For many tourists who take day tours from Melbourne or full package tours of Australia, the drive along the Great Ocean road is but one of the many long road trips to be had. But for the independent traveler, the journey is fantastic for the senses – sight, smell and sounds. Wind down that car window (which you can’t on a coach) and you can smell the ocean (not recommended in summer). You can hear the constant roar of the Great southern ocean pounding against the shore.
Sights, well you’ve read them elsewhere. In our story, we recommend you to see it from the air.
Our drive started from Geelong, and we joined in the road from Torquay and cruised along for approximately 200km, stopping at Lorne and Apollo bay to try our luck at whale spotting.
Said to be best between the months of June till October, there are said to be pods of them whales coming in as part of their migratory trek to warmer waters. Southern right and Blue whales are said to come in close to shore!
Just so you’d not be confused. The Great Ocean road is also labeled the B100 (it’s official designation), so if you are driving do not be worried that you seem to be on a single lane country road – because you are!
Major towns, in case you need accommodations are available in Anglesea, Lorne, Apollo bay and Port Campbell. Perhaps B&Bs in between too! We chose to stay overnight in Warranambool, because there’s a viewing platform at Logan beach to see the whales swimming as close as 100m to shore according to the travel authority (no luck this time). Be sure to check the internet for special deals in the many hotels and motels all along the coast and towns that dot the interior. Staying here for at least one night is a must in our opinion. There are some things you just don’t want to rush…
However, for most the grand prize for any drive in this direction will be the views of the Apostles. Located near to Princetown (no use trying to locate that on the GPS easily), there is a rest stop where you can park and walk out to the viewing platforms.
Yes indeed the views here are wonderful. But the real adventure is getting up in the air and viewing the formations as you fly up and down along the coast. Catering to different wants, you will find multiple routes, duration and prices to choose from.
We chose to fly up from Apostle bay all the way up to Bay of islands. This is a 25-minute flight for which we flew past Port Campbell before circling back. Although it costs quite a bit for the helicopter tour, it is well worth the price (it is actually cheaper to a comparable trip in Phuket to fly out to Phang Nga bay).
Even though we were there near the height of winter, we were blessed with clear skies throughout the flight and could see the entire coastline. Woohoo! Sometimes there is the element of luck that you cannot discount. Along the way, we tried to count how many apostles are really left. Definitely not twelve! Mel counted nine while Suan did not even bother! The pilot said that about 2cm of coastline gets eroded every year, so don’t be surprised that even less will be left standing in a few years!
Did you know that the Apostles could have been named the “Sow and her Piglets”? Fortunately that name did not win enough votes…heheh.
Back on land, it is just a short walk from the helipad to the visitors’ centre. There is a cafe there and historical information about the formations. There is an infamous number of wrecks along this dangerous strip of coastline. Many a ship wrecking is said to have taken place along this road leading to South Australia’s Adelaide.
And one can see why. The winds are strong and they seem to gust from nowhere. We can only imagine sailing ships (with no motors) fighting hopelessly against the battering of the wind and sea.
For us though, it is a battle for the best photo spots whenever another busload of tourists are disgorged from their coaches. Fortunately for us we had the luxury of time and took advantage of that to enjoy the views after the tourists had been packed up and shipped.
At low tide, some say you can walk along the beach to some of the rock stacks that are closer to the shore.
But alas we were there during winter and the temperatures of the water was not an encouragement. Savor the moment we did and many a photo were taken! But there is more than the Apostles. Because of the constant erosion, there are many rock formations worthy of a stop such as the next one called London bridge!
Just a short 10 minutes’ drive further westwards, the structure used to be joined up.
However, part of it collapsed in 1990 leading to the gap you can see in the picture. Actually they said there were tourists on the rock stack when the collapse occurred, and they had to be rescued! It probably look more like a bridge now that there is a real gap.
But there are no drawbridges to complete the picture though…That’s not all. There are so many more sights to show you – the Grotto (with its numerous sinkholes), the Loch Ard gorge and many more.
Of course, for the adventurous there are numerous trails for hiking where you will enjoy the triple sensory of sight, sound and smell at a much slower pace. Then you might be able to see the occasional whale belching as the females nurse their young here.
As for us we continued our drive through Peterborough and upward to Warrnambool to stay the night. That evening we had dinner at Breakers’ restaurant, supposedly one of the best seafood joints in town. Looking back now, if we had a chance to do this again we’d stay in Port Campbell and spend more time at the sights!
The Great Ocean road has inlets to the interior too, with its vast array of local produce (from wine to meats) that form the basis of the fine cuisine this region has to offer. Definitely check out the seafood too as we did! Renting a car is not exorbitant and is so flexible, granting you the freedom to stop wherever and for as long as you wish.
This journey took place in June 2013