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Australia’s Great Ocean Road

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on March 24, 2010

When you think about Australia, what do you think about?  Kangaroos?  The Outback?  The Great Barrier Reef?  The Sydney Harbour Bridge?  The Opera House?  Uluru (Ayer’s Rock)?  How ‘bout…


The truth is, it wasn’t on my “to do” list when I first started researching our Australia trip.  It’s not necessarily the first thing that jumps to mind when I thought of Australia.  In fact, I had only vaguely heard of it.  I didn’t have to read too many guide books, though, before I saw it.  In fact, I came across it again and again, in almost every forum I looked in; “must-do”s in Australia, Australian road trips, sights in Melbourne, etc.

To be fair, it lived up to the hype.  It was a fantastic journey that I would recommend to anyone headed into the Melbourne area.  It’s relaxing and yet exhilarating all at the same time.

It’s widely regarded as one of the most scenic drives in the world.  It’s Australia’s Great Ocean Road.

The Great Ocean Road was built after World War I as a tribute to the Australian soldiers that served in the War.  It was also, largely, a method of providing jobs for returning soldiers.  It runs west from Torquay, near Melbourne, Victoria, to Warrnambool.  For the most part, it runs between the along the ocean, but for several kilometers near Cape Otway (more in a moment), it runs inland, away from the shore, through dense beech forest.


We started with on the Great Ocean Road in Torquay.  Torquay is known as a surfing town, and as the gateway to the Great Ocean Road (GOR).   Bell’s Beach is right near Torquay, where surfers flock every year for the monster surf.

IMG_6562I know, I know.  I have been quick to point out the many, many creatures in Australia that are prone to threaten humans, starting primarily with the jellyfish.   Well, as it turns out, the jellyfish are primarily a northern problem.  The southern portion of the country, having waters not too terribly far from Antarctica, doesn’t suffer from the jellyfish problems the north does, because it’s too cold for the jellyfish to survive.  The waters are, therefore, safe for one and all to enjoy.  One and all with a wetsuit, that is.

The town, thought, does relish its stature as a surfing town, with surf shops abound at every turn.



IMG_6539 This was all just one shopping area!

Torquay also has some gorgeous views, too.  If you look closely, you’ll see more surfers on the left of the picture.  They look like little specs in the water.

IMG_6553 From Torquay, we started our journey down the Great Ocean Road.  The GOR runs along the ocean, where there have been hundreds of shipwrecks.  There are several lighthouses along the southern coast, and the first lighthouse along our route was the Split Point Lighthouse.  We stopped for a couple pictures of the point its on, before heading out to see it.


IMG_6647Then we headed on out toward the lighthouse.  Built in 1891, it was the last of the major lighthouses added to the southern shore.  It is still functional today.  According to the placard, it was also featured in the movie Mad Max.


IMG_6678 Just beyond/behind the lighthouse is a trail that allows you to see the treacherous rocks the lighthouse warns ships of.  The same trail provides a great view of the beach just west of the lighthouse.



IMG_6749 It really was a spectacular view.

We continued down the road, and the next site-to-see was the town of Lorne.  It was a “typical” beach town with a fishing industry.  It was pretty big by Australian standards, though.  It had a first-rate grocery store, a couple servos (gas stations), and several shops, restaurants, and accommodations.


This was a park in Lorne dedicated to the soldiers of the first World War, Korea, and Vietnam.

IMG_6802The couple we met on our sunset cruise recommended we find “the fish and chips” shop in Lorne, and enjoy some fish, which comes right off the boats from the ocean.  We weren’t really sure we’d be able to find it, but once we were there, we were pretty confident we’d found the right place.

IMG_6790 We went inside for some lunch, and found very expensive fish and chips, at $12 AUD per person.

