Rugged cliffs, untamed beaches

The sun sets over the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road.
The sun sets over the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road. Detours

THE Great Ocean Road, stretching for 243 sinuous kilometres between the Victorian towns of Torquay and Warrnambool, is one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world, arguably comparable to Big Sur in California.

I’ve done the entire road – every twisting, thrilling kilometre of it – many times in the past and each time, stood before the 12 Apostles in silent wonder.

These majestic limestone formations rising so grandly from the ocean make you feel humble and insignificant. Nature made these stupendous art works, her battering seas separating the once-mighty cliffs from the mainland, and now visitors from all over the world pose before them to be photographed against such a remarkable backdrop.

On our visit this time, we travelled the road only as far as Lorne. The weather in Victoria in February was too perfect not to stop and stay, to relax and enjoy Lorne’s many charms.

We’d driven easily through Geelong to Ocean Grove, and to Torquay. Then it was on to Anglesea – one of the most family-friendly towns along the road with its caravan park, budget accommodation and distinctive pedal boats.

With the sun dancing on the blue ocean, each turn in the road presented more alluring views: rugged cliffs on one side, untamed beaches on the other.

Through Fairhaven and past Moggs Creek, we arrived at Lorne in less than an hour from Geelong, feeling exhilarated after the rousing drive.

Mantra Erskine Beach Resort – a sprawling complex on green lawns built around an old operating guest house on the beachfront – was the obvious choice for accommodation. If you’re going to be in a famous seaside town, you might as well be right on the beach, and our two-bedroom apartment on the second floor had us right up among the beautiful Norfolk Pines where the ocean peeked through green branches laden with white cockatoos.

The resort has a day spa, an 18-hole putting course and heated indoor pool, but we were content to sit on our balcony on such a glorious day with the green hills behind us and the pines and ocean in front of us.

Mantra is the perfect base to explore Lorne and its boutique shops and fancy restaurants (along with a faithful fish and chip shop that’s been servicing Lorne since 1954).

There is one place everyone must head to in Lorne, whether you’re fond of a drink or not: the Lorne Hotel. High up on the pub’s decks, the views across the elegant curve of the beach are stunning, and while we enjoyed vodka and tonics in the sunshine, there is coffee and cake and all the pub grub you could want.

That evening, we dined inside Mantra’s bistro with views to the beach – just us and a 100 conference attendees in the resort, dining outside on the lawns.

The February evening had just enough chill for an excuse to light a fire and we sat inside beside the flames with a seafood platter and a bottle of Victorian pinot, feeling very pleased with ourselves and our rediscovery of The Great Ocean Road.

Ann Rickard was a guest at Mantra Erskine Resort.

Mantra Erskine Resort, Mountjoy Parade, Lorne, VIC 3232.

Phone: (03) 5228 9777


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