Great Ocean Road


“Look at this gorgeous little bay. The water looks incredibly clear and calm.” “Yah, we should bring our swimming gear and make time for a short swim. It will be the middle of spring, so I am sure that being Australia, it will be warm enough.” This was me and Bogdan, looking at a video from Loch Ard Gorge and planning our Great Ocean Road trip. Now every time we remember that talk we burst into laugh, because the situation couldn’t have been more different than we have envisioned it. We were greeted by sharp winds from Antarctica and not by the warm Australian sun, so instead of wearing swimming gear, we had a thick water and windproof jacket and instead of swimming, we were soaked by a huge wave.

Australia Great Ocean Road Bay of Islands wind

That’s how strong the Antarctic wind blew on Great Ocean Road

After meeting the cute kangaroos and having a good night sleep, it was time for our favorite vacation activity: a long road trip, this time on the famous Great Ocean Road. Considered one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives, the Great Ocean Road stretches on more than 200 km, is a memorial dedicated to the fallen heroes of the World War I and was built by fellow returned soldiers.

Along the road, at every turn, you will find sandy beaches, steep cliffs, lush rainforests and impressive rock formations. To see it all, you will need at least 3 days on the road, but if you are short on time, as we always are, I suggest you stop at least in these places:

Bay of Islands

For me Bay of Islands is a hidden gem in plain view. Why I say that? Because usually tourists visit Great Ocean Road as a day trip from Melbourne, are interested in seeing the 12 Apostles and don’t have time to go further south, so they miss on one of the highlights of the Australian south coast: the Bay of Islands.

Besides resembling the 12 Apostles with its lofty rocks rising out from the ocean, it also has a beach, where, when the weather is nice, you can sunbath or swim.

As you imagine, we didn’t have such luck. When we visited it, it was extremely cloudy and windy. In fact, we have never experienced such strong winds. We could barely stand. But despite the bad weather, the beauty of the Bay of Islands was still visible. I can only imagine how wonderful it is on a sunny day!

Australia Great Ocean Road Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands

The Grotto

You can admire the Grotto from above or you can follow the paved pathway and descend the staircase to explore it at eye-level. Either way, this fascinating rock formation, which is part-cave, part-arch and part-blowhole will delight your eyes.

Australia Great Ocean Road The Grotto

The Grotto

London Arch

If years ago you could have admired the London Bridge, a natural double arch where visitors could walk to the edge of the arch, nowadays you can only view the London Arch, as the central arch collapsed. Although not as charming as other places from the Great Ocean Road, I still recommend you to take half an hour to check it out.

Australia Great Ocean Road London Arch

London Arch

The Arch

The similar Azure Window from Malta was considered a wonder of nature (it collapsed during a storm), as there wasn’t anything similar in the area. But the Arch, being surrounded by some pretty impressive rock formations, is most of the time overlooked by visitors.

Even though it won’t charm you, do visit it, as you will be amazed by the power of the ocean crashing in against it.

Australia Great Ocean Road the Arch

the Arch

Loch Ard Gorge

If in the pictures we saw before our trip, Loch Ard Gorge looked like a very peaceful and quiet place, with calm turquoise water, during our visit it was exactly the opposite. Imagine that we were on top of the cliffs, at a height of more than 30 meters and we were soaked by the hugest wave we have ever seen.

Australia Great Ocean Road Loch Ard Gorge wave splashing

A huge wave entering Loch Ard Gorge

Australia Great Ocean Road Loch Ard Gorge wave splashing

The wave splashed into the rocks and the wind blew everything on us

Being a collection of lookout points, this precinct located less than 4 km from 12 Apostles will require at least 2 hours of your time to properly visit it. From the parking lot, there are 3 easy trails you can take to discover the area and admire some stunning formations like The Razorback, Island Arch, Tom and Eva, Mutton bird Island or The Blowhole.

Australia Great Ocean Road Loch Ard Gorge beach

Next morning the weather was better, so we could walk down on the beach of Loch Ard Gorge

12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles, the most visited tourist attraction from the Great Ocean Road, is a collection of 8 limestone pillars (originally there were 9 pillars, but one collapsed in 2005), which were formed during millions of years by strong winds and waves that come from Antarctica.

Australia Great Ocean Road twelve 12 Apostles

12 Apostles

Australia Great Ocean Road twelve 12 Apostles

Just look how tall these cliffs are! (there are tiny people on the footpath in the upper-right corner)

Due to strong winds, in the 4 hours we spent at 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge, we experienced all types of weather. If in the early morning, the sky was very dark and it was drizzling, half an hour later the sun appeared and we enjoyed a much better view of the majestic rock formations. But it didn’t take long for the clouds to resurface and to start pouring. And then the sun came out again. The entire time we spent there, the weather was changing every 15 minutes.

Australia Great Ocean Road twelve 12 Apostles dark sky

Black clouds were covering the the 12 Apostles…

Australia Great Ocean Road twelve 12 Apostles

… but we had also some moments of sun.

Gibson Steps

From 12 Apostles you can take a 20 minute walk to Gibson Steps, a staircase that allows access to a beach, from where you will have a different perspective of some of the Apostles. Unfortunately, the day we were in the area, the access to the beach was closed, as the waves were too strong and it would have been too dangerous to descend on the beach. What a shame, as I have seen some amazing photos taken from beach level! L

Maybe it was the bad weather, maybe it was because we had previously seen the fantastic Algarve coast in Portugal, or perhaps the spectacular drive on Pacific Coast Highway in California has ruined all other coastal routes for me, but the truth is that I wasn’t that smitten with the Great Ocean Road. I was impressed by the grandiose steep cliffs and carved limestones, but if I am being honest, I simply consider that there are more breathtaking coastal routes than this one. Regardless of this, I still believe that the Great Ocean Road is a must if you are in the area and I am more than grateful for having the chance to explore it and witness the incredible power of nature.

Tips

  • In case you drive from Adelaide to the Great Ocean Road, I suggest you make two pit stops at the Umpherston Sinkhole (a beautiful sunken garden) and Logans Beach Whale Watching Platform. Located close to the main road, these two places are perfect for stretching your legs after many hours of driving.
  • If you plan to stay overnight in the region of Port Campbell, I would suggest you book a chalet at Great Ocean Road Tourist Park. It is about 20 km from 12 Apostles, but it is very clean, modern and comfortable and is way cheaper than similar accommodations in Port Campbell.

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