The Great Ocean Road: A 2 Day Itinerary

We officially landed in Melbourne, Australia on the 18th October 2018! We threw ourselves into work as gardeners, pot washers and then front of house restaurant work doing up to 50 hours a week. With travel and adventure being at the forefront of our minds in the previous 6 months, we were keen to explore whenever we could. So the first time we had two days off together in a row and the weather forecast was in the 20s, we were off… to the Great Ocean Road! This route gives you the chance to see the famous 12 Apostles, native wildlife, mesmerising waterfalls and world class surf spots. We explored this route in 2 days but we would recommend 3-5 days if you have the time!

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The Great Ocean Road (formally named South Coast Road) is known as one of Australia’s most famous driving routes. Even the locals go on and on about how awesome it is. In 1918, the returning soldiers from the first world war began to make tracks. The work was needed by the soldiers and the road had great importance for coastal settlements that were only accessible by the sea and roughly made tracks. However, it took 14 years for the work to be complete, but we all know Aussies are pretty laid back! Nowadays, the drive unofficially starts in Torquay and then snakes along the coastline until you reach seaside town of Warrnambool.

From Melbourne city this is a 105km drive which should take you 1h45 but remember city traffic can effect this and the fastest route includes tolls. As we were living on the Mornington Peninsula, we utilised the Searoad Ferries from Sorrento to Queenscliff for $77 for the car (Hannah the Honda!) and two passengers. This took us 40 minutes and was a relaxing way to start the trip rather than hitting Monday morning Melbourne traffic. We were keen to make the most out of our two days off so headed across on the first ferry at 7am, properly a little early as our first stop was a beach at 8am, but oh well we were having fun!

Day 1

Torquay, a small seaside town to begin your journey on the Great Ocean Road. Here you will find surfing and lifestyle Direct Factory Outlet (DFO) stores if you would treat yourselves without spending the earth. After having a nosey round and a caffeine boost, we were ready to visit the world famous Bells Beach. This iconic surf spot is where the Rip Curl Pro Surfing Competition is held every year. So a pretty big deal in the surfing world!

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‘Have you ever… ever felt like this? Strange things are happening when your going round the twist!’ Remember that song! Never did I think that I would be standing next to the Lighthouse from a great Aussie children’s show that was a big hit in the UK. Thank you to Jackie for letting me know about Aireys Inlet and the Split Point Lighthouse, as I had missed this off our road trip plan! There are actually guided tours on the hour, every hour from 11am till 2pm but we arrived after one had just started. The Split Point Lighthouse, has also been recently featured on Masterchef (series 6) but I was more bothered about Round the Twist. We played the theme song, like complete nerds as we arrived here, then we were worn out by all the excitement that we had a little nap in the car! The caffeine hadn’t quite kicked in yet.

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If you don’t drive under the Great Ocean Road Sign within the first 30minutes, you’ve gone the wrong way or your a slow driver! This sign marks the official start of the Great Ocean Road, yayy! This arch was first erected 7 years after the completion of the road but has since been replaced twice due to bushfires. After pulling over in the car park, I happily jumped out to take a quick photo but then noticed the War Memorial neighbouring the arch. This acknowledges the challenges the ex-servicemen faced during the construction of the road. This isn’t the only sign you will see along this route. For the benefit of foreign visitors signs are everywhere reminding you what side of the road Australians drive on! Just for your knowledge, Australians drive on the LEFT… which is the right way!

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By this point we were ready for a lunch stop! So we took our jam-packed Esky (for non-Aussies this is a Cool Box) to the beach and set up a picnic on the sand. The sun was glorious and the beach was filled with youngsters loving the surf, but wetsuits were definitely needed as the waves in the Southern Ocean were a bit nippy that day! We may not have took a dip but we were heading for some epic waterfalls! We chose 2 of the 10 waterfalls that are within 10 minutes of Lorne to explore. The first being Erskine Falls, at an impressive drop of 30 metres. From the car park, take a steep walk down the steeps to two viewing platforms. Its a longggg way down but so worth it. If your brave you can get really close to the waterfall but mind your step its slippy. A lovely lady offered to take our picture, I think she may have regretted it when it took me forever to make my way up onto a big rock in front of the fall. Plus, it was a terrible photo so here’s Duncan and the epic fall!

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As time was of the essence, we chose Sheoak Falls as it was nearby and only a short walk from the car park, along a boardwalk to a beautiful opening. The 15 metre waterfall cascades into a deep pool and this can be watched in all its glory from a lovely seat. Here we met an Australian couple that were exploring their own land and were more than happy to chat to us about Australia’s Deadliest Animals… to their amazement the only thing that hurts in the UK is a bee sting!

