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The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is a 243-kilometre (151 miles) stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Warrnambool. The road was built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, and is the world's largest war memorial; dedicated to casualties of World War I.

It is an important tourist attraction in the region, which winds through varying terrain alongside the coast, and provides access to several prominent landmarks; including the nationally significant Twelve Apostles limestone stack formations.
The road was added to the Australian National Heritage List in 2011

Stage – 1 (Melbourne to Apollo Bay
182 km/113 miles, 3 hrs). 
We left the Spirit of Tasmania and headed to Harley Heaven before continuing down the Princess Freeway to Geelong, Victoria's second-largest city, and explored its historic waterfront; a lively area filled with restaurants and cafés.

Nearby at Queenscliff is a maritime village dotted with historic fishermen's cottages, lighthouses and museums, and a departure point for the car and passenger ferry that crosses Port Phillip Bay to Mornington Peninsula.

Some of the nation's best-known surf beaches are located at the start of the famous Great Ocean Road, including the legendary Bells Beach – host to the Rip Curl Pro and Sunsmart Surfing Classic each April. Beyond Bells Beach is Lorne, an ideal place to stop on our journey and stop for a well-earned lunch break.

The road winds along the coastline towards Apollo Bay, a town on the edge of the Otway Ranges. We take a walk through breathtaking wilderness, explore secluded beaches or the forest canopy via the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk in the Otway National Park.

Stage – 2 (Apollo Bay to Port Fairy
189 km/117 miles, 3 hr).
 After an overnight stop at Apollo bay we continue our journey west to the Twelve Apostles. These are ancient limestone stacks that rise from the ocean. Erosion has created spectacular shapes in the nearby cliffs, including Loch Ard Gorge, the Arch, the Blowhole and London Bridge. Boardwalks lead to lookouts and great views of the coastline.

The coastline is dotted with plaques and signs that mark the places where more than 160 ships foundered along the aptly named Shipwreck Coast. Wreck Beach, just beyond the Twelve Apostles, marks the start of a trail where the anchors of two ships, the Marie Gabrielle (1869) and the Fiji (1891), are embedded in the beach.

We discover more about maritime history at Port Fairy, a busy fishing port and one of the state’s earliest settled coastal villages. Take the time to explore the town’s streets and over 50 nineteenth-century buildings classified by the National Trust.

This leg of the journey ends at Warrnambool, the only city on the Shipwreck Coast. Set on the edge of Lady Bay, Warrnambool boasts a colourful history, which can be explored at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum. Whales migrate along the part of the coastline and can be spotted from lookouts and on boat trips between May and October.

Stage – 3 (Port Fairy to Halls Gap
158 km/98 miles, 2.5 hr).

From Port Fairy, the Great Southern Touring Route turns north, away from the coast and towards the natural beauty of Grampians mountain range.

Dunkeld is a beautiful village on the edge of the Grampians. To survey the beauty of the region we follow the trail joining Mount Sturgeon and Mount Abrupt, the highest peak in the southern Grampians.

The Grampians National Park is famous for some of the most spectacular scenery in Australia and is the perfect place for both relaxation and adventure. We walked to cascading waterfalls and lookouts overlooking rugged mountain ranges and impressive rock formations, and then explored bushland and discovered the diverse wildlife of the region and a wide variety of birds.

The town of Halls Gap is undoubtedly the tourist hub of the region. Surrounded by the Wonderland and Mount William ranges, it is a great place to base yourself as you explore the Grampians. It offers accommodation ranging from 5-star villas to basic camping grounds and is close to many of the Grampians’ major attractions, including Boroka and Reed’s lookouts, McKenzie Falls, Lake Bellfield and Zumsteins.

Stage - 4: (Halls Gap to Melbourne
248 km/154 miles, 3.5 hr).

We left the Grampians and took the Great Southern Touring Route that heads north towards the Goldfields. Our first stop for the day is the township of Stawell, home to Australia's most famous foot race – the Stawell Gift. The event has been held every Easter for over 100 years and attracts competitors from around the world.

From here we headed east to Ballarat, one of Victoria's largest cities. Built with the wealth of the gold rush, much of the opulence of the era is still on display in the grand public buildings, hotels and historic streetscapes. Ballarat was the site of the world's largest deposit of alluvial gold and also of the Eureka Stockade – the famous uprising of miners against the government licensing system.

We dropped into the outdoor museum of Sovereign Hill that re-creates a nineteenth-century gold rush town. It is fun mingling with the volunteers in period costume who 'inhabit' the town as townspeople, soldiers and miners. Ballarat was our final stop on the Great Southern Touring Route before heading east back to the bright lights and high culture of Melbourne.

August 22, 2011 | Posted in: On Road Tours, Victoria