Australia

Travel Journal (9/23/2019): The Great Ocean Road

We got up early today because today was the day we got to tour the incredibly beautiful Great Ocean Road. What started out as a rather ho-hum adventure quickly turned into one of our more memorable experiences on this trip and an adventure that we will always remember.

We took our tour thru Go West Tours and our tour guides Yasmin and Patrick were really great. We got picked up at 7:50am at a neighboring hotel and we quickly headed out of the city.

This brings me to the only two criticisms that I had for an otherwise fantastic tour. First, the tour is advertised as a “small group” tour, but we had roughly 25 people on our tour. I guess the term “small group” is relative, but I was thinking under 10 when I booked this tour.

The group size wouldn’t be a huge deal if it didn’t factor into my other criticism. With a bigger group it becomes harder to stop as frequently along the Great Ocean Road. You have to get all 25 people off the bus at each stop and then back on in a timely manner. This tour covers roughly 350 miles, which takes a group of 25 people stopping roughly 10 times about 12 hours to complete.

The fact that this tour only stopped 10 times, while passing some absolutely incredible viewpoints, was compounded by the fact that we were sitting on the right side of the bus while we drove with the coast to our left the whole way. Needless to say, for someone like me who is into photography, the situation was quite frustrating.

Enough of the negatives, let’s get to the positives about this tour and this day, which are much more numerous. Our first stop was at Bells Beach (pictured above) in the city of Torquay. If that beach name sounds familiar, it is probably because it was featured in the movie Point Break. If you don’t remember, it’s the beach at the end of the film where Bodie catches the wave of the century.

We also learned a few other cool facts about the city of Torquay. In addition to being the official starting spot of the Great Ocean Road, it is also the birthplace of the Quicksilver and Rip Curl surf brands and the place where the wetsuit was invented. In other words, they take their surfing very seriously here.

After stopping at Bells Beach in Torquay, we started our adventure along the Great Ocean Road. Our first stop along the road was at the Memorial Arch (pictured above), which commemorates the workers who struggled and sacrificed to get the road built.

We only stopped at the arch briefly to get some pictures before continuing on to the town of Apollo Bay for lunch. One of the places our guides recommended we eat was at a place called The Bakery, which specialized in meat pies. Since there are few foods more Australian than meat pies, my wife wanted to give one a try. The consensus is now in, the meat pies at The Bakery in Apollo Bay are fantastic!

Meat Pies on display at The Bakery in Apollo Bay

After lunch, we were in for a real treat that were weren’t expecting. Our next stop was at a spot called Kennett River, which was supposedly one of the best places to spot wild koalas.

We were told beforehand not to get our hopes up because koalas are very rare in the wild and are typically very difficult to spot. We were also told, should we actually get to see one, it will likely be sleeping way up high in a tree.

Lucky for us, we did get to spot two different wild koalas sleeping in a tree. I have included a picture of one below for you to see. I got closeups with my DSLR, which I will undoubtedly be sharing with you in the future.

Wild Koala Sleeping in Tree

In addition to the wild koalas, we also saw wild cockatoos and crimson rosella at Kennett River. However, the highlight of our stop actually came as we were driving away from Kennett River. We spotted a third wild koala, and this one wasn’t high up a tree sleeping. Instead, it was crossing the road. The odds of seeing this were astronomical, which is why we probably should have played the lottery last night.

After leaving Kennett River we stopped to take a rainforest walk in Melba Gully State Park. It was incredible to see the huge trees in the forest, which are the second tallest trees in the world. Only the Redwood trees of California are taller.

When our rainforest hike was over, we continued 25-minutes further South to our first stop along the shipwreck coast section of the Great Ocean Road. This stop, named the Twelve Apostles, is a place you heard me write about quite a bit during my planning for this trip. Located in Port Campbell National Park, it is one of the most infamous stops on the Great Ocean Road and a spot I was very much looking forward to visiting.

As you can see by my image below, it did not disappoint. It was every bit as beautiful and fantastic as I thought it would be, and then some. Too bad we only had about an hour to explore this spot with our tour as I probably could have taken a whole day.

After picking our jaws up off the floor after seeing the Twelve Apostles, we had to do that all over again after seeing our next stop in Port Campbell National Park, which was Loch Ard Gorg. The rock formations and sea stacks at Loch Ard Gorg may even be more beautiful than the Twelve Apostles. As you can see in the picture below, it is breathtaking.

What made this stop especially neat was that we got to go right down onto the beach and take some ground level photographs of this incredibly stunning location. I just stood there for a while in utter disbelief that such a beautiful place existed and that I was seeing it with my own eyes.

Believe it or not, there was more beauty to come on the shipwreck coast. Our last stop was back to the Twelve Apostles, but this stop was to a different area where you can access the beach to get views of the sea stacks. Known as the Gibson Steps, these stairs take you down to the beach where you can get a sea-level perspective of the Twelve Apostles.

The beach access was closed while we were there because of big surf, so we couldn’t take the steps all the way down to the beach. On the positive side, we got to see some amazingly large surf at the Twelve Apostles, which is even more amazing. In case you are interested, I included a shot of the Gibson Steps for you to see below.

That concludes our amazing adventure along the Great Ocean Road. Like I said at the beginning, what started off as a slow and mildly disappointing tour quickly became one of our favorite experiences of this trip.

As I told you yesterday, we got some great advice on other things to see and do in the Melbourne area, so we have another fantastic adventure planned for tomorrow. Can you guess what it is? If not, stay tuned and I will reveal it for you in tomorrow’s journal entry.

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  1. Interesting that meat pie is something you’ve described as an ‘Australian food’. You’ve the second person I’ve read say that recently and until then it’s not something I’ve ever thought of as Australian.

    Perhaps it’s just because they’re equally popular here but I’ve always considered them to be a British delicacy.

    Food aside, I’m glad you enjoyed this portion of the trip. The photos are stunning! Shame you weren’t able to see / take more on the bus 🙁

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