Great Ocean Road
of the more attractive, waterside sections of the GOR
near Lorne in Victoria, south Australia. Photo by Diliff.
What is the The Great Ocean Road?
Actually 'Great Ocean Road' is a bit of a misnomer as in fact GOR doesn't spend a great deal of time beside the
ocean, nor is it great, as in big or sensational, though it is pretty nice from time to time. But it's an excellent piece of marketing!
The Great Ocean Road stretches from
Torquay - one of Melbourne's little suburban seaside resorts
- 200kms (125mls) west to Portland, though some drivers turn
off a little earlier at Warrnambool, heading back to Melbourne
via the Grampian Highlands and Ballarat, while others continue
on to Adelaide, though the distance there is considerable and
views en route few.
The GOR was designed by the Victoria
state government to be one of the world's greatest driving experiences and is certainly a successful marketing exercise though
many would argue that GOR doesn't make it into the world's top
roads, not compared to, for example, the USA's Route 12 through the Grand Circle Canyon area, the Pacific Coast
Highway, South Africa's Garden Route, Scotland's
Highlands or a dozen other classic routes around the world.
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The Twelve Apostles, or to be more precise, The Eight Remaining Apostles, after various collapses over the last few years. Photo by Richard Mikalsen.
The problem is mainly that the road doesn't actually spend that
much time cruising attractively beside the ocean and even the
famous Twelve Apostles sea stacks are barely visible without
a walk (not that there's anything wrong with a good leg stretch
after hours at the wheel).
The Apostles and tiny walkers visible on the left. Photo by Alex Proimos.
The Twelve Apostles viewing platforms and walkways will be busy
with tourists and may be less stunning than expected unless
you take time to walk down to the beach and see the stacks from
Fundamentally, to enjoy The Great Ocean Road you need to plan
interesting diversions on the way, park and walk, park and surf,
park and poke a koala (kidding!) whatever. Just don't expect the road itself to provide endless
entertainment, it ain't going to happen that way.
Golf Course on the GOR, complete with loafing caddies, one of the better sights we encountered. More Australian
of the more surprising aspects of driving the Great Ocean Road
is the amount of wildlife that is visible if you keep your eyes
open. Kangaroos on this golf course are well known, but wallabies
standing dumbly beside the road chewing the cud, koalas hanging
like fat furry fruit in roadside eucalypts (with intellects
about equal to a ripe apricot), parrots, cockatoos and many
other birds are a pleasant distraction from the substantial
distances this drive requires.
hire car or a tour bus is probably the best way to travel this
road as some parts are lengthy, hilly, and/or dull, making biking,
for example, butt-grinding work, while public transport does
not provide buses running the whole route and changes can be
big time wasters.
Personal transport also allows the visitor more freedom to stop
and take the necessary pictures as well as get in a bit of surfing,
hill-walking, forest trekking, whale watching (in season) or
koala digesting his lunch a couple of metres above the Great
Ocean Road. This one is particularly thick as he's not even sitting in a Eucalyptus tree, his food source.
A few Koala facts
Koalas are the only critter with a brain that does not fit snugly
into its skull.
Since Koalas are more or less predator-free up a gum
tree and eucalyptus leaves are highly toxic, nature decided
to focus on digestion at the expense of intelligence, shrinking
the brain down to a walnut surrounded by jelly and giving them
slow reactions and a dozy 'thousand-yard stare' in the process.
Koalas can be seen in the trees beside the road between Lorne
and Apollo Bay, and Great Otway National Park provides some
great hikes, treetop walkways and animal viewing.
looking for a feed from a guest house above the GOR.
Great Ocean Walk is also available to dedicated hikers, running from Apollo Bay
to the Twelve Apostles and taking about a week for the whole
length, though just walking smaller sections is also an option.
There are camp sites en route.
Also on offer are the Surf Coast Walk and Great South West Walk.
Apollo Bay, a relaxed little seaside town on the GOR, seen from Mariners Lookout. Photo by Marcus Wong.
Cycling the Great Ocean Road
We can't recommend the whole 277 kms for amateurs because it's too long, too hard and frankly not consistently interesting, but there are many regional rides that will give you the opportunity to stretch your legs. For example:
Bellarine Rail Trail at 32.5 kilometres
stretches from Geelong to Queenscliff and rides beside wineries, cafés, superb beaches and brilliant scenery.
Forests and Flowers Ride, 48 kilometres,
starts in the streets of Anglesea before heading for Mount Ingoldsby and Angahook-Lorne State Park which in the spring is a mass of wildflowers.
Riding the Otways, 50 kilometres,
is a forest loop and ridge ride along the banks of King Creek.
Warrnambool Promenade for a lively human trip
beside joggers, skaters and walkers on the scenic Foreshore Promenade along the coast to the Southern Right Whale Nursery.
Geelong, 33 kilometres,
starts along Geelong waterfront then moves onto the shores of Corio Bay, the Barwon River, Buckley Falls, through the tranquil Eastern Gardens and back to the waterfront.
And while you're passing by might as well have a dip in the sea at Apollo Bay's beach, or one of the other sandy stretches along the GOR. Photo by Alex Proimos.
Good beaches can be found all along Great Ocean Road
early section of GOR offers some spectacularly good surf beaches,
including perhaps Australia's best waves at Bell's Beach, near
Other beaches on the route include: Torquay's lovely, protected Norfolk Beach;
Anglesea Beach, a broad strand suited to both swimmers and surfers near the Anglesea River; Point Roadknight beach is a shallow, protected crescent of sand perfect for children;
Lorne is another long and family-friendly stretch fringed with lawns, trees and picnic facilities; and Wye River is a fine sandy beach with a forest backdrop.
Another active, water-based option along the GOR is paddling, whether in a canoe (generally along rivers inland) or sea kayaking around coastal bays and through occasional choppy waters for more of an adrenalin rush.
Some of the better canoeing experiences can be found along the scenic Glenelg River near Nelson, where bush meets gorge and campsites are plentiful.
Lake Colac is a particularly good water sports centre in south-west Victoria offering a full range of boating, boarding options. Lake Bullen Merri and Lake Gnotuk are both popular for tranquil, beautiful canoe trips.
Kayaks can be hired from operators in Anglesea, Lorne and Apollo Bay, with options and advice to suit all levels of experience, including guided tours for the less knowledgeable but active thrill seekers.
Otway Fly Tree Top Walk.
Less than 3 hours away from Melbourne via the Princes Highway, Otway Treetop Adventures offers two main experiences, the Treetop Walk is a 1 hour, 2 km long rainforest walk including a 600m long, treetop walkway that takes tourists through the trees.
The Zipline Eco-Tour is a 2.5 hour, guided experience including training, with 8 cloud stations, 6 flights and 2 suspension bridges
Some other sports available along Victoria's Great Ocean Road are rock climbing, skydiving, paintballing, horse riding, fishing, golf, as well as hiking and of course camping. More things to do on GOR
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