13 Mar 2019
Cruise along the cliff tops of the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne to Robe and soak up the seascapes.
WATCH: The highlights of our trip along the spectacular Great Ocean Road, from Melbourne to Robe
The Great Ocean Road - it’s the quintessential Aussie road trip. If you’ve grown up in Australia, you’ve likely navigated the well-travelled stretch with your family, and if you’ve not ticked it off, it’s sure to be on your bucket list.
Whether you take the trek from Melbourne, or you venture east from South Australia, the views are hard to beat, and the pit stops along the way are a whole heap of fun for whatever type of convoy you’ve got in-tow. From Melbourne to Robe, the trip is only about nine hours’ drive via the coast, but stop off along the way and you can make your trip as long as you like. So rally the kids, your best mates, the pooch or your favourite someone, and get on that Great Ocean Road. Stop for ice cream, take a hike and stay that extra night. It’ll be GREAT.
The road from Melbourne to Adelaide via the coast is one of the most popular road routes in Australia - known to both locals and tourists alike. Vast stretches of road meander from hinterland and farming country out onto jaw-dropping cliff faces where the sea crashes into amber rock walls. Every twist and turn is breathtaking, and while some sections of the journey feel like the edge of the earth, the buzzing coastal towns that scatter the stretch will keep both your belly and cultural cup full.
The Great Ocean Road technically stretches from Torquay to Allansford (near Warrnambool) in Victoria, but many travellers now wrap the trip into one journey to encompass the coastline of South Australia, too. The heritage-listed road spans around 243 kilometres and is said to be the world’s largest war memorial, built by returned soldiers from World War I.
If you’re starting in Melbourne, take the time to gather your supplies and soak up a night in the city before heading south along Princes Highway towards Geelong for your first port of call. A great pit stop before moving further into coastal territory, Geelong is full of history, culture and artwork (don’t forget to spot the famous bollards - quirky characters carved out of jetty pylons).
Just a short drive from Geelong, Torquay marks the official start of the Great Ocean Road. Snap your pic in front of the iconic sign across the road and spend the afternoon exploring beautiful Torquay. Home to the famous Bells Beach, Torquay is Aussie surf culture at its best. There’s even a National Surfing Museum if you fancy taking a closer look at the sport that’s become iconic to Australia. Grab a board, get out in the waves and give it a go before you move on down the coast towards more laid-back Lorne.
If you’ve got the time, stop in at Anglesea and Aireys Inlet before you make your way down to Lorne. Kick back and soak up the views and untouched natural beauty of these pristine pockets of coastal bliss.
It’s not just sand and surf that makes this stretch a natural wonder of Australia, but also the dense bushland and rainforest that is Great Otway National Park. Encompassing the stretch from Torquay to Princetown (nearby the iconic 12 Apostles), the ‘Otways’ are arguably the heart of the Victorian hinterland. Taking in both the coastal vistas and mountainous rainforest of this national rainforest is a must.
Base yourself in Lorne, Kennett River or Apollo Bay (all home to G’DAY Rewards Network affiliated parks), to experience the best of the Otways. Our top tip? Bring a rain jacket, the weather can be temperamental up here - it is the rainforest after all. Rain or shine, it’s pretty as a picture; lush fern gullys and tall forests are just some of the scenes out your window.
After Apollo Bay, soak up the scenery on your way to 12 Apostles Marine National Park, home to the iconic apostles. Eight remain standing strong in the wild ocean that wraps this stretch of rugged coastline, part of Port Campbell National Park. Especially breathtaking at sunrise and sunset, the towering beauties are humbling, and the surrounding national parklands are a sight to behold. Don’t forget to check out Loch Ard Gorge and London Bridge while you’re there, each with contrasting views of this landscape.
Just an hour north-west and you’ll reach the final destination along the official Great Ocean Road - Allansford and Warrnambool. A cultural epicentre, Warrnambool is well worth a pit stop for a few days, with plenty to see and do. With everything from street art tours to historic village shows and wilderness walks, it’s a great spot to relax and unwind a while and take a break from the road.
