HISTORIC OTWAY COAST
To find out more about the History of the Otway Coast and the Great Ocean Road visit the Lorne Historical Society, the Great Ocean Road Story located at the Lorne Visitor Information Centre or the Apollo Bay Museum. Find out more
The Otway Coast was a treacherous stretch for ships in the 19th century, and several met a grim end on local rocks. Of the 700 ships wrecked along the Victorian coast, a good share were wrecked along what is now the Great Ocean Road.
S.S. Casino and a merry shipwreck, Kennett River
In October 1924 the S.S. Casino, which had been trading between Melbourne and Apollo Bay for 43 years, ran aground at Kennett River with a huge cargo of Christmas provisions for Warrnambool and Portland. In order to refloat the boat from the reef the rescuers had to jettison over 150 tons of bottled and kegged beer, Christmas puddings and tobacco. History has it that 50 or so men working on the construction of the Great Ocean Road had a good time on the secluded beach for over a week before struggling back to their roadwork.
The Speculant and the guilty Captain, Cape Patton
The Speculant was built in 1895 and in her early years was the largest barquentine trading in Victorian waters. She was wrecked on a jagged section of Cape Patten cliffs in February 1911. Luckily all aboard survived and were found trying to reach Lorne in their underwear the next day. The ship was gradually destroyed over the next weeks by heavy waves but today at low tide there are still remains to be seen. The Captain of the Speculant was later found guilty of ‘careless navigation’.
The Mary Cummings. They saved the gin and the lost biscuits, Cape Patton
The Schooner Mary Cummings was built in 1861. In November 1872 she was off Cape Patton when heavy seas forced her to anchor. The six crew took the lifeboat loaded with gin and biscuits and headed for shore. They eventually landed in the surf at Barwon Heads where the seas were so rough the biscuits were ruined. Meanwhile the Mary Cummings broke her anchor and was driven onto the rocks at Cape Patton.
The Lonely Grave, Separation Creek/Wye River
One of the most accessible shipwrecks for visitors to see on the Otway Coast is at the spot known as The Lonely Grave, 5 km north of Wye River. This historic site shows where in 1891, the barque ‘WB Godfrey’ was wrecked. There were no casualties form the wreck iteslf, but a number of men lost their lives during the three salvage attempts!
The present ‘grave’ does not contain any bodies but was erected by the country Roads Board to commemorate the grave they found in their way when surveying for the Ocean Road. The road gang had trouble reading the very worn wooden marker and thus the inscription on the headstone is incorrect. Only two salvage workers are buried under what became the present road.
In a twist of coincidence, the ship was called WB Godfrey, one salvage member who was killed and buried here was a Godfrey and the land was owned by the Godfrey family – no relationship to each other!
At low tide wreckage from this ship, including the capstan winch, anchor and, at very low tide, the iron frame are clearly visible straight out to sea from the grave site. For more information – drop in to the Lorne and Apollo Bay Historical Societies.
Indigenous people lived in harmony with the land and sea in the Otways coastal region till the mid 19th century. The Gadubanud (King Parrot) people enjoyed a bountiful diet as can be seen from remains of the middens scattered along the shore platforms. They reveal evidence of oysters, cockles, and abalone collected by the women on the reefs while the men caught a variety of fish including crayfish, salmon and whiting. The Gadubanud also ate seals, eels, duck and Cape Barren Geese.
A huge variety of bush foods included warrigal spinach, visible trailing down the cliffs, clematis, roots, tubers of bulbine lilies and fruits of native raspberry, coastal bearded heath and native currants in season.
Gadubanud houses were constructed from slabs of sandstone and these, with a good fire and possum skin coats gave protection from wintry squalls.
There are no surviving members of the Gadubanud people.
Narana Creations, Cultural Tourism and Educational Centre welcomes visitors into a gallery and retail display area with a wide range of Aboriginal Arts and Crafts. The staff is always interested to share their knowledge of history and culture. It is located on the Geelong Road east of Torquay
Cape Otway Lightstation also gives guests a taste of aboriginal culture with bush tucker talks and aboriginal guides on site.
There are many stories to tell about the culture of the First Australians on the Otway Coast. The Great Ocean Rod Aboriginal Product Development Strategy 2018 examine how these stories could be told in the future. Find out more
THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Recognized as one of the world’s most spectacular coastal drives, the Great Ocean Road is a ribbon following the coast of Victoria’s south-west. A total of 300 kilometres from Torquay (south of Geelong) to the fishing town of Peterborough (east of Warrnambool) the road hugs cliff tops and the edge of beaches providing visitors with magnificent views of ocean, coast and sky at every turn. For many people the stretch between Lorne and Apollo Bay, known as the Otway Coast, is considered to be the most picturesque section of the Great Ocean Road.
Here the road, which was opened in 1932, hugs clifftops that drop steeply away to the crashing waves of the ocean below. It’s hard to image that until the Great Ocean Road opened in 1932 coastal towns like Lorne were just small isolated communities with the sea providing the link to the outside world.
A ROAD TO CONNECT COMMUNITIES
The history of the road started after World War 1 when Howard Hitchcock, mayor of Geelong, saw the building of a road as a way to connect remote coastal communities and employ the many returned soldiers from the war who a bleak future of unemployment ahead of them. The Great Ocean Road Trust was formed and began to raise money.
Thousands of soldiers flocked to the area and soon these diggers toiled with their blood and sweat using equipment we would see as basic today. Picks and shovels were used to dig and move mountains of earth along a rocky and dangerous coastline supported by horses and drays. As well as a magnificent engineering feat the road ended up a permanent memorial to those who died in the First World War.
What became the world's largest war memorial was originally named the ANZAC Highway. Formally the Great Ocean Road was the section between St Georges River near Lorne and Cape Patton on the Otway Coast, taking in the Otway Coast Hamlets.
Sections of work began as early as 1918 with the construction effort launched in full swing in September 1919, but the road wasn’t finished until 1932 due to the difficulty of the terrain and bad weather. On the day the road was finally opened by
Lieutenant Governor, Sir William Irvine there was a procession of 40 cars and school children lining parts of the route.
Early travellers had to pay a toll at gates at Eastern View, two shillings and sixpence (25 cents) for drivers and one shilling and sixpence (15 cents) for passengers.