Great Ocean Roading

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!

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*Torquay

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.

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*Lorne

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.

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*Apollo Bay

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.

 

*Twelve Apostles 

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.

dsc00716As 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.

 

 

*Warrnambool

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.  

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Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa

Looking for some more adventure on your South African trip? Look no further than Tsitsikamma. Located along the Garden route this popular area is famous for its adrenaline sports and many a visitor can not resist the extensive list of heart pulsing activities.

Approximately 615km from Cape Town, Tsitikamma is a easy point to stop along your way from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth along the south coast.

Here are my top tips while you are in the area!

 

Bungy Jumping Off Bloukrans Bridge.

If you fancy throwing yourself off the 216 meter high bridge then be my guest! Located within the National Park, most will pass over this bridge without evening noticing anything different about it. Because the bridge is still for road use you must walk in the metal cage attached to the underneath to get to the jump platform… Pretty scary already if you ask me!

With a turn off for parking and viewpoint even if you didn’t fancy a jump it’s worth pulling over and watching those daring enough!

Jumps can be purchased on the day, or pre booked online for a saving here.

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Zip Lining

Unfortunately the one thing I couldn’t fit in on my trip to Tsitsikamma due to not having done enough research before hand (and not being able to find a post like this before) we had to give this a miss this time!

We stayed right next door to the centre at the Tsitsikamma Village Inn (Which I highly recommend, I’ll soon enough have my blog post up)

Plan ahead and book online, or risk booking on the day if spaces are still available, Due to safety restrictions numbers are limited throughout the day.

Ps. Travelling over your birthday? You get a free Zipline tour if joining a tour on the same day, Great excuse for a day trip if you ask me!

 

 Lilo Rafting

Yep you read that right… If you are the first to blow up yours and jump in the pool on holiday then this trip is for you! Untouched Adventures take you out on a day you wont forget in a hurry! Starting as soon as you arrive a hike through the forest to get to the mouth of the river to start your rafting adventure, Starting in a kayak in the stronger waters you need to make your way down Storms river to arrive at the more narrow sections to get your lilo out and continue on your journey. If that does not sound strenuous enough for you, the guides will then take you on your own cliff jumping experience, or for those of you like me maybe you’ll just enjoy a refreshing swim and some relaxing time.

Trips can be booked online here before your arrival.

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Horse Back Safari At Hoggs Hollow

A beautiful rustic setting owned locally and managed by the family this small and friendly property offer daily horse back riding for private or group tours. Chose the setting for your day with a short farm visit or stay for longer and be taken out into the local area of the Tsitsikamma national park and visit destinations like the Craggs.

Tours can be booked online in advance here, And if you fancy continuing the experience check out the room rates to stay overnight, Book online here.

 

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Also be sure to check out the coastal region especially around Natures Valley, Where the beach meets the headlands!

 

Constantia Wine Route, Cape Town

Dating back to 1685, Constantia is home to the oldest producing vineyard in South Africa. Often overshadowed by the neighbouring regions of Stellenbosh and Franschhoek, Constantia is actually also the closest region to Cape Town; Only 15km (20 mins) from the city centre, Nestled below in the green of Table Mountain.

Perfect for those looking to sample the local wine without having to sacrifice time travelling, there are 9 estates to discover each with their own samples and specialities. I wanted to give you the low down on my favourite properties in the region and more about the cellar tours and wine tasting on offer so you can plan your day out in Constantia.

 

 

 

Klein Constantia

Dating back to the original Constantia formed in 1685, The property was established by the first governor of the cape, Simon Van Der Stel. Although rumoured to have been chosen for its beautiful location in the valley of the Table Mountain National Park it also benefits from the soils from the slopes and the ocean breeze brought in from the Atlantic Ocean.

Know your in good taste when Klein favoured by many a royal and celebrity including authors and poets from the 18th & 19th century, Jane Austin and Charles Dickens.

Good value wine tasting is on offer at Klein with prices from 50 Rand per person which includes a try of all estate wines.

*No need to pre book here, Just arrive on the day and join onto a tasting tour. Although please check online for opening hours before planning your visit.

 

Constantia Glen

Relativity new to the game, Constantia Glen only planting it’s first grapes in 1999, and producing their first Sauvignon Blanc in 2005, still are an award winning producer in the area. Ranked as a boutique wine estate I would suggest visiting the Glen over lunch time and ordering a cheese platter to accompany your wine tasting, Trust me when I say it is one of the nicest I’ve enjoyed. Wine tastings can be pre booked online starting from 55 Rand per person and you can have a choice of 3 different seating areas all with their own setting and views.

Book your packages online here.

 

Groot Constantia

Officially the oldest wine producer in the region, Groot offer something different with their cape dutch architecture and desert wines. Located right on the City Sightseeing bus route this stop off within the Constantia means you wont need to worry about who is driving and arranging a taxi, the bus will take you from the city to the estate.

‘Groot’ in dutch translates to Great, Meaning then basically named themselves ‘Great Wine.’ Arrive with high expectations and you will not be disappointed, With cellar tours (60 Rand each) and wine tastings (45 Rand each, or combine them both for 70 Rand each) you can also expect an expert to talk you through the selection of wines and to tell you a little more history of the estate and owners.

