One thing that we wanted to cross off our bucket list whilst living in Melbourne was driving along the Great Ocean Road. We had to take advantage of it being so close to us, and the quicker and quicker the 22d of October was coming around (the date we leave Australia), we knew we had to squeeze it in. So on Sunday 9th October 2016, we rented a car from EuropCar and went off on our road trip.
As we had been saving like crazy to do as much travelling as possible when we leave Melbourne, we decided not to stay overnight somewhere on the Great Ocean Road. Instead, we rented a car for the day and drove there and back in 10 hours. We picked up the car the day before from the Southern Cross branch as we could leave it in the carpark overnight. Then got up early and left just before 7am so we could get the car back before 5pm when the city centre branch on Franklin Street closed.
Natalie drove to start with as someone who shall remain nameless was rather hungover - we’d been round a friend’s house the night before for birthday drinks. So the less hungover of the two of us drove, AKA Natalie. It was quick and easy to get out of the city as the Southern Cross train station is well located on the edge of the CBD and there was no traffic as it was early on a Sunday. Of course we used our trusty app Maps.me to help us navigate. If you’ve read many of our blogs before you’ll know that we couldn’t recommend this app more. It’s great for navigating and doesn’t need wifi or use your data. Just make sure you keep your phone charged as it can sometimes rinse the battery.
Anyway, we were off on our Great Ocean Road adventures - stopping off at a service station to attempt to cure our hangovers with hash browns from Macca’s (that’s Maccy D’s to the Brits reading this!) FYI, it did not cure anything! But we weren’t going to let that ruin our spirits so we had the music on full blast, singing along until we got to our first stop, Lorne. We’d forgotten how much we enjoy driving, and it was so nice to be surrounded by amazing scenery whilst doing so.
Lorne was a tiny little town, with a small information place where we learnt that the whole of the Great Ocean Road had been reopened the day before. (It had been closed for a few weeks due to the harsh rains we’d be having which had caused severe landslides). There was also a small museum in the information centre, telling you how many people lived in each seaside town and what point in history. After a very brief time in the information centre - we were on a time schedule and you really don’t need to spend long in there at all - we wandered through the tiny town and then down to the beach to take in the views. Weather forecasts had warned us that it was going to be windy that day, but we honestly did not think it was going to be as bad as it was. Natalie’s hair got badly tangled and poor Jordan’s legs were sore from where the sand was hitting them (he was wearing shorts the silly thing!)
After some more driving along the winding roads, we stopped off at a random viewpoint called Separation Creek which had some steps down to the beach. Again, it was very windy, and the rocks over the sand were very slippy - not a good combination. Safe to say we both fell over once or twice trying to get “that Instagram-able picture”. The ocean view was lovely though, and the moody grey clouds made a gorgeous backdrop to the turquoise sea. We were very lucky the rain held off as the clouds looked dark and stormy all day.
After some picture-taking and catching our breath from the wind, it was time to move on. This is where the scenery got absolutely stunning. The blue sea, green countryside and cliff’s edge reminded us of Cornwall in England. Very picturesque. After another hour/hour and a half of driving we stopped for some lunch in Apollo Bay. We’d heard lovely things of this seaside town and it didn’t disappoint. It was very cute, with pretty coffee shops and cafes which were heaving, and lots of amazing houses, all taking advantage of the gorgeous view with their floor to ceiling windows. We had a wander through the sleepy town - although the coffee shops were bustling, there was no one else around on the streets or even on the beach. By this point it was nearing lunchtime so we sheltered from the wind in one of the mafe cafes along the main street. Unfortunately we were both very disappointed with our decisions to go for bacon, chicken and leek pies so we will not divulge where it was we ate. Needless to say, we both began to feel a bit rough again - there were the worst pies we’ve ever tasted!
After another quick stroll along the beach (which felt like we were in the desert due to the massive sand storm that followed us around) we got back on the road to head for the 12 Apostles. This time it was Jordan’s turn to drive as Natalie was fed up of not being able to see the sea views properly as she was concentrating on driving. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before the Great Ocean Road went inland and she didn’t have much of a view to look at anyway. This part of the GOR was surrounded by tall trees either side. Lovely on any normal day, but as the winds were so high, there was lots of debris on the roads and several branches and even some small trees had made their way onto the tarmac. Jordan had to be extra careful whilst driving this part of the road in order to avoid getting any scratches on our rental car.
It took about an hour and a half to drive from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles and we were nervous we weren’t going to make it back in time to return the car. We got to the 12 Apostles around 1:30pm and quickly jumped out of the car to walk to the viewpoint. Even with the windy weather, the view did not disappoint, and the 12 Apostles looked amazing in all their glory. Natalie’s geologist Godfather would be very proud of her to notice the different periods of limestone on each of the apostles. It’s like you could almost see how old each golden pillar was due to the lines in the limestone - similar to the rings in the bark of a tree. It was interesting to read about them and take in the view, but we couldn’t stay long as we were on the clock. We spent about half an hour there (which is probably all that you need if you don’t spend any time in the information centre) and then hit the road to ensure we got the car back in time.
We decided to take the inland road this time as it saves about an hour and a half of time. Not quite as pretty as the Great Ocean Road, but some of the green countryside was pretty, and even reminded us of England. We didn’t make any stop offs on the way back and it took us about 2 hours 45 minutes to get from the 12 Apostles to EuropCar carpark in Franklin Street. Not bad.
It may have been a whirlwind of a day, but we really enjoyed getting out and about and seeing new places around Melbourne. We’re so pleased we had the chance to do it before we left and would definitely recommend it to anyone who stays in Melbourne for a bit. You can really make a road trip of it too - Natalie’s parents stayed in Apollo Bay for one night, then Port Fairy for the next, before driving the long way home on the third day. So whether you want to get it over and done with or leisurely take your time, the Great Ocean Road does not disappoint.
Tip: We recommend using EuropCar as they were really cheap and their Franklin branch is open at the weekends from 8:00am to 5:00pm which is super convenient.
More pictures to come, when we sort our camera out!