Great Ocean Road
You don’t have to travel in a fried-out Kombi to get the true Great Ocean Road experience. In fact, you might prefer to make the drive in a freshly waxed convertible with the top down and the Beach Boys blasting loudly through the speakers. With twists, turns, and unrivalled shoreline views, this 150-mile stretch of coast has, since its inception in March 1922, become one of the most iconic highways in the world.
Approximately 2,000,000 visitors a year travel to the Great Ocean Road, a thoroughfare originally constructed by 3,000 veterans between 1918 and 1932, in commemoration of the 60,000 Australian soldiers that lost their lives in World War I. Besides serving as a memorial, the road was built to connect isolated settlements on the coast, and as a crucial transport link for the timber industry and tourism.
Commencing at Torquay, the official “surf capital” of Australia, the 2-lane highway meanders venturously over cliffs, across rivers, and through eucalyptus groves, offering up spectacular landscapes at nearly every turn. The ocean first comes into view at the town of Anglesea. From there, the road hugs the scenic coastline while passing through the popular holiday resort towns of Lorne and Apollo Bay. It then heads inland, traversing the lush Otway National Park and reaching its highest elevation at the small town of Lavers Hill.
The Great Ocean Road can be experienced in an afternoon, or over a period of days, with restaurants and accommodations along the way for visitors who prefer to take their time. There is plenty to see and do for the leisure traveler, including the Great Ocean Walk, a stretch of trail that roughly parallels the highway for 56 miles. Authentically Aussie wildlife sightings are also common around here, with koalas, kangaroos, seals, dolphins, and southern right whales making the migration to Antarctica between May and November.
The final leg of the Great Ocean Road covers “Shipwreck Coast,” an expanse of beach that earned its name as a site where many vessels ran aground during the 19th century, due to its rough seas and rugged coastline. These vessels arrived during the height of the gold rush, carrying goods and immigrants to the country at the rate of up to 50 ships per day.
This section of coast is home to a collection of notable rock formations including London Bridge, Loch Ard Gorge and of course, the famed Twelve Apostles. The Apostles, located near Port Campbell National Park, are a stunning series of limestone formations carved by rough seas over time.
Many don’t realize that The Great Ocean Road region extends well beyond its namesake highway. The area continues eastward encompassing Geelong, the second largest city in Victoria, and Corio Bay. It also includes the Bellarine Peninsula with its collection of towns fronting the sandy beaches of the bay, the historic defense port of Queenscliff, and the ocean-front towns of Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove. The western end of the region includes the coastal city of Warrnambool, the site of Victoria’s first permanent settlement at Portland, and the remote untouched coastline which extends westwards to the fishing village of Nelson and the state border with South Australia.