Based out of Honolulu, Hawaii, Mike Karas works full-time in the insurance industry. In his spare time, he pursues his passion for the great outdoors as a travel photographer and hiking guide. Follow his adventures on Instagram.
Australia has been on my must-visit list for a long time. When I noticed cheap direct fares from Hawaii, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the land down under.
I flew from Honolulu to Melbourne and landed below ominous clouds. I met my friend and fellow photographer Kati Hoy. As we reached our camper van, the skies opened up. Not easily deterred and with sunset quickly approaching, we headed south to the Mornington Peninsula, our best option for scenery within a two hour-drive.
As we drove through the rain, there was a break in the clouds. Much to our delight and luck, the location we picked on a whim was the only place it wasn’t raining.
It was my first taste of Australia’s southern coast: rocky coves, sea cliffs, pristine beaches, and endless waves.
I looked out over the ocean and thought to myself that the next closest body of land was Antarctica. It really put into perspective how far south we were and how brave the early explorers and sailors were that chose to test their luck in the notoriously rough waters that lay before me. Little did I know that I too would experience this famously unpredictable weather… As we walked around and snapped away, we were treated to possibly the best sunrise of the entire trip.
The colors were truly breathtaking.
The next day we drove west of Melbourne and started down the Great Ocean Road. Of all the places I’d see on this trip, I was most excited for this stretch of road. Running approximately 151 miles (243 km) between the towns of Torquay and Allansford and hugging the southern Australian coast, it’s a breathtaking stretch of highway.
Sadly, our previous stretch of good luck with the weather came to an end, and the skies opened up. Undeterred by the weather, we stopped to check out a roadside trail to a waterfall. We walked through tall grass in a valley lined with eucalyptus trees and found ourselves alone at a beautiful little waterfall. Eagerly we snapped away (much to the demise of my camera which needed to dry out for a little while after).
We continued down the highway, eyes peeled for koalas. This stretch of road has several areas to see these furry little friends, most notably the area between Apollo Bay and Lorne, but we had a hard time spotting them in the storm.
Every curve in the road presented another jaw dropping stretch of coastline. As I witnessed countless wave after perfect wave, I regretted not bringing my surfboard.
Our goal for the day was to reach the famous 12 Apostles area for sunset and then explore the next day, but Mother Nature had other plans for us. As we passed Apollo Bay, it started to get windy. Really windy. Branches swayed along the tree-lined road, and it started to pour. About halfway to 12 Apostles, we ran into a roadblock of fallen trees. A local emergency services crew arrived and told us we had to go back. He mentioned they hadn’t had a storm close to this intensity all year, and the roads would be closed for some time.
We made our way back to Apollo Bay and hunkered down for the night. The power in town went out, and we were glad to be self-sufficient in our camper van. We awoke to calmer skies and crossed our fingers that the road would be open. We had to dodge some trees, but we made it out to our destination!
We parked at the side of the road, and I scurried up the trail to the viewpoint. Looking down an endless coastline, I saw mile after mile of large sea cliffs, sea stacks, and never ending beaches. I walked back to Kati and found her standing completely still in the middle of the path. She waved me over and pointed to the bushes. There was a wallaby watching us from less than 10 feet away. After a brief staring contest, it cocked its head slightly and then hopped into the bush. We saw many wallabies and kangaroos during the rest of our trip, but having such a close and unexpected encounter was a moment I’ll never forget.
We continued down the coast and explored many of the well-known spots in the area. 12 Apostles and the Loch Ard Gorge were my favorites.
Later in the day, we began our journey inland. Our time on the Great Ocean Road was brief but unforgettable. If you’re in the area, take the time to explore the most scenic coastline I’ve ever laid eyes on. You won’t regret it.