It is a must-do trip.
Photo: Will Grine
The Great Ocean Road is a 150-mile stretch of costal highway that runs along the southwest coast of Victoria and offers travelers the opportunity to see some of Australia’s most magical beaches, wildlife, waterfalls, and forests. The road begins about an hour and a half drive west of Melbourne and is a definite travel destination when visiting Victoria and looking to leave the sometimes overcrowded atmosphere city.
The road is very similar to Highway 1 in The United States, which runs along the west coast all the way from Southern California into Canada. The only way to properly experience the trip is in a car, so either renting or borrowing one is essential and given the close proximity to one of Australia’s largest cities, it is very east to rent a car from a major, reliable rental service. Once in a car, the best course of action is to sit back, put on your best pair of sunglasses, roll the windows down, turn the volume up on a sweet road trip playlist, and enjoy the sunshine as you weave around the windy coastal highway with the beach and ocean on one side and depending on your location either cliff face, forest, or quaint beach town on your other.
Photos: Maddy Strauss
A lot of the popular destinations along the Great Ocean Road are popular tourist spots, with bus services taking crowds to see some of Australia’s greatest natural wonders. However, it is important not to let the crowds deter you from enjoying the trip and missing out on an incredible experience. The 12 Apostles are a collection of giant limestone stacks that protrude from the water along the beach and the Great Ocean Road’s most famous attraction. The bad news is that on any given day there are large crowds standing around the fenced in area, awkwardly taking pictures, while you try and take in the scenery and fresh ocean air. It can be frustrating, but it is important not to have this ruin your experience or prevent you from going because you too are a tourist and natural wonders such as The 12 Apostles are absurd and not found anywhere else on the planet and cannot be missed.
Similar to the stretch of Highway 1 going through California, every single beach you pass along is magnificent and picturesque with stunningly blue water and soft white sand. Many surfers lineup along the waves and the dramatic rock formations and cliffs that lineup against the sand make for absurd scenery. However, my favorite places along the road were not the stunning beaches, but rather the forest areas that the roads off of the Great Ocean Road turn into.
Photos: Maddy Strauss
The Great Otway National Park is 103 square kilometers of varied, stunning nature. The park features the rugged coastline of the Great Ocean Road, but also going north into the park, features tall forests, fern tree gullies, rolling green hills filled with sheep and farms, stunning waterfalls, and placid lakes. The park is huge, but popular destinations are a simple turn off of the Great Ocean Road and into the forest. The scenery quickly and dramatically changes from the blue ocean to the rich green of the hills and forest.
One of the greatest attractions of the forested area is the opportunity to see some of Australia’s most notorious creatures in their natural habitat. Koalas litter the trees along the road, if you see a group of people pulled over and staring up into a tree, it is probably because there is a koala looking adorable and sleeping on a low hanging branch. Kangaroos run wild throughout the area and will most likely be seen either hopping across the road or through a stream on any given drive or hike. At one point I even saw a sign indicating that the area of road was a popular echidna crossing point, perhaps the most adorable sign I have ever seen.
Photos: Maddy Strauss
My favorite part of the trip along The Great Ocean Road and into The Great Otway National Park was the hikes that would end up at one of the areas many waterfalls. Many of the trails you can take in the park will lead you to a beautiful cascading waterfall, and what better way to cool off after a long hike in the sun than going under the icy waters of a waterfall. My personal favorite waterfall I was able to see was Marriners Falls, which takes you on a short, but gorgeous 1mile hike through creeks, ferns, and forest, with kangaroos jumping around through the bush beside the trail. The hike to the falls was like something out of a dream and the waterfall at the end only added to the sense of wonder in the area. It was not the biggest waterfall I have ever seen, but it cascades down from a good height into a pool surrounded by trees that is the perfect depth for wading in and standing underneath the icy water of falls. The trailhead towards the falls is also located a short drive up the road from a gorgeous picnic area, appropriately titled Paradise Picnic Reserve, which has benches located along a creek, surrounded by flowers, and given shade from the natural umbrella of the forests large fern trees.
The Great Ocean Road provides the perfect scenic road trip and getaway from the city, offering the opportunity to see some of Australia’s most famous natural wonders and most notorious wildlife. It is a must do trip and can be properly done in either a week or a weekend depending on how much time you have or want to spend seeing some of the world’s most impressive coastlines.