Port Fairy – Warrnambool – Peterborough – Port Campbell – Twelve Apostles – Portland
In February 2022 while visiting Mount Gambier I hired Bob Rowe’s Cessna 172 to fly over to Warrnambool to see David and Rita from Red Rock Olives who had rented a cottage in the seaside town of Port Fairy for a summer holiday. As Bob had decided to sell VH-CNY I realised it was possibly the last time I’d get to fly it. I wanted to take David and Rita on a flight down along the Great Ocean Road to experience the awesome natural beauty of the world-famous “Twelve Apostles”. Rising abruptly from the tempestuous Southern Ocean, these limestone stacks are a highlight of the Great Ocean Road. While I’d flown past them in November 2019, David and Rita had only seen them from the ground before so they were excited to experience the aerial view.
Originally I’d planned to land at Port Fairy where there is a grass airstrip but after talking to the local manager and reading OzRunways info about the airstrip I decided not to, as there was a strong south easterly forecast. The airstrip is located adjacent to a line of sandhills and when a south easterly is blowing it comes straight over the sandhills at right angles to the airstrip and can cause severe turbulence on short final. I decided to land at Warrnambool instead and asked David and Rita to meet me there.
Taking off from Mt Gambier I climbed to 2500ft to stay below a 7/8 cloud ceiling at about 3000ft and followed the Princes Highway past Dartmoor and Heywood and soon saw Port Fairy in the distance. Descending to 1500ft I checked out the airstrip and although the surface looked dry and in good order the wind sock was almost horizontal and fully crosswind. Feeling vindicated in my decision I headed to Warrnambool and landed to see David and Rita waiting.
The Warrnambool airport is 5 minutes drive from Koroit, Victoria’s Irish heritage village.
We headed to Noodledoof microbrewery in the Koroit main street for lunch. This brewery/restaurant was opened a couple of years ago and has a great feel to it and a great menu. Avoiding imbibing in the brews over lunch, we bought a few cans on the way out to enjoy in the evening.
Back at the airport the three of us climbed in and took off to the south east, passing over the city of Warrnambool and heading to the coast. Soon we were over Peterborough and its large sealed runway. This is where the picturesque coastline began.
As we headed further east we had amazing views of the cliffs and multiple little bays, inlets and limestone outcrops.
And soon we were approaching Port Campbell, a signal that the Twelve Apostles were up next.
A few miles further on we spotted the visitors’ centre that allowed us to locate the “Twelve Apostles”. These limestone formations jut out of the sea impressively and have become a major tourist drawcard, with many thousands of visitors making the trek from Melbourne along the coast to this point.
The effect of the pounding waves is having its effect on the outcrops. We decided that although they still look impressive from 3000 ft that they probably look more imposing from the top of the cliffs. And yes, there are only 7 of the 12 apostles left.
We headed on further east for a bit, spotting the Otway Ranges in the distance and the coastline as it curved towards Cape Otway.
Turning 180 degrees we headed back at 2000ft for a slightly lower pass by the Apostles and on past Warrnambool to Port Fairy.
I’ve driven through Port Fairy many times but hadn’t realised what a wonderful beach it has and suddenly realised why it was the preferred beach resort for so many western Victoria grazier families. It’s become really trendy with Melbourne sea changers especially since Covid, so the real estate prices have sky rocketed and there have been lots of new and fancy homes built in recent years.
Heading back to Warrnambool we flew over the Tower Hill volcanic crater.
We followed a C152, who was on a training flight from Moorabbin, as he joined the circuit on crosswind and then flew one of the widest circuits I’ve ever seen before executing a touch and go. We did a full stop and parked, tied down the plane and headed back to Port Fairy for the evening.
After having a minor delay due to a mislaid aeroplane key, my return trip the next day was along the coast over Port Fairy once again and then past Portland with its harbour and aluminium smelter on the point.
Further up the coast I passed over Nelson at the mouth of the Glenelg River.
From there it was a ten minute descent into Mount Gambier. Listening to the AWIS the wind had changed to 350 degrees at 7 knots and as there was no sound of any other traffic it was an easy decision to do a straight in approach on RWY36.
Encountering a slight bit of turbulence over Mount Gambier I descended towards the recently extended runway and touched down with one of those landings that pilots dream about, taxied over to the apron and put CNY back into the hangar, probably for the last time. Someone will get a nice old 172.