Like most exciting journeys, this one begins at Tullamarine. Not at the airport but close by, where my three-year old daughter and I stand in the carpark of Apollo Motorhome Holidays and admire our home for the next few days: a six-berth, two-living area Apollo Euro Deluxe that has everything anyone could possibly desire. Well-appointed, spacious – we shall want for nothing.
My daughter is instantly hooked and while I hide my excitement from the agent who is guiding me around every feature of this fine vehicle, so am I.
To the uninitiated, driving something 3.5m high and 7.7m long on the open road is a little unwieldy at first. However, once we grow accustomed to its sway and appreciate the good turning circle and the comfortable acceleration, braking and cruise control, we are breathing easy.
Stop 1: Home
When we pack for a camping trip, it is a descent into chaos as we try to squish everything into our station wagon. And let’s not discuss setting up the tent.
Packing for this trip takes no time as the motorhome has everything: cutlery, crockery, cooker, fridge, TV, DVD and USB inputs to speakers indoors and out. Plus an awning which rolls out simply and quickly. Yes, this is glamping.
Stop 2: School
We park in front of my son’s primary school. Totally embarrassing for seven-year olds and above but for my six-year old: “Totally awesome.”
Travelling tall provides better views of everything including the busy port and Port Phillip from the West Gate Bridge. It’s an impressive urban landscape.
We’re heading for Gellibrand, two hours along the Princes Hwy to Colac before turning towards Lavers Hill. A quick stop at Love Creek in Kawarren is an opportunity to stretch and smell the mix of farmland and forest.
What isn’t so easily sniffed out in the foothills of the Great Otway National Park is the art. While there is a pointer to Ish shoes on the undulating road between Kawarren and Gellibrand, many other studios are not signposted.
To Great Otway National Park
Thankfully, once you reach Gellibrand, many artists’ creations can be found in a gallery on the tiny main strip. Here hang paintings, prints, felted scarves and jewellery, and on every shelf sits pottery, stained glass and silver chattels.
The store/cafe next door has big breakfasts and fluffy, home-baked pies. Oddly it’s not on the official harvest trail, which celebrates local produce.
We set up at the Otway Tourist Park across the road. This is a child’s haven with a playground and pool, and the addition of a camp kitchen-bistro is also a drawcard.
Gellibrand township is surrounded by natural beauty. Tracks, including the Old Beechy Rail Trail which winds its way for 50km between Colac and Beech Forest, spring off in all directions. The Gellibrand River also provides us with hours of exploring, bird and lizard spotting (I swear they were not snakes slithering through the undergrowth) and some good fishing; black fish are the specialty.
Further afield and via good quality tracks are spectacular waterfalls, including Triplet, Hopetouns and Beauchamp, each surrounded by ancient forests.
To the Great Ocean Road
In this traditional motorhome, we stick to major roads. From Gellibrand we drive 35km through Lavers Hill to Melba Gully on the road to Apollo Bay. Known for its glow worms that light up the gully walls at night, we were content to walk the 35-minute (an hour-plus for us) Madsen’s Track Nature Walk to feel the old mossy trees, peak into the fallen logs and peer at the massive fern gullies.
To Airleys Inlet
It is a two-hour drive to Aireys Inlet on the Great Ocean Road for our final night. We’ve heard Aireys is home to amazing (in size and content) rock pools, 50m limestone bluffs and cool caves.
We’ve got bathers to play in the rock pools and shoes in which to scale the amazing rock formations (but be careful, erosion is taking its toll in some areas).
At low tide next day we experience Mermaid’s Pool near Urquhart Bluff. The water is breathtakingly cold and blue.
The last stop is Aireys Inlet’s Split Point Lighthouse, which seems to have followed us around through much of our short stay. Towering more than 70m above the cliff top, the lighthouse is still operational and has guided tours.
Salty and content, we steer the Euro Deluxe back to Melbourne. The children sleep while we plot our next trip, as this won’t be our last motorhome adventure.