Is this road trip on your bucket list?

Scenes from the highway

Scenes from the highway  

The Australian Great Ocean Road that weaves through beaches, rainforests and cliffs and offers dramatic views of the stunning blue ocean is a dream to drive on.

Monikers always build expectation and hype around a tourist destination — The ‘Great’ Wall of China, the ‘Big’ Temple in Thanjavur and Australia’s ‘Great’ Ocean Road. This iconic highway that hugs the Victorian coast has often been billed as one of the world’s ‘must-do’ road trips. Highways that run along the ocean with staggering views are not unique to the Australian coastline. There’s California’s famous 17-mile drive and the Amalfi coast in Italy. 

But the Great Ocean Road is special for more reasons than one. It’s almost a century since this 200 km highway was built by World War I troops as a memorial for their departed comrades, making it one of the world’s largest ‘war memorials’. There’s almost never a bad time to drive down the Great Ocean Road; summer is an obvious choice but I picked a cold winter’s day to get behind the wheel of the quintessential Australian utility automobile — a Holden Storm. I tested the speed limit even before we drove out of Melbourne — maybe it was the sight of Melbourne’s legendary F1 venue — Albert Park. 

Australia is one of the few countries in the world where you can hit the road with your Indian license, without having to worry about driving on the wrong side. It didn’t take me too long to trade the wheel for a vantage spot in the backseat — my camera soon went into overdrive. 

We quickly discovered the benefits of choosing a winter’s day. Bells Beach has a permanent place in the world surfing calendar. This stunning beach, close to Torquay, hosts the Rip Curl Pro Surf and Music Festival, the world’s longest-running surfing competition. At 10 a.m. in the morning, we had this beach almost completely to ourselves. A small detour off the highway takes you to Torquay — well worth it if you are a compulsive shopper. Most of Australia’s leading surf wear brands have ‘factory outlets’ around this town, where you can choose from a host of trendy apparel and accessories. 

Victoria’s infamous winter weather started playing tricks with a few cloudbursts that threatened to dampen the entire ‘roadtrip’ experience.

Almost as soon as the weather cleared, a series of gigantic rainbows, including double and triple rainbows, appeared on the horizon. They  almost ran from one coastal centre to the next. A whitewashed lighthouse is a customary sight along every coastal road and it didn’t take us too long to discover Split Point, the Great Ocean road’s best known lighthouse. It made for the perfect picture post card, especially on a day when the sky was strewn with rainbows and offered 360-degree panoramas of the ocean and the road below. The Great Ocean road has a series of quaint seaside towns that almost inevitably boast of high-quality dining options. We made brief stops along the way at two such towns — Lorne and Anglesea; both popular surfing destinations with gorgeous beaches. While these are routine stops for most motorists, our next halt was truly an ‘off the beaten track stop’. Kennett River is a small town in the Cape Otway region where one dollar of birdfeed can go a long way. We announced our arrival with a small sprinkling of bird feed, and within minutes, exotic birds from kookaburras, king parrots and rosellas swooped down on us. In a few minutes, the birds were not just eating out of our hand, but also sitting on our head.

Every road trip has that one grand stop and the Great Ocean road is no exception. The twelve apostles are probably one of Australia’s most visited sites and these craggy limestone cliffs live up to all the hype.

There are a host of viewing decks around this magnificent site and yet it wasn’t easy to get the perfect shot with the icy cold wind. The images just don’t do justice to the sheer scale of this landmark. In addition to the views from the deck, there’s also the option of a short chopper ride for those breathtaking pictures. The views didn’t end with the 12 Apostles, a little ahead into the Port Campbell National Park was another dramatic spot — Loch and George, where we caught an early sunset and more fascinating ocean views. 

It was almost 7 p.m. as we checked into the Lady Bay hotel in Warrnambool, at the tail end of the Great Ocean road that is best known for Logan beach — a hub for whale watchers. It had taken us almost the entire day to reach the last stop. We could have done the drive in four hours flat but it wouldn’t have been half the fun. Sometimes the journey is the destination.

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 8:28:41 PM |

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