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Tour reviews

HOW TO LAND ON A GLACIER IN NEW ZEALAND’S STUNNING SOUTHERN ALPS

Experience Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier on a Helicopter Flight – The Most Accessible Rivers of Ice in the World.   New Zealand’s Southern Alps are breathtaking and home…

Experience Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier on a Helicopter Flight – The Most Accessible Rivers of Ice in the World.

 

New Zealand’s Southern Alps are breathtaking and home to several glaciers. Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier are the most accessible. And what better way to experience their natural beauty than with a helicopter flight over the glaciers and landing on the top of one for a walk around? 

When touring New Zealand’s South Island, I climbed aboard a helicopter for a scenic flight and snow landing. I have mixed feelings about this flight, which become evident in my review below.

 

I was so excited about taking a helicopter flight with Glacier Helicopters over New Zealand’s Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers – an optional extra with Grand Pacific Tours and my New Year present to myself. I will always jump at the option of a helicopter or small plane scenic flight and have taken several now around the world. They provide a unique perspective of an area or site you visit, and I feel a sense of adventure with helicopter flights.

Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are in New Zealand’s Southern Alps on the South Island’s west coast, in Glacier Country. They are temperate maritime glaciers that extend well below the snow line. Franz Josef Glacier’s terminal face is 500 metres above sea level, while Fox Glacier terminates at 250 metres above sea level. Though still flowing, both glaciers, unfortunately, are retreating, with Franz Josef vanishing at a phenomenal rate.

Franz Josef Glacier is 12 kilometres long and lies 20 kilometres south of Fox Glacier. Franz Josef Glacier was named after the Austrian emperor but is better known by its Māori name, Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere. The glacier is five kilometres from the town of the same name.

At 13 kilometres long, Fox Glacier (Te Moeka o Tuawe) is longer and faster moving than Franz Josef Glacier and is New Zealand’s longest glacier. Fox Glacier is just five kilometres from the village of the same name. I stayed in Fox Glacier village.

View of a glacier wedged between two mountains. An open plain with several trees is in the foreground of the photo.

View of Fox Glacier taken from State Highway 6 near Fox Glacier village.

 

Grand Pacific Tours had organised the 40-minute ‘Mountain Scenic Spectacular’ helicopter flight with Helicopter Line in Franz Josef village. However, when we arrived, Helicopter Line advised us to fly the next morning because of the current poor visibility. For some reason I never understood, we booked in the following day with Glacier Helicopters for our scenic flight over Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, with a snow landing on Franz Josef Glacier and departing from Fox Glacier village. Unfortunately, because of a strong wind, we couldn’t fly around Mount Cook (Aoraki), New Zealand’s highest mountain (3,724 metres), as per the scheduled flight path. Consequently, Glacier Helicopters reduced our helicopter flight plus snow landing to 30 minutes, and we did receive a small discount.

A snow capped mountain rises above a mountain range devoid of snow.

Mount Cook dominates New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

 

I was disappointed with Glacier Helicopter’s scenic flight. The cabin was cramped inside, and the other passengers obstructed my view. There were three of us in the back, two in the front, and the pilot. Sitting in the middle of the back seat, I found the cramped conditions restricted my arm movements, making taking photos while flying difficult.

I could tolerate being sandwiched between two passengers, but having my views of the landscape we were passing over severely obstructed was upsetting. While flying, the passengers on either side of me continually blocked my sight as they leaned into their respective windows to see the landscape below and take photos. Looking out the front of the helicopter was no better as the heads of the two front passengers were prominent in many of my photos.

These circumstances negatively impacted my overall experience. As a travel blogger and photographer (I rarely disclose my tradecraft), getting good photographs is crucial for my posts. I understand weight distribution is imperative for helicopter flights, but is there no way to guarantee a window seat?

Had I not been seated in the back row’s middle seat, I believe my helicopter flight experience would have been very different – far more positive.

After flying up the ice river that is Franz Josef Glacier, we landed on the top of the glacier to spend 15 wondrous minutes walking on the snow and ice, examining the ice architecture, enjoying the views, and taking photos. The adventure of a lifetime! The landing on Franz Josef Glacier was magical. Who needs a flight around a snow-capped mountain when you can walk on a glacier?

The ice river of the Franz Josef Glacier is view from a helicopter.

Franz Josef Glacier – climbing the ice river

 

New Zealand's Southern Alps at the top of Franz Josef Glacier, viewed from inside a helicopter.

Landing on Franz Josef Glacier.

