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Australia: Spectacular Great Ocean Road

Take a ride through nature on the spectacular Great Ocean Road

Stretching from Geelong to Portland in south-western Victoria, the Great Ocean Road is characterised by exquisite coastal scenery, mountains and farmland, thriving country towns, rainforests and historic relics.

From the air, it looks like a giant serpent, spiralling through deep green forests and snaking its way along huge seaside cliffs. The spirit of the traditional owners of this land, the Gunditjmara people, defines the essence of this landscape. To travel its length is an inspiring and invigorating experience: at the end of the journey you’ll be in no doubt why the Great Ocean Road is classified as one of Australia's National Landscapes.

Australia - Spectacular Great Ocean Road

Blood sweat and tears are a part of the history of this much loved Australian journey. Early motorists risked life and limb on the Great Ocean Road because many cars at that time weren’t suitable for the drive and were swapped for horses or horse-drawn carriages. Work on the road began in 1919, when soldiers returning from WW1 used picks, crowbars and shovels to hew the road from solid rock. Their 13-year achievement became a memorial to those lost in the war.

The road begins in the seaside town of Torquay, Australia’s surfing capital and home of Aussie surfing culture. The perfect swells at Bells Beach draw surfers from around the world  and the town is home to the world’s largest surf museum.

The next major town is Anglesea. Its golf course is home to hundreds of wild kangaroos and wallabies who graze on the fairways, oblivious to the little white balls falling around them. The 1891 Split Point Lighthouse at Aireys Inlet, affectionately known as the White Queen, has been a welcome sight for ships that have rounded Cape Otway for more than a century. All along the Great Ocean Road the coastline is dotted with lighthouses, visible reminders of why this stretch is also given the moniker of Australia’s Shipwreck Coast.

The town of Lorne enjoys a lively café culture and wonderful views. People lucky enough to live at Lorne enjoy stunning vistas out across the Pacific Ocean, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the Victorian Government in the late 1800s who declared Lorne a place of natural beauty and special significance, the first in Australia to be named such.

A great place to enjoy Lorne’s magnificent views is from the rooftop beer garden at the Lorne Hotel. Teddy’s Lookout also provides spectacular cliff top views of the Great Ocean Road as it snakes along the coastline and into the rich rainforest of the Angahook-Lorne National Park.

Between Lorne and Apollo Bay the Great Ocean Road follows the base of the cliffs. Ocean foam almost splashes your car fender, and soaring forests of manna gums and mountain ash erupt from an understorey of tree ferns that surround them like lacy green petticoats. Apollo Bay is the gateway to the Otway National Park, home for an oasis of fern gullies, giant rainforest trees and abundant wildlife.

You could keep driving on the Great Ocean Road, but by far the best way to get to the heart of this region’s natural beauty is to walk. There are more than 100 kilometres of tracks within the park, many following old tramways that were built when the forest was logged. Others were built in the late 1800s, making them some of the oldest tourism developments in Victoria. Wallabies, koalas and echidnas frequent these ranges and you may be lucky enough to spot an elusive platypus in a forest stream. In winter, rain-swollen streams create spectacular cascading waterfalls. Stop by the Great Ocean Road Visitors Information Centre for information on where to eat and stay in the region.

Great Ocean Road: The Twelve Apostles - An unforgettable highlight of the Australian Great Ocean Road is the rock formations known as the Twelve Apostles.

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