An important holiday destination on the Great Ocean Road and long renowned for its natural scenic values, Lorne is a highly pleasant and very fashionable seaside resort which straggles around several kilometres of fine coastline at Louttit Bay. Lorne is situated about the estuary of the Erskine River and on the Great Ocean Road, 140 km south-west of Melbourne and 29 km from Anglesea. Rearing up behind Lorne are the eucalypt-clad slopes of the Otway Ranges which literally reach to the sea. They are an element of the scenic and leafy Angahook-Lorne State Park which spans the hinterland from Aireys Inlet to the settlement of Kennett River.
The Lorne Visitor Information Centre is located at 144 Mountjoy Pde (a portion of the Great Ocean Rd), tel: (03) 5289 1152. It is open from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. on weekdays and to 5.00 p.m. on weekends and it can furnish maps and information relating to the area and its scenic attractions and many bushwalks.
Lorne’s popularity in summer can mean booked-out accommodation and traffic jams although it is fairly quiet outside of the silly season and, despite the hordes, it retains a certain charm, owing in part to some fine old buildings. The sidewalk cafes, eating houses and boutiques of Mountjoy Parade, along with the ocean setting, lend the town something of a Mediterranean air. The fine golf course in Holiday Rd overlooks the town and the pier is a popular fishing spot in an area noted for its snapper, garfish, salmon, trevally, couta, whiting, barracuda, trout and bream.
New Year’s Eve is an activity-filled day of the calendar at Lorne. The Mountain to Surf Swim is held on the first Friday evening in January and several thousand swimmers participate in the Pier to Pub Swim on the following day. The Summer Fair falls on a Saturday late in January and the Great Otway Classic Foot Race is held on the Queen’s Birthday weekend in June. It terminates at Lorne.
There are a number of historic buildings around town. St Cuthbert’s Presbyterian (now Uniting) Church, at 86 Mountjoy Parade (by the corner of Grove Rd), is a weatherboard church with an asymmetrical tower which follows an essentially Classical design. The initial construction was carried out in 1892 by Scottish cabinet-maker and builder Andrew Sanger who added the transepts in 1911 and the vestry in 1918. The interior is carefully executed.
Directly adjacent the beach, on Mountjoy Parade, is Erskine House which started its life as a two-roomed domicile for early settlers the Mountjoy brothers in 1865. They converted it into the Temperance Hotel in 1868. Lorne’s first post office was established here in 1874 and the first church services were held here in 1879. It was bought by the state government in 1973. Erskine House is surrounded by 6 ha of manicured lawns and gardens and now operates as an accommodation centre with lawn bowls, croquet, tennis courts and a putting green. Rudyard Kipling stayed here in 1891.
All Saints Church of England was built in 1880 (it was moved to its present site at 190 Mountjoy Parade in 1884) and work commenced on the post office in 1889. The latter is at 152 Mountjoy Parade.
The Pacific Hotel/Motel at 268 Mountjoy Parade was built of 300 000 locally-made bricks in 1879 as the Grand Pacific Hotel. It is situated at the tip of Point Grey and thus faces out onto the sea by the jetty.
The Lorne Historical Society Museum is located at the corner of Otway St and the Great Ocean Road. It displays memorabilia and photographs relating to the construction of the Great Ocean Road and to local history. It is open Sundays from 1.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5289 1152.
Beaches and Foreshore Reserve
Backed by venerable pine trees, the fine sandy beaches of Lorne are, of course, one of its major attractions. The main beach is noted for its surfing potential (particularly at the northern end) and surf fishing is popular and rewarding. A surf lifesaving club operates on the main beach in summer and you can hire surfboards, wetsuits and boogie boards from the Lorne Surf Shop at 130 Mountjoy Parade, tel: (03) 5289 1673. The southern end of Louttit Bay is more sheltered and well-suited to family bathing.
The Foreshore Reserve, adjacent Mountjoy Parade, is a pleasant recreation area overlooking the ocean. There is a picnic area, a playground, barbecue facilities and a pool. Paddleboats for exploring the mouth of the Erskine River are available in summer.
There is a jetty and boat ramp at the southern end of town, adjacent Point Grey and Shelly Beach is slightly further south.
St Georges River
The Shipwreck Walk is an easy-going one hour stroll along the coastline, taking in a series of plaques which denote the shipwrecks which have occurred along the coast (for details enquire at the information centre).
There are fine beaches further south at Wye River and Kennett River which are both patrolled in summer. There are caravan parks at both locations which also offer fishing and bushwalking opportunities.
Teddy’s Lookout lies at the end of George St, at the town’s southern outskirts (it is signposted off the main street). Named after a ranger who went there to round up stray cattle, it offers fine views over the town and coastline. The rotunda dates from the 1880s. The fit may wish to undertake the walk from the town to the lookout (for details enquire at the information centre).
To the lower right of the Teddy’s Lookout viewing platform, the views change from white sand and turquoise waters to the Saint George River, mountain peaks and valleys. A camera is essential; you ll take panoramic snaps of the shoreline, gorges and mountains that you ll cherish for years to come. here you will find the stunning Sheoak Falls. Just a 15-minute walk from the Great Ocean Road, this waterfall is simply stunning, with a fifteen-metre cascade and deep-water pool surrounded by all manner of ferns. The Sheoak Falls is a truly worthwhile spot to visit. Location: 3 kilometres south of Lorne, off the Great Ocean Road.
