Driving the Great Ocean Road in a day
We loved driving over 5000 kilometres across Western Australia, so we naturally jumped at the chance to travel one of Victoria's most scenic roads.
Matt usually takes the driver's seat whilst Rachel plays DJ/snack provider/kangaroo-spotter on the passenger side, but this time we were both kicking back and being driven by Bruce, our tour guide for The Little Penguin Bus.
We would have loved to drive the road ourselves in a trusty campervan over a longer period of time, but we looked forward to being shown what the Great Ocean Road has to offer by someone who drove it over 84 times last year!
This post details just some of what is possible to see in a single day on the road.
This pretty little seaside town is not far from the 'official' start of the Great Ocean Road in Torquay. We enjoyed tea and cakes on the beach after the 1.5 hour drive from Melbourne CBD.
Three thousand soldiers dug the Great Ocean Road in the 13 years after the First World War. The Memorial Arch is a fine tribute and this version is the third one built; the second was destroyed in the bushfires of February 1983, known as Ash Wednesday.
LORNE & TEDDY'S LOOKOUT
Passing the operational Split Point Lighthouse in Aireys Inlet, we arrived in Lorne, a bustling hilly town lined with tall gum trees. We drove up to Teddy's Lookout, spotting a house with some very interesting creations sitting in the backyard along the way. On a previous tour, the eccentric lady who lives here invited Bruce and his tour group in to see more of her sculptures.
Every summer, Lorne hosts a 'pier to pub' swim in which around 3000 people take part. It used to be a small race between friends and whoever came last would buy the beers, but it's now become a popular annual event.
This tiny town has a large population of wild koalas and beautiful birds. We spotted crimson rosellas and king parrots, and of course, lots of marsupials! This spot is frequently missed by the large tour buses, so we managed to find our own koalas to watch peacefully sleeping, without the crowds.
Baby koalas are about the size of a jelly bean, Bruce tells us, and at around 22 weeks they feed upon 'pap' (faeces) which allows the mother to pass on micro-organisms which will allow the baby to digest eucalyptus leaves. These leaves are not very nutritious, which is why koalas need to sleep up to twenty hours a day.
We spent an hour walking along the sand of this charming little town, which is a great spot for lunch, with a range of restaurant and cafe options.
Otway National Park
The boardwalk at Maits Rest winds through the forest, passing giant fern trees and huge jarrah trees. Given the storms in Victoria, tree trunks lined the forest floor and many had become home to various fungi or the base for young trees.
THE SHIPWRECK COAST
This is what the Great Ocean Road is most famous for! The Twelve Apostles (there aren't twelve, by the way) are by far the most popular attraction along the route, but in our opinion, they were a little disappointing. We had already visited Kalbarri's coast in Western Australia, which was stunning and far less busy, and we found Loch Ard Gorge and London Bridge more dramatic.
Loch Ard Gorge is named after the ship which run aground here. Only two out of fifty-four on board survived.
London Bridge really did fall down in 1990, when it collapsed behind two tourists who made their way out to the limestone formation, and they had to be airlifted to safety.
Offshore stack the Razorback was a hive of activity for birdlife, with many nesting in the foliage on its jagged edges.
Of course, no Australian road trip would be complete without spotting some kangaroos along the way!
On our return to Melbourne, we stopped off at Colac for dinner in a traditional Australian pub (expect huge portions and a rowdy atmosphere!) It was a very long day (circa 14 hours) but totally worth it if you only have one day to explore the Great Ocean Road.
Across Land & Sea were invited on a full-day tour with Little Penguin Bus. All opinions, photographs and typos are our own.