By Helen Alexander –
Victoria’s winding coastal road (which is also less romantically referred to as the B100) is renowned for its stunning scenery, and following the twisting and turning 244-kilometre route from Torquay westwards towards Warrnambool is high on the list of quintessential Australian experiences.
It’s possible to drive the whole route in a day, but to ensure you don’t miss the main attraction – the rugged Twelve Apostles – and a whole host of off-road attractions, it’s essential you take the odd pit stop. On a trip to Melbourne, rent a car and enjoy a leisurely road trip along the Great Ocean Road to enjoy these natural sights.
Road Trip along the Great Ocean Road
Distance from Melbourne: 123km
Melbourne’s urban sprawl quickly fades away once you’ve passed through Geelong, and by the time you reach Aireys Inlet there’s hardly a traffic light in sight. This famed road hasn’t officially started just yet, but this first leg does offer a great taster of what’s to come – from the waves crashing on the beach of world-renowned surfing destination Jan Juc to the 34-metre Split Point Lighthouse.
Stop off at this cute coastal hamlet for coffee and a tour of the lighthouse or explore the rock pools and walking trails of Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary, which is home to a variety of marine life. Just outside of town is the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch – where the route really begins. Pull over and pose for a photo under the huge wooden structure erected in honour of the World War I diggers who built the road in the early 1930s.
Distance from Melbourne: 169km
The holiday destination for many a Melburnian, Lorne is the perfect place to stop for lunch – and an art fix. The town hosts various festivals and cultural events throughout the year, including film and performing arts festivals as well as the musical extravaganza of the Falls Festival.
Qdos Arts hosts heaps of regularly changing exhibitions and has an attractive outdoor sculpture park, and in March the whole town gets in on the arty act with the Lorne Sculpture Biennale when dozens of works are exhibited along the expansive grassy foreshore.
Before you leave, eat lunch on the beach from Salty Dog Fish & Chippery – home to some of Victoria’s best fish and chips – just be wary of inquisitive seagulls. And if you happen to be visiting from May to September, watch out for whales breaching out at sea.
Distance from Melbourne: 187km
You’ve reached the halfway point, but you ain’t seen nothing yet. Apollo Bay is smack-bang in the middle of the Great Otway National Park, making it incredibly easy to combine this pit stop with a few mini bush walks. You’ll find rainforest and waterfalls just a few kilometres from the town centre, for example Maits Rest, a boardwalk named after a former forestry patrol officer that leads through a Jumanji-style landscape of ferns, moss-covered trees, hanging creepers and the tangled roots of towering trees that are up to 300 years old.
Distance from Melbourne: 218km
Cape Otway / CC by 3.0 / Percita
Want to spot a koala? Then take a small diversion off the Great Ocean Road and drive under a canopy of eucalyptus trees towards Cape Otway Lighthouse. Keep your eyes peeled and chances are you’ll spot one of Australia’s most loveable indigenous animals – cockatoos, kookaburras and kangaroos call this area home.
Continue to mainland Australia’s oldest lighthouse (it was established in 1848) for great views of Bass Strait from the towering cliffs. And talking of heights, once you rejoin the B100 you are just minutes from Otway Fly Treetop Adventures – a 600-metre-long, 25-metre-high elevated walk. It’s a great opportunity to wander among the region’s tropical trees canopies, while those with a taste for adventure can zoom back to earth on a zipline tour.
Distance from Melbourne: 294km
And now the moment you’ve been waiting for: the Twelve Apostles. Although erosion has caused some of these giant limestone formations to crumble into the Southern Ocean over the years, the eight remaining stacks – some are 45 metres high – are still very impressive.
Park at the Visitors’ Centre before walking a short distance through a tunnel and out onto 70-metre-high cliffs to see them for yourself. Visiting at sunrise and sunset affords some of the best views, and if you really want to have them all to yourself, get up close with a helicopter ride or head down to ground level via Gibsons Steps (there are 86 of them) to reach the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park, which runs along 17 kilometres of stunning coastline and includes many more weird and wonderful formations – from London Bridge to Loch Ard Gorge.
Photo credits: Getty Images