One thing which I have always wanted to do on my previous trips to Australia is to drive the Great Ocean Road. Due to my previous visits to Australia being considerably shorter than my most recent trip, I just haven’t had the chance. So this was at the top of my list for my most recent trip.
The Great Ocean Road was constructed from 1919-1932 by the soldiers that returned from the First World War. The Great Ocean Road stretches 151 miles along the Victorian coastline from Torquay in the East to Allansford in the west.
My Epic Drive Along The Great Ocean Road
I decided that I would fly over to Melbourne and then drive back from Melbourne to Adelaide along the Great Ocean Road. Technically if you wanted to just drive without stopping you could achieve this in a day, but where would the fun be in that? I arrived in Melbourne on a Thursday afternoon and allowed two and a half days to complete the entire drive back to Adelaide.
For the drive I hired a 3.6 V6 Holden Commodore from Avis at Melbourne airport, which cost £276 for three days. However, I was a bit surprised by receiving an additional charge of approximately £75 when I returned the car to Adelaide airport, which was for a ‘premium location drop off’. I will definitely read the small print the next time I hire a car anywhere!
The Great Ocean Road – Day 1
I arrived in Melbourne Tullamarine airport at around 3pm on a Thursday afternoon and headed to the Avis desk to pick up the car. I choose Avis mainly because they have a partnership with British Airways, so I would receive a few Avios for the booking. I’ve used Avis before for this very reason and never had a problem, but on this occasion my luck had run out.
Initially it all seemed to go reasonably well and I got the car and headed out of the airport to begin battling my way through the heavy afternoon traffic around Melbourne, on my way to Anglesea where I had planned to spend the first evening. The drive should have taken an hour but due to the traffic it was going to take a bit longer. I hadn’t got far into my drive when I thought back to the collection and realised that I hadn’t been offered any insurance waiver for the vehicle, so I pulled over to have a look at the paperwork and there it was, a $5500 sum payable should the vehicle be returned damaged. I wasn’t at all happy about this so I tried to call the collection desk but there was no answer so I called the Australian Avis call centre and I was told that they couldn’t sort this out over the phone, I would either need to return to Melbourne Airport or visit another Avis desk.
By this point I was an hour from the airport and didn’t really want to turn around, and then I spotted an exit on the road for Melbourne’s second airport, Avalon. I pulled off and to my luck there was an Avis desk, but the bad news was that it only opened when there was a booking, and on the desk it said back at 8pm, it was now only 6pm. Not really wanting to pay all of that money should anything happen to the car I decided to wait. It was the longest 2 hours of my life, but just before 8pm, an extremely helpful lady arrived and sorted it all out for me and I was now on my way, much happier about the situation and with a little faith restored towards Avis.
I had planned to go for a nice meal on my arrival into Anglesea, but due to arriving so late, it was gone 9pm by the time I had checked in, all that was open was a Chinese restaurant. Chinese had never tasted so good, ever! The apartment which I had booked was very nice and modern, it was a shame I literally arrived, ate dinner then went to bed, and left by 8am in the morning. The apartment which I had booked was a deluxe two bedroom apartment in the Great Ocean Road Resort in Anglesea.
The Great Ocean Road – Day 2
With so much to see and go along the Great Ocean Road I decided to be on the road by 8am as I had an action packed day planned. For the first hour or so I stopped about every mile as I was so mesmerised by the stunning coastal views, and after a few stops I arrived at the famous Great Ocean Road archway and memorial to the soldiers who built the road.
The next big stop of the day was the town of Lorne. As well as being extremely picturesque you also can divert a few miles inland into the rainforest and to the Erskine Falls. A visit to the falls involves a 20 minute or so walk but it’s absolutely worth it, to see some of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. Be prepared for a long trek down to the base of the falls, and a long trek back up the hill after. If you’re not up to it, there is a lookout near the top which is only about 5 minutes from the car park.
While in Lorne be sure to check out Teddy’s lookout for some amazing views along the coast, and also to make time for a stroll along Lorne Jetty.
The next stop after Lorne has to be the stunning Apollo Bay, which is about 25 miles further down the Great Ocean Road. Be sure to make many stops along your way to see some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. Apollo Bay is an absolutely stunning stretch of pure white sand sweeping around the bay. I stopped here for a late breakfast and to admire the gorgeous views.
When you reach Apollo Bay you are about a third of the way along the Great Ocean Road, and the next third of the road mostly leaves the coastline, weaving inland, then back out again through a series of gorges and hill ranges. The first time you head inland you pass through another rainforest which is definitely worth a stop. Here you will find a forest full of giant ferns, it’s like stepping onto the film set for Jurassic Park.
Shortly after the giant ferns be sure not to miss another detour off the road to Cape Otway where you can walk the lighthouse and see some spectacular views along the coast. From here head back to the road, and follow it as it weaves around the rolling hills and lush rainforests until you reach the township of Princetown, where the road once again meets the coast. However, the coast has changed somewhat from what you will have seen the other side of Cape Otway, and is now full of dramatic cliffs. The next stop is the Twelve Apostles.
The Twelve Apostles are collection of spectacular limestone stacks located just offshore. Unfortunately since their discovery there are no longer 12 standing, just 8, but they are still a wonderful sight to see. What ever day you visit be prepared for swarms of tourists here, as it is one of the most iconic places in Australia. If you want you can also take a helicopter flight over them for a really fantastic view.
On the last third of the Great Ocean Road the road is set back a bit from the ocean, on top of the cliffs, so do take every opportunity to head off to any view points which are signposted along the way, such as London Arch, Bay of Islands and The Grotto, as you will no longer see much of the coast from the road. Not long after these the Great Ocean Road heads inland again towards Allansford where it ends. I continued driving another 75 miles on this day to a town called Portland where I planned to stay the night before my trip back to Adelaide the following day.
For the second night I had booked a 2 bedroom lodge at the Victoria Lodge Motor Inn in Portland. Again this was very comfortable and it was nice to just relax after the long 250 mile drive.
The Great Ocean Road – Day 3
Technically I had finished driving the Great Ocean Road the previous day, so this last day was just the return to Adelaide. Although most of the road was not costal, there were still some jaw-dropping sights to see along the way.
I again set off quite early and headed towards the Victoria/South Australia border, and towards the town of Mount Gambier. I had heard a lot about Mount Gambier and wish I could have spent more time here to explore, but I needed to get back to Adelaide to drop the car back. This is somewhere I plan to visit on my next trip to Australia. Shortly after leaving Portland I passed through an immense pine forest which must have lasted for at least 50 miles. I’ve only ever seen a pine forest like this before in Scotland, and didn’t imagine I would see anything like this in Australia. As I had set off even earlier this morning there was plenty of wildlife such as Emus and Kangaroos to see along the way.
After you pass through Mount Gambier you change direction and start heading north rather than west, for the last 4 hours towards Adelaide. Here you can choose to take the freeway which is quicker, or take a more scenic route which runs along a large inland lake called the Coorong which is separated from the sea by a 120 mile long spit of land which is made from sand dunes. Again, there are some fantastic views to be had along here, such as Policeman’s Point, so it’s definitely worth making a few stops.
When you come towards the end of the Coorong you start heading slightly inland to the town of Murray Bridge, which is not far from the mouth of the River Murray. Once I arrived here I knew I was only an hour out of Adelaide. After all of the driving I was slightly glad to be arriving back in Adelaide. However, I must say it is one of the three most amazing drives I have ever driven, along with Glen Coe in Scotland and Monument Valley in the United States, I have some amazing memories from this fantastic drive and would love to do it again one day.