Australia is a vast country, and, if you have ever been there and traversed it in some way, you will appreciate the sheer size and expanse of this island continent. The best way I have discovered to see the true beauty of this country is to drive around it. Now, I am not particularly fond of driving. I see it as a means of getting from point A to point B and usually leave it at that. I do make an exception though when I want to escape and experience the freedom of the open road. The good thing about Australian roads is that they are well constructed, sign posted and their safety aspect is second to none. One journey I have made, on at least 6 occasions that I can remember, is along the Great Ocean Road in the south west of the state of Victoria.
memorial arch at start of Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road commences at the surf coast town of Torquay and finishes at Allansford, near Warrnambool. It stretches for 243 kilometres (151 miles) and is Australian National Heritage listed. Originally built by Australian returned soldiers from World War 1 between 1919 and 1932, it is dedicated to the soldiers killed in that war and is the world’s largest war memorial. Hugging and winding its way along the western coast of Victoria, it provides spectacular views and many access points to scenic lookouts, limestone rock formations, stretches of sandy beaches and rain forests. Also known as the “shipwreck coast”, there are several memorials along way at points where sea vessels in the past have met their end.
shipwreck site in case you're not sure..!
You can drive it in a day, and, if you choose this option, start early and take your time. There is a lot to see along the way and the winding road does take a bit of concentration. The road is only one lane in each direction and, whilst it is safe, there are numerous hairpin bends, small climbs and descents to navigate. I would recommend an experienced driver behind the wheel and certainly alternate if there is more than one driver in the vehicle.
winding road section and sandy creek
If you have time, stop overnight in one of the many coastal towns along the route. Places like Lorne, Aireys Inlet, Apollo Bay and Port Campbell offer hotel, motel and bed and breakfast type accommodation, and there also many camping grounds. There are several sandy beaches where you can stop and have a picnic break, swim or surf. Take advantage of these and make your journey an adventure as opposed to just a long drive. My favorite places to stop are the Loch Ard Gorge (site of a famous shipwreck), the Twelve Apostles rock formations and Aireys Inlet.
Twelve Apostles rock formations
limestone rock formations
I have made this trip in one day and also over several, and, believe me, the several day option is the more recommended. The journey can be tiring, especially if you are not used to extended drives. The road is used mainly by motor vehicle, bike and bus traffic as trucks tend to use the main Colac highway which is directly north. Another point of caution is the falling rocks that can occur along certain parts of the road. They are well sign posted and these areas are regularly maintained to prevent this happening.
Loch Ard Gorge
rain forest walk lush ferns
This area of Victoria brings visitors from not just around Australia, but all around the world, and is a popular destination on the tourist itinerary. If your travels bring you to this corner of our beautiful planet, certainly take some time out and explore this long and winding road.
rock formations at Port Campbell
click on the pictures below to see more of this journey....