Travelling Australia Part II - South Coast; Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road
After spending nearly six weeks travelling up the east coast of Australia from Sydney to Cairns, we had gotten just about as north as we were able to go. So we hopped on a plane and headed south to Melbourne. This is Part II of our Australian travels, exploring the Great Ocean Road!
Our draw to the south was the Great Ocean Road (GOR). It was high on our list and the road trip came highly recommended for its beautiful coastal drive, amazing lookouts and pristine beaches. We had also heard it was a great area to spot some koalas, so how could we resist all of that?
We spent about a week in the south with just a day or two in Melbourne (again, remember that we aren’t city people!) and about four days on the GOR.
Parts of the GOR were mayhem! The beautiful coastal drive and most specifically The Twelve Apostles are no secret to anyone. Everyone knows about it and everyone is going. Pack your patience and consider visiting the key spots early in the morning or late in the day to avoid the tour buses. But in the end, if you’re on the GOR in the summer it’s just going to be busy all of the time.
Like I said above and have said before, we aren’t city people. We had heard great things about Melbourne, but touring the city just wasn’t our priority. We were lucky enough to be in town when the Melbourne Stars were playing, so we went to our first ever cricket match!
We had a few beers and a nice guy behind us was kind enough to explain the rules. I quite enjoy attending sporting events, so it was a fun afternoon.
The Great Ocean Road
Torquay to Apollo Bay
The GOR is essentially a stretch of highway predominantly on the B100, but it does a bit of jogging and continues on the A1. You can do some of the main highlights in a day, but we took a few in order to explore a little deeper and have a bit of time to relax.
We stopped in Torquay, known as the gateway to the GOR, to check out the National Surf Museum. I was pleasantly surprised by the museum, but the best thing of all was their audiovisuals. We literally sat there for hours watching amazing videos on the evolution of surfing and features on some of surfing’s biggest named and icons, it was great! We enjoyed the lookout of Bells Beach, but planned to spend more timing there on our way back.
We continued on the GOR making lots of stops to check out lookout points, did a short hike to visit Erksine Falls and wandered through the small seaside towns.
Highway B100 is an endless coast of turquoise blue waters, craggily cliffs and small beach towns. It’s a bit of a battle not to stop at every pull over to take photos. Just enjoying the drive is the main draw of the GOR!
We rested for the night at a small hostel near Apollo Bay. Nothing fancy, but we had our own room and there was a resident koala hanging out in a tree right on the property – a very exciting first sighting!
Apollo Bay to Port Fairy
Our second day we encountered some of the major highlights of the GOR. We did a rainforest walk at Maits River and checked out Otway National Park. Otway is known for being a good place to spot koalas. It became a bit of a game of who could spot the most; Bryan won. It was very cool to see the little grey fuzz balls up in the trees, usually doing nothing but sleeping. Overall, we saw about a dozen and they were hard little buggers to find!
The next part of the drive had many beautiful stops to view the craggily coastline, including the famous Twelve Apostles (there are now only 8 left standing), London Arch, Loch Ard Gorge, the Grotto and Bay of Islands. These are all beautiful and varied rock formations along the coast that have been battered and moulded by the ocean waves.
We finished our day’s journey at the Port Fairy YHA, which was quite nice and charming.
Port Fairy to Torquay
Our final full day on the GOR became all about wildlife spotting! We spent time walking Griffith Island in hopes of spotting some black wallabies, and it was a successful morning!
We then headed to Tower Hill for a few hours of hiking where we saw more koalas, kangaroos and emus, which are fairly terrifying up close.
We took the inland road back to Torquay and bunkered down for the night. Funny enough there was a cold front that came through the area, and for the first time in a long time I was shivering in pants and long sleeves – who would have expected that for summer in Australia?
Our last day on the GOR was supposed to be our full beach day; to relax, to lie in the sun, to surf… but it was cold and windy. Bryan was brave, determined and got a good deal on a board and wetsuit rental, so he surfed and I curled up in the car to read. Either way I was happy to have some quiet time since we had been on the move for weeks.
That ended our GOR road trip. Once again, we weren’t quite done with Australia yet. I had a friend from Perth who raved about the west coast and how often it was forgotten. We had debated cutting out our plan to spend time in the west, but we also figured we would have to pass over there to get to South East Asia anyway… so west coast it was and we jumped on a flight to Perth.
Stay tuned for Part III of our Australian travels in Perth and Margaret River; diving, wineries, caves… it’s going to be a good one!