Lorne Victoria

 

Everywhere was better in the past. When talk turns to travel there is always someone who likes to tell you that you’ve missed out, that you should have been there 5, 10, 20 years ago, that it’s been ruined now. Lorne on Victoria’s coast is without a doubt one of those places.  From a sleepy town of holiday houses with a caravan park on the beach it now boasts exorbitantly expensive accommodation, boutique shopping and it’s hard to find a park on the main street, what with all of those Lexus and BMWs taking up all the spaces. But somehow, despite the affluence that has engulfed the town, Lorne still manages to hold its beach town charm.

While the old surfers may bemoan the fall of Lorne from quaint seaside town it is a fall that actual began long before most people realize.  The rot probably set in not long after the completion of the Great Ocean Road in 1932. The road, built by returned soldiers from World War I as both a memorial to fallen mates and a work creation project, made the hamlet accessible by road for the first time.  Driving along the road, carved in places out of the limestone cliffs, it is difficult to fathom that no modern machinery was used to build it, but only picks, shovels and horse drawn carts to take away to rubble. The building of the Great Ocean Road created a popular tourist destination, in a time when being a tourist meant a few days horse and cart ride from Melbourne.  Now Lorne is a 2 hour drive from Melbourne, if you don’t get stuck behind someone driving at horse and cart pace along the cliff tops that is.

 

The foreshore caravan park is a great place to see if the childhood memories of beach camping holidays hold up to the cynical eye of adulthood.  Pitching a tent is still an option in Lorne. The main part of the park is on the Erskine River right on the edge of town.  Walk up and over a sand dune and you’re at the beach, eat only foods that can be cooked on a barbeque and don’t forget to wear thongs when using the communal shower blocks. Old school paddle boats can be rented out from the café on the river bank to complete the back to your childhood experience. But the caravan park is not the only place in Lorne where you can step back in time.

The last bastion of change in any small Australian community is its lawn bowls club. Old people hate change.  They hate change so much that they won’t even put up the beer prices.  Lorne’s bowls club stubbornly occupies prime land on the main street with a luxury hotel encroaching on three sides. A game of barefoot bowls while drinking a few beers is an enjoyable way to waste an afternoon.  Dinners are considerably cheaper here than elsewhere in town and the display of cakes is something to behold.  When asked how the team went in this year’s finals the chef gives a sage piece of advice, ‘Don’t get old, it makes you cranky’, and he would know.

 

The real attraction of Lorne however, what makes it popular with everyone from drunken backpackers, to rowdy families, to contemptuous locals, is its beach. Lorne’s beach stretches along the main street and is generally sheltered from the bigger waves that batter the rest of the coast.  Be prepared for a brisk wake up.  That water is coming up from the southern ocean so it is cold, even in summer. But like ripping off a band aid, the best thing to do is just dive right in and you’ll acclimatize well before the people tip toeing in and squealing every time a wave hits them.

So while locals along the coast will tell you that you’ve missed out on Lorne there is one reason above all for visiting. In 20 years time it will be your turn to tell someone else gleefully that they missed out on the real Lorne.

Lorne, Victoria - on the Great Ocean Road

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