Monday, January 25, 2016

A piece of perfect

Mr Rosanna and I are home after two wonderful weeks away in picture perfect Apollo Bay.  While the surf coast may be considered the poor cousin to the more glamorous Mornington Peninsula, it's still a beautiful place to go.  Indeed, I'd never ever been to Apollo Bay in all the years I've lived in Melbourne.  While I've done the Great Ocean Road a number of times, the furthest I've ever got was Lorne.  It is a windy last 26km from inland Forrest to Apollo Bay through the ferns and the rainforest but well worth the trip - we stopped for Mr Echidna who had started walking across the road - but did a quick about face when we approached, scuttling back into the undergrowth.
View of Apollo Bay from Marriner's Lookout (above and below)
If you're after a perfect seaside village to visit, then the more low key and less crowded Apollo Bay surrounded by rolling hills is the place to go.  It's got a real community feel with a weekly Saturday Community Market on the foreshore as well as a monthly Sunday Farmer's Market.  During the holidays, there's also an Indoor Market held at the Catholic Church Hall at the top end of town near the Breakwater.  There are some beautiful handmade things to buy from local artisans and craft makers - I loved the jewellery by Beth at SilknSilver as well as the Karmic Goat soaps made by Beatrice (who you can also visit in Wild Dog Creek Road along with her herd of snow coloured goats). The top end of town also includes hippy shop Moontide as well as Arts Inc around the corner held in the old Mechanic's Institute Hall, which can be hired out for events and is used as the Apollo Bay Cinema during school holidays.  Over the summer holidays, there's also a night time carnival on although I started feeling dizzy just watching some of the rides.
View from Wild Dog Creek Road 
Karmic Goats!

The Apollo Bay Fishermen's Co-op at the Breakwater is a fantastic place to buy fresh seafood if you're up for cooking it yourself (we did a baked snapper) - best to go in the morning around 10 am when all the seafood is fresh in from the boats.  There's also a lovely view over the Breakwater and pier if you want to have fish and chips overlooking the water.  It's also where the boats head out if you're wanting to visit the local seal colony or go fishing.  We spied a lone penguin having a great old time splashing about in the water along with some brave girls jumping off the pier in their bikinis (the boys donned wetsuits most days, which you can hire).  My boys enjoyed body surfing and boogie boarding but given it's the surf coast, there's surf lessons on offer and lots of surfers in the water - brave souls given a 3 metre shark was spotted in the water while we were there!
At the Breakwater (above and below)

Apollo Bay is a nature lover's paradise and one of the more green municipalities around - it's one of the only councils I know of who have a weekly organic waste collection and there are some spectacular walks you can do like Marriner's Lookout for aerial views of Apollo Bay or through the rainforest adjacent to the Great Otway National Park at nearby Maits Rest, which was like being in an enchanted forest complete with potoroos and other small creatures - a perfect thing to do on really hot days.  Not surprisingly, Apollo Bay does have a more bohemian feel to it and is a lot more middle class than the peninsula.  I found the locals very friendly people - I got lots of hellos while out running on the beach track!
Maits Rest (above and below)

I also enjoyed doing Yoga on the foreshore one morning - a beautiful way to start the day while we also took advantage of the beach trails to cycle, run and walk as a family.  This was a good thing given we ate out a lot while we were there!  There are some great takeaway meals to be had from Dragon Bay Inn (Chinese housed in an old Art Deco building), Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe (lobster burgers!) and Apollo Bay Bakery (scallop pies!) and more upmarket places to go like La Bimba (Moroccan) where we went on our last night in Apollo Bay as well as Chris's Beacon Point and Casalingo (Italian).   There's also great coffee and food to be had at the newly opened Hello Coffee cafe and roastery off the beaten track in the industrial estate where you can also find The Bent Nail second hand goods.  It's housed in an old shed and very Melbourne in feel.  We also ate a lot of award winning ice-cream from Dooleys on the main street as well as enjoyed afternoon beverages at the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse beer garden housed in a magnificent old 1880s building - the former Ballarat Hotel.
Dragon Bay Inn Chinese Restaurant
Great Ocean Road Brewhouse (old Ballarat Hotel above and below) 

Hello Coffee (above and below) 
There are also a number of really good shops in Apollo Bay - my favourites on the main drag included Hawkeye Homewares (stocking Elk shoes, Klein's Perfumery toiletries and Mesop clothing - very Melbourne), Hodgys (cool surf wear and clothing with a fashion edge), Galapagos Books and Bay of Apostles.  Near Casalingo was a very new upmarket retail shop called Coyote & Hare selling boho chic (next to the Apollo Bay Day Spa) and around the corner from that you can find the Apollo Bay Op Shop, Earth Flower florist and Thai House restaurant.
Mr Rosanna and me at La Bimba (above and below)
Further out from Apollo Bay is the Cape Otway Lightstation as well as the Otway Fly Treetop Adventures, but we didn't get a chance to go.  We did stop in at the Forrest Brewing Company for lunch on the way home, which was a lovely pit stop as well as stretched our legs in nearby Birregurra - a place I'd like to go back to given the award winning restaurant Brae is located there.
Forrest Brewing Company
Royal Mail Hotel Birregurra
So much to see and do - Apollo Bay is a place I'd like to visit again, and I think I'll be making a return to the surf coast pretty soon given a lot of friends and family are lucky enough to have beach houses there.  It's been great to have had some time out - it was both a piece of perfect and a perfect place to find some peace.

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