I spent Christmas and New Year in Melbourne meeting the family and friends of my Melburnian boyfriend. I loved the city and can’t wait to write about the shops, bars, laneways and street art we discovered there. But when the mercury hit 30 degrees and the Christmas festivities were over with, we hit the road to check out one of the world’s best coastal drives – the Great Ocean Road, Victoria.
We’d booked our flights to Melbourne online with Expedia after we found a reasonable (for Christmas) price with Malaysia Airways. This meant we got to fly on one of their new A380’s and enjoyed a brand new touch screen inflight entertainment system with heaps of new movies (including Pitch Perfect which only recently hit the cinemas in the UK and made me giggle each time Aussie actress Rebel Wilson or ‘Fat Amy’ came on screen!)
I’m sure I have said this before but Australia really is massive. We drove for miles and miles during our trip (you can arrange car hire via Expedia too – I never knew this before! ) and yet never left the state of Victoria. The Great Ocean Road starts about 2 hours outside of Melbourne. The freeways are wide and mostly clear and seem like they were made for cruising in the sunshine. The brown attraction sites ensured we knew we were going in the right direction until we spotted the ocean in the distance.
The Great Ocean Road winds it’s way for 243 kilometres along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Warrnambool. We only had a day to spare so would be going as far as Port Campbell before heading back on the inland route to stay with friends in Bendigo. The road twists and turns, up cliffs and down, around forest and through beach towns. The salty smell of the ocean breeze mingles with the odour of the gum trees. The drive is great fun but so are the sights along the way.
First up was a pit stop at the lighthouse, made famous by Aussie kids show ‘Round the Twist’. Visitors can take a tour to the top for views of the coast and there is a cute little teashop serving afternoon tea. We were on a time limit though so we hopped back into the car and made our way to the next attraction – the Great Ocean Road sign. A commemerative mural marking the lives that were lost building the road, it is also a great photo opportunity and the beach nearby is spectacular if you fancy a dip too.
A couple of beach towns are speckled along the coast. Lorne was busy on the day of our visit because it was hosting the Falls Festival. We witnessed a bit of a crash here as the traffic suddenly built up on the approach into town and cars coming around the bend couldn’t break fast enough. We parked up at Apollo Bay instead and bought some fish and chips to enjoy on the beach – Aussie style!
We were about 4 hours into our drive but had not yet reached the main attraction. So once again we hopped back into the car and continued the drive towards the Heritage Listed 12 Apostles. Today there are not quite 12 Apostles, I counted about 5, but there is an information office explaining their formation and a wooden walkway that lets you get the best view. The signage explained that the protrusions of the cliff edge you see now will become the ‘Apostles’ of the future as the ocean continues to erode them. Maybe there will be 12 again one day.
The area here was surprisingly touristy considering how empty the road to get here had been. A helicopter company offers scenic tours from above, 4 were in action at the same time at one point. The 12 Apostles are just the start of a number of stunning natural sights along this stretch of coast. You can pull up at unspoilt coves, caves and unique rock formations – I loved London Arch (formerly known as London Bridge before it’s connection to the mainland collapsed.)
If we didn’t already have plans to see friends we would have arranged to stay at one of the lux beach houses nestled in the hills along the coast and taken our time in the beautiful region. For those on a tighter budget I liked the look of the graffiti decorated Wicked campervans we passed on the road with surfboards attached to the roof. But if you are short on time like we were and don’t mind a long ride, a trip to the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne is definitely possible in a day, and what a day that proved to be.
For more advice on planning a trip to the Great Ocean Road check out visitmelbourne.com.