*No pre-booking needed at Groot for the wine tasting or cellar tours, However the tours only run on the hour from 10:00 and the last tour departing at 16:00.

 

Eagles Nest

Located high in the slopes of Constantia, Eagles nest is another relativity newcomer to the game. This family owned boutique vineyard has a huge following thanks to its reasonably priced picnic baskets you are able to enjoy in the grounds of the property (£25 for 2 people, plus the purchase cost of a bottle of wine) Sat so high up in the route it gives a beautiful lookout over the valley and vineyards.

Wine tastings start from 50 Rand per person, and should you like to have a wine tasting before purchasing your bottle to accompany your picnic you will need to pre book before your arrival.

Book your visit online here.

 

* At the time of posting 50 South African Rand = £2.50 or $3.50 Us Dollars *

 

 

East Coast Australia… To Drive Or Not To Drive

I have been lucky enough to travel the East coast of Australia 3 times, and I have done the journey in three different ways! Here I will explain the pros and cons from each of the trips to help you chose the best option for yours!

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Car Hire
This will be an expensive option. The first time I travelled to Australia was with my family back in 2008 and what a trip! Unfortunately for me I was working full time so was expected to pay my own way (maybe fortunately for my parents) the car hire for the 19 days came to a cost of £1100 for a Suv style car. It doesn’t sound like much but when you have to leave a deposit of $3000 on your credit card, or fork out for a very expensive excess waiver fee it soon adds up. Paying for petrol every other day became tedious and I was watching my money dwindle away quickly with a full tank costing in the range of $90-$110 each time.

It is a great option for a short term fix but overall this is never something I would recommend if you weren’t travelling as a large group!

Camper van hire

I have also hired a camper to do Sydney to Brisbane before and I loved this! Sleeping wherever we fancied, using the free bbq facilities when we found them and enjoying having our ‘home’ with us all the time was great. However it is a very small living space which got old real quick, and I missed a warm shower and a bed that didn’t convert into a couch. I think having a camper and mixing it up between camping and staying in hostels worked out the best and gave us the most enjoyment.

Try looking for the smaller vans rather than the largest. They are easier to park, meaning you can still park in regular spaces in the cities and hostel car parks, and they should also use less fuel! Try Juicy for affordable small vans, or for the quirky colourful vans easily recognisable by there ‘alternative’ quotes and designs Wicked are an affordable comparison.

Ps try the last minute collections or reroute options. You will have limited time to make the journeys but for those with a tight budget or a time restriction these will work out the better of two evils! Most often some fuel is included in the rate of hire! 

Public Buses And Group Travel

Personally this was my favourite way to travel, I loved having the flexibility you get with the greyhound buses, sure it doesn’t take you to the more obscure out of town destinations but it is nothing a couple of days cheap car hire wouldn’t cover! We hired a car in Cairns and in Brisbane for a couple of days and we only paid $30ish a day for a small car and meant we got out of the cities.

Travelling alone? This is your best option, you’ll meet tons of people on the buses all looking to travel to the same destinations!

There are bus passes which start from £200 and for an organised trip you can be looking at £2000, here are some of the companies I would recommend you check out!

* Loka

An off the beaten track route for those looking to spend a little more time off the tourist drag and add a little adventure to their experience! An almost tour this hop on hop off bus route gives you a guided tour without the restrictions of one!

*Oz Experience

Or a greyhound pass, this is the number one best selling option for the East coast route, with options to add in extras like overnight stays and trips along the East coast, or which you get an exclusive discount. There are other buses you can use like premier for example whom are cheaper, however these guys have the most regular services and more than 4 buses running each route a day… Pretty awesome if you ask me.

* G Adventures Contiki

These guys are the top two runners of the eastern coastal routes as a group trip. These you’ll find in the big coach travel and are great for those travelling alone with a restrictive date range. The latter of the two Contiki is well known as a party operator whom will get the group involved in all sorts and like to keep you together on your trip, maybe better suited to those looking to party and whom are between the ages of 18-35.

G Adventures on the other hand can work for anyone, they have the Yolo groups with an 18-39 restriction but they also have classic tours which are suitable for anyone of any age including families. They are a great alternative and prefer something a little more low key and more about the experiences than the nights you won’t remember.

Your Own Vehicle 

Okay so hear me out on this! Before I left for my working holiday visa I wouldn’t of dreamt of purchasing my own car for a year or less, but once I had arrived it seemed everyone was doing it. They had all heard of someone who had brought the car as a bargain buy and ended up making money when they sold it. Honestly I don’t know anyone this actually happened to, and often ended up being the ones who sold there car for less than they paid desperate to have rid before they flew.

I know your thinking it would be cheaper to do this than hire a car but you have to remember this is no different to owning a car a home. The vehicle will require insurance and reggo and prove Road worthy. It is hard work and means you are always paying out, new windscreen wippers? $100 petrol? $100 air con broken? Flat tyre? The list is endless and honestly cam be very expensive.

Personally I would have a check on Gumtree to see if anyone was looking for a companion for their trip! Often you will people advertising to fill up space in their own car to help spilt fuel expenses and to share the driving, making their way from one town to another. Ensure you read the advert carefully as some will be looking to travel quickly and arrive by a certain date.