Great Ocean Road: 2 Day Road Trip from Melbourne
Day 1: Melbourne, Torquay, Bell’s Beach, Kennett Rover Koala Walk, Apollo Bay
Having some free time before our trip to Sydney for the holidays, we decided December would be a perfect time to take an impromptu road trip! Just outside of Melbourne is a stretch of highway known as Great Ocean Road. Similar to California’s Pacific Coast Highway, it’s a winding, two-lane road that runs along Australia’s south-eastern coast, offering stunning views of the many beaches and landmarks scattered along the way.
First order of business was renting a car! This would be our first time driving on the other side of the road, but Dermot was up to the challenge. Fearlessly jumping into the driver’s seat, with Desta in the role of navigator/snack-distributor, we were on our way!
Our first stop was a small town called Torquay, about an hour and a half outside of Melbourne. Torquay is actually the official starting point of the Great Ocean Road, as well as the official home to our now favourite fish taco restaurant – Fisho’s! We occasionally think about renting a car just to drive back there for lunch.
With our bellies full from a delicious lunch at Fisho’s, it was time to hop back in the car. Before getting on Great Ocean Road, we drove just outside of Torquay to Bell’s Beach. Bell’s Beach hosts the world’s longest running surf tournament, the Rip Curl Pro Surf and Music Festival, but is also the setting in the final scene of the movie Point Break (although it wasn’t actually filmed there).
Sights Along Great Ocean Road
Now it was time to get on the highway. Our final destination would be Apollo Bay, which is only about an hour and forty-five minutes from Torquay. But with beautiful lookout spots every few kilometres, some very impressive Australian landmarks, as well as roadside koala spotting opportunities, we think the drive took us the better part of five hours.
Kennett River Koala Walk
One of our favourite stops was at the Kennett River Koala Walk. Here, you could park your car and walk (or drive if you really wanted to) along a trail, and if you were lucky enough, see koalas hanging out in the eucalyptus trees. We think we saw about four or five koalas high up in the trees, most of them asleep.
We finally arrived at Apollo Bay around 7:00 pm. Exhausted from the long day of driving, we walked from our hostel to the local brewhouse for a chicken parmesan dinner, as that was their Tuesday night special. Australians are very serious about their chicken parms, no joke…
Day 2: Otway National Park, Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, Port Campbell, Geelong
Otway National Park
We woke up bright and early the next morning as we had much more sightseeing to do before driving back to Melbourne with the car. After the most delicious pancake breakfast we had in awhile (they even had real maple syrup!), we continued to drive further east, making a few more roadside stops to admire the coast, and an unplanned stop at Otway National Park. After hundreds of kilometres of coastal beaches and the ocean, we found ourselves surrounded by beautiful forest and greenery. As Desta described it, it felt like we were in Jurassic Park – the trees and plants were huge!
We walked a half-hour loop through the park before getting back in the car and heading to the Twelve Apostles. The Twelve Apostles are a series of limestone stacks just off the coast of Great Ocean Road. Due to erosion and the severe weather conditions the southern coast experiences, there are now only nine “apostles” remaining, but still impressive nonetheless!
Loch Ard Gorge
Just a few kilometres away from the Twelve Apostles was the Loch Ard Gorge. The gorge was beautiful, and maybe our favourite spot yet.
Port Campbell and Geelong
Alas, it was time to head back to Melbourne. We had lunch in a small town called Port Campbell before getting on the highway. Technically we didn’t have to return the car until 9:00 am the following morning, so we decided that we would stop in the city of Geelong before heading home to St Kilda, mainly to avoid rush hour traffic in Melbourne. Not really knowing what to expect from Geelong, while walking along the waterfront, we found Christmas! There were Christmas carols playing over PA systems, a giant Christmas tree floating in the middle of the harbour on a barge, and plenty of decorations to make it feel like the holidays. Missing the snow, cold weather, carols on the radio 24/7, and decorated streets that we’re used to back home, this was the first time we really felt the holiday spirit here in Australia. We decided to grab some delicious froyo and sit near the waterfront to listen to the Christmas music. It was the perfect ending to our Great Ocean Road trip!