It is 14 years since I was last in Victoria and James has never been here. During my Churchill Fellowship in Melbourne I had driven some of the Great Ocean Road one weekend but had not had time to go beyond Port Campbell so we decided it was worth diverting from the Highway and spending some time on the coast. As the road leaves Highway One it passes a huge cheese and butter plant and a Cheeseworld shop. The B100 zig zags through dairy farmland down to join the coast at the Bay of Islands.
Further along is the Bay of Martyrs
and London Bridge. One span collapsed in 1990 leaving two people stranded who had to be air-lifted by a helicopter.
We also stopped at the Arch where there is some limestone graffiti.
and the Port campbell outlook.
It was definitely coffee time by then and there are several cafes in the town. I spotted the motel I had stayed in 14 years ago which has had a revamp since. Beyond Port Campbell is Loch Ard Gorge.
The busiest spot on the coast is at the 12 apostles. This group of rocks only acquired this name in the 1960s when it was thought it would attract more visitors. The last time I was here there was not visitors’ centre, subway to lookouts and a large car park, just a few pull-offs at the roadside. We saw a fox hanging around as we turned into the car park. James spotted a chauffeur-driven car with an Australian flag on the bonnet and a police car. We wondered who was visiting. Having managed to avoid being in the same city as Donald Trump and Harry and Meghan, we now found ourselves at the same attraction as Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime MInister. There was only one policeman and some guys in suits we assumed were security as well as the press. We were amazed at the little security: tourists were wandering all around and some one could easily have taken a shot from the back.
We occupied ourselves looking at the views and avoiding selfie sticks. Fortunately drones are banned. There was a snake crossing the path to the lookouts but he was sliding into the undergrowth by the time we got there.
By the time we were ready to go, Mr Morrison had departed. Our next stop was at Castle Cove outlook.
There is also a Great Ocean Walk which is 100km, shorter than the West Highland Way. As it runs through a national park you have to book your campsites in advance. It runs from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles.
At Princetown the road goes over inland through the Great Otway National Park. I enjoyed being among trees again. We drove to the Cape Otway Lighthouse but you have to pay to go around the whole station or go on a guided tour. I just wanted a peek at Australia’s oldest mainland light, built in 1848. I had to be content with a peek from the walking trail. On the way back to the Ocean Road I saw one koala snoozing in the top of a tree and another kangaroo hopped across the road in front of us. Soon we had reached Apollo Bay and relaxation time. 120 miles today and the total is now 10,277.
Robe sits on the Limestone Coast before it ends at the state border – the coast decays into interesting shapes and structures. The obelisk was built in 1855 by a local man.
Initially painted white it proved difficult to distinguish from the white sands and the limestone cliffs so red stripes were added in 1862 to improve its visibility. The current lighthouse was built in 1973 and is similar to the one at Cape Jervis. Some Galahs were sitting on the rocks alongside the car park when we returned to the car.
We took City Wells Road back to Highway One; the Princes Highway. The surrounding land was mostly farmland with oilseed rape and pasture. After Millicent there are large pine forests and we could have been in Northern Europe or North America. We passed a paper mill and a sign to Glencoe Woolshed which was built as a shearing shed in 1863. There are still a lot of merino sheep around this area.
On Saturday we had cyclists on the road and today it was motorcyclists – three groups of 20, 12 and 8 passed us, going in the opposite direction. Mount Gambier was our first stop. It sits on an extinct volcano with most of the town on the southern slope. It is the largest town in the area and in one street we had the choice of three cafes for coffee but as it was Sunday, the Book Place was closed. The crater lake is 4km south of the town centre and turns cobalt blue in summer. Today in late spring there was a hint of it but I am sure it must get more vivid.
The padlock craze continues here at one of the lookouts.
There is a cactus garden at the lake edge established in memory of Mrs A. Dodd, a former cacti grower.
On the way out of town is the Umpherston Sinkhole. The sinkholes here are limestone. This one was turned into a garden by James Umpherston in the late 19th century and his home used to stand alongside it until it was demolished in 1964. The cavities in the rock provide shelter for insects and birds.
