Photographing along the Great Ocean Road in Southern Australia

by Reinhard Thomas
April 18, 2017

Koala by Reinhard Thomas ©

Under the watchfull eye of the Koala

The Great Ocean Road begins about an hour and a half south of Melbourne in Torquay and winds it’s way along the west and south coasts of the State of Victoria towards Allansford where the 243 km long historical section of the road ends. The road is one of Australia’s most famous roads and is an iconic tourist destination, attracting many visitors from around the world.

Start of the Great Ocean Road Australia by Reinhard Thomas ©

Start of the Great Ocean Road

The road is also of historical significance and is listed in Australia’s National Heritage List as the world’s longest war memorial. It is considered a war memorial because it was constructed by more than 3,000 Australian ex-serviceman, which returned home from World War One and had no work. Construction started in 1919 and it took 13 years to build this road with only the basic hand-tools like shovels, picks and wheelbarrows. It had to be built along the face of the rugged cliffs, which stretch along the western part of the coast and  connected isolated villages and townships along Victoria’s spectacular coast.

Wallaby and view of forest for treetop walkway by Reinhard Thomas ©

Left: A wallaby along the road to the Cape Otway light station Right view from 45 meter tall spiral stair tower onto the treetop walkway.

Torquay, located at the beginning of the road is home to the best surfing beaches in Australia. Further south, lighthouses, scenic lookouts, steep cliffs and magnificent beaches are located on the west side of the road while the steep forested hills of the Otway Ranges are to the east.

Cormorants by Reinhard Thomas ©

Cormorants taking a break from fishing

We stayed for a few days in the seaside town of Apollo Bay to explore some of the surrounding areas. Just a few kilometers away is the Great Otway National Park with large ferns, shrubs and tall eucalyptus trees. High amounts of rainfall, combined with rich volcanic soil produces this beautiful rainforest. Maits Rest is the ideal starting point for a walk through this great forest.

Fern Forest Australia by Reinhard Thomas ©

Huge ferns grow in the rainforest of the Otway Ranges

Our next stop was just South of the Great Ocean Road on the way to the Cape Otway Light station. Here we watched numerous Koalas in the treetops, feeding on eucalyptus leafs. The population of these cute little creatures is high here and they are partially blamed for the dying trees, which are visible along the road in some areas. However, the causes of the deaths of the manna gum trees are more complex. It is not only the high density of foliovores (leaf eating animals like koalas) but also the changes in lower growing plants and the absence of forest fires that destroy the underbrush. The combination of these factors has led to declines in the health of the rare manna gum woodlands. As these trees are lost, the food source of the koalas is reduced and ultimately the koalas themselves will diminish.  

Koala Reinhard Thomas ©

Cute Koala watching me from the tree top.

Cockatoo by Reinhard Thomas ©

Cockatoo perches in tree near Lorne

We continued North to the Otway Fly, skipped the zip-line tour through the canopy but enjoyed the 2km long Treetop Walk. The dirt walkway soon climbs up onto the metal catwalks that are suspended 25 meters above the forest floor between the giant trees. A 45-meter tall spiral stair tower and an exhilarating cantilever extension provide excellent views into the canopy and onto the giant ferns below. This forest consists mainly of straight, tall Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) trees and is home to a variety of birds. These flowering trees, unlike our local Mountain Ashes, grow about one meter each year for the first 50 years and can grow well over 100 meters tall, making them the tallest flowering plants in the world.

Left: Koala resting the the fork of a tree. Right: Tall Mountain Ash trees as from the canopy catwalk by Reinhard Thomas ©

Left: Koala resting the the fork of a tree.   Right: Tall Mountain Ash trees as seen from the canopy catwalk

Destroyed manna gum woodlands by Reinhard Thomas ©

Destroyed manna gum woodlands

The next day we continued our trip on the ocean road toward Port Campbell. Along this stretch of road you can see a variety of seascapes. A must-see is the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park with the “Twelve Apostles”, the Loch Ard Gorge and a few other natural stacks and limestone structures. Constant wave action, wind, rain and changing temperatures carved this magnificent coast. This is  possible due to the inconsistencies in the density and durability of the strata. The rock stacks are comprised of harder rock than areas around them, which have been washed away by erosion forces. West of Port Campbell are even more interesting structures such as the London Bridge, that partially collapsed a few years ago and the Razorback. Every 14 seconds a wave is channeled along the side of this stack. These waves carve deep smooth groves just above sea level and the sharp edges and bumps along the top are caused by wind-blown spray, which hardens small areas of rock. The softer rock around erodes, leaving an uneven surface. All these formations have been formed in the last 6,000 years.

The Razorback rock Australia by Reinhard Thomas ©

The Razorback

London Bridge rock Australia by Reinhard Thomas ©

The left overs of the London Bridge after the main bridge collapsed

Twelve Apostles rocks Australia by Reinhard Thomas ©

Some of the Twelve Apostles

Limestone stacks along Australia's coast by Reinhard Thomas ©

Limestone stacks are visible along the coast

The seascapes and steep cliffs along this coast are under constant attack by the southern ocean and are being eroded at a rate of about two centimeters per year.

beaches along Victoria's West Coast  by Reinhard Thomas ©

Endless beaches along Victoria's West Coast

After touring the Shipwreck Coast West of Port Campbell it was time for us to turn around and drive back to Melbourne to catch our long flight back to Canada.

Small secluded beach near Port Campbell Australia by Reinhard Thomas ©

Small secluded beach near Port Campbell

The drive along the Great Ocean Road rewards you with a very interesting, beautiful and unique coastline that is well worth visiting.

Sedimentary limestone Rock along the coast of Australia by Reinhard Thomas ©

Sedimentary limestone Rock along the coast

 All images were taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 camera with a Leica 25-400mm, 1:2.8 - 4.0 lens, which I purchased before this trip because of it’s light weight, versatility and decent picture quality for a bridge camera.


Authors Biography & Contact Information

Reinhard Thomas portrait

Reinhard Thomas is a photographer living in Calgary. He specializes in travel photography. Between travels he creates animal and landscape images and has a comprehensive collection of barn and grain elevator pictures.




Previous articles by Reinhard Thomas

Photographing in the Amazon River Basin
Photographing Peru - Part 2
Photographing Peru - Part I
Photographing around Devil's Island
Photographing Brazil’s Pantanal the Unknown Gem
Photographing in the Western Prairies
Photographing Madagascar
Photographing Cambodia, Kingdom of Wonder 
Photographing the Spice Island of Zanzibar

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