Ahhh… the Great Ocean Road. Located on the southeast Australian coast near the city of Melbourne, it runs for 244km from Torquay to Allansford; and is one of the country’s most popular routes for a roadtrip. Long before I finally made my way here, I’ve heard about this beautiful stretch of road with ocean views for miles, unique rock formations, sheer cliffs, gorgeous beaches, lush rainforests — a winding chain of nature’s wonders.
This post is a little long overdue, as I traversed the Great Ocean Road almost a year or so ago. But I thought I’d document it anyway, because the views were so beautiful and I had such a lovely time.
I initially made plans to spend days exploring the area, and set up base in one of the pretty seaside towns — but traveling has its limitations (and for me it was time), so I had to make do with just a day. I was visiting with a group of friends, and our local friend was kind enough to offer to drive us around. So we saved on time, made a couple of random stops along the way…. and, slept in the car (while he drove). I have a wasteful habit of falling asleep on moving vehicles, so I missed out on some of the best views. Tsk tsk!
However, during the times I was awake, I got to witness the breathtaking beauty the famous road is known for. Here are some of the places we visited during our day’s journey along the Great Ocean Road.
We started our journey from Melbourne at about 8am in the morning. It took about an hour or so until we hit Torquay; where the Great Ocean Road begins. The Southern Ocean soon came into view — and from then on, it was a slow drive to cater to my never ending requests for random pit stops. Our first proper stop for the day was at:-
Aireys Inlet is a small town along the Great Ocean Road. The Fairhaven Beach, which is a popular spot for surfers, is nearby. We stopped by the town to visit the Split Point Lighthouse (its most popular attraction) — built in 1891, the lighthouse now has self-guided and guided tours for visits to its top balcony (A$10-14). We decided not to head up, and instead went to the lookout point to see the lone standing Eagle Rock in the middle of the ocean. What I remember most about this stop however, was the extremely delicious milkshake and scones at the Lighthouse Stables and Tearoom, situated along the walk to the lighthouse.
Just a few kilometers from Aireys, we passed by the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch — and that called for a quick stop! Built with timber log and supported by cement and stone, the archway is a tribute to the returning soldiers of World War I who built the Great Ocean Road from 1919-1932. The arch has been erected 3 times — first in 1939, replaced in 1973, and after a bush fire destroyed it, built again in 1983.
A short drive later, we arrived in Lorne just in time for lunch. Lorne is a popular seaside town located within the Louttit Bay. The boys were instantly attracted to the restaurant that read Andrew’s Chicken Joint; so we had fried chicken and fries for lunch. After that, we spent some time on Lorne Beach, taking in the gorgeous views of the turquoise sea and golden sands. There are many heritage sites around Lorne; but we skipped them and made our way to the next town.
About an hour’s drive away from Lorne is the smaller seaside town of Apollo Bay, located at the foothills of the Otway’s and in the shelter of Cape Otway. It is a popular tourist destination because of the many water sports and sea activities; as well as bush walking opportunities to admire the town’s nearby rainforest and waterfalls. However, we were here for one reason and one reason only — ice cream!
Dooley’s Ice Cream
Dooley’s Ice Cream is extremely popular for their award-winning ice cream; and they not only offer ice creams; but gelatos and sorbets too — all in multiple different flavors. From traditional choices like chocolate and vanilla to unique ones like ginger, honeycomb and even vegemite; I was spoiled for choice. I finally settled for the cookies and cream (not too adventurous I guess) –and enjoyed my smooth and creamy ice cream by the sea.
From Apollo Bay, it was a 2-hour drive to our next stop of the day and one of Great Ocean Road‘s most popular attractions, the Twelve Apostles. Located off the coastline at the Port Campbell National Park, the Twelve Apostles are rock pillars standing together in the middle of the ocean. They were formed over millions of years by the constant erosion of waves and wind on the limestone cliffs, forming caves, and then arches that finally collapsed leaving these huge standing stacks.
A short walk through a paved walkway from the Twelve Apostles Visitor Center brought us to the viewing platform. From there, I could spot about 4 or 5 of the limestone stacks. There has never been 12 ‘apostles’ — there were really only 9 pillars, with 8 remaining after one collapsed in 2005. The views from the platform were spectacular, made a little more interesting with the presence of the rocks.
Loch Ard Gorge
Also located in the Port Campbell National Park and a few minutes drive from the Twelves Apostles is the stunning Loch Ard Gorge. A stairway brings visitors down to the beach below to admire the beautiful gorge. I was instantly blown away — it was just amazing looking at the sea’s clear blue water flowing through a small opening of two almost touching cliff faces, and into the beautiful bay.
As we were surrounded by the towering yellow-washed cliffs above us, I also stopped to marvel at the little details of nature’s works of art at the foot of the cliffs — the formation of tiny stalactites in its shallow caves.
Lord Ard Gorge is named after the ship Loch Arc that ran agound on a nearby island. Only two people survived, a young boy and a teenage girl — Tom and Eva. They were washed ashore, and Tom proceeded to climb out of the gorge in search of help, saving Eva’s life. Two nearby rock pillars are named after them.
It was almost sunset by the time we left Loch Arc Gorge. After the day’s exploration of the Great Ocean Road, the next stop on our itinerary was Ballarat — so we made the non-stop 2-hour journey all the way to the city, arriving at nightfall.
One day was not nearly enough for me to truly appreciate everything the Great Ocean Road has to offer. The roadtrip was just a quick skim through the surface — we stopped at most of the more popular sites, and for the rest of the drive, I have to admit I was sleeping. Because of this, I believe that I will return again and stay a couple of days; and hopefully then, be able to fully immerse myself in the beauty of this world famous coastal route.