Swimming in Victoria, Part 3: ‘just down the road’ from Melbourne

The distances Australians travel to enjoy the outdoors are difficult for the British to comprehend. Victoria has some spectacular coasts and waters to enjoy, and we caught glimpses of some of them on our journey to the next destination on our trip.

Guides to swimming in Melbourne and Victoria include places that in Britain would seem like a long way away, but in Australia would be described as just down the road. One even suggests a six-hour road trip to one spot!

We travelled along the Great Ocean Road by public transport coach. You can do a trip along the scenic route and be back in Melbourne by train by the evening. But we were on a journey to meet my friend Phil at Warrnambool. The road skirts the Great Ocean with spectacular views of beautiful surfing and bathing beaches.

Bay with cliffs, swimmers on beach
Loch Ard Gorge beach, Port Campbell, Great Ocean Road

The coach stops at three or four points just long enough to shuffle along with the crowds to take photos of the major landmarks.

Surf, blue sky and sea, rock formation
London Arch (was London Bridge), on Great Ocean Road

The day we went was baking hot, and it would have been wonderful to have done the trip under our own steam and stop at some of the beaches for a swim. But much more sensible to let the coach take the strain – and very reasonably priced, too, with V-line.

Sea with waves and sun rising
Port Fairy swim at sunrise

Port Fairy,  at the end of the Great Ocean Road, was gorgeous. Phil, Anita and I stayed at a house next to the beach, and I swam as soon as we arrived as the sun set, then at sunrise the next morning in the calm cool sea.

Paddler and swimmer in calm sea in twilight
Port Fairy swim at dusk

Nowadays Port Fairy is a quiet tourist destination with lovely beaches, and it’s hard to believe it was a busy port in the mid-19th century. You wouldn’t know there was any indigenous history from official websites describing the arrival of European settlers and whalers, but in fact the region’s Gunditjmara suffered massacres and wars.

Kangaroos nearby and in distance, and rainy hills
Kangaroos at Halls Gap motel

At Halls Gap in the Grampians we stayed in a motel with cockatoos and kangaroos in the back garden. We went for a cooling paddle in Venus Baths, known by Europeans as a picturesque bathing place for well over a century.

Pools in rocks, with people
Venus Baths, Halls Gap, with Anita; people in the pools

Children were swimming and sliding in and out of the rocky pools, though these were a bit too shallow for anything more than bathing. We walked up the rocky hills in the fierce heat, then back through the community botanical gardens. The village has a lovely outdoor pool, in which I had a swim while Anita and Phil shopped for our barbecue. A storm was predicted for the next day, so they insisted I grab the chance.

Pools in rocks, with people; two women swathed against hot sun
Phil and Venus Baths; Phil and Imogen

In the morning, as predicted, it poured with rain and the heat of the previous day seemed like a dream. We set off across country and over the border into Southern Australia – where you have to put any fresh produce into an amnesty bin and the clocks go back half an hour – to Adelaide Hills, to Phil’s home with its fresh water dam in which I swam every day of my visit.

Black and white photos of pools and swimmers and a person on a rock
Historic photos of Venus Baths, Halls Gap
Black and white information board
‘A wild romantic glen’, sign at Halls Gap

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