Located 186 km south west of Melbourne on the Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay is a very typical seaside resort with lots of motels and holiday accommodation. Its primary appeal is that it is accessible from Melbourne and is one of the key towns on a particularly beautiful stretch of coastline.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the area around Apollo Bay was inhabited by Aborigines who lived largely on the produce of the sea. Ancient middens have been discovered on the Otway Peninsula near the Aire River.
By 1840 the enterprising Henty brothers had established a major whaling station at Portland and over the next seven years they had a small whaling station at Point Bunbury which is where the Apollo Bay golf course now stands.
The first major European settlement occurred in 1850 when timber cutters moved into the district. They cut timber and floated it out to ships moored off shore. This industry led inevitably to the establishment of a number of sawmills. At this time the settlement was variously known as Apollo Bay (after the schooner Apollo) and Middleton. Then in 1877 the name was officially changed to Kambruk. It wasn't until 1952 that it officially became Apollo Bay. Not surprisingly, throughout the 19th century the major access to the town was by sea.
By 1864 farmers had moved into the area. John Cawood, one of the town's founding pioneers, was farming land around the Barham River. A decade later (in 1873) a Colonel Heath started farming at Mounts Bay. That year also saw a fortnightly road mail service. Further land sales occurred in 1877 and a school was opened in 1880.
On 10 July 1932 Apollo Bay was the scene of one of the greatest shipping disasters ever witnessed on the Australian coast. The coastal steamer Casino, with a number of locals aboard, tried to berth at the town's jetty. It was hit by freak waves, listed and sank, taking ten men down to their deaths. This occurred in front of the townsfolk gathered on the jetty who did all they could to save the people on the boat. The anchor from the Casino is located outside the Apollo Bay Post Office.
The road to the town was upgraded in 1927 and in 1932 the Great Ocean Road was completed. This ensured the town's future as a tourist and holiday destination. It is also an important fishing port with a large fleet scouring the southern ocean for crayfish, shark, whiting, flathead and snapper. Enthusiastic amateurs will not be disappointed by the rock and beach fishing. The Apollo Bay Music Festival is held each year in March.
Things to see
The Apollo Bay Great Ocean Road Information Centre is located on the Apollo Bay Foreshore, tel: 1300 OTWAYS. You can also check out http://www.visitapollobay.com or http://www.greatoceanroad.com
Old Cable Station Museum
Open on weekends this museum is housed in the old cable station which was established to achieve telecommunications between Tasmania and the mainland. It contains a good and interesting collection of local memorabilia. Contact (03) 5237 7173 for more details.
Bass Strait Shell Museum
Located at the eastern end of Noel Street the Bass Strait Shell Museum is open most days. It has an impressive collection of local and overseas shells. Contact (03) 5237 6395 for more details.
Apollo Bay is one of the many entry points to the beautiful Otway Ranges and the Otway National Park. There are a number of routes into the ranges which are spectacularly beautiful and largely untouched. See Cape Otway for details.
Lookouts, Picnic Spots and Walks
The town is surrounded by interesting and important lookout and picnic spots including the Barham Paradise Scenic Reserve and Marriners Falls, the exceptionally beautiful Barham River Valley, Grey River Scenic Reserve and Walk (23 km east of Apollo Bay), Elliot River and Elliot River Walk (10 km south-west of Apollo Bay).
Maits Rest Picnic Ground is located 17 km west of Apollo Bay, just off the Great Ocean Road. The Maits Rest Rainforest Walk is a 30-minute stroll through fern gullies and eucalypts to a viewing platform beneath a 300-year-old myrtle beech which is on the National Trust register. It is an unusual growth combining two or three trees in one. The route is wheelchair accessible.
Sunroad Tours conduct afternoon/evening walking tours which focus on local glowworms, fauna and flora, taking in rainforests, tree ferns, steams and waterfalls. , tel: (03) 5237 6080 or 0429 002 296.
A Book About The Great Ocean Road
The best book about the Great Ocean Road is the remarkably cheap ($19.95 for a full colour hardback) book by Port Campbell photographer, Rodney Hyett. It is 96 pages long and has everything you could possibly want - great photographs, maps of the area, a potted history of the area, details about national parks and visitor information centres, accommodation, walking tracks, even details of the region's eight lighthouses and succinct (not as detailed as this website) pieces of information about all the major destinations from Queenscliff to Cape Bayswater. If you are planning to travel the Great Ocean Road and explore the totality of its attractions this is a small masterpiece of publishing and a great travel guide. It is available from many shops along the way, for more details see http://www.rodneyhyett.com.au/guideinfo.html
Apollo Bay Great Ocean Road Information Centre
Apollo Bay Foreshore
Apollo Bay VIC 3233
Telephone: (03) 5237 6529