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The Great Ocean Road is one of the world's most stunning coastal drives, winding along Australia's southern coast in Victoria (Australia). The undisputed highlight of the drive is the Twelve Apostles, but the Great Ocean Road leads past many more sights of interest, from bustling coastal towns like Lorne and Apollo Bay to the lush rainforests of Great Otway National Park.
The Great Ocean Road was built between 1919 and 1932 by Australian World War I veterans, as a memorial to their fallen comrades. Their labour is all the more impressive considering the steep coastal mountains the road is built into.
The Great Ocean Road starts in Torquay, a surf town located a short drive south from Geelong and about an hour from Melbourne. From here, the road leads west along the coast at sea level, passing through Anglesea and Lorne, after which the road ascends. This is where it becomes truly spectacular, with many dramatic lookout points along the winding road.
After Apollo Bay, the road turns inland, leading through Great Otway National Park and onwards through Lavers Hill, where the road turns southwards towards the coast again. Between Princetown and Port Campbell lie some of the road's most famous attractions, including the Twelve Apostles. From Port Campbell, the road leads north to Warrnambool, where it comes to an end.
Dotted along the Great Ocean Road are several small to medium sized towns that are well worth staying the night or spending some time in.
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A popular family destination, Anglesea offers some pleasant beaches, nice walks and an 18-hole golf course that is as popular with kangaroos as it is with humans.
Apollo Bay's beautiful crescent shaped beach makes this one of the most attractive towns along the Great Ocean Road. You can get up-to-the-minute travel information on the sights and activities of Apollo Bay at the Great Ocean Road Visitor Information Centre. The tourist information officers live locally and know the area very well.
A population of 1,300 calls Lorne home, but this popular holiday destination swells with visitors during summer. Many Victorians have holiday homes here and for good reason. The town has easy access to beaches on the one side and the Otway Ranges on the other. Erskine Falls is well worth a visit and there are many excellent rainforest walks to keep visitors occupied.
The official start of the Great Ocean Road, 22 kilometres south of Geelong, is the surfing town of Torquay. This town is most famous for Bells Beach, which is just outside of town. Every Easter, the Bells Beach Surf Classic, the world's longest running surfing competition takes place, attracting top surfers from around the world. To learn more about Torquay's surfing history you can visit the Surfworld Australia Surfing Museum, which houses a collection of surfing memorabilia.
Non-surfers can enjoy the many excellent walking tracks around Torquay.
Every June to September, Southern Right Wales pay this small city of 31,000 a visit and can often be seen off shore. They aren't the only ones who enjoy a stop-off in Warrnambool.
Just east of Port Campbell, you will find the star attraction of the Great Ocean Road: the Twelve Apostles.
These impressive limestone stacks have been formed over millions of years through erosion. The erosion continues to this day and as recently as 2005, one of the apostles succumbed to the force of the ocean. The 8 remaining apostles still form a magnificent site though and continue to draw visitors in large numbers.
The Apostles can be seen at any time of the day, but the best is to visit them at sunset or sunrise, when the colours add particular drama to the scene. If you can, plan your Great Ocean Road trip to make sure you see them during these golden hours!
The Great Ocean Road winds along and through the Great Otway National Park from just after Anglesea to a little before Lavers Hill. As a backdrop to the stunning coast-line, the Otway Ranges are themselves a significant draw card. Waterfalls and rainforest walks are a pleasant escape on a summer day and ensure a diverse trip.
One particularly popular walk is the Otway Fly, a tree top walk through a rainforest of Myrtle Beech, Blackwood and Mountain Ash. You have to pay for entry, but it's well worth the investment.
The Cape Otway Lightstation is the oldest surviving lighthouse in mainland Australia and has been in continuous operation since 1848. If that isn't enough reason to pay it a visit, another attraction is the numerous koalas that roam the trees near the lighthouse. You are virtually guaranteed to spot one along the way to the lighthouse - just keep a close eye on the trees.
You can find more current events on the official Great Ocean Road website.
The Great Ocean Road tends to be slightly cooler than Melbourne, particularly as the main towns enjoy a sea breeze. Summer is a very popular time to visit, with temperatures rising as high as 40º C (and above). If you want to avoid the crowds, try coming in autumn (March to May) or spring (September to November).
There are no commercial flights to airports along the Great Ocean Road. Avalon Airport near Geelong is the nearest airport to the eastern end of the Great Ocean Road, while Sharp Airlines operates flights to Portland in western Victoria.
V/Line has a train route running from Melbourne to Geelong, then overland to Warrnambool. It operates three times a day Monday to Saturday, and twice on Sundays. There are V/Line bus services running the entirety of the Great Ocean Road from Geelong to Warrnambool.
Driving is the simplest way to travel.
From Melbourne, travel to Geelong on the Princes Freeway (A1). In Geelong, look for signs to Torquay and there should already be brown signs to the Great Ocean Road as well. Travel along the Surf Coast Highway to Torquay and from there the Great Ocean Road starts.
If you are simply trying to reach the Twelve Apostles and want to skip the rest of the road, then there is also a speedier route travelling along the Princes Freeway (A1) for much longer all the way to Nalangil, just past Colac. Turn left there on the Timboon Colac Road (C163) and continue along that road till you reach Scotts Creek, where you bear left onto the Cobden Port Campbell Road (C164). This will take you to Port Campbell, one of the nearest towns to the Twelve Apostles and all the attractions in the area. This faster route (roughly 3 hours from Melbourne) is often used as a return journey to Melbourne after already having seen all the sights along the Great Ocean Road.
From Adelaide, the fastest is to travel along the Dukes Highway (A8) to Horsham. In Horsham, turn onto the Henty Highway (A200) and follow that to Hamilton. From Hamilton, head along the Hamilton Highway (B140) towards Penshurst, then turn off onto the C178 until you reach Killarney, where you can turn left on the Princes Highway (A1). Follow along that to reach Warrnambool. Travel out of Warrnambool for 10 minutes or so on the Princes Highway to the turn off for the Great Ocean Road.
It is also possible to travel along the coast from Adelaide in a much slower, but more scenic route.
V/Line operates a train and coach route from Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road four times a day Monday to Thursday, five times on Friday, and twice on Saturday and Sunday. From Melbourne to Apollo Bay, the journey takes about 3 1/2 hours.
It is possible to walk from Apollo Bay to Glemample along what is known as the Great Ocean Walk. There is also the possibility to walk shorter sections and be picked up and dropped off at designated locations.
You won't have a hard time finding lovely cafés and restaurants in the towns along the Great Ocean Road. See the Torquay, Anglesea, Lorne, Apollo Bay, Port Campbell and Warrnambool articles for specific listings.
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