If you want to take your journey further and step into South Australia, take the Princes Highway a further three hours west to Robe and settle in for some fish and chips by the seaside, an appropriate tartar-filled toast to a trip well done.
Surf the Swell with 'Go Ride-A Wave', Torquay
It’s a right of passage for visitors and locals to Australia to have a go at surfing a wave. Whether you’re savvy with all things ‘swell’ and ‘barrels’, or you need a balance lesson on the sand first, Go Ride A Wave cater to everyone from first-timers to rusty beginners, and people of all ages.
Getting people out in the water and onto a board is second nature for the teams here, with locations in Ocean Grove, Torquay, Anglesea, Lorne and Wye River. They’re experts, in the game since 1987, so no matter how uncoordinated you think you might be, you can trust you’re in safe hands.
Each location is specially scouted to have clean, safe beaches ideal for beginners. The Torquay location is one of the most visited in the region. The esplanade shop is iconic to the town, complete with change rooms, showers and plenty of gear - perfect if you’re only stopping off on your way through to the next Discovery Park or Top Park.
There are kids and adult options, and you can choose between one, three or five-lesson packages, as well as a ‘Go All Day’ option where you receive a lesson and surf gear hire for the rest of the day - so you can practice, practice, practice!
Don’t have any gear with you? Not to worry - the crew will provide you with your own rashie or wetsuit (conditions depending), as well as a board to suit you and your ability level. They even offer lessons and hire for stand up paddle boards, too, and hire a range of other gear including kayaks. So go on, suit up, get out there and surf those waves you’ve been watching from the car window.
Go Ride A Wave offer a range of lessons and packages for kids and adults, at a number of locations along the Great Ocean Road. Prices for lessons start at $62.
Off-road Exploring via Segway with 'Planet Mud Outdoor Adventures'
If you’re after a different way to explore the magnificent Otways, this is it - a segway tour through the forest. The segways at Planet Mud aren’t your usual segways - they’re the fourwheel-drive versions. Ideal for off-road adventuring, these clever little vehicles are designed for fun. The best part? They’re easy as pie to get the hang of, thanks to clever technology and the friendly team here.
“They’re quite good in rough areas... they can travel over sticks and all sorts of things you throw at them,” Justin Mason says, co-owner of Planet Mud. “They balance for you so they are quite easy to ride.”
The 45 minute experience gives you an up-close-and-personal encounter with the dense bushland that covers much of this beautiful mountainous terrain. Smell it, touch it and soak it all in as you whizz through the gorgeous grounds. “We have 53 acres of bush here...we might see some wildlife while we’re out there - echidnas, black cockatoos, kangaroos and wallabies - that sort of thing.”
It’s a great way for the whole family to get out and stretch those weary car-legs. Check out their range of other outdoor activities while you’re there, too, including paintball, zorbing, zip-lining and tree-climbing.
Planet Mud Outdoor Adventures offer a range of tours and activities. Their 45 minute Segway Trail with the off-road segways starts at $45 for kids.
Dine with a View at 'Chris's Beacon Point' Restaurant, Apollo Bay
Make your way into the hills, in the depths of the hinterland of Apollo Bay and you’ll find yourself at Chris’s Restaurant. Ask anyone in Apollo Bay, and indeed along the Great Ocean Road, and they’ll tell you to head to this regional stalwart.
Arrive at the secluded location, and you’ll instantly see why. Pitted on the side of a cliff, the restaurant offers the most stunning panoramic views of Apollo Bay and beyond, with glimpses of everything that makes this diverse region a treat for the eyes and the stomach. From the lush green fields dotted with sheep to the sea dotted with fishing boats, you can see the produce that’s on your plate here.
The iconic restaurant has been here for over 40 years, owner Christos Talihmamidis still preparing traditional Mediterranean cuisine in the kitchen today. At 85 years old, Chris is as passionate as they come. Originally from Greece, he’s been cooking for as long as he can remember, and you can tell from his menu and the avid following this place has.
“My grandmother was a cook, so I started with her when I was eight years old. They took me out of the streets and put me next to her. I’m still cooking now. I’ve never been to school but I’ve always loved my job.”
