The Great Ocean Road and the Grampians National Park!
Monday 11th –Thursday 14th January 2016
3 night/4 day roadtrip
One of the world’s most iconic scenic coastal drives, the Great Ocean road is a wonderful place to relax, explore and take in the 243 kilometres of beautiful coastline in Victoria. It offers winding roads through the lush rainforest, sightings of wildlife, relaxing villages and wonderful ocean views, as you work your way towards the drives famous highlight; undoubtedly the iconic Twelve Apostles make the climax of any trip along the Great Ocean road all the more worthwhile.
For those that are not aware, the ‘Apostles were formed by erosion: the harsh and extreme weather conditions from the Southern Ocean gradually eroded the soft limestone to form caves in the cliffs, which then became arches, which in turn collapsed; leaving rock stacks up to 50 metres high. Today, due to this erosion there are only 8 rocks remaining, the ninth stack having collapsed dramatically in July 2005.’
The best time to see the rocks are at sunset from the Twelve Apostles official entrance, when the day crowds have passed. If you bring binoculars, just after the sun has set you may even be lucky enough to be able to spot little penguins coming out the sea ashore 🙂
I had not pre-booked this trip or organised it too much, thinking when I got to Melbourne I would probably sign up to do a group tour of it over a few nights. However as Jamie was keen to do it too, we decided to hire a car and do it ourselves. I was due to be back in Adelaide to stay with friends for a few days before heading over to New Zealand, therefore we decided to do the road trip over 3 nights/4 days.
It was undoubtedly the most memorable part of my travelling trip, not just because the Great Ocean was a very special place by itself, but because on a more personal level I got to share this experience with a friend who became my now boyfriend, Jamie. Thank-you for taking me on this adventure and putting up with me hereafter J
The ideal itinerary
Based on my own personal experience, I would recommend the following as a rough itinerary if you are looking to self-drive the Great Ocean road from Melbourne (can also work in reverse from Adelaide). Min stay 3 nights / Max 5 nights.
Day 1 – Melbourne to Apollo Bay
Upon departing Melbourne, head off for a quick stop at Torquay. Enjoy the pretty beach for an hour or so before heading onto Lorne. Break here for lunch, wander the town and visit some of the waterfalls in the area. Drive on to Apollo Bay and stay overnight here.
Day 2 – Apollo Bay – Port Campbell
After breakfast at one of the lovely café’s in Apollo bay, drive on through the famous Otway national park to Cape Otway lighthouse. Spend an hour or two this morning enjoying this beautiful spot. Grab a coffee at the café onsite before continuing on to Port Campbell.
Look out for the following stops off’s along the way:
Loch Ard Gorge – for the beach
Gibson Steps – walk down the 70-metre cliff face to the beach to see the apostles from below
London Bridge, The Arch and The Grotto for viewpoints of the Apostles.
Stay overnight at Port Campbell (10 minute drive from the Apostles site). Visit here at sunset!! You will see the entrance on your drive through to Port Campbell.
Day 3 – Drive on to Warrnambool. Choose to stop here and have a wander round, or continue on to Port Fairy. After continue on for another hour to Portland. Choose to stay here overnight or continue on to the Grampians, however if doing this know it is a 2.5 hour drive from Portland to Halls Gap, therefore ensure you leave Portland by 4pm.
Day 4 – from Portland (or Port Campbell if skipping day 3) head north to The Grampians! The town in the heart of this national park; Halls Gap is a popular place to stay overnight in the heart of the Grampians. Stay 1 or 2 nights depending on how long you have to explore this area.
Day 5 – After a day exploring the Grampians National park, head South East back (3.5 hours drive) to Melbourne. Alternatively drive North West 6 hours for Adelaide.
Day 1: Melbourne – Apollo Bay
Getting out of busy Melbourne was a mission! But finally we were on the road and heading off to our first stop at Torquay. We did not stay too long here, we wandered along the beach and then it started to rain, so we continued driving onto Lorne.
Lorne is a lovely little village. We had a short wander around the shops here and came across an excellent wine and port shop. After trying a few samples the lovely lady owner let us have, we bought a bottle of port (for Jamie), along with a good red and white wine to enjoy later.
