One of Victoria’s most popular and most written about Car journeys is the Great Ocean Road. Officially starting at Torquay and finishing at Allansford the road is just over 240 kilometres long and includes some of Victoria’s premiere attractions.
For our Trip we picked up a hire car in Melbourne through DriveNow (that’s the Ubiquitous plug out of the way) and headed south down the freeway to Geelong about 60 mins away. We decided to make the outward journey down the Great Ocean Road and cut inland for the return trip via the Princes Highway.
First piece of advice – if a fellow traveller is prone to car-sickness have them sitting up front – the road and journey whilst stunning does weave, twist and turn!
Tip Number two – if travelling down the road during the summer, expect to take your time, it’s a popular spot.
Our first stop breakfast at the Arab Cafe (in our humble opinion the best breakfast along the road) at Lorne, one of the most popular holiday destinations on the south coast with the famous Pier to Pub swim held each January and the Falls Festival over New Year. Its name sake, Erskine Falls – a 40 metre waterfall, located 10 kms behind Lorne is well worth a visit.
Onwards to Apollo Bay for an early lunch and then into the Cape Otway National Park. This is where the Great Ocean Road cuts in land away from the coast. Make sure to visit and climb the Lighthouse at Cape Otway, a great spot and part of Victoria’s migration history. It also offers visitors the chance to see Koalas up close. We thought finding them was going to be a challenge but in fact stopping off just past the cattle grid on leaving the lighthouse they were there in abundance!
The kids were keen to try the Otway Fly Treetop Walk at the Otway Fly Treetop Adventures centre just off the Great Ocean Road at Lavers Hill and whilst it meant for a long day it proved to be a great idea.
Set up in 2003 the Treetop walk allows you to literally walk in the canopies of trees 100 ft above the forest floor. Mountain Ash trees soar above your head and stunning Tree Ferns offer a kaleidoscope below with the Spiral Tower taking you up almost 50 metres above the ground and over 600 metres of continuous raised walkway.
Make sure you take the kids down the Prehistoric Path Journey for a close encounter with dinosaurs. There’s plenty to see but they need to keep their eyes peeled as dinosaurs appear from all sorts of directions and a giant python can easily be missed!
The Walk takes around 60 minutes and there’s a visitor centre, cafe and playground. We visited in September 2011 and costs were $24 per adult and $10 for children. For the more adventurous the Fly Zip Line Tour takes you through the forest traversing (think “Flying Fox”) between ‘cloud stations’ in a 2.5 hour adventure (www.otwayfly.com). Definitely something we’d have done but with 2 young children it’ll wait for another day.
Our final destination was the iconic 12 Apostles; although truth be told finding 12 was no easy task!
We had to double back onto the Great Ocean Road from the Otway Treetops to Lavers Hill but it still took less than an hour to get there. Sadly, gone are the days when you could actually walk right out onto one of the Apostles. Today we have car parking the other side of the road, cafe, information centre, helicopter joyrides, an underpass, boardwalks and fences preventing any adventurous incursions. However, given the increasing popularity of the Apostles perhaps this more restrained approach is a good thing.
The coast really speaks for itself. The limestone stacks are set in stunning scenery and if you can get there on a clear sunset evening you will have photos to last a life time. Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge (part of which truly did “fall down” in 1990) and the Gibson Steps (providing access to the Cliff beach) all make for an extraordinary piece of coastline.
The return leg home is quickest by going onto Port Campbell (another 10kms or so) and the cutting up in land back onto the Princes Highway to Geelong, jumping onto the newly extended freeway at Waurn Ponds and back to Melbourne (around 3+ hours).
It’s definitely a long day and for those who have the time staying down at one of the many B&Bs is a great option. There’s absolutely no doubt though that this trip is something to be experienced by all visitors and in fact by all Victorians.