Angahook-Lorne State Park
Located a few kilometres to the north of the town, Angahook-Lorne State Park is excellent for bushwalking and picnics. It is considered one of the best forest reserves on the coast and has a number of excellent views over the ocean. Angahook-Lorne State Park covers 22 000 ha of coastline (from Aireys Inlet to Kennett River) and mountainous hinterland. It incorporates the Otway Ranges and is characterised by cliffs, coves, sandy beaches and rock platforms. Between the ridges are deep valleys and gullies carved by the Erskine, Cumberland, Kalimna and St George Rivers and a plenitude of streams.
Vegetation ranges from dry heathland to cool temperate rainforest. Messmate, blue gum, mountain grey gum and mountain ash predominate while the wetter areas feature an understorey of blackwood, tree ferns, satinwood, blanket-leaf and musk daisy-bush. There is a plenitude of fauna including 170 bird species, such as the rare crested penguin and peregrine falcon, along with (mostly nocturnal) marsupials such as eastern grey kangaroos, swamp wallabies, marsupial mice, echidnas, ringtail and brushtail possums and bandicoots. In summer the park tends to be somewhat cooler than average and very pleasant.
Cinema Point, which is located about 10 km north-east of Lorne, is the highest point on the Great Ocean Road and it has what are arguably the finest views along that coastal route. The descent to Lorne begins from this point. A few kilometres further south is the Cathedral Rocks Lookout. There is a signposted turn off about 8 kilometres west of Aireys Inlet.
Mt Defiance Lookout is 9 km south of Lorne. There are also lookouts at Wye River (17 km south) and at Cape Patton (27 km south). Turn off between Lorne and Wye River.
29 km south-west of Lorne, on the Great Ocean Road, is a signposted turnoff on the right to the Carisbrook Falls carpark beside the Carisbrook Creek bridge. A 1-km return walk leads to the falls which are the highest in the Otway Ranges.
Deans Marsh is a small locality 23 km north of Lorne in the rolling hills of the picturesque hinterland, has a general store. Just a short drive from Deans Marsh is the award winning Dinny Goonan Winery, with a vineyard and cellar door open to the public. Visitors are welcome to taste their wines and relax in the peaceful vineyard setting. You can find out more about the wines by talking to Dinny the winemaker, or stroll around the vineyard and winery. The Gentle Annie Berry Gardens and Cafe is located at 520 Pennyroyal Valley Rd at Pennyroyal, 4 km south-west of Deans Marsh, is presently closed.
Prior to European settlement the area was occupied by the Kolakngat Aborigines. A Captain Louttit, who conveyed wool from Portland to Melbourne, sought shelter in the bay that now bears his name in 1841 while supervising the retrieval of cargo from a shipwreck. This part of the coast was surveyed in 1846. That same year, Captain Louttit returned as master of the ‘Apollo’. He had the names Apollo Bay and Louttit Bay registered.
The first European settler was William Lindsay who was issued a timber-cutting licence in 1849. His two young sons were killed when a sand tunnel collapsed and their graves can still be seen, not far from the suspension footbridge which leads from the Great Ocean Road across the Erskine River to the main beach.
Others were attracted by the vast timber reserves of the Otway Ranges. Tramlines and sawmills later emerged in the local forests. The timber was relayed to Geelong and Melbourne via ocean-going craft which beached on the coastline at Lorne. The telegraph arrived in 1859.
Lorne was also the site of at least five shipwrecks in this period – the ‘Osprey’ (1854), the ‘Rebel’ (1855), the ‘Otway’ (1862), the Anne’ (1863) and the ‘Henry’ (1878).
The Mountjoy brothers arrived in 1864. They commenced farming, built a two-roomed dwelling in 1865 then converted it into the Temperance Hotel in 1868 (now Erskine House). Other rural properties were established and a townsite was surveyed in 1869. The township was laid out in 1871 and it was named after the Marquis of Lorne from Argyleshire in Scotland on the occasion of his marriage to one of Queen Victoria’s daughters.
The Deans Marsh-Lorne track was surveyed in 1872 and the first post office was established at Erskine House in 1874. The Lorne Hotel (later rebuilt after a fire) was established in 1876, the construction of Lorne Pier commenced in 1876 and the school and the Grand Pacific Hotel opened in 1879. They are all standing and in operation today.
Both Cobb & Co and the Mountjoys began operating overland coach services to Winchelsea in 1879 when the railway arrived there. Lorne acquired something of a reputation as an attractive and rather exclusive holiday spot but the six-hour journey from Winchelsea inhibited the spread of enthusiasm.
The town’s first church services were held at Erskine House in 1879. All Saints Church of England was built in 1880 (it was moved to the present site in 1884) and sea baths were established on the main beach the following year when the population was recorded as 149.
In 1891 the town and area were visited by Rudyard Kipling who was inspired to write the poem ‘Flowers’ which includes the lines: “Buy my hot-wood clematis,/ Buy a frond of fern,/ Gathered where the Erskine leaps/ Down the road to Lorne”.
After World War I, the Great Ocean Road was carved out of the coastline. It was initially conceived as a memorial to those who had fought in the First World War and all road builders were ex-servicemen. The section as far as Lorne was opened in 1922, although the Great Ocean Road was not completed in its entirety until 1933. It greatly facilitated access to Lorne which had hitherto been approached from the interior. The first passenger service from Geelong to Lorne was established in 1924 and guesthouses began to appear in the 1930s. The fishing industry was also established on a small scale at Lorne in 1936 but it expanded considerably in the 1940s. The Ash Wednesday bushfires swept through the district in 1983, destroying 76 houses.