|The Great Ocean Road|
To experience the GOR I'd suggest you really experience it don't just drive along it. Camp. Walk. Live. Enjoy.
I love to camp somewhere along the road along the cliff tops. Along most of it camping isn't allowed but there are spots where you can as long as you're not in a motor home or caravan. Mind you if you go easy on the light no-one would ever know you're there and I've not encountered any night patrols.
|One of the Twelve Apostles Seen from a cliff top vantage at sunset|
Mostly when people think of the GOR they think of The Twelve Apostles, of which there are only eight still standing. You could go to the concrete monstrosity that is the tourist trap with the thousands of others, or you could go to one of the nearby cliffs for your viewing. I know which I prefer. Leave that asphalt road every chance you get. Those dirt roads off towards the cliffs bring you the real coast without the tourists. Be safe the cliffs do collapse from time to time.
|Anchor embedded in rock at Wreck Beach|
Wreck beach can be reached via the giant stairs from the carpark at the end of Moonlight Head Road or you can hike along the beach. Wreck
Much of the gorge is shallow and there is a wonderful sandy beach and two caves. You cannot enter the caves due to falling bits.
The group they were with commented on the expense of accomodation along the road and I told them about Princetown. They moved there that night.
When you need to shop go inland to Hamilton or scoot over to Geelong or Warrnambool - you'll pay through the nose everywhere else. Port Fairy is fantastic at night. So much history. So well lit.
The cheapest places to stay are the community oval at Princetown on the Gellibrand River and the Lady Bay caravan park in Warrnambool.
Shot with a circular polariser to allow me to see into the water and a graduated ND filter to balance the exposure of the bright sky against the rock floor and the pool.
The area of the grotto itself is walled off by Parks Victoria to keep our the great unwashed tourista. As a kid I used to swim here and if you went through the grotto with some climbing you could get down to the beach.
At times of heavy storm action the tips of the waves crash right into The Grotto causing all the erosion and rounding the rocks around the pond. Like most things on the GOR it's always changing and sooner or later will collapse.
Generally speaking I stay at Princetown at the community camp ground. It's got basic facilities and is much cheaper than the tourist places.
|Floodplain adjacent Princetown community camp ground|
From dawn the kangaroos abound in the adjacent paddock to the estuary of the Gellibrand River.
There are often gorgeous mists in this ocean valley in the mornings giving an interesting atmosphere to your images and allowing you to hide the houses on the hills around the park.
Be aware you can get flooded in as the bridge in and out is a low causeway. I've had to drive through the water more than once.
|Gellibrand River Estuary|
The estuary is salt water and tidal so you can't always walk to the beach unless you want to get your feet wet.
You'll see black cormorants various gulls and the occasional eagle in the area. I've seen snakes on a number of occasions so stick to the sandy areas where you'll see them before they see you.
|Surfers at Bells Beach near dawn|
If you want general imagery you could use a 100mm lens but if you want close up surfing action you're going to need something bigger like a 400mm lens. It's nearly always windy so make sure your lens mount on your tripod is sturdy. You'll need a fast shutter so high ISO is often necessary in the lower light of the post dawn.
|Port Fairy Light Station|
Some of them like Airey's Inlet are surrounded by tourists all of the time and it can be challenging to get an angle without the people in shot. You can cheat and use a big stopper ND400 (9/10 stop) filter and a long exposure to get rid of them or you just get creative with your angles.
Lighthouses are best photographed in the blue and golden hours near dawn and sunset.
My favourite information source is the LIght Houses of Australia web site http://www.lighthouse.net.au/lights/vic/index%20vic.asp
Some light houses are open for inspection via tours. It pays to book ahead for these so you know the tour will be running and you'll get a chance to look inside. Airey's Inlet is in that category.
Make sure you approach the locals in various places. They'll give you information that you could not otherwise find and perhaps grant you access to photograph on their land where you'll find some true examples of Australiana such as these shears on a farm in Bellbrae near Bells Beach.
Cormorants, penguins, gulls and plenty of other birds will make an appearance.
Kangaroos, wombats, echidnas and other ground animals are everywhere.
Take it easy on the roads at night. One big red and your car is totalled. One wombat and it's likely disabled at best, written off at worst. They're basically hairy rocks.
|Hand Feeding a Roo|
Drop in and visit, you can certainly get up close and personal with many of the animals. Your money goes right back into running the park. They have backpack and farmstay accomodation. Ignore the closed signs they let us in when they were closed.
Flagstaff Hill is just about mandatory.
The site conveys Warrnambool of old as a martime port village complete with the Upper Lady Bay and Lady Bay light houses within its grounds. The Upper Lady Bay lighthouse is open for inspection. Both lighthouses are operational.
The village abounds with photographic opportunities and various other attractions. Food and drink are reasonably priced inside. They have a night time entertainment show naturally themed on the ship wreck of the Loch Ard.
Wandering around the island that the light house calls home is awesome at night time yielding some wonderful images.
The tram is made up of original Melbourne cable tram dolly and trailers that today are powered by diesel engines. The operators are very friendly and they have a small tramway museum. They're not all that friendly to visitors in the workshop which surprised me given I work on another tourist railway.
Certainly worth a look. Last time I was there the dogs were not present and the fences did not reach the beach so close access was easy without disturbing the birds.
The Great Ocean Road stops officially at Portland but in reality keeps going along the Great Australian Bight into South Australia towards Adelaide.