After crossing into Victoria, we ate lunch at a rest area by the Glenelg River which had water in but was brown. On the Highway near Tyrendarra is a property with 100m of fence with shoes hanging on it. The owners saw a similar fence near Marlborough in New Zealand and decided to replicate it with some worn-out family shoes a few years ago and have encouraged others to copy them.
We passed through Port Fairy which in 2012 was voted ‘the most liveable town’. It has more 19th century buildings down near the port than most others. Soon we had reached Warrnambool. Like many of the towns on the south coast, it started life as a whaling and sealing town. At the right time of year, whale watching is possible from here. We are staying for the night. As it is the off-season, we got yet another upgrade. Today’s mileage was 206 taking the total to 10,157.
Having woken before dawn, we decided to leave as soon as we had finished our breakfast in the hope of catching an earlier ferry. As we were loading up the car, our lorikeet friend was again feeding on the Callistemon flowers.
Unfortunately, the cyclists we had met yesterday going in the opposite direction to us, were now all leaving their campsite on the way to the ferry port. There were around 200 of them and although there was not too much oncoming traffic, the road goes over a few blind summits, so it took a while to get past them all. We arrived at the port just as the earlier ferry was leaving. The port was very quiet with only a few humans and cormorants fishing.
A lot of passengers were disembarking from the incoming boat and I noticed an older woman with crutches and only one leg. We have had various conversations here about what health insurance covers and what it does not. Perhaps it does not cover prosthetic limbs and if you cannot afford private care you will be left without. We eventually got on the boat and I spotted some dolphins as we left the harbour. We arrived on time and retraced our steps to Delamere, passing lots of Muscle Cars heading for Cape Jervis and an event on the island. We turned onto the B27 which took us over the hills and past a forest to the Encounter Coast and Victor Harbor. We stopped for lunch on the esplanade.
A woman and child on the beach were the focus of interest of the gulls who were hoping they were eating. They were not. Eventually they realised that we had food and some wandered over to have a look.
There is a walkway to Granite Island which sits in the bay and is home to some wild penguins, but we did not have time to visit. The road continues on past Port Eliot and Goolwa. In order to get around Lake Alexandrina, we had to continue to Strathalbyn and then cut across back to Highway One. The road passes through olive groves and vineyards around Langhorne Creek but then the land becomes drier. We past Mulgundawa Salt whose huge pile of salt was visible from the road. At Wellington, there is no bridge across the Murray River; there is a ferry. There are 11 in total on the river and have been winched across since the 19th century. This one was free and open 24 hours a day.
Like a Sunday at home there were a lot of old and interesting cars on the road. Back on Highway One (B1 in these parts) we stopped at the Pink Lake a few km north of Meningie. Like the one we saw a few weeks ago, the colour is due to algae.
The road then runs through Coorong National Park which is on the coast. At Kingston SE, we turned off onto the B101 Southern Port Highway to Robe, a coastal town which was our destination for the night. There was a beer festival on at one end of the esplanade but it was otherwise fairly quiet. I understand that in high season and school holidays it gets very busy. Mileage today was 286 and we have broken the 10,000 mark with our trip mileage now up to 10,157.
Our last morning in Port Lincoln saw us heading up the hill to Winters Hill Lookout for views over the town and Boston Bay.
Back in town we had coffee on the waterfront while waiting for the Book Bazaar to open. It is a secondhand bookshop which raises funds for local charities. It has a large selection of books which are very well organised and some antiquarian and collectors’ books. We found a couple to keep us going (one on the Camino de Santiago which I would like to do one day).
It was then time to get back on the road up the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula. This road is called the Lincoln Highway but is certainly not the one we drove two years ago from New York to San Francisco. I am not sure when this one got its name. After passing through North Shields, our first stop was Tumby Bay. Just off the highway is a silo mural created by Martin Ron from Argentina assisted by Matt Gorrick. There is a car park and path with picnic tables. Someone had helpfully written on the notice that the best view is from the end of the path.
Tumby Bay has a local art group and some street art has been created on various walls in the town by different people. There is also a 10km white sand beach which was almost empty when we arrived.
