Melbourne | Cruising along the Great Ocean Road | Australia
I love road trips – they’re such a great way to travel and to experience a country whether you stay in the UK or venture abroad. You have so much more freedom when you share a car with friends and don’t have to stick to timetabled flights or buses. The whole experience of driving on the open road without a care in the world is just incredible if it’s done well and fair play to my road trip gang, we did it very well considering we didn’t plan a thing. We set off on Good Friday and after picking up the car at around 9am, we cruised back into the city to pick up the third member of our team, our tent and to ill the car with duvets and food. We left the city around 11am, which was right on schedule for the vague plan we had made – it seemed leaving at this time had helped us beat the real bank holiday traffic of the previous evening and that morning. Despite it being a cloudy, grey morning in Melbourne, as soon as we ventured out of the city and hit the highway, the sun broke through the clouds and with the tune blaring out of our little Yaris’ speakers, we could already feel the holiday vibes.The first hour of driving took us through Geelong, keen to make good time and explore the later beaches we didn’t stop but cruised through on our way to Torquay. This was a town I was keen to see, it’s somewhere I’ve heard about for ages and as we drove along the ridiculously hilly road to Bell’s Beach (hills like this still seem weird to a Norfolk gal) we started to see signs for not just any surfing competition, but the 2016 Rip Curl Pro, the longest running professional surfing contest in the world, and this was the 55th year of the event. We’d just missed the main event, but there were still countless surfers bobbing around in the waves so we walked out the viewpoint where we could see some epic surfing unfold.Further along the road, we continued on past Anglesea which looked like the cutest little town, before stopping at Airey’s Inlet – a beautiful stopover and one that us girls got very excited about once we realised it was also home to the lighthouse from kid’s TV programme Round The Twist! We all walked up thinking the lighthouse loved familiar, but it was only when someone started singing the theme song that we realised why! It’s was a lovely little stroll to the viewpoint that reminded me very much of the Byron Bay lighthouse walk – also an absolute must in coastal walks. Further down from the lighthouse there is also a lovely beach that seemed very popular with visitors as we passed.Coming up next were Cumberland River, Wye River and Kennett River as we approached Apollo Bay – we didn’t really stop off at any of these but paused at a few viewpoints for more stunning photos. The driving around this part was stunning – all winding cliffs, bright blue ocean and gorgeous sunshine. We got really lucky with the weather because I’m not sure the driving would have been quite as fun were the weather rubbish. Along this stretch of road we also saw a koala hanging from a tree as we approached Apollo Bay – first bit of wildlife of the trip!Apollo Bay was great – you can see why it’s so popular for tourists and festivals – being Easter Weekend it was very busy so we just popped to the shops for some snacks and drinks for the night ahead as we planned our campsite. We had originally planned to camp around Apollo Bay but we hadn’t booked a campsite and a lot of the good ones were full or overpriced, and the other ones that had sprung up in recreation grounds and football pitches were decidedly gross. Not booking a campsite turned out to be the best thing we could have done, it meant we drove on past Apollo Bay and towards the 12 Apostles, where we had planned to arrive for sunrise.We kept on driving, certain we would find a campsite along the way, and lo and behold we did as we were driving through Cape Otway and towards Port Campbell National Park, the sign sprung up in front of us and before I knew it I had swung the car off the main road and into the forest. Around 7km in we had passed countless kangaroos and all kinds of wildlife, arriving at the campsite we were told it was $50 for a pitch and that they could squeeze us in – there was loads of room left in the busy campsite and we were welcomed by Steve, the awesome campsite manager. It was a fantastic campsite with amazing facilities from spotless showers and toilets to a kitchen, barbecues, log fires and much more. We ended up exploring the campsite and making friends with a nearby group who had a campfire on the go and some great music as we sat under the stars. It was a perfect first night of camping and such a great experience to camp in the national park. We awoke early the next morning in hopes of catching a stunning sunrise with a view of the 12 Apostles.Sadly we were disappointed by the cloudy day we woke up to, there was a fine mist of rain and despite packing up our campsite and leaving before 6.30am, we were not to see a sunrise. Instead I drove us out of the campsite, dodging kangaroos, baby deer and all kinds of spooky wildlife lit up by the headlights of our little car – we named her Rhonda by the way. But instead of being disappointed by the dark, overcast morning, we used the time to make an early start on the day, driving past the viewpoint we had aimed for, we kept heading towards the 12 Apostles and only stopped in tiny Princetown for a quick breakfast and a chance to spruce ourselves up for the day ahead. We arrived at Gibson’s Steps – one of our favourite beaches – not long after where we were thrilled to get out and stretch our legs on this wild and untamed beach. The wind blew spray across our faces as we walked across the empty sands and we were glad to have beaten the crowds as we discovered a tiny penguin lying on the sand. He looked a bit lost but was soon rescued by a woman from an animal charity. After a brisk walk, we loaded back into the car for just a short journey to see the 12 Apostles – it was amazing. Incredible to finally see with my own eyes after seeing so many pictures over the years – we were gutted not to get to see them bathed in sunlight but it was still a majestic sight.The rest of the day was perfectly broken up with lots of walking to viewpoints and various rock formations between Port Campbell and Warrnambool, including Loch Ard Gorge, the Arch, London Bridge, Grotto and Bay of Islands. Each one was more beautiful than the last and it’s well worth taking the time to stop at each of these to enjoy the walks and views along the way. I actually found some of these viewpoints more spectacular than the 12 Apostles – probably due to the weather improving as we moved further along Great Ocean Road – before 12pm the sun blazed across the sky and brightened up the wet day. We finished Great Ocean Road with a pit-stop in Port Fairy, which is an adorable little seaside town with a lovely picnic area overlooking the beach and quaint little craft shops set just behind, where we re-fuelled and stocked up on food and drinks for our second night of camping.
Read all about our adventures in the Grampians National Park in my next post.
Have you road-tripped Great Ocean Road? How was your experience? What was your favourite part?