Loch Ard Gorge, along the Shipwreck Coast, is named after the famous clipper ship, the Loch Ard. The ship was itself named after Loch Ard in Scotland. Loch Ard Gorge is part of the Port Campbell National Park, along with London Arch and the Twelve Apostles. The gorge is roughly ten minutes away from the Twelve Apostles.
The story of Loch Ard Gorge
The story of Loch Ard Gorge begins in Gravesend, England, where the Loch Ard departed en route to Melbourne.
It all started when her captain mistakenly thought the ship to be 50 miles from the coast. They were not, and they hit the rocks near Muttonbird Island. Despite attempts to rescue the 1700 tonne ship, she inevitably sank in what is now known as Loch Ard Gorge. The ship went down on June 1st 1878, near the end of a three-month voyage to Australia.
The ship was carrying a crew of 54 when it sank, and all but two perished in the wreckage. Those survivors were a young chap named Tom Pearce who was a cabin boy/ships apprentice, and a young Irish ex-pat called Eva Carmichael. Both eventually made it safely into the cove at Loch Ard Gorge where they sought shelter.
After Tom washed ashore on the upturned hull of a lifeboat, he heard Eva’s screams and went back into the water to rescue her. She spent five hours clinging to a spar and was exhausted. The two spent the night in the cove, which isn’t very deep so would have offered minimal protection from the elements.
Tom Pearce managed to scale the cliff-face to he could find help. He was successful and both Tom and Eva survived. Eva returned to Europe a few months later, having lost several family members in the shipwreck. Tom lived to the ripe young age of 49 and is buried in Southampton, England.
When did the Loch Ard sink?
The Loch Ard was an iron-hulled clipper, which was a 19th-century merchant sailing ship. The clipper, built for speed, sank on 1st June 1878 towards the end of a three-month voyage from England to Australia.
Why is it called the Shipwreck Coast?
The shipwreck coast is a 130 kilometre a stretch of the coast between Cape Otway and Port Fairy. Hundreds of Victorian ships are believed to have been lost along the shipwreck coast. By far the most famous is the Loch Ard which travelled from Gravesend to Melbourne. The Loch Ard story has almost become folklore in the area.
This isn’t the only shipwreck to have happened along this coast. There are a whole number of shipwreck locations along the Great Ocean Road. A lot of them are signposted or marked so that you can get out, stretch your legs and visit the location. In fact, there is a shipwreck trail which details some of the 638 known shipwrecks along this coast. That’s a lot of sunken ships.
How tall is the Loch Ard Peacock?
Standing at 152.2 centimetres, the Loch Ard Peacock is a porcelain piece destined for the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880. It is one of only nine in the world. Paul Comolera designed the peacock in 1873 and fired in the Minton pottery in Stoke on Trent. It survived the wreckage intact and now resides at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum in Warrnambool.
Can you swim at Loch Ard Gorge?
There is stair access to the beach. You can swim here, and it’s noted to be generally safe on the beach. Don’t venture out too far though as there are dangerous rip currents near the entrance to the gorge.
Things to do at Loch Ard Gorge
You’ll find plenty of things to do at Loch Ard Gorge. Aside from spending time on the beach or paddling, there are a few walking trails for you to explore.
The Wreck of the Loch Ard trail is 1.4 kilometres long, and the Living on the Edge trail is 3.2 kilometres long. There are shorter walks too, like the one to the Thunder Cave that forms part of the longer trails.
If you want to complete all the trails you should give yourself a couple of hours to explore and take things in. You’ll also want to bring your own drinks and sunscreen as there aren’t any facilities on site.
As with the majority of sites in Port Campbell National Park, the majority of tour operators that run this route will stop by the same places. These are Loch Ard Gorge, the Twelve Apostles and London Arch to name but three.
These places are all pretty close to each other and are only a short drive from Port Campbell. I would advise planning to visit them all on the same day unless you would like to spend more time at each place. You might also want to take photographs and experience the views at sunrise or sunset.