The most southerly mangrove stand is here with a boardwalk and there are other paths and a couple of museums. It was time to press on. The water main runs alongside the road for much of the route. We stopped for lunch at Arno Bay. The wide estuary here is mostly dry at this time of year except the creek amongst the mangroves.
There are also mudflats and areas covered with samphire. I heard a few birds, but fishing is more important here than wildlife. There are several jetties along the boardwalk and you are also allowed to kayak but not use motorised craft.
Further north is Cowell, a coastal town which was more 19th century buildings on the main street than most of the others on the peninsula. James wondered why they needed a pharmacy but as I had seen three mobility scooters in the short drive down the street, I suspect there is a large elderly population here. There is an agricultural museum with lots of old machinery outside and the Viterra grain silo every town here seems to have. The oldest and a large deposit of nephrite jade was found in nearby hills in 1965. The Jade Motel on the way back to the highway has souvenirs and jade jewellery for sale. After Cowell the land seemed drier and ranges of hills appeared west of the highway. Closer to Highway One is Iron Knob where the first iron ore in Australia was found in 1894. Current deposits in nearby mines supply the ore for the steelworks in Whyalla, our destination for that night. Whyalla is said to get 300 days of sunshine every year and the temperature climbed to 37 degrees before we arrived there. Prior to 1978 shipbuilding was a major industry but now it is steel production and mineral salt processing. The hotel we stayed in is owned by two former footballers and there was a big focus on drinking and betting. There were even betting slips on the restaurant tables. It was reminiscent of a hotel in Nevada we arrived at and could not find reception. Someone told us we had to go into the casino next door to check in.
Back on the road in the morning we had the water pipe again and the railway line alongside. Our first destination was Port Augusta which sits at the top of the Gulf with the Flinders Range behind. At the junction with the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs was the Standpipe Motel. I did wonder if it had any showers. The Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden which is a short distance north of the town and has several trails among the trees and plants. We saw a few emus at a distance and a crested pigeon. The garden also has sculptures including this one by Warren Pickering.
It was very windy so I did not do much flower photography.
We had by now rejoined Highway One. We spotted a van parked at the side of the road with ‘men are like mascara: they run at the first sign of emotion’ written on the back. The road runs south with the sea on one side and the mountains on the left. At Port Pirie it turns inland. We saw communities named Bute and Lorne and at Lochiel, Nessie is on Lake Bumbunga, a salt lake.
Lunch was at Port Wakefield which has a memorial to Jack Brabham, a Formula One racing driver in the 1960s who won his first race there in 1955. The highway runs pretty far into Adelaide before any serious navigation is required so we arrived in good time. Over the last two days we have covered 422 miles bringing the trip total to 9,697 miles. The next day will be entirely on foot.
Today was the first day we have had condensation on the car first thing in the morning. It warmed up nicely later and promises to be hotter tomorrow. Most of the interior of the Eyre Peninsula is farmland with some bush alongside the road and some nature reserves. Leaving Streaky Bay, the Flinders Highway crosses land before returning to the coast at Mount Camel Beach which sits on Anxious Bay. The Bay was named by Matthew Flinders, but I have not found the reason for this name. There are also views to Venus Bay further north and the rocky coast to the south. The beach was deserted when we arrived, but footprints told us that a couple of people and a dog had been there earlier.
There was a notice about the local seabird populations. Hooded plovers are declining and the number has dropped to around 500 in SA. Habitat loss, predation by foxes, cats and dogs and human impact such as vehicles and dogs on beaches plus disturbance of breeding areas is thought to be responsible. Pied Oystercatchers are also resident, and the Red-necked Stint migrate here from Siberia every year. Visitors are advised to stay below the high water mark, keep dogs under control, stay away from birds and chicks and watch where you walk as eggs and chicks can be hard to spot. I saw a few Oystercatchers and gulls from a distance. Further south Lake Newland conservation area lies between the road and the sand dunes. It is only accessible with 4WD. Elliston is a small town that sits on Waterloo Bay.
