One of the greatest things about travelling is discovering a new book shop.
A fortnight ago, I drove down to the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia, to take part in the Great Ocean Road half marathon. A lot of my friends and family called me crazy. But the fact is, I got to slowly jog along some beautiful coastline for a few hours unmolested by motor vehicles, get handed lollies and sports drink every few kilometres, and soak in the cheering of amazing volunteers and Great Ocean Road-ers who sat on the sidelines pumping out Eye of the Tiger. So it was a pretty awesome way to spend a morning. If you enjoy running, I would definitely recommend this race for the sheer beauty and community of it.
The other really awesome way to spend a few hours is at the Great Escape Books in the beautiful little town of Aireys Inlet.
Aireys Inlet is gorgeous.
Compared to its larger and more famous cousins Anglesea and Lorne, it’s quiet and dreamy. Aireys Inlet’s main road winds along just a few steps back from the coast, with homes and shops sprouting out around the local-run General Store and meandering down to the inlet that gives the place its name. A red and white lighthouse stands guard over vivid orange and yellow cliffs facing out against the crashing surf. Powder-soft sand stretches out to the horizon. Picturesque stuff.
But of course, the first place we go after checking into our accommodation is the book shop.
Great Escape Books
I was intrigued and pleased to see the local bookshop listed in the top 10 things to do in Aireys Inlet on TripAdvisor (along with the Aireys Pub with its excellent pasta and parmigiana). So of course we had to make our way down and check it out. And I was definitely glad we did.
There is nothing to not love about Great Escape Books. It’s bright and airy, with books crammed into every available nook and cranny. Little notes flutter from many of them, inviting you to look closer and choose your next beach read. Nicole, the lovely owner, encourages you to sit down on the couches and read. And, for someone who doesn’t have an endless bank account dedicated only to purchasing books (alas), the pricing is shockingly reasonable. I have a $30 budget for books every month (which I regularly blow through). I’m used to either getting one book and one ebook, or saving up over two months to get something in hardcover or from overseas.
Let’s just say that the average book at Great Escape Books leaves me with enough to splurge on a few other ebooks, which makes me very happy.
We spent a happy afternoon browsing, inhaling the smell of new books, and enjoying the lovely sense of community. During that time, a number of regulars came and went, chatting happily with Nicole about their latest reads and holidays. It was almost enough to make me think about making the two hour drive down from Melbourne more often. Well, that in combination with the lovely browsing experience.
Great Escape Books uses its real estate well – the centre is nice and open for space, the white walls are adorned with book-loving quotes, and I was frankly amazed at how many books it managed to pack into its many shelves. And the selection was staggering. If you visit as many bookstores as I do (which is a lot), you start to get used to seeing the same current-top-of-the-list books staring back at you from everywhere. Great Escape Books has some of those, of course, but it also had so many books I’d never seen before that immediately intrigued me.
And if you don’t happen to stumble across something you love (impossible), Nicole is a veritable treasure trove of recommendations. I confessed my love of science fiction to her and she immediately picked out three books that all immediately piqued my interest:
“An interstellar book dwelling on what it means to be human.” ~ Nicole
“Dystopia done well.” ~ Nicole
“Just read this.” ~ Nicole
Needless to say, between my beloved partner and myself, we blew our budget pretty badly. Here’s Nicole holding up just some of our purchases. But all for a good cause! Books make the best gift after all.
So if you’re ever down this end of the world, I hope you enjoy the beautiful drive, the great food, the lovely people, and the gorgeous little book shop tucked away like a present, waiting for you to discover the treasures within.
Great Escape Books, Shop 2/75 Great Ocean Rd, Aireys Inlet, Victoria.
For those of you who like numbers…
Ambience – 5/5
Book Selection – 4/5
Warmth/Friendliness – 5/5