But we haven’t talked about this yet. This, the mother (or at least the bossy oldest sister) of all road trips. This, something that requires little fanfare and little introduction — both of which I’m going to give you, anyway. This, the Great Ocean Road: a scenic highway stretching for approximately 250 kilometers along the southern coast of Victoria, Australia.
The Great Ocean Road is spectacular for several reasons, but I believe the top two are as follows: one, the incredible and constantly varying scenery; and two, its proximity to Melbourne.
Day trips from the city are possible (and absolutely worth it), but if you’ve got the time, cash, and inclination, a weekend with your own/a rented vehicle will be vastly superior. 250km might sound like a breeze, a drop in the road trip bucket; but there will be stops. A lot of stops. You will spend more time out of the car than in it — trust me on this.
To avoid backtracking, we started out by driving the inland route via Princes Highway to Warrnambool, a town about 12km from the western end of the road. We spent the rest of the day and night there, then took the GOR back to the city over the next day and a half. (Of course, you could also do it the other way around.)
The inland route isn’t particularly exciting, but it got us to Warrnambool in under four hours. That gave us the rest of the day to explore the town and its surrounds. We took a short drive to nearby Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, where you’re all but guaranteed to see koalas sleeping in the trees. We also saw emus and freaky two-headed lizards, and took a walk called “Journey to the Last Volcano.” The name’s a bit dramatic, but the views did not disappoint.
The following day, we set out on the road itself. The Great Ocean Road winds along the sea, past various red rock formations, and through beautiful forests. Look-out points dot the highway, giving you plenty of opportunities to stop, park, and walk right up to the edge of the rugged cliffs. The 12 Apostles reigns as the most famous of the look-outs, but even if you, um, happen to miss that one somehow (cough), you’ll still have plenty to feast your eyes on.
Besides being a major tourist destination, the Great Ocean Road is also the world’s largest war memorial. It was built by soldiers returning home after the first world war, and is dedicated to those who were killed. (You can read more about the construction of the road here.)
Melbourne to Warrnambool via Princes Highway – 269 kilometres (3.5 to 4 hours)
Warrnambool to Melbourne via Great Ocean Road – 348 kilometres (we spread this out over a day and a half, but it could easily be done in one day if you prefer)
Click here for maps, other routes, and more info.
Accommodation: Hostels and other accommodation fill up fast during the summer, especially on weekends. Booking ahead is highly recommended.