We really wanted to build a road trip along the Great Ocean Road into our vacation plans on our Australia trip, so we decided to go right after Jan was done working in Sydney! This is you fair warning that this post is a pretty long one :- )
On our first morning in Melbourne, we picked up our rental car. Initially there was a bit of a kerfuffle because we had reserved a little car that would be easy to drive, but we were “upgraded” to a TEN SEATER. I initially thought it would be ok but when they pulled it out of the garage I was like NO CHANCE I can drive that thing, it’s a bus (J doesn’t really drive in Canada, so I’m the default driver, and the whole left-side-of-the-road thing was daunting!). So we asked for our original reserved car, but they had to bring it from another location, setting us back almost an hour in our plans! Yikes. Luckily the ever-calm Belgian had built some leeway into our plans and it was all OK.
Our route for the trip was Melbourne – Johanna Beach – The Gables Lookout – Gibson Steps – Loch Ard Gorge – Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre – Apollo Bay.
We took the direct route for our first (long) leg, which was mostly highway driving. Johanna Beach was amazing- almost totally deserted and incredibly long and wide. We had planned to have a picnic but in the end it had to be sort of quick because it was super windy. It was really nice to see the beach, though! I’d definitely go back.
We had brought towels and a bunch of picnic food, so after lunch we packed up and drove to the Gables. This was about 4km along a super windy dirt road- a few times I wondered if we were still on a road! In the end we arrived at a trailhead and hiked ~500m to the gorgeous lookout. It was a mini adventure!
Next up we drove to the Gibson Steps! This is an area where you can take a staircase, carved out of rock, down onto the beach and see the 12 Apostles from below! It was a little more crowded here at the base of the steps but only a few minutes down the beach it was quiet again, and so beautiful!
Just a few km up the road is Loch Ard Gorge, where the story is that two people survived a shipwreck on the rocks. They were able to scramble up the rocky shore and get help. It doesn’t sound like much, until you see the HUGE wet rock faces. The little beach down in the gorge was beautiful too!
The last big stop was at the 12 Apostles visitor centre, which is where they’ve built the big viewing paths and platforms for the 12 Apostles from above. We had timed it for sunset, and it was so gorgeous! I think that alone would have been worth the driving. I was surprised, though, that at 6PM the visitor centre was closed! You could still access the washrooms but everything else (including snacks!) was a no-go. Yet another reason to always pack snacks :- ).
Speaking of snacks, after we were done at the 12 Apostles we drove back to Apollo Bay, where we’d booked a hotel for the night. This was a small place (as most are!) and they didn’t have a 24 hour reception, so we’d called ahead to say we’d arrive late. We had planned to look for dinner on the way, but… there was nothing. I’m not kidding, NOTHING. We were laughing about how we should quit our jobs and put a restaurant along the Great Ocean Road! Eventually we did find a Spanish place, and decided to go in right away. The hostess took about 20 minutes to seat us in the half empty restaurant, but when we sat down and did finally look at the menu, we saw that mains (TAPAS STYLE) were $80!! Since we were not up for a $200+ dinner, we actually left! First time I have EVER done that. A little while later we found a small Asian takeout place that was still open and grabbed some noodles- not awesome, but only 20$.
Our hotel was gorgeous, and the next morning we woke up to the sounds of waves and llamas grazing outside!
We stopped along the way home in Grey River, where there are wild koalas in the eucalyptus trees and lots of colourful parrots.
It was an awesome two days!