 

While on Franz Josef Glacier, the pilot took photos of the passengers. He had a printer in the helicopter’s tail, and we could purchase a photograph after landing back at Fox Glacier Heliport.

A red and white helicopter sits on the snow with mountains behind it. The name, Glacier Helicopters is printer on the helicopter's tail. The pilot is looking into the helicopter through an open door in the tail section.

There’s a printer in the helicopter’s tail!

 

I would have loved more time on Franz Josef Glacier to walk further afield than just the top of the glacier, exploring its features in detail. But that’s what the Heli Hikes entail. Next time!

Being in the middle seat behind the pilot and two other passengers on Glacier Helicopter’s small, five-passenger helicopter was not value for money. I had no choice as to which company I took the helicopter flight with, as Grand Pacific Tours organised it. I recommend exploring other glacier helicopter flight companies to avoid disappointment.

 

My helicopter flight over New Zealand’s Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers was a mixed experience. The obstruction of my views during the flight by other passengers was undeniably disappointing. However, the magic truly began when we landed on Franz Josef Glacier. The opportunity to step out on this pristine glacier and explore its breathtaking beauty up close gave me a real sense of adventure. While the flight had drawbacks, the glacier landing left an indelible mark on my memory.

 

Snow covered mountains are viewed from inside a helicopter.

Fox Glacier – on top of the mountains.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel.

© Just Me Travel 2018-2023.

 

My favourite helicopter flights are in small three-passenger helicopters with removed doors. I experienced three such helicopter flights when in The Kimberley, Western Australia. What has been your experience of scenic helicopter flights? I love hearing from you. Please leave a comment below.

 

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The image features two photos. One shows a red and white helicopter sitting on snow with mountains behind it. The other photo is a section of a snow covered mountain range.

 

The image features two photos: a glacier wedged between two mountains with a grass plain in the foreground, and a view of an ice river (glacier) running down a mountain crevice.

 

Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and follow government advice.

 

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A collage of three photos of mountains surrounding bodies of water in New Zealand's Fiordland National Park.NEW ZEALAND’S FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK – DISCOVER 3 SPECTACULAR SOUNDS. Journey through the awe-inspiring sounds of Fiordland National Park, where nature’s grandeur & serenity intertwine. Take a cruise to discover the spectacular sight of glacial-fed fiords.

 

The wing of a plane is seen flying over a landscape of red cliffs, white sand, blue ocean and green forestHOW TO SEE HORIZONTAL FALLS AND EPIC TIDES, AUSTRALIA. Take an unforgettable scenic flight over northern Western Australia’s Horizontal Falls. Include an incredible sea safari among giant whirlpools and standing tidal waves. See a horizontal waterfall and ride giant tides.

 

 

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HOW TO SEE HORIZONTAL FALLS AND EPIC TIDES, AUSTRALIA

Take An Amazing Scenic Flight And Awesome Sea Safari   Northern Western Australia has some of the best unique experiences you will find in Australia. Air Kimberley’s Cygnet Bay Explorer…

Take An Amazing Scenic Flight And Awesome Sea Safari

 

Northern Western Australia has some of the best unique experiences you will find in Australia. Air Kimberley’s Cygnet Bay Explorer full-day tour covers several bucket list activities in the Kimberley region. Be prepared for a scenic flight over the Horizontal Waterfalls and the stunning Buccaneer Archipelago, a visit to a hatchery managed by the Bardi-Jawi people, a pearling industry discovery tour and a fast boat cruise amongst giant whirlpools and standing tidal waves in the world’s largest tropical tides. So, where am I taking you? Read on to discover and learn more about your next Australian adventure.

 

Over the past 12 months, I have tried twice to join a tour over and through Horizontal Falls in Western Australia. However, on both occasions, the company cancelled the tour. The first cancellation in 2021 was because the seaplanes could not take off due to low cloud cover. The second cancellation (June 2022) occurred when a fast boat had an accident going through the Horizontal Waterfalls, and all fast boat tours through the falls were temporarily suspended.

When I recently found myself in Broome again, and my second-attempted pre-booked Horizontal Falls tour was cancelled, I was resigned to my disappointment. However, one day nosing around the resort lobby, I came across an Air Kimberley brochure. I discovered they did a similar full-day tour that included a flyover of the Horizontal Falls and a sea safari, not through Horizontal Falls, as I had wanted, but out to the giant tides off the Kimberley coast.

The Air Kimberley tour cost, at $985.00, was slightly less than what I was to be refunded from the cancelled tour. I figured, what did I have to lose? And I wasn’t returning to Broome for a third attempt at the Horizontal Falls tour.

