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Driving Australia’s Great Ocean Road

My attempt to drive the Great Ocean Road in the 80’s failed to leave my driveway. Five years later, and pre kids, my wife and I made it to the Victorian Boarder before rain and car trouble turned us back.

My third attempt was a no holds barred affair where the only thing planed was to finally drive the Great Ocean Road, the rest I was happy to play by ear.

We decided to take out accommodation with is, a house on wheels known as the Britz Renegade. It had enough room for six people and all the mod cons for a 21st century family getaway.

Stretching almost eight meters, the home away from home included a bathroom and kitchen as well as an electric awning that allowed it to transform from driving to relaxing in minutes.

What looked like the QEII from the outside turned out to be very easy to drive and manoeuvre. The wife and I shared the driving equally and it was one of the few times I was able to grab an hour or two of sleep in the passenger seat. The kids were kept entertained in the rear of the dual-cab with personal DVD players.

The drive from Wollongong to Victoria was a breeze and at the end of the opening day we arrived at the gateway to the Great Ocean Road to be rewarded with a beautiful sunset walk along the iconic Torquay beach.

The vibrant coastal town was the perfect entre for what lay ahead.

After dinner we parked the motorhome in an “Unofficial” camping area and tucked in for an early night.

Day two showed the versatility of the Britz Renegade when we slipped out of bed before dawn and straight into the driver’s seat.

Arriving at the famous Bells Beach as the sun crept above the horizon we enjoyed breakfast on the secluded sands, followed by a short bushwalk before getting back on the road.

The Great Ocean Road twists and turns more than 243km from Geelong to Nelson. The National Heritage listed stretch of road that runs along the south-eastern coast of Australia was built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, and dedicated to casualties of World War I.

Almost every turn has a view and every view has enough room on the shoulder of the road to stop and admire it, you would swear motorhomes were in the design brief back in 1919.

At any one time it may appear that 95% of the world’s caravans and motorhomes are visiting the Great Ocean Road, but we never encountered a traffic jams thanks to turn out lanes and drivers that courtiously used them to allow faster traffic past.

Victoria's Great Ocean RoadThe stunning view through the windscreen constantly changed as the road hugged the coastline. The rugged but beautiful landscapes and the amazing architecture of the houses built to maximise the views meant the drive into the seaside towns of Anglesea and Lorne were made with faces pressed to the windows.

Our goal of making Apollo Bay to complete the second day’s travel was easily achieved and by mid afternoon we were again sitting under the motorhome awning admiring the view.

We were surprised by the size and lively nature of Apollo Bay, its bustling main street is filled on one side with trendy cafes, pubs, restaurants and shops and a beautiful beach on the other.

The following morning another beautiful sunrise was watched through the motorhome’s windscreen as we followed the road inland through the Otway National Park.

The inland detour acts as a transition point as, out of view, the coastline climbs from sandy beachfronts to rugged and untamed cliff faces.

Victoria's Great Ocean RoadAs the road and the ocean re-met we caught our first glimpse of the roads most famous landmark, the Twelve Apostles.

Our first stop was one of the few places you can stand at sea level and look back up at the towering limestone cliffs. Simply called Gibson Steps, the steep and narrow staircase that zigzags down the cliff face from the carpark to the sand is located just minutes from the Twelve Apostles.

There was no mistaking the landmarks that awaited us just around the corner, nor was there any chance of missing them, with ample signage and huge car parks ensuring viewing the Twelve Apostles is a hassle free experience.

Even though there appeared to be an overwhelming amount of lookouts to explore, we found no two were the same, and we took the time to see them all.

The contrast between the feel and look of the coastline between the day’s starting point and the town of Port Campbell was amazing.

Where just an hour earlier we were tempted to swim in the clear waters of Apollo Bay, the coastline around the twelve apostles is untamed and intimidating. The sound made by the waves constantly crashing against the rocks and cliff faces gave us an idea of just how terrifying the coastline must have been for early sailors.

It was at this point that our home on wheels really came into its own.

Victoria's Great Ocean Road: the 12 ApostlesAfter viewing the Twelve Apostles at sundown from the Western side we settled in for a well deserved break at Port Campbell. The next morning we were again up out of bed before sunrise. The reward was a private audience with the apostles as the sun crept above the horizon and sprayed a rich golden light onto the eastern side of the stone structures giving them a completely different appearance than the evening before.

Rather than continue any further along the Great Ocean Road we headed back inland to visit the picturesque town of Colac.

Sitting on the southern shore of Lake Colac the small city’s 150-year-old Botanic gardens were the perfect place to stop for our last lunchbreak before slipping back across the border into NSW for the trip home.

Driving the great ocean road is an experience that cannot be rushed. Whether you do it by motorbike, car or campervan there is something to do and see around every bend.

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