Today, it was time for an adventure. After a wonderful couple of days arriving in Australia and exploring Melbourne, we were off on a trip down Victoria’s glorious Great Ocean Road. It’s something I’d highly recommend to anybody visiting Melbourne.
For those unfamiliar with the Great Ocean Road, it’s a stunning 249 mile mile drive along the Southern Ocean of Australia. Reachable within an hour and a half drive from central Melbourne, it takes you from the Victorian town of Torquay all the way to Nelson on the South Australian border. Along the drive, you pass gorgeous coastal views, the iconic Twelve Apostles, and world-class surf at Bells Beach. The incredible clifftop views, raw nature, and adorable coastal villages can’t be missed either.
So, let me show you around.
Beginning the Great Ocean Road drive
The trip started at a minibus collection from the gigantic Crown Casino, just across the road from our apartment. Our tour operator was a small company – A Tour With A Difference – and I would genuinely recommend them. We had a friendly, knowledgeable tour guide and took plenty of stops along the way. This company is unique in that they offer small bus tours, instead of a stifling coach crammed with fellow tourists.
Our first stop was the gloriously golden Bells Beach.
It’s famous for being one of Australia’s best surf beaches and home to one of the biggest competitions in the surfing world. To be honest, the photos don’t really do this incredible beach justice. It offered us perfect views to enjoy as we sampled some authentically Aussie morning tea. We had Lamington cakes (little chocolate covered sponge cakes sprinkled with desiccated coconut which were to die for), Vegemite on crackers, and also drank Bush tea made from a billy can.
Stopping in Lorne
After a few snaps, we hopped back into the bus for our next stop: Lorne. The journey to Lorne was impressive in itself. This is because we passed some incredible houses which harbour stunning panoramic views of the coast. We also passed the lighthouse from the kids’ TV show Around the Twist (remember!?), and some beautiful stretches of coastline.
The whole while, our tour guide was feeding us tidbits of information and generally making the tour informative and fun.
Lorne itself is a small former fishing village, and it’s a really pretty place to stop off along the Great Ocean Road. It’s popular with backpackers and even has a few hostels if you’re interested in staying there. We took a short break and wondered the beach, spotting surfing lessons and adorable cockatoos.
Wildlife on the Great Ocean Road
Back on the road! We took a slight detour in an attempt to say hello to some rather sleepy koalas, and bumped into a few other fellas too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful, colourful birds before. I also managed to see my first ever koala bear, even if he was a little tired.
We hit the road once again and saw lots of beautiful coastal views whilst listening to some scary shark stories. After a little way of a drive, we stopped off at a rainforest on the way to the Twelve Apostles.
Mait’s Rest Rainforest Walk
The next part of our tour was a brief walk through a rainforest. Who knew the amount of sights you can see along the Great Ocean Road?
Despite all of our group feeling a little nervous about the creatures lurking around, it was pretty educational. We also saw the effects of bush fire and koalas that had completely destroyed eucalyptus trees. Despite being such cute animals, the destruction they are capable of creating was pretty alarming.
At one point during our hike through the rainforest, we came across a huge tree. Our tour guide informed us that Aboriginees believe that walking through this particular tree improves your fertility. Well, I had to give it a go!
On the Twelve Apostles beach
After surviving a trek through the rainforest, it was time for the bit of the trip I was looking forward to the most, the Twelve Apostles. The Twelve Apostles are a group of limestone stacks located off the coast, and they’ve been an iconic attraction for years thanks to their close proximity to one another.
Nowadays sadly, the Twelve Apostles aren’t actually twelve any more. Instead, they’re now closer to the Eight Apostles, thanks to a combination of erosion and fierce weather. It’s unknown how long the remaining Apostles will stand for, so try to see them as soon as you can.
The Twelve Apostles
As such icons of Australia, it was really exciting to see the Twelve Apostles at last. Even if we were surrounded by some unwanted company. We climbed up the stairs from the beach to get a better view over the remaining Apostles.
Loch Ard Gorge
Just a short distance from the Twelve Apostles, another great stop for sightseeing is Loch Ard George. Located in the Port Campbell National Park, it’s a stunning gorge with an inlet overlooked by two golden cliff faces lapped by aquamarine water.
This area hasn’t always had such a peaceful history, however. In 1878, a shop named Loch Ard arrived on a nearby island on a dramatic journey over from England. Out of everyone on board, sadly only two passengers survived. The teenage girl survivor went back to Ireland after losing most of her family on the journey, and the teenage boy who survived went on to live up to his hero reputation.
In 2009, the arch crumbled leaving these two iconic parallel rocks remaining. Nowadays, they’re named Tom and Eva in homage to the two ship survivors. It just goes to show how the landscape of the Great Ocean Road is constantly changing, as well as the Twelve Apostles.
Our next stop was London Bridge. Like Loch Ard Gorge, there’s also a story about this ‘bridge’. One day, the two slabs of rock were actually joined together. Imagine the horror of two tourists who walked over onto the rock end before the bridge crumbled into the sea. They were left completely stranded!
There are rumours of the couple being celebrities, or a duo having a secret affair and therefore being distraught to be discovered. It eventually turned out, however, that they were just an Aussie couple terrified for their lives until they were rescued by helicopter.
On the other side of the beach, if you look carefully, you can see the tiny prints of little penguins who come and nestle on the beach after sunset. More about penguins tomorrow on our trip to Phillip Island!
But for now, it was time for us to head back to Melbourne.
Back to Melbourne from the Great Ocean Road
We enjoyed our last proper evening downtown by taking a stroll along the Yarra River, soaking up the sights. Cue rows of wealthy businessmen fine dining al fresco in the balmy night from one of the casino’s restaurants, with the city’s twinkling lights reflecting upon the windows.
An experience not to be missed is watching the torches alongside the river which simultaneously blast fire from their towers when it strikes on the hour. Expecting just a little flame, we nearly jumped out of our skins with the explosive roar it made before cracking up. The flames were actually really impressive and very warm!
That’s it from me for today! Have you done a tour of the Great Ocean Road? Or is it something you’d like to do? Let me know!