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The Best Road Trip in Australia: The Great Ocean Road

When I took a year out of teaching and worked as a waitress in Port Douglas, a customer once told me about a majestic road trip in Victoria. She was talking about The Great Ocean Road, a scenic drive that is frequently ranked within the world’s top 10. Since living in Queensland, I moved to Melbourne and heard more about the beauty that lies within Victoria’s south coast. Not only is there the Great Ocean Road to marvel at, but you can camp under the koalas at Cape Otway National Park.

The Best Way To Encounter Koalas In Australia

The enchanting Grotto, a sinkhole geological formation

How To Do The Great Ocean Road

Here are some top tips to get you started:

  1. Do it in more than a day.
    I did it in 4 days, 3 nights and whilst I’m very satisfied with the duration, it was a little rushed toward the end. I’d still want to do it again to experience loads of the amazing surfer towns we shot past in the last leg and stay again at Otway National Park.
  2. Do it from West To East. 
    This means going inland first from Melbourne to Warrnambool. Most people do it the other way, which does mean you can easily pull up for photo ops. But this route is also a lot more busy. On our trip, we were against the traffic and it was great!
  3. Stay overnight in Otway National Park.
    I stayed in a caravan for two nights at the amazing Bimbi Park, where you are quite literally sleeping under koalas. Another good location is Blanket Bay, which makes for a more ‘caveman style’ camping experience (spoiler: drop toilets are in operation!) But what it lacks in comfort, it makes up for in tranquility. I went for Bimbi as I didn’t have my own camping gear.

The Route
Leg 1: Melbourne to Warrnambool

It’s approximately 260k from Melbourne to Warrnambool and took about 3 1/2 hours by car with no stops. This part is the least scenic route, so it’s good to get it out of the way first and save the best until last.

Inland from Melbs to Warrnambool

Warrnambool

For the first night, we were initially going to stay in Port Campbell, for the fear of spending too much time on the road and less time venturing off it. But Warrnambool is not much further west and I’m glad we decided to visit.

It made for a great first stop. This small, rural town is pretty, chilled-out and has a huge beach to gaze upon and de-urbanise the mind.

Also pretty cool, during the months of June – September there are Southern Right Whales that head to the waters of Logan’s Beach to calve. A lookout platform has been made to catch a glimpse, with the whales often swimming within 100 metres off the shore.


Leg 2: Warrnambool to Cape Otway

This leg is where you’ll find many impressive rock formations before ending up at the stunning Cape Otway.

It goes without saying that the most well known rocks down this way are the 12 Apostles (although now technically 8, I believe.) The pictures you’ll normally see of the Apostles are ones without the tourists. But the reality is that you’ll be struggling for space amongst the crowds of other stone-hunters who also want to catch a glimpse. So try to get in early, or at sunset if you can.

Other cool formations to awe over, are ‘London Arch’ (formerly ‘London Bridge’ before the top fell down); The Grotto, The Arch and Loch Ard Gorge (The Arch is only a 5 minute drive before the 12 Apostles and Lord Ard is a 5 minute drive after Port Campbell.)

Cape Otway and Bimbi Park

After seeing all of the rocks, I spent two night sleeping under the koalas at Bimbi Park in Cape Otway. I would highly recommend this stay. We decided to camp here mainly for the koala spotting, but also for the rustic, lush environment.

Everyone talks about the Kennet River for observing koalas, although I think it has become too commercial. We stopped the car to head down this way but saw heaps of tour groups. I am thankful we stayed at Bimbi to catch these marsupials in their natural environment, without so many people around.


Leg 3: Cape Otway to Torquey (and back to Melbourne!)

This leg I call the ‘grand finale.’

After Cape Otway, you approach the scenic route that everyone talks about. The windy roads, the miles of gorgeous coastline with waves lapping at the shore and handfuls of layed-back surfer towns. It’s the kind of Australia that you read about in books.

I was particularly impressed with the coastline from Cape Otway to Lorne and then Anglesea. If I were to do the trip again, I’d stay at one of the gorgeous locations we spotted that face the ocean.

We ended the trip by having lunch in Torquey. If you’re in Melbourne during April, then you can catch a glimpse of the Rip Curl Pro Surfing Competition located at Bells Beach. We were just a couple of weeks early, but it must be an awesome day out.


Feeling fit and up for more of an adventure?!

As well as experiencing the GOR by car, you can also do it by foot. The Great Ocean Walk is a hikers paradise and perhaps even more rewarding. If you have a week to spare, then there are companies who help you get from A to B. They organise your entire ‘tailor-made’ experience, from the duration and route, to campsites along the way and a bus back to your car.


FINAL TIP:
  • People in Melbourne are extremely good at booking things in advance. If you are looking to do the GOR during a major holiday, then book much ahead of time otherwise all of the accommodation options may be filled up (including the campsites.)

I’d love to hear about your GOR experience! If you’ve been or want to go, comment below to share your experiences or ask me for some tips.

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