Tips for a dream drive down Australia’s Great Ocean Road
MELBOURNE, Dec 15 ― What is there not to like about a trip down the Great Ocean Road? For tourists from land-scarce Singapore, a road trip along the southern coast of Australia’s Victoria state promises spectacular scenery, quaint seaside towns, winding roads and, of course, the famed Twelve Apostles.
Starting around Geelong and ending around Warrnambool, the driving route — rated by some as one of the top drives in the world — is usually taken as a side trip when one visits Melbourne and its surrounding areas.
Having done the driving route twice in the past two years — first from Adelaide towards Melbourne and later in the reverse direction — here are my five tips for planning that dream driving holiday.
FIRST, allow sufficient time to enjoy the Great Ocean Road. There is so much to do Down Under but too little time — in a vast country like Australia where it could take a long time to get from point to point, the time constraints become even more pressing. Some have attempted to traverse the over-600km Great Ocean Road — or at least drive to the Twelve Apostles near Port Campbell — in as little as a day! To properly enjoy the Great Ocean Road, budget for at least two full days on the road, with an overnight stay near Apollo Bay, where there are plenty of accommodation and food options. It is also the mid-way point between Melbourne and the key attractions so the driver does not get too tired. If you can spare the time, spend a night in the town of Warrnambool at the end of the Great Ocean Road if you are driving from West to East — it has an open-air museum called the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village you can spend some time at.
SECOND, do not rush for the Twelve Apostles. The collection of limestone stacks might be a popular destination spot, but there is so much more to the Great Ocean Road. Starting just south of Melbourne, spend an hour or two at the Geelong waterfront, with its collection of quirky public installations. The Geelong Boat House, a refurbished vintage barge, is said to serve some of the best fish and chips in the state. The seaside towns of Lorne and Angelsea also merit a stopover for their waterfront views. Along the way, check out the scenic Cape Otway Lightstation, offering amazing views of the Bass Straits. While the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1994, it remains the oldest surviving lighthouse in mainland Australia.
THIRD, do not underestimate the winds. When I posted pictures of my spring driving trip on social media, one of my friends asked if it was “really that cold”. The answer is yes, especially factoring in the wind chill. Especially at the Twelve Apostles and Cape Otway, the winds can be buffeting. A comfortable 12 degree Celsius approaching the Twelve Apostles quickly became a battle against the elements once I emerged from the tunnel connecting the visitor centre and the Twelve Apostles viewing area. Given the large crowds at the attraction, you would probably have to wait your turn (or jostle with other tourists), so it is wise to be dressed warmly.
FOURTH, make time for koala spotting. On the way to Cape Otway Lightstation are tall eucalyptus trees along the road, where koalas thrive. The Kennett Caravan Park is another prime koala spot. When you see other tourists stopping their cars along the road, it is probably a good idea to do the same. Do be cautious of traffic, however. Bring along your binoculars and yes, those cameras with zoom lenses too.
FIFTH, you do not really need to rent that swanky Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV). Wait, seriously? Many city dwellers who usually drive small cars like to rent that dream SUV for long road trips. Yes, SUVs make sense over tough terrain or if you need the space. But unless you have a lot of gear or people in tow, a large saloon will be more than sufficient to tackle the drive. When navigating the challenging curves from Apollo Bay to Lavers Hill going towards the Twelve Apostles, for instance, that swanky SUV with some body roll quickly becomes a liability, especially if the roads are wet. ― TODAY