Visitors who make their way along the Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay, a permanent home to under 2000 souls, will soon understand why the old whaling station has so much to offer. When they face the water, Apollo Bay residents enjoy some of the world’s most breathtaking ocean scenery. And when they look inland, they witness the lush greenery of the Otway Ranges. Travellers wishing to experience a town surrounded by natural beauty that never gets too crowded simply must look into holiday rentals around Apollo Bay.
Hikers and walkers of all fitness levels choose to base themselves in Apollo Bay, where the Great Ocean Walk begins. This ambitious 91km trek meanders along a tortuous oceanfront path all the way to the Twelve Apostles, allowing walkers to get much closer to the coast than if they merely were to drive along the famous road. The path has been divided by rest stations and camping stops, so you can venture as far as you wish, making it a great family excursion or a memorable camping trip. Guided tours, lasting 3 to 6 days with food and guesthouse lodging provided, are also available.
The Great Ocean Walk runs through Otway National Park, which can be visited separately. Here, travellers can see a number of waterfalls or go for a walk through tall rainforests buzzing with life. A number of designated camping and picnic spots have been set up. Beyond the National Park, Otway Fly Treetop Adventures let travellers overlook the rainforest at treetop level, 30m above ground on a slim walkway, to be precise.
Apollo Bay’s foreshore and surrounding waters represent another hub of activity. The town harbours 3km of swimming and surfing beaches. The main swimming beach, quite safe and family-friendly, is bordered by Apollo Bay’s cafe and shopping strip. Whales have elected the waters around Apollo Bay as their winter home, so you can spot them from shore between June and November- look out for “whale sighting signs” letting you know where to peel your eyes!
If you want to get closer to nature, you can go out to sea to observe the permanent seal colony. Rent a kayak and venture out by yourself, or take a boat as part of a tour with Apollo Bay Fishing & Adventure Tours. Alternately, spend some time closer to shore and learn to surf with Apollo Bay Surf & Kayak. Two hour lessons are offered with qualified instructors.
Apollo Bay may be the preferred holiday destination for outdoor lovers, but the town holds its own when it comes to the arts. Shannons Gallery & Studio, the creative home of a husband and wife team, is a traditional gallery filled with paintings and prints you can buy or simply admire. Two galleries are situated above Cafe Nautigals on the Great Ocean Road: an arts and crafts gallery with jewellery, household goods and decorations and a glass studio, where local artist Margaret Glance works her magic. Finally, every Saturday, stroll down to the Foreshore Markets to pick up a unique artefact made in the region.
For a glimpse into the town’s past, visitors can spend some time at the Apollo Bay Museum, set in the Old Telegraph Cable Station which once housed the undersea wire connecting Tasmania to mainland Australia. This museum, open weekends and public holidays, features relics for shipwrecks that occurred off the coast and discusses the feats of past residents in developing the community.
Apollo Bay offers a wide range of dining options, from Thai to tapas, that might surprise given its cosy size. Chill @ The Bay is a highly recommended tapas restaurant that caters to a number of dietary requirements, including gluten free requests. Apollo Bakery serves freshly made baked goods and sandwiches and is open daily from 6am, perfect for those with an early start. The bakery enjoys a waterfront position, ideal for whale watching in season. For something unique, head over to Chris’ Beacon Point Restaurant: built to emulate a tree house, the restaurant is set above the Great Ocean Road and is surrounded by ferns and manna gums. Take in coastal views through floor-to-ceiling windows- and you might even spot a koala dining on eucalyptus while you feast inside.
Apollo Bay is, according to Australian Traveller Magazine, the 8th best destination in the country, as listed in its Top 100 Australian Towns. To maximize your visit to this section of the Great Ocean Road, spring, summer and autumn travel is recommended, as Victorian winters can be cold, wet or simply erratic.