Not far from the 12 Apostles is an incredible coastal gorge that is the site of the 1878 Loch Ard Shipwreck on the Great Ocean Road.
Stepping foot into Loch Ard Gorge on the Great Ocean Road, it’s hard not to be in awe of the surrounding cliffs and secluded beach. But when you hear the tale of the Loch Ard Shipwreck, it adds a whole new layer of meaning to your visit.
A visit to the gorge today lets you marvel at the incredible natural surrounds. As well as put yourself in the place of those who survived the shipwreck. Join us on a Go West Tour of the Great Ocean Road to discover it for yourself!
What was the Loch Ard?
The Loch Ard was a ship that set sail from the UK in 1878. On board were wealthy families who had paid to sail to Melbourne with all their possessions to start a new life in this new city. Because this was a few decades after the Victorian Gold Rush which saw many lucky diggers striking it rich.
It was also a time when the new wealth uncover by the Gold Rush was used to build the city of Melbourne. This new city in Australia was an attractive prospect for anyone willing to pack up their life, board a ship and start anew.
What happened to the ship?
After three months at sea the ship had reached Bass Strait. It is a now-infamous stretch of the coast referred to these days as the Shipwreck Coast. This part of the Southern Ocean often had big swell, rough seas. In addition to rocky islands which made it hard to navigate. However, it was a necessary part of the journey to Melbourne.
After having trouble navigating the rough waters, the Loch Ard wrecked on rocks adjacent to what is now called Mutton Bird Island. Unfortunately, of the 54 people on board the Loch Ard, only two survived the shipwreck.
Who were Tom and Eva?
The two survivors were some of the youngest passengers on board. Eva Carmichael, who had been travelling to Australia with her family. As well as Tom Pierce, who was a young merchant sailor. Both were just teenagers at the time of the shipwreck.
Tom was a strong swimmer and he made it to land. Upon reaching the sand in the gorge, he heard Eva’s cries for help. Therefore he swam out to rescue her from the rock she was clinging to and brought her the sand as well. However, they found themselves trapped on a secluded beach surrounded by high cliff walls (the location that is now called Loch Ard Gorge.)
Does the story have a happy ending?
After Tom climbed out of the gorge in search of help, he came across farmers on a nearby property. After Eva was rescued by the farmers, both the teenagers were cared for by the Gibson family who owned the property.
Many people at the time – and some even today! – wish the story of the Loch Ard Disaster ended with the two teenage survivors falling in love and living happily ever after.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Eva returned to the UK after losing all of her immediate family members in the shipwreck. Meanwhile Tom continued his life at sea.
Loch Ard Gorge today
Today you can explore Loch Ard Gorge on the Shipwreck Coast, thanks to the work of Park Victoria. Guard rails, steps and lookouts have been built to make it safe to visit this historic spot. When you arrive at the clifftop above the gorge, you have the option to traverse along the cliffs to stand above the gorge entrance, or descend the stairs to stand on the beach below.
Either way, you’ll be marvelling at the power of nature and at the bravery of the two young shipwreck survivors.
The gorge is particularly spectacular in winter. Big swells send waves crashing into the cliff and rolling into the gorge to wash up high onto the sand. In any weather, it’s worth taking a walk onto the beach in the gorge. You’ll be impressed by the high limestone walls and the beauty of the contrasting colours in the rock and the ocean.
It is a popular photo location, and often described as one of the highlights of our Great Ocean Road tour.
Visiting the Shipwreck Coast
The Shipwreck Coast is home to many incredible locations. Loch Ard Gorge is just one of them. The most famous is the limestone stacks named the 12 Apostles. From the lookout you can view these rock formations and high limestone cliffs, with large waves rolling in below.
You can also visit Gibson Steps, where you can descend the cliff to the beach. Come face to face with the wild Southern Ocean! Get an insight into how the coastline has been shaped by the wind and waves over many, many generations.
The Shipwreck Coast is approximately 4 hours drive from Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road, or approximately 2.5 hours drive along the less-scenic inland route.
Tour the Great Ocean Road
To visit this incredible coastline on the Great Ocean Road, join us on a day tour from Melbourne. You’ll not only see the epic cliffs and incredible beaches, you’ll spend a whole day exploring the coastline. Our tour includes spotting koalas in the wild, touring the Surf Coast and viewing the Twelve Apostles.
- Enjoy morning tea on the picturesque beaches of Victoria’s Surf Coast
- Scenic drive along the Great Ocean Road
- See the Twelve Apostles in Port Campbell National Park
- Visit the Loch Ard Gorge, the site of the Loch Ard shipwreck
- See koalas in their natural habitat in the eucalyptus forests of the Kennett River township
- Visit the charming coastal township of Apollo Bay
- Take a walk in the rainforest at Maits Rest in the Otway Ranges
- Descend the cliffs at Gibsons Steps to walk along the beach
- View the Memorial Arch and learn about the history of the Great Ocean Road
Written by: Leah Furey – Digital Content Coordinator @gowest.com.au