One of the things I was most looking forward to about travelling Australia was The Great Ocean Road.
The Great Ocean Road is such an iconic backpacker trip. Seeing the Twelve Apostles and other fascinating off shore rock formations, exploring beaches and waterfalls, spotting koalas up in the trees. This famous road trip provides a quintessential Aussie road trip experience that can be done over a weekend. Yet for some reason it took me a whole year to actually do it, despite living in Melbourne for the majority of my time in Australia.
When Chris and I found out we couldn’t stay in Australia any longer because of our visas, we knew we had to spend our last weekend on the Great Ocean Road. It was just before Christmas and we picked the perfect weekend to do it without realising. It was hot and sunny, yet being by the coast provided an escape from boiling Melbourne, where our friends were suffering in 42 degree heat.
Many people do the Great Ocean Road in just a day trip. I wouldn’t recommend this. There is so much to explore and driving to the main tourist attraction on the road, the Twelve Apostles, is quite a far drive. However, for us, two nights was the perfect amount of time. Any longer and I think I would have got quite restless.
Torquay to Lorne
We left on a Friday around Midday, and roared down the dusty, uninteresting highway to the coast and the gateway to the Great Ocean Road, Torquay, where we stopped for lunch. Torquay is a cute little town and well worth stopping in. Theres a nice beach to relax on and we enjoyed fish and chips by the beach front. Torquay also makes a great day trip for anyone living in Melbourne, who wants to enjoy the beach and escape the city.
Most people start the Great Ocean Road either in Torquay, or in Anglesea, which was our next stop. That afternoon we went canoeing in Anglesea. As you drive past the town you will see a man renting out Canoes by the river on your right. This is something our friends recommended to us and we probably would not have done otherwise. I’m really glad we did it though. It broke up the journey and was a real laugh.
After that we headed to Aireys Inlet, where the main attraction is Split Point lighthouse (fun fact: this is the same lighthouse from Round the Twist!). We wandered up and took some typically tourist shots before heading to Lorne, where we camped the night. Lorne is a really nice town which I could have easily spent more time in. Theres loads of cafes and restaurants, a beach, a park and a skatepark.
Lorne to Apollo Bay
This was my favourite part of the road trip. The day before gave us a taste of the Great Ocean Road. We got to see some sights and take our time. However the drive from Lorne to Apollo Bay was for me, what the Great Ocean Road is all about.
Most tourists seem to tear down the Great Ocean Road purely for the Twelve Apostles, but the Twelve Apostles is just a destination. The drive from Lorne to Apollo Bay was the journey which the Great Ocean Road represents. A winding road the hugs along the cliff edge on our right, as gorgeous blue ocean stretches out for forever to our left. Along the way we stopped off and took photos and took it all in. Dotted all along is also plenty of beaches.
Not far out of Lorne we stopped at Grey River Road, a pretty popular stop with the tourists where Koalas inhabit the gum trees. We went for a wander with a coffee but only spotted one Koala high up in the trees.
After Lorne we headed to Apollo, another cute town and the last big stop before the Twelve Apostles. Whilst we were in town, we wandered around the Saturday market and I bought some massage oils and lotions. We grabbed lunch which included a delicious Nutella donut, then moved on.
Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles.
The next part of the journey was probably the longest stretch after leaving Melbourne. It’s also more of an inland stretch of the Great Ocean Road, you’ll see more farm land than ocean here. However, its still beautiful. We stopped off at a short rainforest walk along the way. The forest was beautiful and felt really tropical, which felt strange as we were so far down south.
Mid Afternoon, we finally arrived at The Twelve Apostles. The Twelve Apostles are by far the main reason people go to the Great Ocean Road, and are probably one of the most visited spots in Australia. Even just seeing photos and it’s easy to see why – these limestone giants standing tall, separated from the land after thousands of years of erosion as the stormy Southern Sea crashed against the land and wore it away – are a strikingly beautiful sight and a natural wonder. However, because of their beauty, it was extremely touristy and overcrowded when we did go to see them for ourselves. I knew it would be busy of course, but I honestly underestimated quite how touristy it would be. There was a huge carpark where buses pulled up and deposited hundreds of tourists. Helicopters for the wealthier tourists who wanted to avoid the crowds buzzed ahead. We went and saw the Twelve Apostles and took our photos but I felt really underwhelmed. I feel that the huge amounts of tourists cheapened the experience and a sight I had seen so many times before in photos failed to impress me like I thought it would, which is a shame.
The Twelve Apostles however, aren’t the only fascinating and beautiful rock formations around this area. Just driving a little further up the road and you will find lots of turn off points that most of the tourists won’t bother to see (or get the opportunity to see on their tour bus). The London Bridge, and the Grotto are two great examples. I especially loved the Grotto.
I also encourage anyone who heads up this way to take the time to go down Gibson Steps. Here you’ll find steps down to the beach near the Twelve Apostles, which offers a very different perspective. I found the sight much more beautiful down here. Not only were there less people, but having the Apostles loom above me, while I felt the sand in my feet and the sea lapped the shore, was a much more humbling experience.
To anyone who is visiting Australia and is wondering whether to include the Great Ocean Road in your trip, I implore you to do so. However, remember that it’s not all about the Twelve Apostles. My favourite part of the trip was the driving between Lorne and Apollo Bay. You’ll also find heaps of activities to do – great surf breaks, kayaking, or just chilling on the many beaches. Take a couple of days instead of racing it in just one day and camp along the way. We camped in Lorne and in Princetown, a town just near the Twelve Apostles. Turn off wherever you see an interesting sign and pull over to take loads of photos. And by that same merit, try to go in a car or a camper van. We had our own car but renting just for a couple of days between a few friends can be incredibly cheap. I understand this isn’t an option for everyone. For solo travellers short on time, going on a tour may make more sense. However if you do have the time and can rope other people into it, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience to DIY it.