Driving The Great Ocean Road, Australia
There’s nothing quite like the fun and freedom that comes with taking a road trip. It allows you to explore your surroundings at leisure stopping wherever you please for as long as you please.
One of the world’s most bucket list worthy road trips is along the Great Ocean Road in southeastern Australia.
This iconic road hugs the craggy cliffs that snake along the turbulent Southern Ocean coastline offering travellers impossibly scenic vantage points along the way.
I must admit the Great Ocean Road has never actually been on my bucket list. But that’s ONLY because I have the good fortune of living in Geelong just 20 minutes away from this incredible coastal drive.
It’s one of my favourite weekend getaways and no matter how many times I travel its length I never tire of the road’s stunning coastline, natural wonders, and unique wildlife. I always leave in awe of its beauty aware that for most people this is a once in a lifetime trip.
What is the Great Ocean Road?
Stretching 243 kilometres between Torquay and Allansford, it was built in the 1930s to help provide employment for returning servicemen during the Great Depression. It’s a remarkable engineering feat that connected the coast’s seaside villages that would otherwise have remained isolated from each other.
An interesting fact about the Great Ocean Road is that it was created in honour of those who lost their lives during World War I and it’s considered to be the world’s largest war memorial.
Most of the drive follows the coast, winding around sheer cliffs with jaw-dropping ocean views and occasionally tracking inland through the verdant rainforest filled with giant ferns and beautiful old trees.
My favourite section of the road is the stretch between Lorne (a great place to stay) and Apollo Bay where the views are truly mesmerising. However, it’s the famous rock formations of the Twelve Apostles that most people come to see.
What can I see along the Great Ocean Road?
An Australian icon, these limestone pillars were once connected to the crumbling cliffs of the Port Campbell National Park. They’ve been carved out by the pounding surf over many thousands of years first forming caves, then arches, and finally, the isolated stacks that we see today.
A boardwalk takes you to various viewpoints and lookouts that offer epic photo opportunities of the Apostles surrounded by the stunning coastline.
A fantastic experience to add to your Australia bucket list is a scenic helicopter flight over the coastline. These are available from behind the visitor centre car park.
Other rock formations along this stretch of coastline include The Arch, London Bridge, The Grotto, and the Bay Of Martyrs. Each one of these sites is just as incredible as the Apostles and they are a must-stop along the Great Ocean Road.
Friends that I bring to this section of the road are often overwhelmed with the sheer force of nature that can be felt here. This is especially so in winter when the wind and surf are at their most powerful.
Things to see and do near the Great Ocean Road
As beautiful as it is, the Great Ocean Road has more to offer than its coastline. Head inland into Great Otway National Park and you can enjoy rainforest walks, waterfalls, soaring redwood forest, Australian wildlife, treetop walks and for thrill-seekers there’s skydiving and aerobatic flights, or you can go zip lining through the trees!
The national park is a bushwalkers paradise. Where else can you experience cliff top walks, coastal paths, rainforests, and bush all along one single track? There are loads of trail options to suit all levels of fitness from short easy walks of just 30 minutes to more arduous weeklong treks.
Whichever walk you choose, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for native wildlife. Kangaroos and wallabies inhabit the national park and if you’re lucky you might spot an echidna or wombat or if you’re super lucky a platypus.
Koalas can be spotted sleeping in the branches of eucalyptus trees throughout the park. But the best place to see koalas along the Great Ocean Road is at Kennett River which has a dedicated Koala Walk.
The area has an abundance of koalas and while no one can ever guarantee you’ll see a wild animal, I’ve never been to Kennett River without encountering a koala or two.
How to experience the Great Ocean Road?
The Great Ocean Road begins in the coastal town of Torquay, about 1 ½ hours south of Melbourne.
The best way to explore all of its attractions is with your own vehicle whether that’s a car, motorbike, or a van. If you’re short on time or don’t fancy driving on the left side of the road there are plenty of day tour options available.
Top Tip for visiting the Great Ocean Road
My top tip for visiting the Great Ocean Road is to take your time and don’t try to squeeze everything into one day. As hard as you try you won’t be able to see it all. So just accept it, choose your ‘must-sees’, and pace yourself.
With its epic coastlines, centuries-old rainforest, natural wonders, and breathtaking views, there’s nowhere on earth quite like the Great Ocean Road, a bucket list destination for travellers everywhere.
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