As some of you know, I’ve been living in Melbourne, Australia for the past year and I’ll be moving away at the end of October. One of the things that has to be done if you’re close to Melbourne is the Great Ocean Road- a beautiful stretch of road that runs along to the coast from Geelong (about an hour from Melbourne) to Warnambool, a regional town. Along the road are many incredibly beautiful and spectacular sites, so we knew we had to do it before we left. We could not have asked for more beautiful weather (unfortunately for me beautiful means I turn into a lobster) and it was easily done in the span of a weekend.
Although it took us all of Saturday to drive from end to end, Warnambool isn’t all that far from Melbourne, just a few hours on the highway. The Great Ocean Road takes far longer because it’s not as direct and it’s a lot windier so you have to drive a lot slower, but doing that long drive two days in a row is pretty rough so we drove back to Melbourne on the highway. I’m so glad we did because as it was I was exhausted by the time we arrived home.
Here’s a map of the Great Ocean Road so you have an idea of where the places are that I’m going to talk about.
Most of the sites occur after Apollo Bay, but it doesn’t mean the drive isn’t beautiful. The road has a lot of lookouts where you can easily pull over and enjoy the view so I thoroughly enjoyed those, and there’s certainly no shortage. The water was so blue it was incredible.
The first place we stopped was Apollo Bay, which is a nice beachside town with some cute shops and lots of restaurants that favor seafood. We had a really pleasant lunch there and walked around a bit, but I was dumb and didn’t take any photos. I think I was in too much of a food coma to think straight and then I had a mission of finding some coffee before we left again, so taking photos didn’t really cross my mind. I was pretty disappointed to discover after leaving Apollo Bay that a big stretch of the road goes inland (I thought this was the Great Ocean Road, not the Great Valley Road?) but still it was nice enough and I got a cool view of the bay.
The road connects back with the coast around Princetown and then it’s pretty much non-stop sites until the end at Warnambool. Our first stop was the Twelve Apostles, and this is by far the most popular and commonly associated site with the Great Ocean Road, so it was incredibly busy and crowded. Not my favorite. Since at this point the sun was going down it was really harsh and bright it made it hard to make out much of the rock formations. On top of that I was so determined to get to the Bay of Islands before sunset that we blasted past a lot of the sites and ended up having to go back the next day. I won’t bore you by dividing this post across both days, instead I’ll just combine all my photos and present the sites to you in the order the arrive on the road.
Anyway I’m getting sidetracked. The Twelve Apostles was spectacular and I am really glad we came back the next day because I was able to enjoy them in all their glory with the beautiful backdrop of blue ocean. I spent a good 20 minutes counting and recounting the rocks, never getting to 12, and became very confused. Only then did I notice the information boards and discovered you can’t actually see all 12 at once– so you’re not going crazy either if you don’t get to 12.
After the Twelve Apostles was Loch Ard Gorge, named after the ship, Loch Ard, which crashed there in 1800s. It’s not hard to see how they crashed a ship there with all those huge rock formations and tall cliffs.
Nearby there’s Thunder Cave, which was impressive and massive and very thunderous. You can’t go down, nor would you want to, but you can admire it from above. There are also some nice, short walks by the cave and we saw an echidna on one of those which was super exciting since I’ve never seen an awake, wild echidna before.
Following Loch Ard Gorge and Thunder Cave there’s London Bridge and the Arch, both natural rock arches formed from thousands of years of water pounding the surfaces. Both were impressive and I didn’t realize just how huge London Bridge was.
London Bridge used to be connected to the mainland, but in 1990 the connecting rock fell into the ocean. Luckily no one was hurt, but two people were stranded on the new rock island were rescued by a helicopter hours later.
The arch is much smaller than London Bridge, but is still pretty spectacular considering it was made completely by nature. Then again, this applies to everything along the Great Ocean Road. I was continually astounded by the magnificent things Mother Nature can do.
A rock formation called the Grotto comes up next and I have to say I think it was one of my favorites. It also is a rock arch, but it has these little pools of water and then it opens up into the ocean. We had to climb down several stories of steps to get there but it was so worth it. I was kind of surprised by just how orange the rock was down there. But I’m not very good at science so I can’t tell you why.
After the Grotto are the last two sites: the Bay of Martyrs and the Bay of Islands. Both are spectacular rock formations but the rocks forming the Bay of Martyrs sort of goes vertically and the Bay of Island’s rock formations are along the horizon. We saw both during sunset and during the day, but I think seeing them at sunset was by far the best because with the sun slowly dipping below the rocks it was something else. The following photos is of the Bay of Martyrs and I think that first one is easily my favorite photo from the trip. Between the orange sunset and the mist of crashing waves against the rocks it was something else.
That’s not to say it wasn’t beautiful during the day as well, because it was.
We lucked out when we saw the Bay of Islands because the main viewing area’s sign was missing, so we went past it and ended up coming across a deserted viewing area totally by accident. Both at sunset and the next day there was no one there, and it’s rare to be able to enjoy such a widely-known attraction almost entirely by yourself.
After the Bay of Islands it’s about 40 more minutes along to Warnambool, mainly through farmland. Although it’s a long road and can be quite tiring, it is totally spectacular and I’m so glad we did it before we leave Australia. I couldn’t recommend it enough if you’re ever in the Melbourne area because it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever seen and surprisingly most of the sites aren’t even extremely touristy. It’s a prefect way to spend a gorgeous spring weekend.
Tomorrow night I leave for New Zealand so stay tuned for posts from there!