While a trip down the east coast of Australia will have you dazzled by otherworldly beaches, a trip down the southwestern coast of Victoria has you feeling like you walked into Jurassic Park, or something to that effect. We didn’t do the whole Great Ocean Road, but spent a day travelling ten hours by car along some of the most dramatic coastline I’ve ever seen. It was enough to be able to tell you all: if you go to Australia, you really have to hit up that part of the country.
The Memorial Arch
For starters, there’s the big sign to get you all amped up. Not many road trips have you drive under a giant arch way that basically says, “Get ready mate, you’re gonna love this.” The sign only actually had the name of the road on it, but it gives you that feeling.
There’s also a sign that explicitly says, “Do not access the road for photos,” but you’re going to want to once you see the classic “jumping under the arch” shot – it’ll make your haul of holiday photos that much more exciting. Just be mindful that it is a fast main road, you’ll have to time running out for your photo carefully to avoid passing cars. Make sure you and your photographer are watching each other’s backs, as it might take going back and forth a few times to get enough time for that perfect photo.
The memorial Arch was erected in 1939 ,and built in honour of the soldiers that built the road from around 1918 to 1932 when all 243km were finally completed.
Split Point Lighthouse
Less than ten minutes before you reach the memorial arch (if you’re heading from Melbourne down the coast), you’ll find a small town called Aireys Inlet. The scenic views from the platforms surrounding Split Point Lighthouse are worth the stop for photos, as is the lighthouse itself which has been the subject of filming in the early 2000s and the kids TV series, Round the Twist.
You can take a guided tour up inside the Lighthouse if you fancy finding out more about the structure and seeing the coastline from a different view, however what we saw of the coastline from the cliffs was enough for us to marvel at – plus, it was a scorching day and we had so much more to see.
The Great Ocean Road Wildlife Park
This place deserved a whole post in itself! Head over here to check it out.
The Twelve Apostles
No matter how much the photos on the websites prepare you, this is really quite a sight. The fame of these rocks has no shortage of tourists flocking to see them, but you shouldn’t have to fight for a good photo spot as the sprawling platforms along the cliffs provide plenty of space and great angles to capture the grandeur of it all.
The stacks of limestone that make up the Apostles (of which there’s eight left now), are created by the cliff erosion from high winds and stormy seas over the years. The stacks would have began life as caves, gradually forming isolated arches as the cliff moved away from them, before finally collapsing and becoming the tall (up to 45m high!) rock formations you see today.
Quite a spectacular sight that illustrates the raw power of the elements and a must see if you’re in the area.
Loch Ard Gorge
Our next stop on our Great Ocean Road trip was a place with a familiar name to me, so I had to stop by. The gorge is part of Port Campbell National Park and a short distance from the Twelve Apostles.
I was intrigued to learn that the gorge acquired its name from a ship called the Loch Ard which ran aground on an island nearby in 1878. This was named after Loch Ard in Scotland, a lake I’ve visited many times just a few minutes from my home village! The ship Loch Ard, carrying 54 passengers, bore only two survivors when it sank after nearing the end of its three-month voyage from England to Melbourne: a ship’s apprentice and a young Irish woman, both 19 years of age.
The gorge is accessible via stairs down to the beach, where you can enjoy the soft sand underfoot and tranquil waves that lap through the cove. We were very lucky and caught the place empty as the day drew to a close. The gorge has quite a presence, and it’s not hard to believe it’s seen the tragedies of many shipwrecks along its coast over the years. All the same, you can’t help feeling at peace there nestled between the arms of protective rock.
We headed back to our base in Castlemaine late that night, exhausted after having covered so many breathtaking sights in one day (yes, you can do all that in a day!). It definitely felt like I earned the Macca’s we had, anyway…