In 1917, the Great Ocean Road Trust was established to build the road and to provide employment for returned servicemen from World War 1. From 1919 work proceeded in stages, according to the availability of men and money. A total of three thousand ex-servicemen worked with pick and shovel, using the stone and natural materials of the area. They stayed in well organised camps, complete with vegetable plots, cooks and pianos.
Where the Memorial Arch now stands at Eastern View, travellers paid a toll to use the Great Ocean Road from 1922 until 1936 when the Government took over the road and it’s maintenance.
The Great Ocean Road fulfilled a dream to link up seaside settlements, open up the coast for development and provide the motoring public with “one of the most beautiful ocean drives in the world”. Today the Great Ocean Road stretches from Torquay to Nelson combining wonderful landscapes and seascapes with the bush of national parks and conservation reserves. Each year, 1.2 million vehicles pass under the Memorial Arch allowing millions of visitors to enjoy vistas and activities along the Great Ocean road.
A few kilometres west of Torquay is Bells Beach, where World championship surf competitions are held regularly. Further along the coast at Airey’s Inlet, we stumbled across Split Point Lightstation, part of the network of navigational aids maintained along Australias 36700kms of coastline, for the safety of shipping by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Split Point Lighthouse was established in 1891 as a manned station. In 1919 it was taken over by the Commonwealth Government and converted to automatic operation.
We eventually made our way to the Twelve Apostles….which are giant rock stacks that rise majestically from the Southern Ocean and are the central feature of the rugged Port Campbell National Park.
The Twelve Apostles have been created by constant erosion of the limestone cliffs of the mainland that began 10–20 million years ago. The stormy Southern Ocean and blasting winds gradually eroded the softer limestone, forming caves in the cliffs. The caves eventually became arches and when they collapsed rock stacks up to 45 metres high were left isolated from the shore.
There are helicopter flights to be taken over the Twelve Apostles, but we didn’t take one this time, as we have already been there and done that!!
Next it was time for London Arch, formerly known as London Bridge…which has indeed fallen down! London Arch is a natural arch in the Port Campbell National Park, Australia. The arch is one of the tourist attractions along the Great Ocean Road near Port Campbell. This stack was formed by a gradual process of erosion, and until 1990 formed a complete double-span natural bridge. The arch closest to the shoreline collapsed unexpectedly on 15 January 1990, leaving two tourists stranded on the outer part: they were rescued by helicopter. No one was injured in the event. Prior to the collapse, the formation was known as London Bridge because of its similarity to its namesake.
About five minutes drive west of the Twelve Apostles is Loch Ard Gorge. The gorge is named after the shipwreck of the clipper ship Loch Ard, which ran aground on nearby Muttonbird Island on 1 June 1878 approaching the end of a three-month journey from England to Melbourne. Fifty-two people were killed, but two 18-year-old survivors were washed into the gorge and found shelter.A stairwell allows visitors down to the beach, including today, a wedding party having their post-nuptual photos taken. AAwwww!