Previously owning a restaurant in Lorne for 15 years after moving to Australia in 1961, Chris moved to Apollo Bay in 1978 to buy this idyllic property. “The land was here with a small restaurant and just eight chairs,” he says. “We built it in three stages.”
Restaurant manager Lim says the restaurant has stood the test of time due to it’s pristine vista and simple, reliable food. “The menu is seasonal and Chris has pretty much had the same dishes for almost 40 years,” he says. “With Chris, less is more. He’s simple, very simple. We can get abalone from down here, and lobsters, and Chris marinates our own octopus, too.”
Menu favourites include the pork souvlaki (iskendar kebab) and slow cooked eggplant with tomato fundue (imam bayaldi), as well as the divine walnut baklava (Chris’ famous recipe). Don’t forget to try the famous local seafood, too. Sample these with a side of local Victorian wine, and you’ll feel on top of the world (quite literally). “People who visit say this is the best part of the world when they look out there,” Lim says. “It’s the only road in the whole world,” Chris laughs, “it’s the most beautiful in the world for sure.”
Chris’s Restaurant is open for dinner 7 days from 6pm, lunch Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 2pm and breakfast 7 days from 8.30am to 10am.
Nearest G'DAY network affiliated park:
Apollo Bay Holiday Park
Watch: Taste the region and soak up the views at Apollo Bay's iconic restaurant Chris's
Drop a Line with 'Apollo Bay Fishing Adventures & Tours'
A trip along the Great Ocean Road isn’t quite complete without wetting a line along the way. Arguably one of the best fishing spots is Apollo Bay.
Helen and Max Robbins, owners of Apollo Bay Fishing and Adventure Tours are fishing experts, operating their tour company here for the last 19 years. “I’m a true local, with ancestors dating back to 1902,” Helen says. “Max has been coming to Apollo Bay all his life, too. He’s one of the best fishermen around.”
Their tours are taken out on their beautiful boat, Moonlight, built by Max himself. Their range of charters includes their ‘Fishing Adventures’, the ‘Seal Colony Cruise’ and the ‘Sunset Cruise’, all family-friendly and affordable. There’s even a family fishing tour, which goes for a neat two hours, perfect for little ones. Cruising out from Apollo Bay marina, the boat ride is half the fun. Then you’ll get a quick lesson from Max and the crew, pop your bait on, the anchor goes down and off you go.
“We provide everything - the line, the bait, the tackle. Max has so much knowledge and people love coming with him because they feel safe and they know they’re in good hands.”
Apollo Bay Fishing & Adventure Tours offer a range of charters and tours, starting from $30 for children.
WATCH: Hop aboard to go fishing with us as we explore Apollo Bay by sea
Fly Through the Rainforest with 'Otway Fly Treetop Adventures'
One of the best ways to see the Otways is from the air. Otway Fly Treetop Adventures let you do this with their zip-line experience - a fun-for-thewhole-family experience that gives you a bird’s-eye view of this pristine pocket of nature.
The 2.5-hour-long tour takes you from training to zip-line expert in no time, with expert guides with you every step of the way.
“There’s six different ziplines on the course and two different suspension bridges,” Brydie Stagg says, guide at Otway Fly. “The longest zip-line is 120 metres long and comes from a 20 metre high platform. The suspension bridges give you a really good look down into the centre of the ferns and the forest floor, too, and you’re still around eight metres off the ground, so it’s still quite exciting.”
If the sun is shining by the beach when you leave your campsite, don’t be surprised if it’s raining up in the Otways. “This is a cool temperate rainforest so we get about 280 days of rain a year, so we run the courses rain, hail or shine. It is beautiful here when it rains - all the trees get green, the air becomes more fresh.”
What a dream. This is a family bucket-list item, folks.
Otway Fly Treetop Adventures offer a range of tours and walking options for all ages and families. Prices start at $85 for children.
Nearest G'DAY network affiliated park:
Apollo Bay Holiday Park
Watch: Fly through the Otway Rainforest by zip-line and get a bird's-eye-view
Sundae School with 'Timboon Ice Cream'
A road trip just isn’t right without stopping for ice cream, and the Great Ocean Road is no exception. In the heart of Victoria’s dairy country, this stretch of road is scattered with farms and fields of cows, producing some of Australia’s finest milks creating cheeses and in recent years, ice cream. Timboon Ice Creamery, in the quaint little town of Timboon, lets you taste the difference and see what all the fuss is about.
