The Big Trip: The Great Ocean Road

If you saw one of our new Australia videos we published last week then you’ll already know that we did a day tour of The Great Ocean Road whilst we were staying in Melbourne.  If you haven’t seen the corresponding video, it is available here but be sure to read through this post and enjoy the photos first!

The Great Ocean Road is a 151-mile road (243-km) along the south-eastern coast of Australia providing access to a number of prominent landmarks as it traverses through rainforest, beaches and limestone and sandstone cliffs.  It’s construction began in 1919 and was completed by around 3,000 returned serviceman as a memorial for their fallen comrades killed during World War I.  The road was finally completely in 1932 and was thought to be the world’s largest war memorial.

There are a number of tour operators offering a variety of tours of the area; you can, of course, drive the route yourself.  We choose to book through the company Go West as they offered the best value for money, were rated highly online and also offered a pick-up point within a five-minute walk of our Air BnB apartment.  We were picked up bright and early and made ourselves comfortable in the bus ready for our first stop.

Go_West_Tours

Our first stop was in Torquay on the beach to enjoy the last little bit of the sunrise and a nice hot coffee and slice of cake.  Torquay is famous for it’s surf competitions and is home of Rip Curl and Quicksilver.

Torquay_RipCurlProSurfComp

On route to our next stop we were lucky enough to see the Split Point Lighthouse which was used in children’s TV show Round The Twist and the house in the original Mad Max movie which was used as Max’s home.

We stopped at the memorial arch in Eastern View.  The arch is actually the fourth to be erected after fire, storm and road widening removed the earlier three.

Great_Ocean_Road_Sign

After jostling with the crowds of other tourists to get a photo we headed to our next stop, Lorne.  Captured by Rudyard Kipling in his poem Flowers, the town is favoured by tourists for its beach pursuits such as swimming, surfing and fishing.  During the first weekend of January, however, the town hosts the Pier to Pub swimming race which is named by the Guinness Book of Records as “the largest organised ocean swim in the world”. It began in the 1970s, when members of the Lorne Surf Life Saving Club dared each other to dive from the pier, swim through Louttit Bay and finish by body-surfing the waves onto Lorne’s shore, before attending the Lorne Pub.  The race is so popular that the number of entrants had to be capped at 4,000.  Even a number of notable Olympic medallists have won!

Lorne_BeachtoPubRace

We made a quick photo stop before lunch to admire the coastal view as well as take in the devastation from the bushfires.

Apollo_Bay

Our lunch stop was at Kennett River.  We were lucky enough to see a number of wild koalas and Australian King Parrots.  The parrots were being treated to some food from other tourists which resulted in some funny photo opportunities.  The koalas remained above it all, quite literally, hiding away sleeping in the trees. We had lunch at Kafe Koala, the food being included in our tour price and pre-ordered on the day by our driver.  It’s an unpretentious little café with friendly staff and nice food.  Unfortunately in our group someone had taken someone else’s order and there was this whole big mix up but they sorted it out without any hassle or complaint.

Kennett_River

Kennett_River_Koala_1

Kennett_River_Koala_2

The next stop was in Apollo Bay where a number of our bus buddies stopped for the famous ice cream. We took the short walk over to enjoy the beach and listen to the cockatiels.

Following this we headed into the Great Otway National Park and did the short Maits Rest bushwalk.  We really enjoyed the opportunity to stretch our legs properly and to see the enormous Mountain Ash trees, the second largest tree species in the world.

Next we stopped to see the iconic Twelve Apostles.  These limestone stacks are located off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park and there are only eight now standing, after the ninth collapsed in 2005 due to erosion by the waves.

We were offered the opportunity to take a helicopter tour of the site but sadly we couldn’t afford it.  The whole area was very busy and full of tourists so it would have been nice to have had a more peaceful experience.

Twelve_Apostles_1

Twelve_Apostles_2

We then drove a little further along the coastline to Loch Ard Gorge.  The gorge is named after a clipper ship that ran aground on Muttonbird Island in June 1878.  Of the 54 passengers and crew, there were two survivors.  Tom Pearce, the ship’s apprentice, was washed ashore but having heard the cries of help from Eva Carmichael, a lady emigrating with her family, he swam out and rescued her.  He then climbed out of the gorge and raised the alarm with locals and they set a rescue plan into action.  Pearce was hailed a hero.

We enjoyed exploring down into the gorge, around the beach and its two caves as well as the area surrounding the gorge.

Loch_Ard_Gorge_1

Loch_Ard_Gorge_2

Loch_Ard_Gorge_3

Our final touristy stop of the day was at the Gibson Steps.  The steps were supposedly carved into the cliffs by a local farmer who wanted to be able to trade with passing ships.  We didn’t brave the steps, we just enjoyed watching the surfers riding the massive waves.

After this we made our way to the small city of Colac.  There weren’t any vegan options available so we decided to go without until we got back to Melbourne.  We finally got back into the city around 9:30pm so we’d had an entire 14-hour day out!  The tour was well worth the money and our driver guide was fantastic and really made the day go quickly with lots of information about each stop and apt music in the bus as we were driving along.

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