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Before leaving Lorne, be sure to check out Teddys Lookout Point. For us, it was a fantastic view point of the Great Ocean Road snaking around the rugged landscape and splashing waves of the Southern Ocean. As I always say… have a mindful moment up there and then take a picture to remember it by!

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Our last stop of the day was our journey across to the coastal town of Apollo Bay and as I’m sure you can imagine we were rather tired by this point. However, we were determined to explore and took a wander along the beach (even though it was freezing and windy!) and then headed for the Pub… what better way to get to know a place ey! We stayed at the Apollo Bay Backpackers Lodge which was a tad rough around the edges to say the least. Our first choice was the Apollo Bay Eco YHA however, it was fully booked so get in their quick! Our master plan of cooking our tea went out the window so we headed for the local Chinese restaurant. With a 30min wait for a table, the mister thought it would be a good idea to take me on the scariest fairground ride for $20! With my eyes firmly closed I simply endured the experience while he was loving it! Needless to say after that, I didn’t eat much Chinese… but it tasted great the next day!

Day 1 Driving for 4h20, 238km

  • Melbourne to Torquay (105km and 1h45)
  • Queenscliff to Torquay (40km and 40m)
  • Torquay to Aireys Inlet (28km and 30m)
  • Aireys Inlet to GOR Sign (5km and 5m)
  • GOR Sign to Lorne (13km and 20m)
  • Lorne to Apollo Bay (47km and 1h)

Day 2

Bright eyed and bushy tailed we headed to the Otway Fly Treetop Adventures. Now… in my opinion this could be missed out of your plans as its a rather ordinary treetop walk. Enjoyable but not show stopping at $25 per person. However, the zip line tour looked pretty awesome but with a price tag of $120. Check out Groupon offers as I have seen it advertised on there before. Nonetheless, we wandered at an elevation of 30 metres and enjoyed the regions flora and fauna. The Spiral Tower was a highlight for me as you swayed along the walkway!

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*Note* Do not use Apple Maps to get there from Apollo Bay as you will end up on a dirt track the majority of the way!

Now for the cool s**t! Your first glimpse of the Twelve Apostles and my goodness you can get up close and personal! Gibson Steps you were my favourite stop on this trip! Walk, run or skip down the 86 carved steps onto a lush beach. Run through the water to as close as you dare to the 70metre high limestone stack that rises so proudly out of the sea. Take in the immensity! As you can see below I was pretty wired with caffeine and sugar at this point!

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A short distance down the road you will come across the Visitors Centre and Car Park for the Twelve Apostles. You won’t be able to miss it as it is swarmed with tourists… you being one of them. This is the most well know highlights of the Great Ocean Road. Now, you haven’t counted wrong, there are actually only 8 now as the rest have fallen since their discovery. The limestone towers are created by constant erosion from the mainland 20 million years ago. There are numerous viewing platforms to get the perfect Instagram shot… the lady we asked didn’t actually get any of the 12 apostles in the picture though haha! Pick your photographer wisely haha! If you are extending this trip over 3 days, stay until sunset for a real treat!

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Our unexpected last stop of the day was Loch Ard Gorge! The gorge is named after the Loch Ard clipper shipwreck in the 1800s. Here you will find picturesque rock formations that can be viewed on platforms on any of the three trail walks. We also headed down the steps to the bottom of the gorge where you will find a small beach. It was a hot day and we thought this was a great place to take a dip. This turned out to be the worst idea! As I sat with the camera lined to perfection for the mister to do his epic swan dive into the gorge, I suddenly realised he hadn’t gave me his glasses… ‘Nooooo’ It was too late! Duncan had dived it and immediately jumped out the water shouting ‘Did I have my glasses on!?’ I ditched our belongings and ran into the water instructing Duncan to simply swim at the bottom and find them. Not watching the waves, I suddenly got wiped out by the wave and was soaked from head to toe haha! It was a disaster… as Duncan is pretty much blind without his glasses and we were losing sunlight within an hour and all he had was his prescription sunglasses!

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So that was the end of that one… ringing Specsavers and all other local Optometrists for ‘Emergency Glasses’ whenever we had signal in a rush to beat the daylight home. Although, I was happy to drive, this didn’t seem like a valid option at the time!

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What did we miss? The next stop should have been the Bay of Islands for Sunset, Peterborough town for dinner before then completing the inland route back to Melbourne. The last Searoad ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento is at 6pm (7pm at peak times), so this may be an option to shorten your drive.

