I first heard about the Great Ocean Road Redwoods on Instagram, just one photograph while I was doing some very last minute research on the night before our trip (also, coincidently, when we had booked our accomodation, told you it was last minute!). A person, standing in a shaded canopy, positively dwarfed by enormous California Redwoods. It has always been my dream to see these trees, and I had dealt with the fact that only a trip to America would allow for it. But there, right in front of me, Great Ocean Road Redwoods.
So, we dug deeper. There wasn’t a lot on these unusual plants seemingly in the middle of nowhere. From what we gathered, a small, unsealed logging road up to Beech Forest would get us there, and that was just enough information for an adventure. As a bonus, the Great Ocean Road redwoods happened to be within easy reach of two waterfalls we also wanted to see on our trip: Hopetoun Falls and Beauchamp Falls.
We stayed in Apollo Bay the night before and left from there the following day, getting instructions from the waitress in our breakfast joint as to the way to go. Google had told us we had to go back up the Great Ocean Road towards Skenes Creek, but she told us there was actually a small, unsealed logging track that was much faster, even for our little Ford Focus. All we had to do was go back down the Great Ocean Road towards Cape Otway and then make a right at a road marked Beech Forest.
Everything about the place was beautiful, and that we before we had even arrived at the Great Ocean Road redwoods. The sunlight filtered through the native gums and splayed itself across the road in golden rays. In the forest, all of the sounds of civilisation were absorbed, leaving us feeling totally alone. After thinking about 100 times we might have missed the turnoff, we spot the tops of the trees in the distance. Here we are. The Great Ocean Road redwoods.
On first approach, we are dwarfed by there giants. They are well over 50 metres, a towering wall of needles and trunks. We tread slowly into their midst, wondering perhaps if we are supposed to be here. The air is thick with loamy soil and the sounds of running water. The meagre light that makes it down from the canopy dances along the textured trunks, and makes shadows amongst the tree ferns on the lower levels. There’s a magic here, and I am speechlessly surrounded by it.
The Great Otway National Park was recently extended to include the Great Ocean Road redwoods, planted in the 1930s as a logging experiment. They were never cut down, and we are grateful for it. Growing strong along the banks of the Aire River, they’re a hidden secret that enchants us with a single whiff of their pine sap, and a single glance at their statuesque trunks.
I have always wanted to see the redwoods, and the Great Ocean road redwoods deliver in spades exactly the feeling I imagined I would have walking amongst them. I am reminded now, writing this a week or two down the track, of the words of John Steinbeck. Like myself, Steinbeck was awed by redwoods, calling them ambassadors from another time. He also said:
I have to say, I’m inclined to agree.