If you haven’t included the Great Ocean Road tour in your bucket list, what are you waiting for? It’s not one of those thrilling bungee jumping in Macau, or hiking up Mount Everest that involves a high risk, but just a really, really long road trip by the ocean that leads you to some of nature’s most raved about attractions – The Twelve Apostles (which was actually just 9, but now only 8 is left) and The London Bridge. Best of all? It’s suitable for everyone – family, couples, or even solo.
You have the option of joining a tour or rent a car and do a self-paced road trip. Here’s some tips to help you make your choice:
Join a tour group if you’re:
- travelling in a big group – say more than 5 – 7 people, where one car isn’t enough to fit all of you. The logistics just get a little messy whenever one car has to follow another, no?
- tight with time. Tours are usually done within a day.
- not a driver, and neither are your travel mates. I’d say 1 driver is not enough unless the said driver is used to driving long distances because it’s really tiring to not have anyone to switch with.
- travelling solo. Point same as above.
- not familiar with right-hand drive. If you’re coming from countries like USA, Canada, Japan, etc, it’s not hard to switch but it may take awhile to get used to. Just a heads up!
- sleep deprived the entire time you’ve been in Australia – this applies to me and I’m sure many people fall into this category. If you haven’t had enough rest, I’d say let others do the driving for ya, time to take the back seat while enjoying the ride!
- lazy. Then yup, just stick to the tour guide and listen to him ramble about the history while he drives you around.
Do a self-drive if you’re:
- adventurous. Self-drive is fun and exciting, but it involves certain risks, even higher for tourists. Because,
- not pressed for time. Then by all means, book a hotel at Apollo Bay for a night – you’ll have ample time to chill by the beautiful beach before going all touristy at The Twelve Apostles.
- familiar with the road or have been there already – then you may want to skip all the history and ‘tours’, and just go to the places you wanna see.
- hate to follow a tight timeline. “10 minutes for a quick photo opportunity!” If this irks you, then forget about tours. (This is me, but given that my family was really sleep deprived, I have to forsake the luxury of following my own timeline)
So if you’re going on a tour, the places to visit are obviously fixed. But if you’re interested on going on a self-drive, here are some places I’d recommend you to stop by for the first time:
Stop at this place if you’re interested in the history of the construction of the Great Ocean Road. There are memorial boards and statues to give you a contextual knowledge on how it all came about.
Time required: 10-15 minutes
We stopped here not to see a river (of course there’s really one to see), but to feed aggressive king parrots and to play ‘spot-the-koala’ instead. Seriously, just check this out:
Time required: 20-30 minutes
Unlike other rest stops, this place is perfect to stop by for lunch (I think that’s what everyone does). Eat fish and chips – you won’t go wrong. There are actually a few hotels in this area for you to stop and rest for the day, and hence my suggestion above about staying a night here.
Opposite the eating places, you’d find this area pictured above and then the beach. Just look at those blue skies and healthy green grass decorated with little yellow flowers! Don’t you think it’s so ideal for picnics? Ahh, think weheartit and tumblr worthy picnic moments.
I’m not sure if this is the ‘main beach’ but there were people just suntanning and chilling under the awesome Spring weather. I know I shouldn’t be saying this too early since there are tons of beautiful beaches in Australia, but this place was already youtopic to me. 🙂
Time required: 1-2 hours (including meal time)
I didn’t think this place was worth seeing until I realised this rainforest is pretty special – it’s a temperate rainforest that had actually experienced snowfall! Definitely something worth stopping for if you’re coming from Southeast Asia like myself, since we’re used to only tropical sweaty rainforest.
5. GREAT OCEAN WALKING TRAIL*
I’ve gone only for a few hundred metres walk, but apparently the real thing is as long as 104km! Again, if you have ample of time, please do this! I can attest to the beauty of this amazing coastal route.
Time required: depending on how long you want to hike
Just before you reach The Twelve Apostles (which you could already see), you can check out this beach and the long flight of stairs. I should say it’s a “been there, done that” kinda place, but worth a moment of your time.
Time required: 15-20 minutes
It was approaching the Golden Hour (i.e. sunset) so the photo came out really nicely. It’s hard to capture this with backlight (if you want your face in it), so I’d recommend you to make use of this opportunity to take some back shots like this:
It’s places like this that made me realise how insignificant we are, and how the world is such a beautiful masterpiece that it would be of pity to be left unexplored.
Time required: 45 minutes – 1 hour
3 minutes drive away from The Twelve Apostles (TTA), the Loch Ard Gorge is another beauty as a result of the process of erosion. Some people love this more than TTA, so it’s up to you to drop by and take your pick. I can only say, it’s another art piece that you won’t mind looking again and again.
Time required: 45 minutes – 1 hour
It was a formally a bridge, until the arch near the shoreline collapsed back in 1990 and left 2 tourists stranded on the lonely piece of stone (pictured above). They were fine but had to be rescued by a helicopter. And that was how it became an Arch instead of a Bridge. It’s named the London Bridge (and now Arch) because of that story (yknow, london bridge fallen down). Pretty interesting I must say! 😀
Time required: 30-45 minutes
And that was our last stop for the Great Ocean Road trip! The sun set at the perfect time for us to call it a day. T’was a wonderful road trip never to be missed!
Hope this guide helps for those planning to self drive! Anyhow, just for those who are interested in tours, I’d recommend Melbourne Coastal Tours: they have a budget one and a boutique one. I went for the latter because of that ‘exclusive walking trail’, and also because a smaller group would mean lesser people to wait for and longer time spent at each location. They also did hotel pick ups for us. 🙂 My friend went with another tour group back in May, which she said was decent too.
P/S my trip started from Melbourne, so I’m recommending places chronologically from the East to the West.