Day 2 Driving for 383km and 5h37

  • Apollo Bay to Otway Treetop (47km and 1h)
  • Otway Treetop to Gibson Steps (56km and 50min)
  • Gibson Steps to Twelve Apostles (1km and 2min)
  • Twelve Apostles to Loch Ard Gorge (5km and 5min)
  • Loch Ard Gorge to Bay of Islands (26km and 30min)
  • Bay of Islands to Peterborough (7km and 10min)
  • Peterborough inland route to Melbourne (241km and 3h)

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Our adventures are never without a story to tell at the end of them. We visited Specsavers the next day and found the exact same frames but there is a two week wait on glasses as all of New Zealand’s and Australia’s glasses are made in Melbourne. So, Duncan spent the next two weeks at work looking like a blind man to the all the customers in the restaurant, wearing his aviator blacked out sunglasses haha! His bank balance was a few hundred dollars lighter and it of course wasn’t covered on our travel insurance!

But was Great Ocean Road worth it? … Hell yeah!

Drive the Distance on the Great Ocean Road,
Chloe

 

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Adventures to Valle de la Luna

Sometimes while travelling you have to step away from the planned itinerary and go with the flow. While staying at Hotel Club Mendoza, we were offered an opportunity to go on a road trip to San Juan… a place hadn’t heard of but was the next province to Mendoza.

Our ears pricked up at the sound of a Road Trip and then when we realised it was to a valley that looks like the moon…we were sold! Our now new friends, arranged the rental car and the next day we were off!

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From Mendoza we took the scenic route of Route 40 and had incredible views of the Andes for the whole journey. We saw a sign for a campsite by the side of the mountains and this served as the perfect location for a pit stop. Picnic benches, sandwiches and fruit with two friendly dogs! It was siesta time so we didn’t get in trouble for quickly using there seating area for an hour. This is where we discovered that avocado serves as a great replacement for butter on bread!

As we approached Ischigualasto Provincial Park we encountered tunnels through the mountains and bridges in places you can’t imagine how they built them in the first place. Picturesque views all the way that make the long journey so worth it. On the journey we saw foxes, lamas, a condor and hares. The condor by far was the most impressive, with a gigantic wing span when it flew away. Unfortunately, this was before we could grab a picture.

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Ischigualasto Provincial Park (meaning where the moon rests) tells an incredible story of what has happened on Planet Earth. They offer a hop in and out car tour whereby you jump in your cars, follow the guide and jump out at many stops along the way for an explanation. Unfortunately the tour is in Spanish, so we were fortunate to be with friends who could translate. This was a 3 hour tour for 400 ARG (£10.50 approx) each.

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The Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) is one of the most important paleontological sites in the world. I literally felt like Ross from Friends… he would definitely have been in his element. What once was a lake with vegetation, animals and plants prospering, is now a desert with little rain and extreme temperatures. The clay formations have been named according to what they resemble such as The Mushroom, The Submarine, The Spinx and so on. My favourite part of the valley was the ‘Bowling Field’ of polished spheres. There is still no clear explanation as to how they were formed.

Where we Stayed
As the journey is approx 6 hours we stayed overnight in San Jose de Jachal and got up early the next day to be able to do the 3 hour tour without being tired. We stayed at Hostal La Casona and the owner was extremely hospitable and was happy to allow our friends to cook and eat with us, even though they were camping elsewhere.

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In San Jose de Jachal we wanted to catch the sunset, so we headed up to a viewing point near Camping El Vivero and came across an Open Theatre with a guitar stage! Since our discovery I have been unable to find the name of this place or anymore information on it apart from it’s map co-ordinates (-30.218628, -68.772283). This was rather surreal in the middle of nowhere with no people in sight. The sky lit up red as the sun began to set and the views changed from minute to minute. I taught our friends the phrase ‘Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight… Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning’.

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The Return Journey
This road trip wasn’t all singing and dancing. We couldn’t possibly had a weekend away without nothing going wrong now could we! Well it was going so well until 10pm, about an hour away from Mendoza when we were stopped by the police. The police do random stop checks of cars, checking ID, licenses and insurance details and we didn’t think much off it until… the insurance document in the folder was for the wrong year! The car, our bags and jackets were searched and we patiently waited in the car for what felt like forever while our friend tried to resolve the issue.



Usually, in this situation your car would be seized, you would be fined and you would be getting the bus home. Fortunately, our confused faces and lack of Spanish scored some sympathy points. After a conversation with the rental car company the police accepted a Whatsapp picture of the insurance documents. Phew!

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All part of the adventure ey!

Thank you to Franco for your company, driving skills and cool as a cucumber nature in a stressful situation. Zoe, thank you for your French Cooking skills and your fantastic ‘woop-woops!

Go the Distance without getting into bother,

Chloe