|Unique charm of Lorne - Quick Facts|
Lorne is 140km south-west of Melbourne, via the West Gate Bridge to Geelong and then on to the Great Ocean Road.
Great Ocean Road
Poet TS Eliot once famously remarked that it is "the journey not the arrival that matters." You could say that about the drive to Lorne on the Great Ocean Road, except that in this case, the being there part is every bit as good as the getting there. Indeed, Lorne was the first place in Victoria to be declared an area of 'Special Significance and Natural Beauty' more than 100 years ago.
Lorne is a two hour drive from Melbourne. And while most weekends away start with a mad Friday night dash out of town, with traffic snarls, partners who forget to pack the map, getting lost in the dark and lots of other fun stuff, if you can manage to snaffle a Friday afternoon early mark, the trip to Lorne is a stunningly beautiful coast-hugging drive with some of the best seaside scenery to be found anywhere in Australia
To get there, drive out of the city on the West Gate Bridge to Geelong and then turn on to the Great Ocean Road. First stop is Torquay, surfing mecca and the birthplace of Rip Curl and Quicksilver, two of the world's leading surf-wear and fashion brands. Drop into Surfworld, an interactive museum dedicated to the art and culture of wave riding; shop for all the big brand surf wear at Surfcoast Plaza, or check out the waves at Front Beach. Bells Beach, one of the most famous surf beaches in Australia and home of the world's longest running professional surfing event, the Rip Curl Pro, is a short detour away.
From Torquay head south along what is known as the 'surf coast' through Anglesea, where the road hits the coastline and you begin seeing the first of the long stretches of dramatic coastal views that the Great Ocean Road is famous for. Stop at Aireys Inlet and drive up to the lighthouse for fine views of the coastline.
Built between 1919 and 1932, the cliff-hugging road was hewn from the rock by 3000 returned World War I soldiers using picks, crowbars and shovels, who dedicated the 14-year project as a memorial to their colleagues who died in the war. At Eastern View, just a few kilometres on from Aireys Inlet, is the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch - a good place to stop for a souvenir photo.
From here it's a short run into the stylish resort town of Lorne. In summer, especially on weekends, the main street bustles with shoppers browsing the boutiques and galleries, families and groups splashing in the waves on the white-sand beach across the road, and sippers and tasters sampling the local fare or a freshly brewed coffee at one of the several restaurants and cafes in town.
In winter though, Lorne dances to a much more gentle beat. All the shops, restaurants and cafes are still open, many with great specials to entice winter bargain hunters. The beach however, is all but deserted, the waters of Bass Strait too chilly for swimming, and is perfect for long rugged-up romantic walks, searching through the piles of driftwood at the high-water mark for treasures washed up by the often turbulent southern ocean.
Lorne's unique charms were recognised early, when tourists first began flocking to the area in the 1880's to marvel at the superb local scenery, pitching their tents on the flats around the Erskine River. These days however, the accommodation options are much more luxurious.
Ravenswood is a charming two-storey, gabled weatherboard mansion built in 1896, surrounded by beautiful gardens. The beach and main street is a short, one-block stroll down the hill. Choose either the King Suite, which has a king-sized antique half-tester bed circa 1860, private lounge with TV, stereo and video, ensuite and open fireplace, or one of the queen rooms downstairs, which have a queen-sized sleigh bed, ensuite with double spa and shower and a gas log fire. There's sweeping coastal views from the verandah upstairs, and breakfast, a full country affair with bacon, eggs, mushrooms, cereals and freshly squeezed juice, is either served there, or if the weather is nasty, in the formal, antique-filled dining room.
Wedged between the coast and the Otway forests, Lorne is also a good base for shorter excursions into the hinterland. Erskine Falls are just a few minutes drive from the village centre and there are well-made walking tracks though the rainforest past the falls, huge tree ferns and towering trees.
Getting out of town is just as good as getting there. Apollo Bay is around an hour's drive from Lorne, and the road hugs the coast the whole way. Drive through the pretty hamlets of Wye and Kennet River and pull over at Cape Patton Lookout for a stunning view and yet another great photograph.
The only problem with Lorne is that it's way too tempting to keep going along Great Ocean Road - testing again the idea that its the journey not the arrival that matters, especially when it means turning around to head home to go back to work on Monday morning. But then again, there's always next weekend.
Story by Lee Atkinson, July 2004. Image courtesy of Tourism Vic.