Air Kimberley’s tour price covered hotel transfers, flights, morning tea and lunch, and third-party tours at Ardyaloon Trochus Hatchery and Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm.

So, what did I find in that Air Kimberley brochure? Before I answer that question, you probably wonder why seeing Horizontal Falls was so important to me.

Last year, when organising my first ever trip to the Kimberley in northern Western Australia, Horizontal Falls was on my must-see list for several reasons.

  • Sir David Attenborough has described the falls as “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world”, and I thought I needed to see this unique natural attraction that deserved such high praise.
  • The Horizontal Falls are created by a rare ocean phenomenon where powerful, fast-moving 10- to 12-metre-high tidal currents squeeze through two narrow gorges at an astonishing rate, producing waterfalls turned on their side (literally, horizontal). I love waterfalls but have only seen ones with vertical drops. So, I knew I had to see this wonder for myself.
  • Horizontal Falls is in the Buccaneer Archipelago, an untouched region of more than 1,000 islands off the coast of Western Australia. These largely uninhabited islands are known for their rugged terrain, areas of rainforest, and pristine, white sand beaches – a landscape I was keen to photograph from the air even though it would seriously test my camera skills.
  • Horizontal Falls is remote, accessible only by air or boat. I find ‘remote’ appealing – the more difficult it is to get to see or do something, the more I want to go.
  • And lastly, seeing Horizontal Falls came highly recommended by friends and Facebook groups.

Did my flight over Horizontal Falls meet all my expectations? You will have to read on to find out.

Cygnet Bay Explorer

And now, back to my question about what I found in the Air Kimberley brochure.

I found, booked, and went on Air Kimberley’s Cygnet Bay Explorer full-day tour, leaving from Broome.

“Enjoy an adventure packed day experiencing the best of the Kimberley – Overfly the Horizontal Falls, Buccaneer Archipelago, visit Ardyaloon Community and the giant tides and shimmering pearls at Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm.”

While you can check out the details of this tour for yourself by clicking on the link, there were two very different events I was eager to experience – the scenic flight over Horizontal Falls and the sea safari out to the giant whirlpools. But I am getting ahead of myself. What did the tour entail?

I was picked up from my accommodation at 6.30 am and driven to Broome International Airport, where Air Kimberley is based. Four other people (two couples) joined me on the tour. After our flight safety briefing, we boarded a small aircraft (eight-seater, including the pilot) for the 2-hour flight up the Kimberley coast for our flight over the stunning Buccaneer Archipelago and Horizontal Falls.

The Buccaneer Archipelago is a group of 1,000 small islands covering 50 square kilometres, located at the head of King Sound near the Kimberley town of Derby.

The archipelago is a magnificent raw landscape that you can only truly appreciate from the air. While boat tours around the islands offer visits to the beautiful coves and beaches, you would not get the perspective given by a scenic flight of the vastness of all those islands that seem to go on forever.

I must admit, I was underwhelmed with Horizontal Falls. I had read so much about the power of the tides running between the cliffs, causing the water to appear like a horizontal waterfall, but ‘power’ was not evident from the plane. Instead, what I saw was more like Class 1 or 2 rapids.

I suspect the wonder of Horizontal Falls and the power of the tides are best experienced from a fast boat through the waterfalls rather than a scenic flyover.

When we landed at the Ardyaloon Trochus Hatchery & Aquaculture Centre, run by the Bardi-Jawi people on One Arm Point, I asked the pilot if we were not allowed to fly lower over Horizontal Falls. I thought lower would give a better ‘feel’ for the powerful tides. Apparently, there is a height pecking order, with helicopters flying at the lowest altitude, seaplanes next level up, and light aircraft (our plane) flying the highest.

When I got home and reviewed my photos more closely, I felt the image below revealed the power of the running tide more clearly than my eyes could discern. What do you think?

Close up aerial view of a horizontal waterfall

Can you ‘feel’ the power of the Horizontal Falls in this photo?

 

I had joined a guided tour of Ardyaloon Trochus Hatchery on a previous visit to Broome in 2021. However, on this occasion, morning tea of fruit salad, cake, and juice was provided by Air Kimberley.

From Long Arm Point, it was a short, six-minute flight to Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm on the tip of the Dampier Peninsula, where the activities included the Pearl Discovery Tour and a Sea Safari. At Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, Air Kimberley’s involvement was limited to getting us to the pearl farm, seeing we joined the Pearl Discovery Tour, paying for lunch, ensuring we were on the fast boat for the Sea Safari, and flying us back to Broome.