From Lorne you should follow the signs to stop off at Erskine Falls for 30 minutes or so, a popular waterfall which cascades into a beautiful fern gully. There are actually around 10 waterfalls within ten minutes of Lorne, however we did not realise this at the time and carried straight on. If you have the time it may be worth researching and venturing to a few more whilst you’re in the area 🙂
By the time we reached Apollo Bay it was late, we checked in to our hostel Apollo bay backpackers and crashed. The following morning we checked out of our room and enjoyed breakfast al fresco at a café opposite the beach and after a leisurely walk around the pretty coastal town we headed off.
Day 2 – Apollo Bay – Port Campbell
Today was awesome. Our first point of call was the lighthouse at Cape Otway. It was beautiful here, right at the bottom of a winding forest, we barely saw another car until we arrived at the lighthouse car park. We spent an hour or so drifting around and went up the lighthouse. Windblown describes how I looked after. We explored this pretty area for a few hours and spotted wild koalas high up in the trees on the drive back out of the Otway national park. Charming way to start the day 🙂
The drive took us through the forestry and then along beautiful coastal cliffs where we could enjoy views of the sea. Unfortunately, just a few weeks before the area had suffered badly from forest fires, and a lot of what was evidently previous luscious greenery was now dark burnt wood and dirt left in its place. However we still enjoyed the drive immensely.
We stopped off at a few of the lookout spots on the way to Port Campbell. Gibson steps, London bridge and Lock Ard Gorge are all worth enjoying the views from! Note – When you take the Gibson steps down to the beach you will see the famous rock formations that look as though they have risen jutted from the sea.
After spending a little time down on the beach admiring the Apostles, we drove onto Port Campbell and enjoyed an early dinner at a nice restaurant in the town and checked into our room. It was perfect; parking was a breeze and the room was spacious with a big spa bath. Heaven!
That evening (around 8pm) we drove back to the Twelve Apostles (about a 5-10 minute drive away from port Campbell) and watched the sunset over the amazing rock formations.
After the sun had just disappeared however I made the mistake of leaving. On the drive back to the hotel, the sky broke out in the most amazing sunset I had ever seen. We had to pull the car over and enjoy the incredible view ahead of us. It was every bit the most magical moment I had experienced so far on my Australia trip. You could actually see the sun rays and colours merging in the now jet black sky.
Day 3 – The Grampians
The following morning we checked out at 10am , had breakfast in the town and continued our journey onwards to the Grampians! We stopped for lunch and a wander around the town of ‘La fairy’ otherwise known as Port Fairy which was nice before continuing on to our next destination.
When we arrived at our base in the Grampians we were tired and spent the evening relaxing in our beautiful cottage, which was on a farm. The town was a 5 minute drive away, so after checking in we went in search of dinner and had a quiet evening, as there was not much to do in the town.
Day 4 – The Grampians/Drive to Adelaide
We checked out of our lovely room and headed straight for breakfast the next morning. I decided it was my turn to drive to today, and much of the day was spent with Jamie holding his breath. It was the first time I have been back behind the wheels for a few years. I was very proud of myself, even if Jamie was slightly terrified in the passenger seat. 🙂
After a quick brecky, we made our way to the town of halls gap which was nice to have a wander round, before hitting some of the famous landmarks around the Grampians. There are so many nice hikes and walking trails to do around here. The highlight was seeing Mckenzies falls and the pinnacles walk. The balconies also provided stunning views.
We left the last waterfall at 5pm, not realising how long a drive it would take to get to Adelaide. We did not stop and switched driving between us except for 1 stop to use the facilities and grab a quick takeaway dinner. It took a good 7 hours – and we finally arrived at Mel’s house just after 11pm. An amazing few days! And I was thrilled to see Mel again! She had kindly offered for Jamie to stay too which was a blessing as we got here so late.
To conclude – an amazing few days exploring with my nomadic partner. I highly recommend working this road trip into your plans if travelling to Australia to see some of the real beauty the country has to offer.
Next Stop – Adelaide!