Apollo Bay, Paradise by the Sea!
Nestled into the picturesque green foothills of the Otway Ranges, Apollo Bay offers everything you need to have the perfect break – superb scenery, endless activities and top class dining.
Apollo Bay is midway along the majestic Great Ocean Road in the shelter of Cape Otway and on the lowest slopes of the beautiful Otway ranges. Valleys just a few kilometres out of town are full of rainforest, streams, waterfalls and fireflies. Once the province of timber workers and farmers, the hills are now also occupied by artists, holiday makers and beach lovers. Every water sport under the sun can be enjoyed at Apollo Bay – surfing, fishing, swimming, diving, and boating of all sorts.
The bush walking around here, wet or dry, is spectacular. The rain and wind hardly reach the lower levels of the older rainforest which has its own lush climate. Cape Otway nearby has some of the most breathtaking walks in the country. There are petrified forests, fireflies, rainbows and just south, some of the highest ocean cliffs in Victoria. Two and three hour drives in two loops through the ranges take visitors through a mystical (and misty) green paradise. There are short walks from car parks to mighty waterfalls.
Seafood is always on the menu – a small fishing fleet still operates out of the harbour – and modern restaurants and cafes are a vital part of town. In April, Apollo Bay hosts one of the best three day music festivals in Victoria, Apollo Bay Music Festival and every Saturday morning there is a market on the foreshore. The Cape Otway Lighthouse is open daily for visitors.
A brief history
The land between the Gellibrand River, Aireys Inlet and the Otway ranges was occupied by the Katabanut or “King Parrot” people. Sealers visited the bay in the early 1800s. The Hentys of Portland operated a small whaling station at Point Bunbury, off Apollo Bay, from the 1840s until about 1847. In 1848, Hopkins and Roadknight selected land near Cape Otway, after crossing from Birregurra and soon after, the Otway lighthouse was completed. The bay was recognised early as “the finest harbour on the Otway coast”, half way between the two largest headlands – Cape Otway and Cape Patton. Sawmills operated in the hills above town from 1852 and the lower slopes, near the coast, remain cleared today. Trade and transport were conducted by ships from Warrnambool and Melbourne and a pier was built in 1855.
The hardwoods from the rainforest provided timbers famous in the new colony – blue gum, grey gum ash and silvertop messmate. Farming and fishing took over as larger industries around 1900. Timber cutters continually built tracks and roads through the hills, but the town was hampered by poor access to inland city centres until a bitumen road was built in 1927, through the hills to Colac, via Barramunga and Forrest. The first school operated in 1880 and the first official school building opened in 1890.
The Apollo Bay Hotel and store were built in 1885 with churches and halls following soon after. Wood chops were common early sports events. Horse races were held on the beach at low tide. In 1900 building began on a spectacular railway line that ran between Beech Forest and Colac until 1962, serving Apollo Bay and the timber industry. Fishing became important to the town in the 1930′s when the Great Ocean Road made possible daily deliveries of fresh fish to Melbourne.In recent decades, tourism has become the major industry of Apollo Bay.
The weather in Apollo Bay and the Otways can be quite localised so if you are thinking of a day trip you might like to check the Apollo Bay Weather Station before you leave.