IMG_6791 Once we got our meals, though, we “got it.”  They were huge!  It was one single, large, fresh filet of fish, along with a large portion of fries.  Seriously, the portion of fries would rival any Five Guys in the U.S. and the fish filet was tremendous.  We both ended up throwing out about half our fries, simply because there were more than we were interested in.  We did, however, save a little space for something from the bakery next door.

IMG_6800 We had seen it on our way to find the Fish n’ Chips shop, and took a peek inside.  We figured that if we could, we would grab something on our way out.


It was a cute bakery with some open-air seating out front.


And great treats inside.  Actually, though, what REALLY made this bakery was that the treats were all well-sized to be an after-meal delight, and not a whole meal in and of themselves.

IMG_6792I ended up with one of these.  It was called a mud log, and it was a chocolate role, powdered in coconut.  I didn’t realize it was powdered in coconut, and I’m not much of a coconut fan, but it was still pretty good.  I managed to choke it all down.  =)

IMG_6793 The Wife had this little strawberry jam tart.  It was tiny, and delectable.  It hit just the spot after the fish and chips.

IMG_6798We continued on our way from Lorne, knowing we were getting just a little behind schedule.  It takes about three and a half hours to get to Port Campbell, where we stayed, from Melbourne, via the GOR.  I was hoping to take our time and do it all in eight hours, stopping for pictures, overlooks, and appropriate hikes along the way, as well as a meal.   At this point, we were about 4 hours in, and we were not particularly close to halfway.  If we wanted to make it to the 12 Apostles (more in a moment) by sunset, we would have to pick up the pace.

We left Lorne, and the road began to get VERY curvy.   While the speed limit was 80 kph, we were really only able to do about 35-40 kph for most of the trip, simply because we were really following the contours of the mountains and coves as we drove along.  This further concerned me, as I knew we were still almost 150 km from Port Campbell.

“Let’s see… 150 km at 35 kph… that’s almost 4 hours!!!  We’re not going to get to see ANYTHING!”

Eventually, though, we began to depart the coast, and as we headed inland, north of Cape Otway, the road straightened out for the most part, the speed limit increased to 100 kph, and we were able to make up some time, through gorgeous coastal forest.  We even had a nice vista back onto the valley and the shore at Apollo Bay.

IMG_6856My brother had told us that if we really wanted to see wild koalas, to make it a point to head out toward Cape Otway.  Cape Otway is not specifically on the Great Ocean Road, but the Otway National Park is, and it was only going to be a 50 km detour, round trip.  It was a no brainer for us to go check it out.

On our drive into the park, we passed through several kinds of terrain.  Large pastures.  Dense forests of what we THINK were beech trees.  Large areas of some other kind of tree that we haven’t been able to identify.

IMG_6912 As we wound our way through the winding roads, the Wife was keeping her eyes out for wildlife.

Then she said it,  “I think I just saw a Koala.”

I turned around, and we went back a handful of meters to somewhere we could pull over safely.

This is what we saw.

IMG_6911 We were so excited!!!  All this time and there it was!

What? You don’t see it?  It took us a little looking, but it’s up there.  Here’s another look.

IMG_6905See him this time?  Eventually, this guy gave us a look, to see what WE were up to.

IMG_6897Once we found one, we found about ten of them in the area.  There are probably four in the picture above, and a couple more to the left, right, and even behind us.

IMG_6902 This guy was sleeping (most of them were, to be honest), but he was still pretty photogenic.  To be honest, they were smaller than I expected.   Later, we did see a much larger one, but there were some other folks taking pictures of him, so we didn’t stop for any pictures of him.

From there, we proceeded down toward the Cape Otway Lightstation; Australia’s most significant lighthouse.  The lighthouse was built in 1848 to protect ships of the Bass Strait and Southern Ocean.  Like a mighty sentinel protecting the ancient shores, as much as the ships the braved her waters, the lighthouse peers from Australia’s southern-most mainland point down toward Tasmania and beyond to Antarctica.   Stepping out onto it’s 80-meter high balcony is heart-pounding and unforgettable.

