Hopetoun Falls in the Otways, and Autumn Surf at Apollo Bay

In these difficult times we need the facts. But we don’t need them 24 hours a day. I offer these images hoping they might provide an agreeable distraction and an opportunity to be pleasantly lost in your own thoughts of other things and other places, even if only briefly, upon contemplating the scenes below.

These photos were all taken in or near Apollo Bay, on the south-eastern coast of Australia.

The Otways

Aire River at the Californian Redwoods
The banks of the Aire River, in the Otway Ranges. This location is upstream from the Hopetoun Falls shown below. The silence here was complete. I have never breathed sweeter air. This environment imposes stillness and quietness on those who enter it, just as a large cathedral does, only better.
Hopetoun Falls Otway Ranges
Looking down on the Aire River flowing over Hopetoun Falls in the Great Otway National Park. The nearby track down to the falls is quite a descent, and a solid climb back up.
Hopetoun Falls Otway Ranges
Just downstream from Hopetoun Falls.
Hopetoun Falls Otway Ranges
These falls are at the bottom of a steep valley, which sees much more shade and darkness than sunshine. The air was cool and moist.
Californian redwoods on the Aire River
A brief spell and some water and food on the banks of the Aire River. We were in the shade of the towering sequoia grove, and in A-row to enjoy the dense cool temperate rainforest opposite us.
Cool temperate rainforest in the Otway Ranges
The mighty sequoia (aka Californian redwood). These trees are on track to become the tallest trees in Australia in the not too distant future.
A variety of ecualypts providing the upper storey to the ancient cool temperate rainforest sub-storeys. There is a good chance (bearing in mind that I am not a formally qualified arborist nor am I currently a park ranger) that some of these trees are mountain ash.

Apollo Bay in Autumn

Surfers at Sunset at Mothers' Beach Apollo Bay
Autumn in Apollo Bay and along the surrounding coastline is a special season. Calm days and increasingly cooler nights predominate. Storms and cold fronts to the south west typically generate big swells during autumn which arrive pristine and glassy and often very large and powerful on our beaches. The Rip Curl Bells Pro surfing contest, the longest running surfing event on the WSL (World Surf League) world championship tour, is held at Bells Beach every Easter. But not in 2020.
Surfers at Sunset at Mothers' Beach Apollo Bay
Still air, glassy waves and long boards – part of autumn in and around Apollo Bay. These three regular surfers are all members of a local Apollo Bay family. Their fourth member was also surfing, out of frame to the right.

The Southern Ocean

Autumn swell at Little Henty Reef
Autumn swell rearing with a majestic white mane over Little Henty Reef in a light nor’ westerly wind.
Autumn swell at Hayley Point
Curtain fall.
Solid shorebreak on the reef just offshore south of Hayley Point at Marengo (a couple of kms south of Apollo Bay).
Autumn swell at Little Henty Reef
The eye of the beast. Swell arriving at the southern tip of Little Henty Reef often creates a neat little barrel. Depending on the size and direction of the swell, as shown, sometimes power is more to the fore than symmetry and elegance of form.
Autumn swell at Little Henty Reef
When the bottom of a larger wave hits the reef and decelerates, the many tonnes of water in the top of the wave can be thrown forward by the momentum built up over the long distance of its journey from deep southern latitudes.
Autumn swell at Little Henty Reef
Another emerald eye of a wave breaking over the reef.

