Great Ocean Road Trip, Part II: The 12 Apostles, Otway National Park & Laurel Hill

The second half of our Great Ocean Road Trip took us north from Phillip Island, through Melbourne and then west towards the iconic (almost) 12 Apostles. In case you missed it, you can read Part I of the trip here.

12 Apostles

For the next leg of our trip, we camped at the Princetown Recreation Reserve. The camp ground is nothing to write home about, but it made for a convenient base camp. We were just a short 5 minute drive away from the main 12 Apostles lookout, providing us with easy and timely access to the great rock formations on sunrise and sunset.

We ventured out to the lookout multiple times, which allowed us to experience the Apostles under varying lighting conditions: overcast, sunrise, sunset and at night. For me, my favourite time was on sunrise and sunset, both with clear skies. This allowed the sun rays to bathe the Apostles in a warm golden light, that we were able to experience from both the east and the west.

On our final evening along the Great Ocean Road, we noticed interesting clouds in the distance and so we walked down Gibson Steps on sunset and were lucky to have the beach to ourselves. The setting sun broke through the clouds for a few short moments, briefly illuminating the sky, and sea cave overhead. It was a special moment to share with my Dad one that I'll cherish from our travels.


Otway National Park

When researching our trip, I had heard about an old Californian Redwood plantation that had been abandoned and left to grow near the Otway National Park. The somewhat vague directions suggested that the trees were an hour drive from our camp at Princetown and so we drove out in the morning in the hope of capturing the soft morning light filtering down through the forest.

Just east of the town of Beech Forest, we travelled south down an old logging road towards Apollo Bay (along the Hopetoun Falls road, but not taking the falls turnoff). Continuing along for about 10 minutes after Beech Forest, we found a small picnic style reserve on a bend by the side of the road.

The Redwoods towered over the reserve, and following the short winding path into the forest was an enchanted experience.  Take time to wander beneath the Redwoods, through the fern covered valley floor below. And don't forget to look up at the imposing giants overhead. It's such a magical hidden place, and definitely worth exploring if you find yourself in the area.

A short drive from the Redwoods, we also went on a small rainforest walk into find Hopetoun Falls. Although there had been little rain recently, the forest was extremely lush, with vibrant green ferns perfectly framing the falls. We're keen to head back and experience the falls again after a downpour, and also explore the nearby water falls of Beauchamp and Triplet Falls.

Laurel Hill

Located near the town of Laurel Hill in country New South Wales, the Sugar Pine forest is from the first logging road (Kopsens Road) north of the town. The road is still in use, so be aware of logging trucks in the area.

Similar to the Redwoods that we explored in the Otway's, the Sugar Pines began their life as a forestry plantation in 1928. Now reserved and protected due to the shear size and grandeur, they tower over the forest floor below with the branch-less trunks offering commanding views through the pines.

While picturesque all day long, be sure to visit the forest just after sunrise. The field east of the Sugar Pines is mostly clear, which allows the morning sun rays to shine into the forest, bathing the pines in a magnificent golden light. On rare instances in the deep of winter, it has snowed in the area, covering the pines in a white blanket which I'd love to experience myself when the conditions are right.

After spending and enchanted morning in the forest, we packed up camp and hit the road again on the way home. It was such a memorable trip to spend with my Dad, and allowed us to capture some special moments through our photography.

Now, where to next?