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The Great Ocean Road may be one of Australia’s most well-known road trips, but I am here to declare that it is also one of Australia’s best. Seeing as I am currently car-less in Melbourne, when my friends visited last year we decided to do an organised day trip. There are many companies who offer them, but after reading reviews we settled on Go West Tours. It was a long day (approximately 14 hours) but so worth it. I never knew just how scenic Victoria’s coast is, and how much there is to see and do along the way.
The day begun with an early morning pickup at various city hotels. Seeing as the bus was full, the guide asked if one of us wanted to sit up the front in the passenger seat. I immediately put my hand up, and I was so glad I did. I got an uninterrupted 180° view of the Great Ocean Road, and the guide shared with me all kinds of interesting information. Trust me, if you get the chance, always sit up the front.
Our first stop of the day was at a local beach near the beginning of the Great Ocean Road. We were able to take a short stroll on the sand with our supplied morning tea: hot chocolate/coffee/tea and homemade cake. Then it was back on the bus before we reached our first big photo opportunity: the official entrance to the Great Ocean Road.
The Great Ocean Road stretches 244 kilometres along the Victorian coast, from Torquay to Allansford. Returned serviceman started constructing the road after World War I, as a war memorial for their fallen comrades. This statue was built in recent years to share the road’s history with travellers.
I believe the thing that sets the Great Ocean Road apart from its counterparts in Australia is that it literally hugs the coast, which means you can see the ocean from your car window. Our next stop highlighted this, as we simply pulled over to an observation point and were greeted with views like this. It is rare to see water this turquoise in Australia.
As we drove along the coast, our guide told us interesting facts about the road until our next destination. It was an area near a lone caravan park that was home to many eucalyptus trees, which means koalas. It is always fun looking up into the trees and trying to spot the cute locals, and there were about three visible in this area. There were also plenty of lorikeets, cockatoos and galahs. But I mostly enjoyed this view from up the top.
When we returned to our bus, our guide surprised us with a song from my childhood: Don Spencer’s Please Don’t Call Me a Koala Bear (a.k.a. Russell Crowe’s ex-father-in-law). Lee, our guide said he had never had a group member get so excited about this song, nor know all the words. Not many people grew up with Don, but I still remember watching his video regularly.
Our included lunch was a meal from a local Thai restaurant in Apollo Bay. The food was delicious, and we had enough time afterwards to wander around the coastal township. There isn’t much to see, except for the beach, a couple of boutiques and the always necessary ice-creamery. Yet the photos I captured during our break may be some of my favourite from the day.
Great Otway Rainforest Walk
The Great Ocean Road is actually within the Great Otway National Park, which stretches from Torquay to Princetown. We stopped to take a walk through one of the wettest places in Victoria at Melba Gully. The Madsen’s Track Nature Walk is a leisurely 35 minute walk through the rainforest. The track takes you in a circle, through moss-covered branches, ferns and towering Myrtle Beech trees.
Next was the big event; the reason people visit the Great Ocean Road. The Twelve Apostles are located in Port Campbell National Park and it is only a short walk from the visitor centre to the main attraction. The eight remaining apostles are made from limestone and came to be standing 45 metres high in the ocean thanks to erosion. But this erosion also means the apostles are going to continue to decrease in number. It was a little foggy during our visit, but I was still able to capture the famous structures.
If you have the time, there are plenty of walking paths to follow, which will take you to different viewpoints. My favourite was to the left of the crowds, where I found these locks hanging solo.
The Twelve Apostles are one of the iconic Australia attractions that I saw countless times growing up. To be able to witness them firsthand felt like an achievement — now I just need to visit Ayers Rock.
Loch Ard Gorge
Only a short drive from the Twelve Apostles was the day’s biggest surprise. I had never heard of Loch Ard Gorge, but it is a beautiful location. Our guide told us the tale of Australia’s most famous shipwreck, which occurred off the coast we were standing on. He also mentioned to be wary of the ocean at the gorge, as it is known for its rips. I could see them swirling just off the shore, so it is best to enjoy the scenery from the sand.
Loch Ard Gorge can also be enjoyed from above, where there is a walking track to take you out to the end. Turquoise waters, sand-coloured stone and wildflowers. I can only describe this gorge as naturally beautiful.
Finishing the Great Ocean Road
From Loch Ard Gorge, our group bade farewell to the Great Ocean Road, as we took an inland highway back to Melbourne. We were given the chance to grab a bite to eat in the small township of Colac, which broke up the long journey home.
I obviously really enjoyed my Great Ocean Road day trip. I now understand why it is a must-see attraction to include on any Australian itinerary. The scenery is different from what you will see in other parts of the country; particularly beach-obsessed Queensland. I highly recommend heading on your own Great Ocean Road day trip when visiting Victoria.