who could just watch a few intrepid surfers.

12 Apostles
12 Apostles, and tourists on the lower walkway.

The next bus should have four stops, but had to ditch two of them. We still got 25 minutes at the 12 Apostles (a ‘geologically significant marine park’), though, as the headline visit. Although the walkways were a vision of tourist hell, it was still possible to walk (briskly) the length of the walkway out to each viewpoint and snap a few pictures.

12 Apostles
12 Apostles.

Efficient tourism in action.

12 Apostles
12 Apostles.

People not pictured. But believe me, they were all around. The end viewpoint is a small, circular one, full of people. People round the edges, and people on the raised platform in the middle. I didn’t linger.

Bay of Islands
Bay of Islands – less populous than 12 Apostles, no less lovely.

We skipped Loch Ard gorge and London Bridge – the driver would have paused at the latter, but had nowhere to stop the bus. But you can see the bridge (a rock with a tunnel through the middle, very regular, just like a bridge) from the road. And then on to the Bay of Islands, which was quieter, and very lovely.

Bay of Islands
Bay of Islands.

All in all, it was worth the journey. 6 people on the bus, I think. We stopped to pick up a passenger just once, at Port Campbell, and I knew him – Silvestre, with whom I’d roomed and walked in Bicheno, Tasmania. We caught up, and then I left him to catch the train while I strolled through Warrnambool, which is a pretty town; plenty of beaches, and some decent walks between a few lookout points. If you hire a bike/go for a long run, you can get to an extinct volcano, further west, too.

Sunset in Warrnambool
Sunset in Warrnambool, Lake Pertobe.
Sunset in Warrnambool over the lake
Sunset in Warrnambool over the lake.
Info panel about Maremma sheepdogs, which protect Little Penguins in Warrnambool
Maremma sheepdogs protect Little Penguins on Middle Island, Warrnambool.

Isn’t that fantastic? Little Penguins were nearly wiped out by foxes and other predators, then someone had the bright idea of using Maremma dogs. In the first trial, the dogs swam back from the island, but were otherwise successful. Now they live alongside their penguins for a few days at a time, and there are many more penguins.

Merri Island and Middle Island
Merri island (front), Middle island (where the penguins live, behind).
Thunder Point view
Thunder point, seen without rain (unlike on my post-parkrun run).
View down to Lake Pertobe
View down to Lake Pertobe. Bridge in the middle is on the parkrun route. I read a book not far from here, on a bench, joined by an old lady with one finger to her ear ‘I’m just approaching the bench now, so you can join me here’. Company, I thought, and soon to be more. But there was no more; instead, she had several more conversations with her finger to her ear. Halfway through, she lost the narrative thread, needing more stimulation to come up with ideas. I think she started out as some kind of kindly old lady meeting a friend, then became a secret agent, had a lapse into saying ‘yes…yes’ a lot, not much excitement there. When I left she almost certainly slipped right into describing my movements, suspicious or otherwise; much better.
Lake Colac
Lake Colac, seen from the train. Enormous lake, but it has run dry twice in recent years.
Fields of corn
Fields of corn, from the train.
V/line tickets
V/line tickets. Top, paid-for, train and buses. Bottom – couldn’t book this one online, but travelling on NYE meant the 5.28pm train to Melbourne was free. So I reserved a spot on that one, thanks very much.

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