The great ocean road is the jewel of Australian road trips. Starting east to west in Geelong, the route traverses some of the countries greatest coastline.
I was expecting koalas hanging from trees, whales crashing against the ocean, kangaroos bouncing through fields and tropical birds filling the skies. All this combined with a rugged coastline unmatched in this part of the world. I expected seaside towns decades past their sell by date, hardy Australians celebrating a life of coastal beauty. I envisaged wineries, seafood and quirky attractions desperate to draw some of the masses from the roads. I expected a lot, and we were not disappointed.
The Great Ocean Road is clearly marked. The route passes by towns that reminded me of great British seaside, often with a shady looking pier jutting out into the ocean. The sea was violent, isolated beaches were pounded with surf as fog tended to hang constantly a hundred metres from shore, broken only occasionally by a rainbow.
Much of the route was spent nipping off into the many attractions en route such as Lorne, where spotting koalas is more like ‘spot the place without a Koala’. Or at man made attractions such as Otway Fly, a super expensive and quite unnerving tree top walk amongst the rain forest. Made ever more memorable for us, as we met a lifelong friend who bailed to the Southern Hemisphere some 16 years ago. We picked up where we left off.
Beyond Otway is the stunning yet tourist saturated 12 apostles. No longer 12, more like 3 or 4, it is one of those images that epitomises Australia. We saw our first rain here and quickly bailed about 20 miles west before finding a slice of nothing, not even rain, and it felt like we had the entire continent to ourselves. It was still freezing cold.
Eventually a 70’s style British seaside town comes along. Name is Warrnambool. Was it not for the mammals that make their way here people might continue driving. Yet come between May and November and theres a high likelihood you’ll be rewarded with a show of whales jumping, rolling and living life in their natural habitat. Head to the whale sanctuary for the best lookout opportunities. No charge. Obviously. Further up the coast you can spot a zillion seals in Cape Bridgewater after passing through gorgeous Port Fairy and interesting Portland.
For me the Great Ocean Road was one of those places where you spend more time looking at what is around, than at the road ahead. The kids grew bored on the in between journeys, but sprang to life every time they saw something a little out of the ordinary, which was very frequent.
Be aware, prices rocket in this pocket of Australia and places sell out well in advance.
Beyond the Great Ocean Road and just across the border between Victoria and South Australia, is Mt Gambier. Famed for a supposed stunning blue lake that was oddly normal looking when we arrived, it is a nice little town to kick back, relax and walk down a sinkhole.
Read the full trip…
We then drove through the Australian Outback to Coober Pedy, Ayers Rock, Alice Springs got robbed in Tenant Creek and the finished up at the top end in Darwin. The full journey can be read here: The Outback