I can’t get over how big Australia is – we flew 2.5 hours (enough time to get to NZ) and we were on the same coastline just a lot further down. This was my first ever trip to Victoria and it was unreal. The Great Ocean Road is one of the must do’s of Australia and for good reason. The 243km stretch of windy road was built largely by hand by WWII soldiers and is dedicated to those that lost their lives in the first world war; making it in effect the world’s largest war memorial.
The popular tourist drive begins in Torquay and hugs the rugged Victorian coast all the way to Allansford, near Warnambool. Being Easter weekend we decided to do the drive backwards to hopefully go against the grain of mass traffic and because we were spending three nights in Torquay for the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach. Starting in Melbourne we headed 3 hours south on the inland route all the way to Warnambool and from there the real excitement began. There are incredible rock formations within the first half an hour of the drive such as the Bay of Islands, London Bridge and later on the 12 apostles (despite the name there was only ever 9 with one collapsing in 2005) which are all formed from gradual erosion of the soft limestone rock. They were all spectacular to see and I can imagine only better at sunset but the amount of tourists was frustrating and put a damper on the first few stops. My first tip: Don’t go on Easter Weekend. We stopped at Port Campbell for lunch; a quaint crayfishing community of around 700 people. The street was lined with authentic surf shops, cute gift shops and small cafes where we enjoyed some hot pumpkin soup to warm our bellies.
Apollo Bay was to be our stop for the night and as it was getting dark we didn’t have time to stop at the Cape Otway National Park so opted for checking it out in the morning. We stayed at Surfside Backpackers and it was very quirky with a spectacular view over the water. The temperature dropped dramatically that first night and we were so grateful for the heater and electric blankets in our room. After a hearty pub meal at the local and Easter eggs for dessert we settled in for the night ready for another day of adventure.
The morning greeted us with dreary grey skies but for some reason it didn’t bother us, it was a nice change from the ever warm and sunny Gold Coast. We backtracked and headed to the Cape Otway Lighthouse where you need to turn off the main road for about 15 mins. On this part of the drive a lot of people had pulled over and were peering into the trees taking photos. Being my ever curious self we pulled over too and spotted numerous koalas napping in the tall eucalyptus branches. They sleep for around 20 hours a day and don’t move much for the other 4 hours so there was not much point in waiting for the cute marsupial to do anything.
The coastline changes dramatically after Apollo Bay, with beach coves, rivers, sheer cliffs and a calmer ocean. Lorne was our next stop and by far my favourite coastal town. Before you actually arrive there is a cute pier with lots of little fishermen surrounding the outskirts. Penguins are my travel companion’s favourite animal and I scoffed at her question wondering if we would see any. Lo and behold we saw two little guys swimming underneath the pier. I think they were fairy penguins which just added to her excitement. My second tip: Eat at ‘A Bottle of Milk’ – we devoured the best burger and fries I have ever had. Now that’s a big call I know – maybe that’s because it was 2pm and we hadn’t eaten yet but seriously, so good! After wandering the cute seashore markets we decided to hit the road to Torquay, stopping once again, at Aireys Inlet to see the lighthouse that was made famous in the popular children’s TV series “Round the Twist.”
Well I could definitely live in Torquay; epicentre of surf culture, the gateway to the Great Ocean Road, home to Bells beach and the birthplace of Ripcurl and Quiksilver. Reminds me so much of NZ with the green rolling hills as a backdrop to the deep blue ocean. We stayed at Bells Beach Backpackers here and it was such a fun stay. It was a converted house and the owner obviously loved the company of tourists coming and going as he often had long chats with everyone; mainly about the comp. There was even free breakfast every morning including hot cross buns, cocoa pops, crumpets and fresh eggs which made our stay even more pleasant. Our days were spent at the Rip Curl Pro from dawn til dusk and nights spent at the Torquay Pub sipping on our favourite beverage; Sailor Jerrys and dry.
I will definitely be back and make the next trip a more surf orientated trip; although the waves were way too big for me, maybe I could do some logging in Lorne. It would be so nice to see Bells Beach without all of the competition infrastructure, and thousands of people. All in all it was an amazing experience but there is a lot more to explore on the wonderful coastline that is the Great Ocean Road.