Highlights of a Road Trip along Australia’s Great Ocean Road
What makes the Great Ocean Road so great? Although there are countless scenic coastal drives you can take in Australia, it’s the rugged beauty and show-stopping scenery that really sets this one apart. You’ll spot the remnants of Victorian shipwrecks and migrating whales from the top of these sheer, thrilling cliffs, along with the following highlights.
The journey officially begins in surf mecca Torquay. You can learn more about the sport’s history in Australia in the surf museum, which is the world’s largest. If you find yourself inspired by the multimedia exhibits, you can try your hand with a surf lesson at Bells Beach, one of the world’s top surfing beaches and home to the Rip Curl Pro Surf Classic.
One of the most popular stopping points is the picturesque village of Lorne, with a strong arts and café culture. The beach is calm and placid, and the atmosphere relaxed. Kick back with a fresh fruit smoothie and enjoy views over the Loutit Bay, a popular destination for holidaymakers throughout Australia.
As you pass Apollo Bay, the road darts inland for a bit as it skirts along the edge of the Great Otway National Park. You can stop here to go hiking in these lush green woods, or just enjoy the sight of lacy ferns and manna gums from the comfort of your car. The forest can also be viewed from a unique vantage point by walking along the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk, which measures 25 metres high and 600 metres long; making it the largest in the world.
If there’s a “must-see” sight on the Great Ocean Road, it’s the Twelve Apostles. Although there are only eight of them rather than twelve, these limestone stacks are an impressive sight to behold, particularly in the morning when they are lit up by the sunrise. The Apostles are located in the Port Campbell National Park, which is also home to the bustling little fishing village of Port Campbell.
Tips for the Journey
With a total distance of 250 kilometres, it’s certainly possible to drive down the Great Ocean Road in a day. However, you’ll probably want to give yourself two or three days to stop and see all the sights. I made it a leisurely three day tour and had time to get out and hike in the Great Otway Forest and while away the better part of an afternoon on secluded Johanna Beach.
There are tight turns and steep cliff-side drops, but the road is well tended. You won’t need to worry about choosing a rugged vehicle with all-wheel drive as you would when driving into the outback. I rented a very sensible Ford Focus in Melbourne for the drive, but if I could do it again I’d pick up a stylish Vespa from a local listings site like bikesales.com.au instead. The curves of the road and sweeping vistas feel somewhat Mediterranean, and this dramatic journey is deserving of a vehicle that’s fun to drive.
While the road may be smooth sailing, the ocean can be dangerous thanks to riptides and undertows. You’ll want to beware of these if you stop to take a dip. Beaches are well signposted, and swimmers would be best to stick to patrolled beaches in the designated areas.
Finally, you won’t want to over plan this road trip, as part of the experience is enjoying the majestic natural sights and quaint coastal villages as they come. The overwhelming highlight of the Great Ocean Road is the drive itself.
About The Author: Rachel MacDonald is an Edinburgh-based freelance writer who has worked as a copywriter for businesses from Lima to San Francisco. She specializes in travel, design, and the arts.
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons