If you’re visiting the State of Victoria, no matter where you’re staying, for how long or what your plans are, make sure to fit a two days road trip to the Great Ocean Road.
When we embarked on this trip, summer was finally starting in Melbourne but it wasn’t too hot so we could really enjoy the views without masses of tourists going to the beach (it was 2019 and international travels were still allowed, sigh).
The Great Ocean Road is one of the most popular scenic routes in Australia that starts in Torquay and finishes in Allansford, it extends for 413 miles and, with stops, should last about 10 hours divided in a three days trip.
However, if you start from Melbourne you can get into the Great Ocean Road in just about an hour so that you can opt for a day-trip or, like us, spread it into two days.
The stops you see on the map are just the ones we decided to make during our trip, but the Great Ocean Road offers a lot more to see!
Even if the closest stop from Melbourne is the Anglesea Golf Club, we drove all the way to our last stops first: Gibson’s Steps, 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge.
Gibson’s Steps take their name from Hugh Gibson, the owner of the land on top of the staircase that back in the 1800’s used to go fishing on that beach.
Even though he commissioned workers from his farm to improve the staircase, the original steps were carved into the cliff by the Kirrae Whurrong, the people that occupied this area for thousands of years before European colonisation.
When we got there, the tide was high and the steps to the beach were closed, but if you’re lucky enough you get to go down 86 steps and treasure probably the most beautiful view of the Twelve Apostles.
You can leave your car in the parking space just adjacent to it or leave it at the Twelve Apostles and walk around 2 kilometers.
LOCH ARD GORGE
Just a few steps away from Gibson’s Steps and the Twelve Apostles there is the beach of Loch Ard Gorge, with its spectacular rocks and crystal clear waters.
Even if the view is magnificent, the place has quite the background history. Loch Ard was, in fact, the name of one of the many ships that in the 19th century beached in the tormented waters of Muttonbird Island causing the death of almost all its passengers.
The two cliffs you see in the photo below have been formed more recently, in 2009, and if they were previously known as Island Archway, they have then been called Tom and Eva in honour of the only two people that survived the Loch Ard shipwreck.
Fun Fact: do you know who was in the rescue team of the Loch Ard? Mr. Gibson himself!
THE TWELVE APOSTLES
The Twelve Apostles are, along with Uluru, one of the most visited natural attractions in Australia.
Formerly known as the Pinnacles or Sow and Piglets, the Twelve Apostles were formed by erosion. Extreme weather conditions transformed limestone cliffs into caves, then arches and lastly the rock stacks that we can admire nowadays.
Even if there’s only seven left of them now, the harshness of the ocean waves will continue its “job” of eroding the cliffs to form new stacks in the future.
The best time to visit? Early in the morning, so the light is more gentle and the crowds are still yet to arrive.
Being one of the largest towns along the Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay is a great place to stop for the night. It is a lovely town of fishermen and artists, full of shops cafes and restaurants on one side and white-sand beaches on the other side.
Even if you’re on a tight budget, you will find several different accommodations, from hostels to airbnbs, to cater all your needs.
We booked a hostel for the night, had an amazing dinner in a Korean restaurant and in the morning we took our bags and had a picnic breakfast on the beach.
The best thing? Near Apollo Bay, along the road you will be able to spot an endless number of waterfalls. My suggestion is to stop at at least one of them and enjoy the view, we managed to be there for sunset and to this day I still think it was the best sunset I was able to attend.
KENNETT RIVER HOLIDAY PARK
On our second day, we got in the car to get back to Melbourne and had a couple stops on the way. After having seen amazing natural landscapes the day before, we decided to dedicate the day to Australian fauna. Our first stop was Kennett River Holiday Park.
When you arrive to the Kennett River Holiday Park you will find the caravans parking lot (where Australians usually go for a camping week with kids in the summer) on the left and the Koala Cafe on the right, where you can stop for a quick lunch but be aware it is a bit on the pricey side.
What you will have to do is stay in your car and keep driving on the Grey River Road, better known as Kennett River Koala Walk. As you can imagine by the name, this road is the best option for spotting wild koalas near Melbourne. Even if called “Koala Walk” it is not technically a walk but a proper road. It extends for 15km but your best chance of seeing koalas will be in the first 6km. I would suggest to stop your car after 2/3km on one side of the road and go koala spotting, it is a fun activity that will take a bit of time but it will be totally worth it.
How can you spot wild koalas?
Although it is pretty easy to see koalas on the Grey River Road, there are some measures you’ll have to take:
- Try and go there early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when koalas are most active and are easily spottable. If you go in the middle of the day, you’ll most likely find them asleep.
- Walk with your heads up. Eucalyptus trees are tall and koalas like to sit on top branches, so you will have to look up to the sky and sharpen your view.
- Keep a distance and don’t shout, koalas like to be alone and enjoy their own space. If you shout not only you could wake them up if sleeping, but you will attract more people and the last thing you want to do is to form a crowd under one tree. Remember you are in their home, be respectful and admire them without interfering with their lives.
ANGLESEA GOLF CLUB
The last stop of our Great Ocean Road trip was, surprisingly, at a Golf Club. If you’d have asked me “would you like to go visit a golf club?” I’m pretty sure my answer would have been no, but the Anglesea one is apparently the best place to see wild kangaroos near Melbourne. Have you even been to Australia if you haven’t seen koalas and kangaroos?
When, in 1950, Anglesea residents proposed building a golf course, kangaroos were already present on the land. They have counted up to 300 kangaroos living at the Golf Club and, during these last years, the animals have grown accustomed to golf players roaming around and outside visitors that want to take a closer look at the Australian animal.
For as little as $12.50 each, you’ll be able to buy a ticket for the 25-minute guided tour hosted by Anglesea Golf Club volunteers. You’ll get into a golf cart with more or less 13 more people and you’ll get the chance to go around the course watching kangaroos and hearing all about them from your guide, who will share interesting facts on life cycles, habits and much more. There will be time for photos and your guide will be able to advise you on how much close you should get, all in total respect of the animal residents.
Our Great Ocean Road trip came to an end and we managed to be back in Melbourne by dinner time. It is an experience I will definitely bring with me forever, but I truly hope I’ll get to go back and enjoy even more natural attractions along the way.
I’m already planning my next route for when that is gonna happen, so if you’ve been there and have any recommendation please send them my way!