The Great Ocean Road

Trip Start Jun 30, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Tuesday, January 3, 2012

With time to kill while we waited for our passports, we decided to take Dr Ubhi's advice, and venture on a road trip down the Great Ocean Road. We looked at tour operators, but after our experience on Fraser Island, we decided it would be better to do it all ourselves. The flexibility to stop when we want and for however long we wanted was the main motivation. Finding accommodation was a bit tricky with it being kids school holidays, but eventually managed to pre-book a couple of places for the first two nights. We didn't really fancy renting a campervan again, so arranged to hire a car. The small Suzuki Swift was ample for us, and surprisingly quite well equipped.

It took about an hour from Melbourne to get to The Great Ocean Road. The Road in fact was another war memorial, which seems to be a recurring theme with a number of attractions around the Melbourne area. It was built by the returning soldiers of the first world war, between 1918 to 1932. At 243 Km (151 miles) long the Road is the world's largest war memorial. First stop was Torquay (yep, another English place name been exported) and Bells beach. This was Victoria's surfing capital, and home of world famous brands such as RipCurl and Quiksilver. Was nice enough, but nothing exceptional. We elected for regular stops along the way rather than being just sat in the car. At each stop a bronze plaque highlighted the story of the Road.
We also made a quick stop in Anglesea at the lookout before taking an extended break at the Split Lighthouse in Aireys Inlet. This was where a children's show called Round the Twist used to be filmed. It rekindled all kinds of memories of the "Twist Family" for Parminder, but I (Sharndeep) could only very vaguely remember it if at all. We went on a short walk around the area, up to the edge of the cliff face, giving us views of the ocean. Next stop was the Memorial Arch, which looks like the official commencement of the Great Ocean Road. Another two quick stops at Devil's Elbow and Reddy's Creek preceded our next longer stop at Lorne.
Lorne is a cosmopolitan seaside resort and has the best of both worlds; the beautiful forests of the Great Otway National Park, and the dramatic scenery of the Great Ocean Road. The town had a distinct Mediterranean feel to it. We visited the tourist information who recommended we pay Eskine Waterfalls a visit. The falls are one of the most popular in the Otways, dropping 30 metres into the fern lined valley of the Eskine River. We made the short drive to Eskine Falls, and made our way down towards the base of the falls. Majority of people were stationed at the viewing platform, but we noticed a few had gone right down to where the water was falling. We also found a way past the railings and numerous fallen trees to the bottom of the waterfall. Got sprayed by a bit of water, and the rainforest surroundings were also quite pleasant. Walking back up was definitely more difficult of the walk down.
We made our way through the Otways, making brief stops at Cape Paton, Mount Defiance and Apollo Bay; before we reached the famous Twelve Apostles. The place was crowded, and our check-in time was fast approaching. We made it a quick stop; with the numerous tour parties there, we weren't able to enjoy as much as we would've liked.  As our stop for the night, Port Campbell, was only ten minutes away - we decided to check in before returning to see a less crowded Twelve Apostles. The Apostles themselves are a collection of limestone stacks, formed by erosion.We picked up some fish and chips (fish was deliciously tender, chips not so great) and a few drinks after checking-in, and took them back to watch sunset over the Twelve Apostles. 

We counted only eight standing apostles, and later learned that in fact there were only ever nine - the name is purely for tourism purposes. The Apostles are eroding at a rate of a couple of centimetres a year, so some of the current crop are expected to be lost. However, the cliff face is also eroding, and this may well spawn a few more apostles to even things up in the future. Only a few people were there, most seemed to possess an SLR camera to capture the moment. Was a magical experience, and our photos didn't do the scene the necessary justice.
After a nights sleep, we continued our journey up the Road. Port Campbell was quite a delightful little place itself, with a small beach and park for children. Our first stop of the day was after only a short while to give us a lookout of Port Campbell from above. We then continued onto The Arch Lookout, followed by London Bridge, which had fallen down in 1990. Again, the double span of London Bridge was originally formed by erosion. Next stop was The Bay of Martyrs, which provided a spectacular sweeping views of many of the rock stack islands. Our trip up the Road was completed with our final stop of note at Tower Hill, which sits inside an extinct volcano. We continued onwards to Port Fairy but was not much else to see there, other than being just a quaint fishing village in its own right.

Overall, we were really glad that we visited the Great Ocean Road. Wasn't on our list of must-do's to be honest when we first came, but definitely would recommend to anyone visiting Melbourne. We enjoyed doing it by car, and would choose to do so again rather than go in a tour group. Those with bigger budgets may even elect for something more powerful than the Suzuki Swift we had - was massively envious of the Ferrari's passing us the other way, with their boisterous exhausts. Twelve apostles was the obvious highlight, but the Road itself is one of the most scenic drives on the planet.
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