Great Ocean Road
Is the Great Ocean Road really that great? Er, YEAH... it’s not called GREAT for nothing! Originally built by returning veterans as a memorial to those who died in WWI, it’s beautiful coastlines make it one of the most photogenic stretches of tarmac on earth and an absolute must-do.
Driving south from Melbourne, it takes about an hour to get to Geelong and then you head along the coast to Torquay. Even if it’s too cold for you to take a dip in the ocean, there’s still plenty to enjoy and it’s the official start of the Great Ocean Road (as well the unofficial home of the nation’s surfing capital). Torquay oozes cool and you can’t not go to the iconic Bells Beach - remember the final scene in Point Break? Well, Bells is supposedly one of the locations of the movie but it actually isn’t. The beach at the end where Patrick Swayze rides “the wave” is meant to be Bells, but it was actually filmed in America to save money (talk about tight!).
Anyway, get down to this surfing mecca and try and catch a few waves at one of its quality surfing spots, enough to build up an appetite which you can satisfy at Bomboras with a few pizzas (bomboras.com.au) and then celebrate the day’s achievements with a couple beers at Growlers (growlers.com.au), one of the Surf Coast’s favourite waterholes.
Down the road in Lorne and Apollo Bay, you’ll find even more unspoiled beaches. Apollo Bay acts as a popular base camp for Great Ocean Road explorers with the Apollo Bay Hotel (apollobayhotel.com.au) naturally taking on the role of HQ. Right in the heart of town, the hotel holds prime position overlooking the bay and is the epitome of an Aussie beachside pub. The al fresco dining area and relaxed indoor bistro serve up authentic pub grub with some Asian alternatives mingling in with the Parmigiana and fishermen’s baskets. With classically simple beer garden decor, the foreshore watering hole needs nothing more than some sunshine and a salty sea breeze to transport you to never-never land.
The route then takes you inland through Otway National Park and lush rainforests. Check out the Otway Treetop Walk (otwayfly.com), a unique attraction which features the 600m long and 30m high steel structured treetop canopy walkway that enables you to experience the sensation of being high above the forest floor.
Once you’re done with the trees, head back on the road for some dramatic cliff landscapes between Princetown and Port Campbell, where you’ll visit the famous rockstars the Twelve Apostles (there are actually nine), the towering limestone stacks off the coast. Check out the fishing village of Port Fairy before heading back towards Melbourne via the Grampians (or you can keep going west and hit up Adelaide). PS, there’s another reason the Great Ocean Road has such a grandiose title – and with little gems spotted along the iconic bitumen – the stunning drive easily turns into the Great Ocean Pub Crawl!