Not the okay ocean road or the good ocean road, Victoria is home to the GREAT Ocean Road, one of the world’s most spectacular coastal drives offering 243 kilometres of driving nirvana starting just over an hour southwest of Melbourne.
The birthplace of Aussie surfing and a buzzy seaside resort
The Great Ocean Road starts at Torquay, Victoria’s surfing capital and the birthplace of iconic brands Rip Curl and Quiksilver. Check out the Surf World Surfing Museum before heading to Bells Beach, Australia’s spiritual home of surfing, to view local pro surfers in action.
Take a break from the drive to rent canoes in the estuary at pretty Anglesea before going for a walk along nearby Fairhaven Beach, right past the tourists ogling the Memorial Archway over the Great Ocean Road. Psst, serious insider tip…on summer weekends, you can sign up on the spot to become an honorary member of the Fairhaven Surf Lifesaving Club, and enjoy drinks and dinner with the locals at their beachfront clubhouse with a squillion dollar view of the longest beach on the Great Ocean Road. Then, stay the night in Lorne – a buzzy seaside town chockablock with cafes, boutiques and restaurants. It’s a great place for a swim and the nearby lush hinterland hides a short walk to the stunning Erskine Falls, which cascade into a fern gully (great for photos!). Foodies may want to take a short drive inland to Birregura to dine at Brae, one of Australia’s top gourmet restaurants.
Koalas, kangaroos, seals, tall trees and oh so many curves
Today you’ll enjoy the drive’s most spectacular curves and there are terrific viewpoints for picture taking. Meet the locals at the koala walk at Kennett River, which is really just a quiet roadway lined with manna gums, the preferred habitat of Australia’s sleepiest national emblem. There are lots of colourful parrots too.
Next, head over the green, dairy-cow-dotted hills of Skenes Creek, to enjoy a tree-top canopy walk or zip-line at Otway Fly Tree Top Adventures and sample mighty fine microbrews at the Forrest Brewing Company. If you’re hungry, Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant and Villas offers spectacular ocean views which go down a treat with their Mediterranean-inspired fare.
Now, head on to Apollo Bay, a lovely seaside village and fishing port located on a wide arc of family-friendly beach. Here, you’ll find Apollo Bay Surf and Kayak, which offers guided kayak trips to the Marengo Seal Sanctuary, surfing and SUP lessons and mountain bike, surfboard, wetsuit and kayak hire. There’s a terrific interactive information centre in town where you can get tips on great waterfalls to visit and giant-tree-hugging walks.
Wind inland through ancient temperate rainforests in the Great Otway National Park. Maits Rest is a terrific 800-metre circuit walk surrounded by fern gardens and huge 300-year-old rainforest trees. At night, you’ll be dazzled by thousands of glow worms. Take a detour to the coast (where along the road you’ll often see koalas snoozing high in the gum trees) to visit the Cape Otway Light-station, the oldest surviving light-station on mainland Australia. Stay nearby at the Great Ocean Ecolodge , home to an Australian wildlife rescue and rehabilitation program. Enjoy a guided walk to see koalas and kangaroos and maybe even bottle feed a baby wallaby. (It’s only a short drive back to Maits Rest if you want to see those glow worms.)
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Those Apostles and so much more…the stupendous finale to a spectacular ocean drive
Day three offers a drive through pretty rolling farmland and a stop at wild Johanna Beach for some beachcombing (just don’t jump in – it’s too rough for swimming here).
From there, it’s less than an hour to your fabulous finale: the stunning Twelve Apostles. These iconic limestone stacks number only eight these days, thanks to wind and sea erosion, but that hasn’t diminished their spectacular form. And no doubt other caves will become arches and then islands and then…
It’s really about seeing Mother Nature, the sculptor, at work all along the coast. Don’t miss all the other startling rock formations like Loch Ard Gorge, the Grotto, The Arch, London Bridge, and the Bay of Islands. You can even follow the Historic Shipwreck Trail where 25 shipwrecks have been recorded with information plaques overlooking the cliffs where they met their fates.