Australia’s Great Ocean Road, located on the south coast of the state of Victoria, is considered by many to be one of the best scenic drives in the world. Extending 243 kilometres (151 miles) between the cities of Torquay and Allensford, the Great Ocean Road passes through through huge sections of coastline, beaches, limestone cliffs, bush, and rainforest.
Built by 3,000 returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, the Great Ocean Road is the world’s largest war memorial, and is dedicated to those who died during World War I.
The most well known part of the Great Ocean Road is the section that goes through the Port Campbell National Park, which contains a number of sheer cliff faces that overlook offshore islets, rock stacks, gorges, arches, and blow-holes. My wife and I visited several of these spots as we left Port Campbell before reaching the most famous of them all, the Twelve Apostles, which is about a 3 hour drive from Melbourne.
Bay Of Islands
The Bay of Islands is part of the Bay of Islands Coastal Park. It contains a range of reefs, sea stacks and red limestone bluffs. Unlike some of the other more extreme attractions along this stretch of the Great Ocean Road, the Bay of Islands is a lot calmer and you can get very close the beach and sea level.
Bay Of Martyrs
The Bay of Martyrs is similar to the Bay of Islands, and contains a similar assortment of of reefs, sea stacks and red limestone bluffs.
The Grotto is a sinkhole formation, with the bottom being accessible by foot via a set of stairs. This was one of my favourite stops as it was quite unique. The calm water of the sinkhole and the frothy intensity of the ocean just beyond created a spectacular contrast.
Named for its similarity to London Bridge, this double span natural bridge collapsed in 1990, leaving only the arch in place, stranded from the mainland.
Formed through erosion, like the other formations along this part of the Great Ocean Road, the Arch makes for some fascinating viewing when the waves violently crash into it.
Loch & Gorge
Loch & Gorge is named after the ship Loch Ard, which ran aground on nearby Mutton Island on 1 June 1878 en route to Melbourne from England. Only 2 of the 54 people on board survived – 15 year old Tom Pearce and 17 year old Eva Carmichael, who washed ashore at this site.
The Gibson Steps
Time was escaping us on the day that my wife and I were driving along the Great Ocean Road so unfortunately we didn’t get an opportunity to explore the Gibson Steps, which consists of 86 steps hand-carved (since replaced by concrete steps) into the cliffs by local landowner Hugh Gibson in the 1870s.
The Twleve Apostles
The most famous of the Great Ocean Road landmarks, the Twelve Apostles were formed by erosion which, over time carved caves into the limestone cliffs, which became arches which then collapsed to form majestic rock stacks up to 45 meters high.
The site was originally named the “Sow & Piglets”, until it was renamed to “The Apostles” for purposes of tourism in 1922. It eventually became known as the Twelve Apostles, despite only ever containing 9 rock stacks. On 3 July 2005, one of the stacks collapsed, leaving only 8 remaining.
Despite the rock stacks eroding at the base at 2-3 centimetres a year, new stacks are eventually expected to form due to erosion of what is today the cliff face.
The Great Ocean Road is something that I had heard about many years before I moved to Melbourne, and I was very grateful that I finally had the opportunity to discover this stunning part of the world. Regular readers of my blog will know that I’m very much a “city” kind of traveller and that urban exploration is my passion however during this trip, nature was my focus and it was impossible not to be awed by the majesty the landscape. The fact that there is so much erosion occurring in this area, and that nothing is static serves to add to the experience.
The world goes on and nature does what it does, regardless of how much humans try to manipulate things. For me, the Great Ocean Road was a place of discovery and contemplation and I find it hard to imagine how anybody could not be effected in some way by visiting.
The Twelve Apostles was the only part of this journey that I felt like I was visiting a tourist attraction. It’s busy and hectic and there are lots of people around. I thought this was quite interesting given how desolate and quiet all of the other attractions were. It’s easy to see why the Twelve Apostles is the most popular of the stops, however I would highly recommend visiting at least a few of the other stops, as the experience is quite different.