Three hours might be a little further than you’d like to drive on a Friday night after finishing the working week, but let us tell you, it’s worth it when you get to Apollo Bay, even if it’s dark. A small seaside town along the Great Ocean Road, 40 minutes past Lorne just before you hit Cape Otway, Apollo Bay is flanked by ocean on one side and lush, green mountainous farmland on the other – rich, fertile soil that helps produce all the community needs, be it truffles, beef, kiwi fruit or beer. It’s forest meets the farm meets the ocean, and it makes for a stunning wintery weekend of R&R, bundled up indoors eating crumpets or out for a winter surf, a windswept sea kayak or a dusk bushwalk.
Great Ocean Ecolodge
The Great Ocean Ecolodge isn’t officially in Apollo Bay at all. In fact, it’s probably 40 kilometres further around the coast. But it’s pretty special nonetheless. Cofounders Lizzie Corke and Shayne Neal run the conservation and ecology centre as a social enterprise, business and their home with five bedrooms for guests. Set on tranquil farmland, the Ecolodge is reengaging people with Australian wildlife, particularly the endangered spotted quoll (like a Tasmanian devil but smaller). Following afternoon tea in the communal living room, go on a dusk walk through their property, meet some orphaned koalas and get back to the ranch just before dinner is served (cooked by Lizzie’s mum). Rooms are simple but very comfortable.
635 Lighthouse Road, Cape Otway
(03) 5237 9297
NOTE: For other accommodation, there are many small bed and breakfasts and campsites along the coast at Kennett River, Skenes Creek, Apollo Bay and Marengo Holiday Park.
EAT / DRINK
Owner and chef Steven Earl took over the jewel in Apollo Bay’s restaurant crown six years ago. When he did, he couldn’t find all the produce he wanted to cook with locally, so he bought a farm (Otway Harvest) and started rearing beef and lamb and soon found he could also procure truffles and kiwi fruit during the right seasons. So all of this produce is on his menu, alongside a lot of seafood and the first floor restaurant is still a favourite among locals and visitors.
125 Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay
(03) 5237 7411
Wicken’s Delicatessen and Provedore
Wicken’s is a good find along the main drag among surf shops and milk bars selling floppy fish and chips. We wouldn’t suggest going anywhere else for coffee. They’re serving Coffee Supreme and making their own crumpets and cakes (honey lavender and choc and Guinness). It’s a casual breakfast and lunch offering here, and for the latter there’s pork rillette, a pie of the day and a ploughman’s lunch for two. They also have a cheese and meat cabinet and a few shelves of produce with take-home goods including Timboon ice cream in the freezer.
1/135 Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay
(03) 5237 1045
Chris’s Beacon Point
Chris Talimanidis claims he was the first restaurant operator to have seats out on the street in Lorne. Once with three eateries from Lorne to Apollo Bay, he’s now just got the one, tucked up high in the Otways with misty sea views from his pinewood, glasshouse restaurant. A veteran of the region, Talimanidis has retired from his kitchen, which continues to serve Greek-style dishes of fish bisque and rabbit and shots of ouzo to start. You can also stay in one and two-bedroom villas set into the hillside if you don’t want to come down after a long lunch.
280 Skenes Creek Road, Apollo Bay
(03) 5237 6411
Forest Brewing Company
On a Sunday morning, Matt Bradshaw still has that whiff of beer on him. In fact, he does most days. He’s running a micro brewing, eating house and mountain bike hangout in a converted Caltex in Forrest (a tiny town 20 kilometres inland from Apollo Bay towards Colac). With four brews on tap at any one time (including a light Hefferveisen, a pale ale, a stout, a red ale and two seasonal beers), Bradshaw is brewing out back and pouring out front during breakfast, lunch and dinner three nights a week. He also supplies his boutique brews to select venues in Melbourne.
Apollo Bay Road, Forrest
(03) 5236 6170
Great Ocean Walk
A spectacular trek, the Great Ocean Walk starts in Apollo Bay and continues right around to the 12 Apostles. Make your way along the coast through national parks and deserted beaches with wild views out along oceanic Bass Strait. The track spans 96 kilometres, which you can do over a few days, or just walk a small section in your own time. No pressure.
Various access points.
Apollo Bay Surf & Kayak
Apollo Bay Surf & Kayak is actually a surf shop along the main drag, but they run surf and sea kayak trips a kilometre or so from town. Wetsuits are supplied and you’ll need them in winter with brisk temperatures. On a sit-top kayak, your instructor will take you out to see the seal colony in the Marengo Marine Sanctuary and you’ll attempt to catch a wave and likely get wet, even if you don’t want to.
157–159 Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay
Seahorse Natural Therapies
When the surf seems a bit extreme, call Seahorse Natural Therapies for something a little less vigorous. With relaxation and remedial massage, facials and even ear candling, Seahorse therapists can come to you, or you can go to their tranquil studio in Skenes Creek (six kilometres from Apollo Bay).
1 Surf Avenue, Skenes Creek
Broadsheet’s weekend in Apollo Bay was supported by Great Ocean Road Marketing in conjunction with their campaign mondaysthenewsunday.com.au. They are also currently running a competition to win the ultimate long weekend, enter here.