One of Australia’s natural masterpieces, Great Ocean Road is a world renowned coastal drive that will inspire and enchant you. When it comes to self-drive holidays there really is no better place than here and it truly must be experienced by all visitors to Australia and by Australians themselves, with a car or campervan rental from Melbourne. There are plenty of places to stay along the way, allowing you to discover the unique diversity of the national parks and the quaint seaside villages.
The Great Ocean Road spans along Victoria’s south west coast, and begins about an hour outside of Melbourne in the trendy coastal city of Geelong. As a perfect start to your adventure here, why not explore the wine farms and the blue waters of the Bellarine Peninsula, or experience some of the historical heritage Queenscliff has to offer.
Port Campbell is the most well known stretch of the road, because it is home to the famous Twelve Apostles, the upright limestone formations which rise up from the ocean like golden fingers. Sunrise and sunset create a brilliant array of colours that will mesmerise and enchant you, while providing you with amazing photo opportunities. It gets pretty cold here, with high winds blowing in from the ocean, so remember your coat and scarf. Make sure you set some time aside to enjoy the local wharves and museum which will give you a greater insight into the coast and legends of the many shipwrecks primarily located between Moonlight Head and Port Fairy. This stretch has been named “Shipwreck Coast” for obvious reasons.
When planning your trip up the Great Ocean Road, planning a loose itinerary is a good idea, but allow for lots of flexibility as there are a multitude of places that may cause you to veer from your original plans. For those seeking relaxation and rejuvenation, Lorne and Apollo Bay are the ideal bases to provide a closer look at this stunning part of the world. Camp on the banks of the Wye and Kennett Rivers, with Blanket Bay another secluded spot providing an escape from the tourist crowds. Not only do you have prime access to the beautiful beaches here, but the rainforests of the Otway Ranges which frame the coast are just as breathtaking.
The hinterland that stretches inland from the coastal drive is just as beautiful and amazing as the coast. The hinterland is home to some spectacular bushwalks and hiking trails which is great for those wanting to get closer to nature. Turn inland and drive to some of the popular lookout points, enjoying the mountain views on your way. Back closer to shore, Cape Otway features a majestic old lighthouse which is worth the climb for panoramic views of the coastline. Not many lighthouses along the coast are open to tourists, so take advantage of this one and enjoy the reward of the beautiful views. Make sure you take your camera!
Further along the coast, drop into the Lower Glenelg National Park, and stay in one of the peaceful camping grounds surrounded by tall shady trees. A gently flowing river will beckon you in for a swim if you fancy braving the chilly water! Canoeing is a popular activity here. As well as Apollo Bay, there are so many ideal camping spots to choose from, some located along the Bellarine Peninsula, Cumberland River Reserve, Lower Glenelg National Park, Wye River and Kennett River reserve.
Think of an outdoor activity, and the Great Ocean Road is sure to have it. Swimming is a must and Torquay would have to be one of the best places to do it. Anglesea is another fantastic choice for families with the quiet waters great for the kids. Cycling, golf and horse riding are also popular past times, and fishermen will enjoy the diversity of places to fish, and the different types of fishing available.
One of the most common water sports along the coastline is surfing. Some of the most popular surfing beaches in the country can be found at Point Lonsdale, Torquay, Point Danger and Bells Beach. Lorne and Apollo Bay are ideal for the body surfer, or just relaxing and enjoying the beach views. If you’re an experienced surfer try the breaks that are a bit further away from the tourist crowds. Once again Cape Otway is a favoured destination for surfers, although further west the conditions are too wild for safe surfing conditions.
For avid walkers, the Great Ocean Walk takes you through almost 100 kilometres of isolated, untouched coastline as along high cliffs and weaving into the forests further inland. You can start and stop along the trail which starts at Apollo Bay and ends right near the Twelve Apostles. Allow one week to a fortnight to make the most of this incredible journey.
With so many places to see and things to do you will need a few days in each favourite spot you find, and your hire campervan or car will give you the freedom to choose exactly how and when you experience the Great Ocean Road and its wonders.