The café was closed and for sale, but the bakery also did coffee and we were not the only customers. While topping up my caffeine levels I read a leaflet in the bakery written by the Australian Wilderness Society about the proposals to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight. The ocean here is much rougher than the Gulf of Mexico and an investigation into the capabilities of the government and the states to deal with a major oil spill concluded that they would not be able to. The report had been updated in August 2018 and said that while BP had pulled out, other companies were still persisting in trying to get permission. If we had more time, the 13.6K coastal trail and the sculpture trail might have been an option.
Today was Lizard avoidance day as several were crossing the road. I managed to get a shot of this Shingle-Back/Pinecone Lizard before he disappeared into the bush.
We managed to avoid them all and a couple of kangaroos but saw a snake that did not make it. South of Sheringa we saw a side road signpost: ‘Nowhere Else Road’ which has to be the best yet. The road then runs between Lake Hamilton and the shore.
Towards the southern end of the peninsula there are a number of lakes, the grass is greener and there are a few more larger trees around. The highway descends towards Port Lincoln after the turnoff for Coffin Bay. This is the largest town we have stayed in since we left the west coast. It has a population of around 15,000. The main industry is tuna fishing: it has the largest fishing fleet in the southern hemisphere. Also known as the seafood capital of Australia, the town sits on Boston Bay which is three times the size of Sydney Harbour. In addition to the swimming and fishing jetty on the esplanade, there is also a large Viterra mineral processing plant and commercial pier.
The town was named by Flinders who was from Lincolnshire. I feel quite at home as there is an Edinburgh Street and a Liverpool Street and South Shields is a little further up the coast. There are lots of things you can do around here: cage diving with great white sharks, water sports etc but I am quite happy to relax, digest the weekend paper and plan tomorrows drive. We have even spotted a bookshop in town which will hopefully be open tomorrow. Todays mileage was 191 making the total so far: 9,275
Ceduna faces west despite being on the south coast so we watched the sun go down after dinner as it is later here after the time change.
After two longer driving days we had a shorter one today. Before leaving Ceduna we drove out to Pinky Point from where you can see ships belching out smoke at the port across the water. Millions of tonnes of gypsum, salt, grain and mineral sands are loaded onto ships each year and dozens of trawlers unload fish. There is an automated light somewhere but all there is at the point is this.
There is a walking/cycling trail to the point from the town. We were briefly back on Highway One until the turnoff for the Flinders Highway which runs down the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula. Had we stayed on Highway One we would have passed the midpoint between Perth and Sydney. The first stop was at Smoky Bay, a quiet town and former port. It was named by Matthew Flinders who saw smoke rising from the fires of the indigenous people as he sailed by.
There are numerous shells on the beach and some children were collecting them as we walked along it. Oysters are farmed here as well as at Ceduna and fishing is a popular hobby. Some people were fishing from the jetty and there were several seabirds hanging around.
Further down the coast is Haslam, a community which is smaller and has no shop. Here tyres are used as a breakwater and others are just left on the beach and in the sea. They will continue to shed fibres into the ocean.
Information boards outlined the history of the town and the push to build a jetty. Food supplies had to be ordered and delivered by boat from Adelaide and a jetty made unloading much easier. Perlube Beach is further south and has white sand and dunes and a caravan park. Our destination for the night was Streaky Bay which also got its name from Matthew Flinders who saw the streaks of colour left from seaweeds in the water. We stopped for lunch just past the town on the shore of Cape Bauer. It was still windy but there were lots of purple flowers just behind the beach.
There were several notices regarding restrictions on razor fishing: the number that can be taken and the need to dispose of shells below the tide line. As we left to find our hotel, two cars with fishermen arrived. We only drove 85 miles today so the total is now 9,084.
Our hotel in Norseman did not look very promising as we approached it. The signs were all down and it looked like it was ready for a re-paint. There was no answer to the phone number on the door but just as I was about to look elsewhere, James found a guy round the back and the reception door was opened. We discovered that it was built in 1939 and is under renovation. The interior has been done and now the exterior is underway. The guy who was doing some of the work was living in a caravan on the site. I think we were the only customers that night. We left fairly early the next morning as we had over 400 miles to drive. The town was so quiet James thought tumbleweed should be blowing down the streets and it had a hint of Hotel California about it.