Air Kimberley’s Cygnet Bay Explorer tour price included the tours at Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm.

Pearl Farm Discovery Tour

My previous visit to Broome in 2021 included the Pearl Farm Discovery Tour at the family-owned Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm. However, I continue to be fascinated by the history of pearling in the Kimberley.

Reading tip: If you are interested in learning more about a significant chapter in the Kimberley’s pearling industry, I recommend reading The White Divers of Broome by John Bailey, telling the true story of a fatal experiment.

The tour commenced with an information session on the history of Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm and the pearling industry in what appropriately appeared to be an old school classroom. A live pearl harvest followed the history lesson.

A pearl in an opened oyster

I took this photo of the harvested pearl on my previous visit to Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm

 

The tour concluded with an in-depth session on how pearls are graded.

The Pearl Farm Discovery tour was followed by lunch at the onsite restaurant.

Twice I lunched at the Cygnet Bay Homestead Restaurant with a tour group when the set menu was seafood. On both occasions, Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm was advised of my seafood allergy, and, on both occasions, this information seems to have been lost in translation. The outcome was eating a meal after everyone else had finished because they had nothing prepared for me. I found the restaurant’s forgetfulness disappointing.

Sea Safari

After lunch, we climbed aboard the fast boat for our Giant Tides Sea Safari. During this cruise, we would “feel the power of the world’s largest tropical tides with giant whirlpools and standing waves” created by millions of tonnes of water squeezing between the rocky islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago.

Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm writes about their Sea Safari tour:

“Feel the power of the world’s largest tropical tides as you cruise amongst the giant whirlpools and standing tidal waves. Venture into Escape Passage, recently described by scientists as the fastest ocean currents in the world!

The tides on this section of the Kimberley Coast are particularly large due to the area’s geography. When the sun and moon align on a spring tide, the ocean is pulled towards the north-west of WA and Indonesia, gathering speed as it reaches the shallow continental shelf and bottlenecking as it passes between Australia and Indonesia, creating the exhilarating whirlpools and standing waves we see on the tour.”

My photos can’t express the sense of adventure experienced and don’t do justice to all you see. The whirlpools are probably best viewed from the air.

The Sea Safari was an experience I find difficult to describe as there just don’t seem to be the right words to express how I felt as we powered through the whirlpools and standing waves created by the forceful tides. But let me try. It was a thrilling, exhilarating, exciting, fun, and awesome adventure. To best sum up my feelings, I was disappointed when it was time to return to land. I immediately wanted to go back out again, but there was a plane waiting for me to take me back to Broome.

Beware: You will get wet. How much so will depend on where you are sitting in the boat. Two young girls sitting at the front of the boat got drenched. I was sitting at the back of the boat directly in front of the driver and experienced what I would best describe as several large, fat rain drops.

The flight along the Kimberley coast back to Broome took us over the magnificent red cliffs of James Price Point, famous for its 130-million-year-old dinosaur footprints (but that’s another trip).

Aerial view of red cliffs meeting sand and sea. Forest lies behind the red cliffs.

Scenic flight with Air Kimberley over James Price Point

 

It was a long (approximately 11 hours), enjoyable, satisfying, and exhilarating day providing several unique experiences and so worth it. I can not fault Air Kimberley’s relaxed professionalism, guiding, and communication.

The tour was an excellent itinerary, well organised, kept on time without feeling rushed, and value for money. Without hesitation, I recommend Air Kimberley to readers.

Before our transfer back to our respective hotels, Air Kimberley presented each passenger with special gifts as mementos of our Kimberley adventure – a tour photo, a souvenir Passport & Tour Map to the Kimberley, an Air Kimberley stubby cooler, and a complimentary beer voucher from Matso’s Brewery in Broome. I am not letting out any secrets here, as Air Kimberley lists the gifts on their website.

 

In this post, I have shared my experience of Air Kimberley’s full-day Cygnet Bay Explorer tour up the Kimberley coast over the Horizontal Falls and 1,000-islands Buccaneer Archipelago and onward to a fantastic sea safari adventure in the world’s largest tropical tides. It was a chance meeting with a brochure that brought me to Air Kimberley – one that was to my benefit and yours.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel.

© Just Me Travel 2018-2022.

 

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts. Does Horizontal Falls deserve Sir David Attenborough’s description of “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world”?

 

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The image has two photos of aerial views of a horizontal waterfall and red cliffs meeting sand and sea.

 

An image with two photos. One is an aerial view of horizontal waterfalls and the other is a whirlpool in the sea.

