Great Ocean Road Highlights
The Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s more scenic drives, located in southern Australia. The main section is a 243km (150 mile) stretch between the towns of Tourquay in the east and Allansford in the west. Most organized tours leave from Melbourne, travelling west to take in all of the major Great Ocean Road highlights.
For our trip, we departed Adelaide and enjoyed the next 3 days and 2 nights taking in the incredible sites along this 1000km route before arriving in Melbourne.
The Great Ocean Road Map
Leaving Adelaide, it’s a nice drive through the Australian countryside. If you’re in more of a hurry, you can cut off some significant time by sticking to the highways until you get to Mt. Gambier. We went for the more scenic route which led us to our first stop in Kingston, South Australia …
Larry the Lobster
“Larry the Lobster” is one of Australia’s Big Things. Made of fiberglass and steel, standing at 18m (59ft) tall and weighing in at 4 tons, it was built in 1979 to attract people to the local visitor’s centre and restaurant. I will say that “Larry” is worth a quick stop, but the restaurant and visitor’s centre are worth skipping … do NOT try the lobster sandwich! Unless it has changed drastically since we were there, you can expect only a few pieces of lobster between 2 pieces of wonderbread for $15.
Our next stop was in the city of Mt. Gambier, located on the slopes of an inactive volcano. Mt. Gambier is known for its geographic features, the most popular being Blue Lake – a spectacular cobalt blue lake located in one of the volcanic craters.
Mt. Gambier is also home to The Umpherston Sinkhole (or the Sunken Garden). In 1886 this sinkhole was transformed into one of the most beautiful gardens of the region. I highly recommend stopping here, but be prepared that you may want to spend all day in the sinkholes with your camera!
We spent our first night in Portland where we enjoyed an awesome dinner at Ric’s Pizza Bar! In the morning we took a quick walk along a section of the Great Southern Walk to the amazing Petrified Forest. Was this really the site of an ancient forest, or just a coincidence of natural erosion? You be the judge! A little further down the path you’ll find a great spot to view Blow Holes created by the pounding surf.
A short drive from Portland took us to the town of Port Fairy. It’s worth taking a few minutes to enjoy the colourful homes and picturesque scenes at the local yacht club. Nearby you’ll find Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve – an inactive volcano 4km wide and 80m deep. Admission is free, and you’re bound to come across some of the native birds and wildlife such as koalas, kangaroos and emus!
Bay of Islands
Bay of Islands is less famous than it’s neighbour a short drive away, but that means smaller crowds and a more serene experience. There are 4 lookout points with parking located along the 32km stretch of coastal reserve, and well worth the stop!
The Grotto, London Bridge, and The Arch
The next of our Great Ocean Road highlights are three amazing rock formations called The Grotto, London Bridge, and The Arch.
The Grotto was originally a sinkhole that has met up with the receding cliff-face. The still waters here provide a great contrast with the pounding Southern Ocean.
London Bridge is a mesmerizing rock formation. Until 1990 it was connected to the mainland, but the middle section collapsed leaving the current structure.
The Arch is a rock formation best viewed during rough seas when the waves crash spectacularly in and around the structure.
Loch Ard Gorge
Part of Port Campbell National Park, Loch Ard Gorge offers some of the most breathtaking sights along the Great Ocean Road. Explore the natural beauty of the blowholes, limestone formations and towering cliffs.
The Twelve Apostles are by far the most famous of the Great Ocean Road highlights. The area was named for the collection of limestone stacks up to 50m high located just offshore, of which 8 remain standing. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a view that doesn’t leave you standing in awe!
Otway Fly Rainforest Walk
After spending the night in nearby Apollo Bay, we headed back to the dense rainforest canopy of Otway National Park. Here you’ll find the Otway Fly Treetop Walk, which is the longest and highest steel-canopy walk in the world at 600m (1968ft) long and 25m (82ft) high. The self-guided tour takes about an hour to complete, and the incredible views are well worth the price of admission.
Kennett River is a hidden gem that that you won’t want to miss. Though not incredibly easy to find, it’s well worth the trouble as it’s one of the best places to see koalas in the wild. As you walk up the hill away from the main road, you’ll begin to see koalas popping up among the trees. Truly an incredible experience!
Lorne is a fun, relaxing surf-town that makes a great stop for lunch. While here we had our most amazing wildlife encounter … getting up-close and personal with a koala and an echidna!
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