At least according to the brochure.  Unlike the South Point Lighthouse, the path to the Cape Otway Lightstation was vigilantly guarded by a National Park Kiosk, requesting $16.50 AUD per person to go see the lighthouse, and accompanying historic sites.  We arrived at 4:35 pm, and they closed at 5 pm.  We had other sites to see before sunset, and we simply decided that, along with everything else going on, including the always-looming potential that the accommodation-keeper might go home if we didn’t arrive in a timely fashion, we would continue back to the GOR, and get to our last handful of sights.  Besides, we’d gotten the REAL box checked off, which was to get to see the koalas.

One our way out of the park, we were still keeping our eyes open.  No wombats or wallabies, but we did find some ‘roos.

IMG_6932And one more bit of wildlife… we have passed more farms of animals of every variety.  We’ve seen more cattle than we can believe, actually.  HUGE pastures with several hundred-head of cattle.  We’ve seen large pastures with with sheep.  We’ve seen ducks, chickens, llamas, potentially alpacas, and we think we’ve seen a wildabeast.  We’ve seen a lot of horses, actually, too, but we haven’t been able to get any pictures of any of them.  But, on the lonely road between the GOR and the Cape Otway Lighthouse, we got a couple great pictures of some horses.  We were thinking of you, Kindell.

IMG_6916 Once we were back on the Great Ocean Road, we were rushing against time to get to the Twelve Apostles for sunset.  I saw a wombat, so I pulled over in a lookout parking lot, and took a picture.

IMG_6957 Oh, wait… that’s a rabbit.  A white-tailed bunny rabbit.  Well, don’t I feel sheepish.  The search continues!

Finally, we made it to the Twelve Apostles, a little ahead of schedule, actually.  We hiked out to the overlook, throwing caution to the wind regarding the snake warnings, and had a look.  It was beautiful.

IMG_6978 The Twelve Apostles are a rock formation made out of limestone that is slowly, slowly chipped away by the constant pounding of the ocean.  For the record, you cannot see all the “Apostles” from this vantage point.

IMG_6980 I had seen pictures of the Twelve Apostles from the other direction (taken from the West), so I was hoping to get to THAT overlook, so I could have the sunset behind me as I shot.  We didn’t find such an overlook, though, but we did find an overlook that had some other great formations.  I believe this is called the Gibson’s Steps.

IMG_6994 We made a couple changes to our camera settings, and then took another.  We thought both turned out beautiful.


IMG_7023 Then we set up to take a quick pic of us, just to prove we were there.  By this time, the sun had gone behind a cloud.

IMG_7033 From there, it was only about 10 km to our final destination of Port Campbell, which was a lovely little town.  We’ll have a post on it later, but if it were ever the journey, and not the destination, this trip was it.  It took about 200 km, and about 8 hours to do it, but it was fantastic; every minute.

If you decide to plan your own Australian vacation, and if you’re coming to Melbourne, even if you have no other plans to get a car, hire (rent) a car and get to the Great Ocean Road.  The views are perpetually amazing, only surpassed by the next view, and coming to climax at the end of the Road, with the limestone formations, including the Twelve Apostles.  We’ve seen some pretty awesome things during this trip, and I can easily say that, besides seeing my brother, the Great Ocean Road has been the highlight of my trip.

8 Responses to “Australia’s Great Ocean Road”

  1. Kath said

    Gorgeous BLUES!!!!!!!!!

  2. Jaclyn said

    Those pictures are beautiful!

    And yay for the koala spotting! Good eyes Amanda.

    • For the pictures, thank you. That’s due to the Wife being SO good about being patient with me when I’m taking pictures… I think it was worth it. As for the koalas, indeed, good eyes!

  3. T said

    It sounds like you tow are having an absolutely amazing trip! And the pictures are incredible!

  4. howard berg said

    Great pictures, Justin. You & Amanda certainly did a better job covering the GOR than Peggy & I did. And your narration is exceptional.

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