Autumn swell at Little Henty Reef

Welcome swallow alighting
The lull between sets of waves this day was often lengthy. The rocky beach and reef below me with its prolific bird life was a pleasant time-filler while waiting for the next set. This is the beautiful welcome swallow. Surprisingly it’s a rather unprepossessing looking little bird when not in flight. This bird in this image was captured (using a shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second) a split second before becoming airborne.
Welcome swallow on coastal rock shelf
The relentless attack of wind and water have produced surprisingly gentle shapes in the sedimentary shore platform between the ocean and the sandy beach beneath the cliffs. Welcome swallows and other small birds were constantly flitting and darting over the platform at low tide.
Waves breaking over Little Henty Reef
Much bigger waves than this break here. I have included this image of a wave breaking over Little Henty Reef for only one reason, to highlight the similarities this smaller wave has with a wave in the same spot but in much larger swell some two and half years earlier (see image immediately below). The reason for the similarities is of course that this wave is not breaking over shifting sand, but over a solid reef with interesting contours and features which do not change over time (speaking personally, rather than geologically). Bells Beach is a reliable location for excellent waves, when the swell arrives, for the same reason. The bowl at Bells has a rocky rather than a sandy seabed, and for a given size and direction of swell, the unchanging shape of the seabed will always produce the same sort of wave.
Wave breaking over Little Henty Reef
This wave occurred at the same location as the wave show in the immediately preceding photo but two and a half years earlier. The swell was a lot bigger that day.
This shot was taken in late October 2017. The big swell event of which this wave was part was featured in my post on this blog published 1 November 2017, and titled ‘Large Southern Ocean Swell pounds Local Reefs.’
The link to that post is: https://southernoceanblog.com/2017/11/01/large-southern-ocean-swell-pounds-local-reefs/
I find it interesting to compare the similarities with the smaller wave at the same spot in the immediately preceding image.
A large print of this image is hanging in my house at Apollo Bay.
Waves breaking over Little Henty Reef
The bright emerald eye of yet another short-lived barrel, with a solid line of swell in the background breaking at a different angle on a different part of the reef.
Waves breaking over Little Henty Reef
This was taken before mid-morning, and before a layer of strato-cumulus cloud arrived which softened the light and took the shine off the waves.
Waves breaking over Little Henty Reef
The white mane of a wave in an offshore wind is one of my favourite sights.
Fanning wave and barrel
Small tight barrels are common when waves break on this part of the reef. But this larger fanning wave form was a one-off in my experience. The colour is attributable to the thing layer of water in this fanned out cylindrical form being backlit by the morning sun.
Waves breaking over Little Henty Reef
While it wasn’t a huge swell, it was substantial enough.
Moody swell over Little Henty Reef
A moody sea with swell lines jostling for position as the water gets shallower and the time for individual performances upon hitting the reef gets closer.

My photographer’s eyrie, sheltered from the wind and overlooking Little Henty Reef and the Southern Ocean beyond.

That white spot on the grass is a rock I put there to rest my camera monopod on so the camera is at a comfortable height on the sloping ground.

Waves breaking over Little Henty Reef
Morning sun giving some sparkle to this breaking wave.
Waves breaking over Little Henty Reef
That mound of water has already hit the reef and bounced back in the air to the height shown.
Surfer on double overhead wave at Hayley Point
Local surfer on a wave between Hayley Point and Little Henty Reef. The kelp is as it looks, in shallow water on the shore platform. But the distance between the surfer and the reef is greater than it appears, as the telephoto lens on a long focal length foreshortens apparent distance in this manner. By surfer’s standards, it’s not a perfect wave. But every surfer has been wet for less.
Surfer silhouettes at Hayley Point
Brief chat between strangers in the morning sun after a session in solid well-overhead surf off the point at Marengo, with at most, three surfers out there. The waters beyond them are in a sheltered part of the reef system.

12 thoughts on “Hopetoun Falls in the Otways, and Autumn Surf at Apollo Bay

    1. Thanks Don. Great to hear from you. I’m very pleased that you enjoyed the wave photos. I find endless fascination in watching waves, especially on the west coast where big swell is not uncommon. I hope you are finding some uncrowded open water somewhere for a regular swim.


  1. Hi John.

    What an antidote to our depressing daily news fodder. Thank you for losing us in nature.

    Credit to the canny editor of this instalment of South. The fifth photograph simply captioned “Liz” is forever framed, just so.

    Each photo has its place. Surely no resident of the Colac Otway Shire has ever received such value for rates. Takes an eye though. On land, sea and air, indigenous know and respect country.

    The first of the two is the best photograph of a welcome swallow I have seen. A beautiful, fanatically protective and feisty bird. Under appreciated because of their hyperactivity, we can barely settle a view on them. The second photo took me back to Game of Thrones. The victorious aviator, sitting atop the dying Giant, left eye forever closed, huge of proboscis, four useless lower teeth exposed, soon to join the ranks of Goliaths.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m pleased you found the photos something of an antidote to the daily news Hunto. I’m also glad it’s not just me that has trouble getting a good view of a welcome swallow. Your observation that they are ‘under appreciated because of their hyperactivity’ is most apposite. The same could also be said of the New Holland honeyeater.
      I hope you fitted in an ocean swim on this stormy day.


  2. Wonderful shots as always John. I understand the sequoias were planted in the Otways about 100 years ago as a trial. How is it that trial was deemed unsuccessful and instead we scored pinus radiata forests. I suppose though it is a good thing that the few sequoias that were planted there haven’t been harvested – they truly are magnificent.
    Cheers, Richard

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, pinus radiata was a very poor second prize. But I’m very pleased we have that little grove of towering sequoias sitting in the middle of what is otherwise very Australian cool temperate rainforest. I agree with your comment, they are indeed truly magnificent. So of course is a mature mountain ash.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi there, i found myself, needing a bit of stillness, to revisit, somehow your writings and photos. The ability to see such beauty, power, weakness and vulnerability, where some see so little. I feel better now.


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