Slip on your driving gloves and set off for a run down one the world's most celebrated and breathtaking roads. But the Great Ocean Road is about so much more than its sinuous, coast hugging tarmac.
On this day's drive you can swim at amazing ocean beaches, explore ancient rainforests and secluded waterfalls, visit laid back coastal towns and set eyes on one of Australia's most well known landmarks under a spectacular sunset - all while learning about the region's fascinating and varied history, and eating and drinking the best local food, wines, brews and produce it has to offer.
It's straight from the big smoke to Torquay, the gateway to the Great Ocean Road. You might already be ready for a dip and here there's a beach for everyone, from serious surfers to families seeking calmer, more shallow waters. Stroll down Torquay Promenade, part of the wider 44km Surf Coast Walk, or kick back on the grassy reserve on The Esplanade to get a better handle on Torquay's idyllic oceanside location.
Stop at the Australian National Surfing Museum to learn about Australia's contribution to surfing history or stock up on surf and beach wear at Surf City Plaza. For a coffee or brunch ahead of the next part of the drive, stop in at Pond Cafe or Surf Coast Whole Foods, just two of several great eating possibilities in this lively surf town.
The quiet coastal hamlet of Aireys Inlet is where the familiar curves and dramatic scenery of the Great Ocean Road really begin. But first stop at the Split Point Lighthouse, where you can find out about the workings and history of the "White Queen", visible for kilometres up and down the coast, on one of the quick tours that are run several times a day. Explore the rockpools that can be found near the base of the lighthouse or take a swim at nearby Fairhaven Beach.
Then grab some local produce, seafood or wine for a picnic or refill on caffeine at Truffles Restaurant and Deli before stopping at the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch - erected to commemorate the returned World War I servicemen who constructed it between 1918 and 1932 - as you head out of town.
Lorne has plenty of picnic spots - six of them - so look for a fetching spot and have that picnic lunch. Or sample local produce and seafood from Ipsos Restaurant and Bar or one of the many other fine eateries in this bustling holiday town. Check out the fantastic exhibits at the Great Ocean Road Heritage Centre to learn about the Great Ocean Road's fascinating history or pop into Qdos Arts or Will Dielenberg's Great Ocean Road Gallery to see some of the locals’ artistic endeavours.
Then take the short 10km drive up into the bush to experience the beauty of Erskine Falls, which drop 30m into the fern lined valley of the Erskine River.
The run into Apollo Bay is one of the most spectacular parts of today's drive. It passes through several sleepy settlements, all with beautiful beaches and other reasons to stop a while, and past turn offs to other significant waterfalls in the area, such as Carisbrook Falls. In Apollo Bay, look for signposts to Marriner's Lookout, a spot with amazing views of the town and its surrounds, and just a short 10 minute walk from the car park. Or grab an award winning ice cream from Dooley's Ice Cream and take in the town's picturesque foreshore before your last swim of the day at Apollo Bay's main beach.
If you're planning a self contained stay at the end of the day, stock up on local produce from the town's many food supply options, fresh seafood from Apollo Bay Fishermen's Co-op or brews and ciders from the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse.
The sun will be getting low after a spectacular drive through the cool temperate rainforest of the Great Otway National Park, but late in the day is the ideal time to take in the jewel in the crown of the Great Ocean Road and the region's number one visited attraction, the 12 Apostles. It has viewing platforms and walkways that are accessible from dawn to dusk 365 days a year.
If you have time, stop at another of the big drawcards of the Port Campbell National Park, Loch Ard Gorge, just up the road and with several trails and lookouts of its own. For an honest pub feed without moving too far from this magical place, stop in at the 12 Apostles Inn. Alternatively, take the short drive west to the stunning horseshoe bay, famous pier and Norfolk Island pines of Port Campbell and take your pick from this seaside village's selection of pubs, cafes and restaurants.
Stay: NRMA Port Campbell Holiday Park is just one of a wide array of Port Campbell accommodation possibilities, offering modern villas, affordable studio rooms and caravan/camp sites in a beautiful natural setting. Put your head down in exclusive, intimate luxury and with ocean views at Alkina Lodge, just a short drive from the 12 Apostles.
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