“We’re third generation dairy farmers and we’ve been making ice cream in Timboon for about 20 years,” Tim Marwood says, co-founder of the ice creamery. “My dad and I were farming together, and then we had some ideas about adding value to our milk.” Tim and his wife Caroline began experimenting with ice cream, and now the rest is history.
Tim and Caroline still make all their own ice cream from local milk in their small Timboon factory, but 18 months ago they opened their very first ice creamery space dedicated to tasting and experiences for visitors. “We have 24 flavours in the cabinet at the shop and tasting is compulsory,” Tim says. “You’re welcome to try as many flavours as you like.”
Among the classic favourites like vanilla, chocolate and mint choc-chip, Tim and Caroline produce an everchanging array of interesting flavours to treat your tastebuds. “I followed along the path of my grandma who was a great baker - we’ve done lamington, we’ve done orange and poppyseed, we’ve done lemon delicious and we’re doing scones, jam and cream at the moment. I think it’s important to make flavours that aren’t too scary and that people can identify with.”
They also have their own Sundae School where you can learn all about cows in the region, what goes into your favourite scoop, and how Tim and Caroline have developed their business. The best part? You get to craft your very own sundae after you churn the good stuff in class. Best classroom ever, we say. “We wanted to give people a great experience and give back a little in terms of education,” Tim says. Someone even gets to wear some bull horns and be interviewed as a cow. We’ll let you discover the fun for yourself.
Part of the 12 Apostles Food Trail, Timboon Fine Ice Cream is just one of the many stops along the way in this foodie region. “We’re connected to a bunch of other great producers in the region like cheeseries, chocolateries and more.” Come hungry, leave happy.
Timboon Fine Ice Cream is open for tastings all year round, daily from 11am to 5pm. Their 45-minute Sundae School session is available to book online, $13 per person (includes your sundae and tastings).
Watch: Taste Timboon's finest ice-creams and make your own sundae with us
Meet the Maremmas with 'Middle Island Penguin Project'
Just off the coast of Warrnambool, Middle Island is a tiny body of land once accessible to tourists and now inhabited by a colony of protected fairy penguins. To protect these little beauties, Maremma dogs were trained after their successful protection of a local farmer’s chickens. Now, these gloriously cream-coloured pooches are regularly sent out on the island to look after the penguins. The good news is, you can now meet and greet these clever hounds and learn all about the penguins with the Middle Island Penguin Project tours.
“The penguin colony here was unfortunately attacked by foxes, so it went from over 500 penguins to just four. Maremma sheepdogs instinctively protect whatever they’re bonded to, so we’ve got up to nearly 100 penguins in the colony today,” Patricia Corbett says, Middle Island Penguin Project coordinator.
If you’ve ever seen Oddball the movie, you’ll know what these special dogs are all about. You can book and ‘Meet the Maremma’ experience all year round at their home base in Flagstaff Hill village.
“You can come and meet the Maremmas and learn about the penguins. We even have a little penguin box, so we show you how we monitor them and teach you how we look after them. You’ll also get to meet one of our fantastic education dogs Avis or Amor.”
Learn more about the wildlife in beautiful Warrnambool and get your pooch fix at the same time. Trust us, the whole family will love meeting these fluffy beauties (you might even get a lick, too). The best part? All the funds from your visit go back to supporting the Maremmas and the project.
Middle Island Penguin Project runs Meet the Maremma experiences all year round. Prices start at $5 for children.
Watch: Meet the pooches that protect the famous penguins of Middle Island
Step Back in Time with 'Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village'
One of the most historyrich, cultural epicentres of the Great Ocean Road trip, Warrnambool is home to its very own replica village: Flagstaff Hill. The tiny village is a recreation of what Warrnambool township would have looked like in the 19th century - a great way to experience first-hand what this iconic Victorian town was like and learn more about its colourful history.