 

Are you looking for more ideas on destination Western Australia? Then don’t miss these posts:

23 GREAT PHOTO SPOTS ON THE ROAD FROM PERTH TO BROOME, AUSTRALIA

7 TOP DAY TRIPS AND THINGS TO DO IN AND FROM PERTH, AUSTRALIA

15 PHOTOS TO INSPIRE YOU TO VISIT BROOME, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

SEE 7 BEAUTIFUL GORGES IN THE KIMBERLEY – the ultimate guide

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO 6 SAFE SWIMMING HOLES IN THE KIMBERLEY, AUSTRALIA

 

Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

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THE ULTIMATE GREAT OCEAN ROAD PHOTO TOUR – A Fantastic 5 Day Trip

Experience One of Australia’s Most Iconic Road Trips Driving Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.   The Great Ocean Road is Australia’s most famous coastal drive and one of the best road…

Experience One of Australia’s Most Iconic Road Trips Driving Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.

 

The Great Ocean Road is Australia’s most famous coastal drive and one of the best road trips in the world. Famed for its stunning scenery, what better way to show you the natural phenomena, incredible wild views, and beauty of the Great Ocean Road than through the photographs I took on a photo tour road trip. Enjoy!

 

Victoria’s Great Ocean Road was placed on the Australian National Heritage list in April 2011 as a place of outstanding national heritage significance. The 242-kilometre Great Ocean Road follows the stunning coastline of Victoria’s southwest from Torquay to Allansford. The road winds along clifftops beside breathtaking headlands, down onto the edge of beaches, across river estuaries and through rainforests, offering ever-changing diverse landscapes and views of Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean.

The Great Ocean Road was built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932 and dedicated to soldiers killed during World War l. The road is the world’s largest war memorial.

To take a road trip along the Great Ocean Road is a drive I have wanted to do for many years, but something always got in the way. So, when I came across the Great Ocean Road Photo Tour with Mark Gray Photography, I could think of no better way to combine my desire to drive the Great Ocean Road and my passion for travel photography.

As a keen amateur photographer, I often seek out photography tours around the world. I firmly believe I can never stop learning and what better way to learn and master landscape photography than out of the classroom with a professional photographer by your side guiding you along the way.

Mark Gray Photography’s tours are suitable for amateur to semi-professional photographers and are limited to 6-8 participants, ensuring everyone gets plenty of individual tuition at each location from the accompanying professional and experienced photographer. The Great Ocean Road Photo Tour locations, accommodation, and meals were well researched by Mark Gray Photography, with appropriate scheduling across the five days.

Great Ocean Road Photo Tour route

A map of southern Victoria showing the Great Ocean Road route

Great Ocean Road photo tour route from Melbourne return (Google Maps)

 

The pickup point for our Great Ocean Road Photo Tour was in Melbourne outside St Paul’s Cathedral, near Flinders Street Railway Station.

Our route over the five days took us along the Great Ocean Road through the Victorian towns of Geelong, Torquay (the start of the Great Ocean Road), Anglesea, Lorne, Apollo Bay, Port Campbell, Allansford (the end of the Great Ocean Road), Warnambool, and on to Port Fairy (our final stop). The return trip to Melbourne from Port Fair on day five, after a sunrise shoot, breakfast, and photo critiquing session, was via Colac, where we stopped for lunch.

The photos below are shown in the order in which they were seen and taken, giving a visual journey along the spectacular Great Ocean Road.

Lower Kalimna Falls, Great Otway National Park

A photo of a waterfall dropping into a rock pool surrounded by ferns and other vegetation.

Leaving from Sheoak Picnic Area near Lorne in the Great Otway National Park, the six-kilometre return walking track to Lower Kalimna Falls through the creek valley follows the old trolley way used many years ago for hauling timber to Lorne.

Lorne Suspension Bridge

A picture of a foot bridge over a river and sand with the ocean in the background

The Lorne Suspension Bridge is a timber footbridge over the Erskine River near its mouth. An iconic landmark of Lorne, the bridge was completed in 1937.

Redwoods of the Otway Ranges

A photo looking up into the canopy of tall, straight trees.

Beech Forest in the Great Otway National Park is home to a thriving small, sheltered grove of Coastal Redwoods – the world’s tallest tree species. Towering on the river flat at Aire Valley Plantation, these redwoods were planted in 1936 by Victorian foresters for experimental purposes. They were never cut down, and although still in their infancy growth phase, they now stand about 60 metres high. Even though ‘babies’, their height as they reach for the sky still left me in awe of the sight.