The Eyre Highway was named after the first European, John Eyre, to cross the area in 1841. It begins in Norseman and runs along the southern edge of the Nullarbor Plain. The Trans Australia Railway which runs from Perth to Sydney, passes through Kalgoorlie and runs north of the road. It passes into the Nullarbor Plain more quickly. We travelled on the Indian Pacific on that route seven years ago. The road leaves Norseman in the Great Western Forest which is bigger than England. This eventually peters out into bush with trees near Caiguna which continue until just before Eucla.
Just outside Norseman we saw a couple of cyclists we had passed the day before and later saw a third as well as one guy running. I have no idea how far any of them were going. Our first stop was at Balladonia which promised bean coffee on a sign before the roadhouse. The hotel and community were originally 17 miles or so further east on the site of the old telegraph station at the end of the old telegraph road from Norseman. The modern road construction started in 1941 and the hotel moved to its current site in 1962. It is now part of the fairly standard set up of hotel/motel, camping & caravan site, filling station and shop/café/restaurant that most of the roadhouses comprise of. There is a small museum next to the café that covers many aspects of the community and area and one episode which brought it into the public domain. Skylab was a space research laboratory launched in 1973 from Florida. Various teams worked on over the years and in the late 1970s it was decided to return it to earth. It did so on 12 July 1979 and partially burned up on re-entry, spraying fragments into the ocean and on this part of Western Australia. Reporters descended on Balladonia and the roadhouse received a phone call from President Jimmy Carter apologising and offering assistance. NASA posted a $10,000 reward for the first piece of wreckage to be returned to the USA and this was claimed by a 17-year-old from Esperance.
There was also some information about camels. They had been used for outback transport from the 19th century until motor vehicles arrived. The people who worked with and led the camels were often referred to as Afghans although those who worked near Balladonia were either from Karachi or Baluchistan in India. Camels fitted the outback climate very well, but their drivers remained nomadic and isolated from the rest of the community. Some of the camels escaped and have become feral. I saw some from the train in 2011.
After Balladonia we drove round a bend and then came to the longest straight stretch of road in Australia: the 90 Mile Straight.
As we stopped at the sign, I noticed a guy with an old Ford ute had also stopped. I asked him if I could take a photo as my brother used to be secretary of the Ford pre-67 Owners Club in the UK. He was quite happy for me to do so and told me that he was on the way back from an old ute gathering. He also said that he had got married in the early 1980s and that he and his wife had spent 17 years just travelling around the country. Further on we saw more old vehicles also returning home. Our lunch was at Cocklelbiddy Roadhouse. Near there, down an unsealed road to the coast is the Eyre Bird Observatory which we did not have time to explore. We continue through blue bush with stretches of blue flowering plants by the roadside and still some trees. The road goes over the Madura Pass at 90m and then descends from the Hampton Tableland to the plain. After Mundrabilla we spotted the first motorcyclist of the day heading in the opposite direction. Our destination for that night was Eucla (population 53) which sits on a 100m pass and is about three miles from the coast.
There are sand dunes and the old telegraph station which dates from 1877 is slowly being covered by sand. There is also an old jetty down at the beach, but the winds were high and as we approached it looked like a sandstorm ahead, so we turned back. The surrounding landscape is much more like the Nullarbor with plants and after Eucla more like desert. The high winds overnight had brought cloud but at least we did not have to worry about fallen trees on the road.
At the South Australia Border the old Eyre Highway (unsealed) runs parallel until Nullabor. There are several viewpoints looking over the Great Australian Bight. Just after Nullabor we passed the exit to Cook (population 2 and 1 dog) which the Indian Pacific Train stops at. The Highway enters the Yalata Aboriginal Reserve and hills and trees reappear. We passed three cyclists in total. Later, the landscape reverts to sheep pasture and cereal crops. The road passes through Penong before reaching Ceduna. The town claims to have Australia’s biggest windmill and has a windmill museum. I was not tempted.There is also a turn off to Cactus Beach which is renowned for surfing. We reached Ceduna having driven 302 miles in addition to the 435 on Wednesday bringing our total to 8,999 miles.