Few have a stronger connection to the ocean than Lowell Hunter. A Nyul Nyul man from the Kimberley, Hunter creates intricate sand art, captured through drone photography, which evokes and demonstrates his deep ties to the water. “My first memories of this love for the ocean were when my mum used to take me out fishing, and I just remember spending time with her and having this freedom,” he says. “We didn’t have much at all, but in a lot of ways we had so much.”

Hunter moved to Warrnambool at age seven and now calls Torquay home. His relationship with his cultural identity and the ocean – and desire to capture it in his art – has continued to grow in Torquay. “I was down at Bell’s Beach one afternoon after delivering some cultural awareness training and I just thought, this is where I’m safe, this is where I’m strong, this is where I can be proud of who I am and there’s no fear or judgement,” he says.

“What I love about living on the Great Ocean Road is that there’s a really nice community feel – it’s not too big,” he says. “And I love getting on the beach in the early morning with no one around and it’s just me and the Country waking up with the sunrise, creating my art and it’s a really special and unique feeling.”

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For those heading down the Great Ocean Road, Hunter shares some of his favourite places to check out along the way. The best part? The drive can easily be done over a long weekend. If you’re flying into Melbourne Airport, you can rent a car from Avis. And you’ll be on the road in no time at all if you’re an Avis Preferred member, with straight to the car, priority service on offer.

His favourite beaches

A trip down the Great Ocean Road is all about the beach stops along the way. “I can’t go past Point Addis for the spectacular backdrop and beaches there,” he says of the spot famous for its sandy beaches and weathered limestone cliffs. “And Aireys Inlet – I go there a lot to create my sand art because where the estuary runs out into the ocean, it’s just a nice canvas to work on.”

Hunter also recommends catching a glimpse of the heavy surf at Johanna Beach and the towering rock stacks of the Bay of Islands, but for something not on most travellers’ radars you’ll need to go right to the end of the road.

“If you’re venturing further to Warrnambool, I like to stop in at Childers Cove,” Hunter says. “That’s quite isolated in the sense that it’s a bit off the beaten track.” If you can, Hunter recommends visiting early in the morning or later in the afternoon. “There’s no one really around and it’s quite spectacular whether it’s sunrise or sunset there. It’s just such a beautiful spot to finish or start your day.”

Coffee, breakfast and pizza by the sea

It’s not just the car that needs refuelling down the Great Ocean Road. “Leaving Torquay, stop into Surf Break Cafe – that’s a nice spot to grab early morning coffee,” says Hunter. Besides the great coffee (from local Surf Coast Coffee Roasters), you’ll find a little of Hunter at Surf Break Cafe, too. “The owner just loved my work and said, I’ve got to have it in my cafe,” Hunter says. “He purchased about 12 or so pieces and proudly displays them.”

Down the road in Port Campbell is another of Hunter’s favourite cafes – Grassroots Deli Cafe. “If I’m travelling down the coast I’ll often stop in Port Campbell and spend the night, then grab coffee and brekkie at Grassroots Deli Cafe,” he says. “It’s got a really nice community feeling about it and great food. It’s good sort of healthy tucker, which is sometimes good when you’re on the road.”

In the evening, Hunter recommends heading for a local slice at the Captain of Aireys. “You will get one of the best pizzas on the coast there, if not the best, in my opinion,” Hunter says. Named for a local Aireys Inlet legend, Captain of Aireys is all about woodfired, hand-stretched pizzas. Hunter’s tip: trust the captain. “The Captain pizza – you’ve got mozzarella, ham, salami, mushroom, capsicum, onion and olives. That would be my go-to.”

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