The Great Ocean Road (GOR) was something we had talked about doing before coming to Australia after seeing pictures and reading about the beautiful coastal drive and places to visit on it. It was created as a memorial to those who fought in the First World War. The GOR wasn’t quite as long as we first thought, which was a welcome surprise as our previous road trips had felt pretty long. This time we were able to take everything a little slower and not have to fit quite as much driving in. We were excited to begin!
Our first day started when we collected a rental car from near Melbourne Airport. From there we made our way out of the city and towards Jan Juc, where we were staying that night.
We arrived in Jan Juc and after checking in our first stop was Bells Beach. This is an iconic beach along the GOR as it’s arguably Australia’s most famous surfing beach and has been included on the World Competitive Tour since 1973 and has since been known as the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Most of the surfers that have won the coveted trophy have been home grown Australians. In addition, it was the birth place of modern surfing when the first 3-finned surfboard was used, which has now become the norm for the majority of surfboard used today. While there we saw a lot of surfers attempting to catch a wave or two, a couple actually looked pretty good. We stood and watched for a little while before moving on. In truth it wasn’t the most impressive beach we have seen during our travels in Australia but the swells of the ocean were what made this place impressive and perfect for improving your surfing skills and walking in the footsteps of the pros. Unfortunately, we weren’t quite good enough to tackle some of these massive waves!
Afterwards, we made the short trip to Torquay, a small but popular beach town. It was made busier by the fact that it was an Australian Bank holiday for Australia Day which was at the weekend. While there we wandered along the esplanade and went in search for some fish and chips – what’s better than that at the beach.
Feeling full we enjoyed a restful night sleep in preparation for an early start the next day.
This was a day that Daniel had been very excited about. Today was ‘golf day’. It was the day, hopefully, that we would play golf alongside some well known Australian wildlife – kangaroos!
We had read the best course down the GOR for this was Anglesea Golf Course. This course did not disappoint as there were kangaroos everywhere!
From practically the first hole there were kangaroos everywhere. One hole in particular they were casually sitting in the middle of the fairway. Daniel had to hit a decent shot to ensure that the ball cleared them – the last thing he wanted to do was hit and injure one.
Before we tee’ed off we were told that the kangaroos wouldn’t run away if you were holding a golf club, but would if you weren’t. At first we couldn’t believe this local titbit but found it to be quite accurate as we made our way round.
This was a fantastic experience. An experience Daniel was talking about well before we left.
From Anglesea we stopped at the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch. This arch is one of the most photographed spots along the GOR and it acknowledges the challenges faced by workers in construction of the road.
From there was an easy access point to a beach to stretch our legs. Although it was very busy around the arch, not many people ventured to the beach so that was peaceful.
Then it was on to Teddy’s Lookout (somewhere we were told to visit by Sarah and Kris) for a great view of the road hugging the coast. It was quintessential of the GOR.
Kennett River was our next stop. We had read that this was a popular hang out for koalas and therefore one of the best places to, finally, see a wild one. We were walking around for approximately 40 minutes and we still hadn’t spotted one. We turned back feeling a bit dejected. Then, one appeared on a tree just off of the pathway. It was amazing to see one and it was like he was waiting for us to wander past.
Feeling satisfied after seeing a koala we headed to Apollo Bay, the location of our next place for the evening. It was another beach town and we had a lovely walk along the beach soaking up more sun.
The place we stayed for the night we had read on Airbnb had some resident koalas, which could sometimes be seen around the property. Once there we had a good look around and happened to find four of them up in the trees. Unfortunately, they were a touch too far away to get any good photos, but it was wonderful to see so many. So going from struggling to see any to seeing five in one day – too easy!
We started our travels today by making our way to the Cape Otway Lightstation.
Unbeknown to us there was a charge to get close to and into the lightstation, so as we weren’t too fussed we decided against it and opted for a walk nearby with a ‘distant view of the lightstation’. It wasn’t the most interesting route but it delivered on a very distant view. Overall we weren’t too impressed with this area but on the upside, the ocean looked amazing.
Afterwards, we wanted to look around more of Great Otway National Park so we decided on Melba Gully as it was almost on route for our next stop. When we arrived there were only two other cars in the car park, which was unusual as for the most part the GOR had been very busy – this wasn’t a good sign. We sat down, had our lunch and then followed a trail around the forest. It wasn’t one of our favourite walks. The only thing of note there is the ‘Big Tree’ which would have been very impressive had it not collapsed in 2009.
Once we had finished we made the decision to drive to Port Campbell, drop our bags off and grab some food before going to see the main event along the GOR – The Twelve Apostles, even though there are now only eight of them.
We waited until just before sunset before making our way there. It was only ten minutes away, which was great. From the viewing platforms you could see the eight apostles still standing. They we very impressive indeed and left us asking why they had weathered the elements when the rest of the cliff side had fallen away.
Our final day along the GOR.
Before leaving we stopped at Loch Ard Gorge. To our surprise it was actually really windy and rainy – we had forgotten what this weather felt like! So after being very unprepared for this, we had a brief look around before heading off.
From here we drove directly to Melbourne Airport to catch our flight to Auckland, New Zealand.
We are glad that we had this experience and explored the GOR as it’s one of the most iconic roads in Australia and we saw and experienced lots of great things. There were great beaches and views, The Twelve Apostles were impressive, golf was really fun, and we stayed at some great Airbnb places. We did however feel that many of the other roads we had driven, especially in Queensland were equally as impressive and filled with many great spots too. We think if we would have driven the road earlier on in our travels we may have been more impressed but we still had a fab time!
Daniel’s favourite thing – Playing golf at Anglesea Golf Course with the kangaroos
Lauren’s favourite thing – Finally seeing a wild koala
So that’s it for the Great Ocean Road and Australia for a couple of weeks, now on to Auckland, New Zealand…