Road Tripping Australia’s Great Ocean Road
You can drive the 243km of Australia’s Great Ocean Road in a day and speed back to Melbourne but it’s better to take a few days and take your time, stopping often to really enjoy all the sights and surprises along the way. The gateway to the Great Ocean Road is Torquay, a town famous for surfing and where surf competitions are hosted on famous Bells Beach.
The road continues to Anglesea, a good place to learn how to surf before hitting Airey’s Inlet and the 1891 Split Point Lighthouse and the passing under the famous arch and sculpture that commemorates the returned WWI soldiers who, from 1919 – 1932, built Australia’s Great Ocean Road using only hand picks, shovels and crowbars in what must have then been a very challenging environment.
Lorne is a beautiful seaside town and after ward the road snakes over valleys, through rolling countryside and diary farms, across rugged windswept beaches and over limestone cliffs eroded into fascinating shapes by the crashing waves as the road hugs the coast line, rising above the seas to give some of the most spectacular views of the drive.
As the road ribbons and curves dramatically around the rocky cliffs and crashing turquoise waves of Victoria it passes through kitschy seaside towns and spectacular coastline, through rainforests and the Otway National Park where we camped for the night near the Aire river in a free but picturesque campsite while furry koalas hugged the trees and kookaburras cackle overhead into the night.
The 12 Apostles
The most famous and iconic site of the Great Ocean Road, and perhaps of Victoria, is the 12 apostles. These rocky stacks of limestone cliffs are constantly being eroded and carved up by the ferocious, crashing waves, so much so that there aren’t actually 12 apostles and possibly never were.
From the viewing platform I counted 7, from a boat or helicopter you can see more, but whichever you look you can see the incredible forces of nature in action as the waves lick hungrily around the soft rocks, undercutting and teasing them away from the mainland until they stand, precariously wobbling alone amongst the turquoise sea, only to be eroded even more until they eventually crumble and completely collapse.
If you head down the Gibson Steps cut into the side of the cliffs you can walk along the soft sand and dip your toes in the crashing blue seas as the sheer limestone cliffs and rock stacks tower over you.
In fact, one 70 meter high rock stack did collapse in July 2005 and the double arched London Bridge fell down in 1990. It’s exhilarating standing on these windy cliffs seeing centuries of history and geography in action, slowly but surely changing the shape of the coast line forever.
The 12 apostles are just the jewel in the crown of the delights of the Great Ocean Road, there are many more interesting rock formations to discover all along the appropriately named ‘Shipwreck Coast’ of the Port Campbell National Park including the Arch, the stripy coloured Razorback, Loch Ard Gorge and the legend of the shipwreck and the serene Grotto.
Australia’s Great Ocean Road is so much more than the 12 apostles, what really makes one of the world’s best road trips is the diversity of the landscape and stunning scenery and all the little surprises along the way. Take your time and enjoy the ride.