It was very peaceful walking through the grove as I listened to the rippling of the water from the river flowing beside the grove of redwoods.

There is a picnic area across the road from the redwoods.

Hopetoun Falls, Great Otway National Park

A photo of a waterfall with trees in front of it.

Deemed by some as the most beautiful waterfall in Victoria, Hopetoun Falls in Beech Forest plummets 30 metres into the Aire River. Take in the view from the upper platform or descend around 200 stairs to the bottom of the falls.

The Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell National Park

A photo of limestone stacks along a coastline and the ocean with a pink tinge from the setting sun

The setting sun turns the ocean pink at the Twelve Apostles

 

A photo of four limestone stacks in the ocean off the coast

The rising sun is reflected on the limestone stacks of the Twelve Apostles

 

The Twelve Apostles is one of Australia’s iconic landmarks and the most photographed along the Great Ocean Road.

The Twelve Apostles is a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of Port Campbell National Park, formed by erosion over millions of years. The harsh and extreme weather conditions from the Southern Ocean along Victoria’s coast gradually erode the soft limestone to form caves in the cliffs, which become arches that eventually collapse, leaving rock stacks. Just as the winds and rough waves create the stacks, they also destroy them.

Despite the name, there were never twelve rock stacks, only ever nine. The nine became seven (according to Parks Victoria) after one collapsed in 2005 and another in 2009.

The Twelve Apostles was originally known as Sow and Pigs, with Muttonbird Island being the sow and the stacks being the pigs. The name change was solely due to marketing purposes, as the ‘Twelve Apostles’ had a better ring to it.

London Bridge, Port Campbell National Park

A photo of a limestone arch in the ocean that was a bridge to the mainland before it collapsed.

The arch of London Bridge was once connected to the mainland by a natural span that people could walk across, hence the name. The span collapsed on 15th January 1990, disconnecting the arch from the mainland forever. At the time of the collapse, two tourists were stranded on top of the arch and had to be rescued by helicopter. No one was injured in the event.

The Grotto, Port Campbell National Park

A picture of a steps leading down to a rocky coastline with the ocean in the background. One of the rock formations has an arch with a view to the ocean.

The Grotto, nine kilometres west of Port Campbell, is a cave, sinkhole, and archway all in one. The Grotto is a natural phenomenon formed over millions of years of crashing waves and high winds eroding the rocks, resulting in a caved sinkhole within the limestone cliffs.

You can reach the bottom via a wooden staircase that winds down the cliff face from the viewing platform at the top.

Sandy Cove, Bay of Islands Coastal Park

A picture of limestone stacks (rock formations) sitting in the ocean off the beach.

Characterised by offshore limestone rock stacks, Sandy Cove is a hidden gem along the Great Ocean Road.

Moyne River boat moorings, Port Fairy

A photo of boats in a river surrounded by houses.

Port Fairy is a historic fishing town located on the Moyne River.

Griffith Island Lighthouse, Port Fairy

A photo of a lighthouse on the edge of the ocean and surrounded by rocks

Sunset shoot of Griffith Island lighthouse

 

Griffith Island Lighthouse is situated at the end of a 400-metre walk along the causeway from Martin’s Point in the historic town of Port Fairy. It was built in 1859 and saw the last lighthouse keeper in the 1950s when the light, visible over 19 kilometres out to sea, was automated. The lighthouse is still fully operational, guiding ships into the Moyne River.

Port Fairy groynes

A photo taken at sunrise of timber fencing on the beach and leading into the ocean.

Sunrise shoot of the timber groynes at East Beach, Port Fairy

 

Groynes are structures (usually made of wood, concrete, or stone) built out into the sea from a beach to control erosion and drifting. Port Fairy’s groynes were placed at the southern end of the East Beach to stabilise the sand that had been eroding.

Tip: Fingerless gloves would be a good investment for sunrise shoots.

Where we stayed

I recommend the accommodation chosen by Mark Gray Photography on our Great Ocean Road Photo Tour.

On our five days / four nights trip, we stayed one night in Apollo Bay, two nights in Port Campbell, and one night in Port Fairy.

Seafarers Getaway, Apollo Bay, is situated opposite a private beach with all accommodation offering uninterrupted beach and coastal views. I had a well-equipped Beach Studio Unit with a furnished front deck and spectacular views of the breaking waves on the sand. The only downsides were six wall pegs in place of a wardrobe – okay for one night but would be annoying if staying longer – and the rug-less tile floors, which are great in summer but cold on the feet in winter.

