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Chatting with the man next to me at last week’s concert, I heard about the Surf Capital of Australia–Torquay. We were told about the wonderful beaches and gorgeous coastal drive. Much as we enjoy Melbourne’s gigantic bay, we had wanted to get out to the ocean, and were convinced. My new friend admitted he was not unbiased, having grown up in Torquay. He lobbied for us to drive at least the portion of the Great Ocean Road from Torquay to Lorne. So we did.

What beautiful scenery, beaches, rocks, surfers! Torquay beach was full of surfers and surfing students, even on an overcast day. Shops focus on surf and swimming gear, surfboards and paddleboards are piled up on the sidewalk, strapped to the roof of cars and stuck into the sand.

After Torquay, we stopped at Bell’s Beach, famous for the climax scene in the film Point Break, despite the scene being filmed elsewhere. It’s a series of coves with waves of different sizes at different times depending on wind and weather. We asked a guy with a surfboard whether waves were larger on incoming or outgoing tide and it took him ten minutes to say, “It depends.” (With greater detail.)

None of our stops beyond Bell’s Beach were in the guidebook, despite being glorious beaches with shelving rock and sandy shores. Roadknight Point has eroded rock that looks like ancient ruins, another version of the Library at Ephesus. Or perhaps a pair of giant twins.

For sustenance, we stopped at the well-publicized Chocolaterie for ice cream. They have many unusual flavors and a parking lot big enough for thirty tour buses. We were happy to be there on a quiet afternoon. We stopped for the night in Lorne, a beach town with it’s own surf school. At dinner, the young Frenchman who waited on us is at the end of his two-year stay in Australia. He told us of his travels around Australia and recommended the Koala Cafe, “just a little further down the road.” The koalas and parrots in the trees there were irresistible to us. The next morning we agreed that we’d get to the Koala Cafe and then turn back. We did see one koala “in the wild” that was every bit as interesting as the caged koalas we’ve seen–asleep with its back to us. The parrots were a different story. Despite all the signs forbidding visitors to feed them, tour guides pulled out containers of bird seed and filled the hands of all their charges. We benefited from seeing King parrots and rosellas up close.

It would be easy to spend the next two weeks making our way along the remaining 350 kilometers of the Great Ocean Road.