The Great Ocean Road along the southern coast of Victoria in Australia is one of the greatest road-trips, and it is high on many Aussie’s bucket lists. We’ve been lucky enough to do this one a couple of times, once in each direction. This stretch is considered by many to be one of the most magnificent coastlines in the world. The route is considered to start at Geelong, south west of Melbourne and journey toward Port Fairy. If you want to drive on the coast side of the road, it is best to head this direction, (remember Aussie’s drive on the left).
Geelong is a great place to begin the drive. It is Victoria’s biggest regional city, and despite the sprawling suburbia and concentration of industry, it has a very attractive centre with wide roads, colonial style buildings and lots of parks. If you are there in January you may even be able to catch The Festival of Sails. This is Australia’s biggest keel boat regatta, with up to 450 yachts competing. During the festival there are numerous family events happening around this vibrant city.
From Geelong, you’ll head south toward Torquay, surfing mecca and home of the world famous Bells Beach. This beach is considered to be of historical significance by the National Trust, as home of longest running surfing event since 1961. Nearby there is the Surf World, Surfing Museum where you can learn more about the history of the sport.
Next stop along the route is Lorne. It is a very popular holiday destination and fills early for peak seasons. Lorne is a very pretty seaside town full of lovely spots for a swim with the kids, a walk along the coast, or a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants and cafes that rely on the tourist trade. The drive from Geelong is beautiful, but the next stretch is where it gets jaw-dropping.
Next along the coast is another pretty seaside town, Apollo Bay. It’s not as large as Lorne, but still very popular with tourist and those after a sea-change. If you are staying a while, or a keen bush-walker (hiker) the Great Ocean Road walk starts here. It stretches just over 100km from the idyllic resort town of Apollo Bay, to the magnificent Twelve Apostles, just past Princetown, but of course you don’t need to do it all! Short walks of up to three hours long are available which take in old shipwrecks, historic lighthouses and lookouts. Alternatively a full-day walk includes breathtaking ocean views, stunning waterfalls, lush forest, and more natural wonders. The full walk from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles, is an 8 day, 7 night walk. There are campsites along the way, or some tour operators will shuttle you and your belongings back and forth each day to accommodation.
From Apollo Bay to Port Campbell the road is series of tight bends hugging the edge of the cliff, and passing through the beautiful forest of the Otway National Park, taking you to one of the most iconic Australian sights – The Twelve Apostles. These are a collection of limestone stacks which have been formed by erosion over thousands of years. With the constant crashing of the waves they are continuously changing and I don’t think there are 12 left anymore, but they’ve still kept their name!
This stretch of coast is also known as the Shipwreck Coast. More than 160 ships have been wrecked in the sea between Lavers Hill and Port Fairy. There are plenty of opportunities to pull off the road and take some photographs of the beautiful view and perhaps learn about an historical shipwreck or two!
From Port Campbell you can decide whether or not to return to Melbourne via the inland road and Camperdown and Colac, or continue on to Warnambool, Port Fairy and perhaps Portland on the way to South Australia. Warnambool is a large regional city and popular tourist spot. It has great beaches, historical attributes and lovely botanic gardens, so it is yet another interesting spot to stop along this amazing road-trip.