Southern Ocean Villas, Port Campbell, is luxury accommodation on the edge of Port Campbell National Park and only a five-minute drive to the Twelve Apostles. Each villa is fully self-contained with two or three bedrooms, an open-plan kitchen and lounge/dining area, laundry, and an outdoor deck with table and chairs. While the bedrooms were dark (not an issue), the living area was light and airy.

Victoria Apartments, Port Fairy, is in the heart of the township of Port Fairy. I stayed in a one-bedroom suite, but other accommodation types are available. The suite’s living area was open planned, but the kitchenette was tiny. However, its winning features were a separate bedroom and a private courtyard. The accommodation was small and a bit cramped but adequate for a short stay for one person.

The 5-day Great Ocean Road Photo Tour with Mark Gray Photography was not a holiday but a dedicated photography workshop and is advertised as such. Our days were long and busy, often starting at sunrise, with little time to relax. But it was a unique way to visit the Great Ocean Road’s fantastic attractions and certainly met my long-term desire to ‘see’ the Great Ocean Road. Furthermore, I learned so much about my camera and landscape photography and came away with photos I am proud of.

You don’t have to be a photographer to appreciate the spectacular scenery and landscapes that the Great Ocean Road offers up at every turn. Take your time to discover and explore this most iconic Australian road trip along Victoria’s rugged southern coastline.

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel.

© Just Me Travel 2018-2022.

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts. Has this post aroused your interest to take a road trip along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road?

 

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A picture with two images. One image is of rock stacks in the ocean near the coast. The second image is of timber groynes on a beach.

 

A picture with two images. One image is of an arch rock formation in the ocean near the coast. The second image is of a lighthouse.

 

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> 3 OF THE BEST THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN ROCHESTER, VICTORIA [2021 UPDATED]

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Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

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OLD BEECHWORTH GAOL GUIDED TOUR – An Authentic and Educational Step Back in Time

Old Beechworth Gaol – A Horrible History Tour.   The Old Beechworth Gaol guided tour is much more than a walk through a heritage-listed building. It is the perfect way…

Old Beechworth Gaol – A Horrible History Tour.

 

The Old Beechworth Gaol guided tour is much more than a walk through a heritage-listed building. It is the perfect way to explore the gaol and have history come alive. Beechworth Gaol is a time capsule that offers an authentic and educational look into the past. Visit the cells that housed notorious bushrangers, learn about convict life, and uncover some of the gaol’s darker history. Step inside and go back in time with an expert guide.

 

Beechworth is North East Victoria’s best-preserved gold rush town, leaving a legacy of colonial architecture that boasts 32 heritage-listed buildings. Old Beechworth Gaol is one of those buildings, and it is heritage-listed by the National Trust for its historical, architectural, and archeological significance to the state of Victoria.

Getting there

A short drive from Albury (45 kilometres), Beechworth is in my backyard.

For those living further afield, Beechworth is a 3-hour drive northeast of Melbourne (284 kilometres), 4 hours southwest of Canberra (391 kilometres), and about 6 hours southwest from Sydney (593 kilometres).

Don’t have a car? From Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney, take a train to Wangaratta and then the bus to Beechworth on Wangaratta Coachlines.

Old Beechworth Gaol is located on the corner of Williams Street and Ford Street, Beechworth.

Tours of Old Beechworth Gaol operate daily at 11.00 am and 1.00 pm and take about one hour. You can purchase your guided tour tickets at the Old Beechworth Gaol Cafe located in the gaol wall near the main gates. Alternatively, you can book your tickets in advance online. Please check their Facebook page, The Old Beechworth Gaol, for updates on tours.

Our guided tour of old Beechworth Gaol started with a double vaccination status check. Walking through the main gates, the courtyard provided a venue for Daniel, our tour guide, to give us an overview of the history of Beechworth gaol.

  • Taking approximately six years to build, Beechworth Gaol was opened in 1864 and initially housed men and women.
  • The outer stone walls are granite.
  • The razor wire on top of the gaol’s walls replaced the original barbed wire.
  • The current iron gates replaced the original wooden gates in 1879 when there was a suspected prison outbreak.
  • Beechworth Gaol was a medium-security prison.
  • The prison has a history spanning 140 years, closing in 2004.

From the courtyard, our tour took us to the hard labour yard where male prisoners were put to work crushing granite rocks into gravel for roads and footpaths. The guards in the towers overseeing the hard labour yard worked 12-hour shifts.

A painting on a brick wall of a man in metal armour and helmet with a gun in each hand. Also painted is a man with very muscly arms and chest.

