I consider myself very fortunate to have travelled the Great Ocean Road, on the Victorian southern coast, on a number of occasions. This Australian National Heritage listed stretch of road is 243 kilometers (151 miles) long and is found between the coastal hamlet of Torquay and large city of Warrnambool.
The outstanding feature of the road is that it literally hugs the coastline for almost its entirety, and from any vantage point you can see the ocean, and usually the beaches and rocky outcrops that occur along the way. The road is very winding, (following the natural bays and inlets). On a clear day one can see the Bass Strait (that divides Tasmania from the rest of mainland) and the Southern Ocean.
I say clear day, because I have travelled the road when it was very foggy and have found it to be quite eerie. The fog rolls slowly enveloping everything in its path and visibility can be reduce quite considerably. The up side of a fog usually means a beautiful sunny day after the fog has lifted.
The road commences at Torquay, a coastal town, known mostly as a haven for retirees and surfers. The road was built by World War 1 returned soldiers and is the world’s largest war memorial. There is a beautifully made Arch at the beginning of this road dedicated to casualties of World War 1. Not only did this road provide an enduring memorial to those that died, it also provided employment for returned soldiers who would otherwise have struggled to find jobs in the years after the Great War.
Heading along the road from Torquay, one passes the pretty coastal townships of Anglesea, Lorne and Apollo Bay. From here the road commences its inward direction away from the coast. This might frustrate the tourist but it’s for a good reason. This part of the coast has very high cliffs and was virtually impossible to build roads on. But, because of the massive cliffs and rock formations, here you will find the most fantastic scenery.
The most well known formation is of the Twelve Apostles which are limestone stack formations. There are several opportunities to divert off the main road, into parking bays that allow the tourist take spectacular photos shots, and to wander down to the beaches to experience these formations close-up.
We took our children on a trip from Torquay to Warnambool one summer. It was very, very hot, with temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius. We thought it would be a great idea to have a swim in one of the gorges, so we stopped at a gorge called Loch Ard Gorge, named after the shipwrecked Loch Ard that foundered there in 1878, where only 2 of the 54 passengers survived.
There is a very long stairway built for access to the beach of the gorge. We hurried down, eager to get into the water and cool down. We were astonished however, at how cold the water was and remembered that this water is the Southern Ocean and comes directly from the Antarctic. We had a quick splash about, and then ran across the hot sand to the car.
There have been occasions where the road has had to be closed, due to slippage and rock falls after heavy rain. It is advised to contact the RACV (Royal Automotive Club of Victoria) for information about the road before setting out.
The Great Ocean Road is indeed a very popular tourist attraction in Victoria, and is one that I would recommend any visitor to Australia to take.