Who doesn’t love a road trip? Imagine 243 kilometres of coastal road with the big blue on one side and the other dramatic cliff-side and green rain-forests while you drive one of the most popular drives in the world.
Stretching from Torquay in the East, Only 97 kms from Melbourne to Warrnambool in the West this drive is made of so famous thanks to the passing of the surfside resorts, and scenic landscapes along its stretch and the important history it plays for the Australians.
Built in memorial of those who fought and dies within the first world war, the servicemen who returned were given reemployment in building this roadway to help the coastal towns in their struggle with their isolation from the larger ports and cities.
Here’s my low down on the Great Ocean Road and my tips on where to stay and see along the way!
Heading only few hours drive from Melbourne this coastal town is one of the most famous along the route as it is home to the surfing mecca of Bells Beach. Home to the Rip Curl competitions every Easter this is the longest running surfing competition and means you are sure to be able to spend some time watching the pros do there best practising even outside of the summer season! We ended up spending three hours in the rain mesmerised by the swells of the water and the elegance of those riding.
There are tons of discount stores in Torquay should the surfer chic take hold and you are desperate for some new gear. For those looking for professional gear these outlet stores will offer better discounts than you can get in the larger cities.
If you are new to surfing personally I prefer Torquay to have your first experience rather than in Byron as everyone is keen to. The beaches in the area have taught Kelly Slater and that’s a good enough excuse as any, Lessons for beginners, intermediate and advance can be picked up locally and keep your eye in the store windows for local instructors rather than the larger group sessions!
If you are the sporty type or are pushed for time have wander at the Australian National Surfing Museum to learn more, or try your hand at some sunbathing and surf watching from the shore!
Looking for somewhere to stay? Try the Bells Beach Backpackers for an affordable and comfortable stop.
Heading further west Lorne is another cute seaside town, Although for us we used this as the gateway into the the Great Otway National Park. With hundreds of walks, hikes and sights we wanted to spend a couple of days away from the beaches discovering the more interesting in land area. With lush tropical plants and ferns its hard to remember you haven’t just entered Jurassic Park. Take in an evening tour with your torches looking for the elusive glow worms that live within the tropical fauna
For those wanting to learn more history surrounding the great ocean road head to the heritage centre in the visitor centre in town.
Heading further south Apollo Bay is a popular stop way on the route, and a nice place to rest for a night or two. With a lovely long beach right on the roadside it is easy to spend a day or two soaking up the sun in the summer months and enjoy the small town charm.
We also used Apollo Bay for the Otway national park as we were again closer to some of the hikes in the area and took in a couple of waterfall hikes the hostel reception staff recommended.
We also headed out to the Otway National Park from here to Lake Elizabeth for canoeing at dusk to see if we could spot the magical platypus. Only a 50 min drive each way this was an amazing experience and can be booked before you arrive here. Advance booking is highly recommended and if you don’t spot a platypus then you will receive a 20% discount on your next trip. If you chose the dusk rather than the dawn you may also spot those glow worms I told you about!
Looking for somewhere to stay? Try the surfside Backpackers located just opposite the beach, this popular hostel has lots of common areas and chances to meet new people.
Heading north again towards our final stop now, over 227 kms from Melbourne is the twelve apostles off the coast of port cambell national park. Formed from the erroision of the harsh southern sea there are now fewer than 10 remaining so no better excuse than to pull over before they completely disappear.
As you can see from my picture even a day in the middle of summer doesn’t mean the weather will play nice!
These limestone stacks are the most famous structure along your trip and one of the busiest spots you will come to along your journey with day trippers desperate to get a selfie with the Apostles in the background.
There are tons of spots to pull over on your way to Warrnambool, including any of the beaches along the shipwrek coastline, the Loch Ard Gorge or the London Arch.
Saving the best for last (If travelling from Melbourne) Warrnambool was my favourite town on my journey along the great ocean road and my starting point as we drove from Adelaide.
As we were out of season it was unfortunate we couldn’t take advantage of the local whale watching tours, although we did head to the look out point over the waters to see if there was anything else we could spot!
Be sure to head back to the Tower Hill area for Kangaroo, Emu and Koala spotting as they are both native to the area, take in some of the short nature trails or complete some of the longer hikes. Be sure to enquire about the tours surrounding the local Aboriginal culture!
Dining at Cactus Jam was a highlight and having some flavoured margaritas to toast our journey was brilliant. The food was incredibly tasty and good value, a great find and I highly recommend it to anyone who makes it this far!
Now I know there are some who are visiting with a short window to explore the area and with day trips from Melbourne on offer you have no excuse not to see the wonders along the route, However if you have the opportunity to spend longer make sure you do! Hire a camper/car and spend at least 3 nights travelling along the GOR, I’m positive you wont regret it… Hopefully after reading my post you’ll know there is so much more to see than the Twelve Apostles.
Travel agent top tip, be very mindful of the ever changing speed limits if you are hiring a car… Thanks to this i received my first ever driving offence. Although there are no cameras in place there are plenty of speed traps and police waiting, drive with extreme caution around and during public holidays.