Driving the Great Ocean Road

If you have the chance for only one more drive in your lifetime, make sure it’s The Great Ocean Road. It is an epic drive, a beautiful drive and, at some points, a nail-biting drive - especially if your partner behind the wheel is zooming around the blind corners! It is quite possibly the ultimate coastal drive - a picture perfect road trip enjoyed by thousands each year. 20160115_114016 The road officially begins in Torquay, south of Geelong, and ends in Nelson. It was designed to help make Victorian south west coastline easier to travel and was built by ex-servicemen in 1918. A painstaking 14 years later and after a lot of hard manual labour the road was open to the public. It is now an attraction in itself with visitors travelling from all over the world to drive along this stretch of Australia. But it’s not just the dramatic craggy cliffs, the bright brilliant blue of the thrashing sea below or the rolling forested hills dotted with millionaires’ houses that make this drive an interesting one, it’s also the towns nestled alongside The Great Ocean Road that make the journey what it is. My boyfriend and I began our travels north along the route, heading towards Melbourne, and beginning in Portland. The town is Victoria’s first permanent settlement established in 1834 and is the only deep-water sea port between Adelaide and Melbourne. A row of independent cafes, knick-knack and opp-shops line the promenade alongside the port making an interesting afternoon hunting for bargains – some light relief from driving! If you arrive in Portland when it’s dark, look out for wandering koalas on an evening stroll and you are bound to find one, as we did, nonchalantly walking down the street. Further north along the great road is the quirky, bustling little town of Port Fairy where the popular annual Port Fairy Folk Festival is held. The historic fishing town still features many of the original buildings from its days as a port for sealers and whalers in the busy centre. It is definitely worth at least a stop and a stretch of the legs. The iconic 12 Apostles are often featured on anything associated with The Great Ocean Road. They are a short drive away from the town of Port Campbell, making it a popular stop-over choice for many drivers. The 12 apostles, originally named the ‘Sow and Piglets’, is a series of off-shore limestone stacks. However with years of strong winds and battering by the sea, erosion has left only eight stacks standing. It is an amazing photo opportunity, especially come sundown with endless views across the ocean. You can park at the 12 Apostles visitor centre and follow the board walk around the viewpoints. FB_IMG_1459147437990 Other popular points to view in this area also include the London Bridge and Loch Ard Gorge. As expected at this iconic stopping place, it was incredibly busy even though we had apparently missed the coach-load of tourists earlier in the day, so we headed back to the car and drove on to Apollo Bay for the night, using the CamperMate app to find our accommodation for the night. Apollo Bay offers both swimming and surf beaches surrounded by rolling green hills. The ‘Marrines Lookout’ is the best way to soak up the small town and its surroundings. A great stop off for those who enjoy seeing animals in their natural habitat is Kennett River, just past Wye River. Drive down Grey River Road leading to the Great Otway National Park and you will be able to spot koalas sleeping in the gum trees above. Watch out for the over-friendly parrots and parakeets who, after becoming used to hand feeding from tourists, will fly to sit on your head with no warning – take it from me, it comes as a surprise! [caption id="attachment_2651" align="alignnone" width="600"]A koala fast sleep in the gum trees in Kennett River A koala fast sleep in the gum trees in Kennett River[/caption] The road after Kennett River made me feel as though I was actually driving being filmed for a luxury advert it was that spectacular. I wound my way round the twisting, turning, tight bends trying to ignore the sheer drop down the cliff beside me and praying a tour bus didn't come swinging itself around corner. With pretty, colourful flora in the bush land on one side of the road and the outstretched ocean on the other it’s a drive with a view like no other. FB_IMG_1459147414907 20160115_113912 The town of Lorne, is an inevitable stunning holiday resort offering pristine white beaches and plenty of lookouts. After travelling from Kennett River it makes a good place to refresh and get some food from one of the many restaurants available. It was our last stop on The Great Ocean Road before heading onto Geelong and so we soaked up the surf atmosphere for as long as possible. The best lookout, in my opinion is Teddy’s Lookout, at the southern end of George Street, providing you with views out onto the national park, the ocean and the curving road below. Popular with holiday makers, if you are to pass through the town come the summer school holidays be sure to book your accommodation in advance! [caption id="attachment_2655" align="alignnone" width="900"]The view from Teddy's Lookout into the great blue beyond The view from Teddy's Lookout into the great blue beyond[/caption]