The mural in the hard labour yard painted by the inmate, Woodsie

 

Moving into the cell blocks was like entering a time capsule, where time has stood still since the prison’s closure in 2004. The feeling of being locked in time was confirmed by Daniel when he advised the cells have not been touched since 2004.

A prion cell in an old gaol with toilet, hand basin, bench, cupboard, and iron single bed.

A cell on old Beechworth Gaol – a time capsule

 

In the men’s cellblock, the gallows with the hangman’s noose was visible on death row – the top floor of the men’s cellblock. Eight men were executed in Beechworth Gaol between 1865 and 1881, and they are buried in unmarked graves in the exercise yard against the western wall.

A prison cell block with open doors to cells on the lower floor and gallows and hangman's noose on the upper floor.

The gallows and hangman’s noose on death row in the men’s cellblock

 

Daniel regaled us with stories of Ned Kelly’s misadventures (murder, assault, theft, and armed robbery) that landed him in Beechworth Gaol. Daniel was an entertaining storyteller. See below for details of who was Ned Kelly and his connection to Beechworth Gaol.

An image of four dummies wearing metal body armour and helmets

Effigies of Ned Kelly and the Kelly gang

 

In the women’s cellblock, cell 10 was the designated mother’s cell with its two doors. One door (the front door) led into the cellblock, and a guard could open the back door to allow the mother to let her children outside to play. Daniel explained that the children were not prisoners but were locked up with their mother.

A prison cell with front and back doors

Cell 10 – the mother’s cell with its double doors

 

At the end of the women’s cellblock is the solitary confinement cell where a prisoner was locked in the cell 23 hours a day. The prisoner was allowed outside in a caged area for one hour a day.

A large cage within a grassed and walled area.

The prisoner solitary confinement exercise cage

 

Our final tour stop was the exercise yard, the burial site of the executed men. An empty swimming pool dominates this lawned area.

Image of a lawned area with empty swimming pool, surrounded by stone walls with razor wire and overlooked by a watch tower.

Old Beechworth Gaol and the Ned Kelly connection

Ned Kelly was Australia’s most notorious bushranger and known for wearing a suit of iron armour during his final shootout with police. He was immortalised in the 1970 Ned Kelly movie starring Mick Jagger in the title role.

For those not familiar with Australian colonial history, escaped convicts who used the bush to hide from authorities were the original bushrangers. By the 1820s, the term had evolved to refer to those who took up armed robbery as a way of life, using the bush as their base.

Ned Kelly first became intimately acquainted with the inside of Beechworth Gaol at the age of about 13. Over the ensuing years, he became more familiar with the gaol on at least two other occasions.

Daniel was a wealth of information about Ned Kelly and his time spent in Beechworth Gaol. He held our undivided attention when telling of Ned’s imprisonment for lewd behaviour and assault when he was 16 years old. According to Daniel, Ned sent a package to a lady containing a man’s testicles and later assaulted her husband. There is great truth in the story as Ned did indeed send testicles to the lady. However, depending on your resource will determine the nature of the testicles. A man’s testicles, a calf’s testicles, two calves’ testicles – believe what you will. I suspect the story has grown legs.

For the lewd behaviour and assault crimes, Ned Kelly received 6 or 8 months (once again, depending on your resource) imprisonment in Beechworth Gaol.

Time for lunch

Whether you do the old Beechworth Gaol guided tour in the morning or afternoon, you must eat in Beechworth.

You are spoiled for choice for places to eat in Beechworth. I have eaten at several places and never had a bad meal.

On the day of my old Beechworth Goal tour, I ate at the Beechworth Pantry Gourmet Delicatessen & Coffee Shop on Ford Street. I ordered the Asparagus, Leek and Cheese Quiche with apple and Pear Salad and couldn’t resist the Hazelnut Meringue with Berries and Cream. I left the cafe very satisfied and with bars of fruit nougat in hand for later enjoyment.

My final review

If you plan to visit Beechworth, do yourself a favour and take a step back in time with a guided tour of old Beechworth Gaol. The tour provides all ages with an authentic and educational experience in which local, expert guides bring a dark history to life. It is a unique experience not to be missed and highly recommended.

A corridor with numerous open blue metal doors with heavy metal bolts on the doors. Two set of stairs are in the middle of the corridor.

The female cellblock in old Beechworth gaol

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel.

© Just Me Travel 2018-2022.

 

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts. The only other prison tour I have taken was to Alcatraz when I was visiting San Francisco. Where have you taken a prison tour?

 

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Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

 

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