“The village is really amazing, with 40 buildings set on 10 acres, with some original buildings in the mix of the replicas as well,” Bethany Lewis says, destination and marketing coordinator at Warrnambool City Council. “We also have a maritime museum on site with lots of shipwreck artefacts from along the Great Ocean Road, including the famous Lock Ard Peacock.”
While the museum and village can be visited throughout the day, the main attraction is their sound and light show at night, which features all sorts of historical fun. “On dusk, you can come and experience the tales of The Shipwreck Coast - it goes from Aboriginal history and dreamtime stories, into our colourful whaling history that we have here in Warrnambool and then the amazing tale of the Loch Ard shipwreck. The story is told on a nine-metre high water screen with lights and sound, so it’s a must-do experience.”
The show is perfect for young and old, but is an especially great way to get little ones involved in a bit of Australian history. The tour begins with a walk through the village as night falls. It’s a little bit spooky and a whole lot interesting, guides taking you through the different shops and businesses that would have called Warrnambool home from the 1870s to 1930s. You’re eventually guided to a lakeside podium where you can watch the sound and light show unfold, before heading back through to the museum to finish.
During the day, expect the shops in the village to be open for business. There are even people in traditional costume, so you can meet and greet some of the original Warrnambool residents and learn more about life back when it became famously known as the Shipwreck Coast. “We have a replication of a printing press, so you can see how a newspaper would have been made, and we’re about to launch our new lolly shop, too, so kids (and parents) can taste traditional lollies,” Nicky Suter says, Flagstaff Hill village activation officer.
Go on, experience the history for yourself - whether you simply visit the museum and stroll the village, or book in for the all-immersive night tour, you’re up for an educational time.
Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village is open daily from 9am to 5pm (last admissions are at 4pm). Museum and village admission starts at $8.50 for children, and the Sound and Light Show starts at $15.95 for children (bookings essential). Day and night packages available.
Watch: Step back in time in Warrnambool's popular Flagstaff Hill
Street Art Stroll with 'Warrnambool Street Art Tours'
While boats give some people sea legs, there’s no doubt that ‘car legs’ are a common occurrence for many regular road-trippers. The solution? Get out and stroll the streets of Warrnambool, home to a vibrant local arts scene.
In recent years, Warrnambool City Council has started a new community initiative called Warrnambool Street Art which provides an informative website, map and guide for the city’s ever-changing street art scene. You can also book online for your very own guided street art tour, which is a fascinating way to see the city through a local’s eye and add a little culture to your road trip journey.
“Warrnambool is a thriving town as far as art is concerned,” Claire Norman says, tour guide. “We have lots and lots of visiting artists and also lots of local artists who have produced various murals, paintings and sculpture that fill the city with street art.”
The tour takes you through the city, guides talking you through the various works scattered about. You’ll also learn about the history of the city, depending on the guide, as you pass through the many hidden laneways and heritage sandstone buildings. Make sure to look out for impressive works by talented artists, including the likes of the famous wombat bridge mural by local artist Jimmi Buscombe and the Ngatanwarr (Welcome) mural by Melbourne artist Adnate.
Watch: Discover Warrnambool's famous street art by foot
Lobster with 'Sky Seafoods'
Technically not part of the Great Ocean Road, many travellers continue their trip to end up in South Australia. One of the last coastal stops is the beautiful seaside town of Robe. Home to arguably some of the best seafood in Australia, Robe is a great stop-off for some stellar fish and chips and, in the right season, the most luscious lobster in town.
Sky Seafoods is one of the town’s most iconic seafood companies, experts in the comings and goings of all the boats, which fish and lobster are in season and when, and how to prepare them to keep them at their freshest and most delicious.
They offer casual tours of their facility as well as a variety of products to purchase daily in their factoryfront shop. Along with lobster, there’s also flake, prawns, snapper, Coorong mullet, boar fish and flathead, among others. But by far the most popular attraction here is the live lobsters.
“You can have it fresh cooked here, you can take it live, or we can even
sashimi it for you here,” Andrew Lawrie says, one of the founders of Sky Seafoods. “The lobster waters are really close here…anywhere from 50 metres to 40 miles of the coast. Our fishers go off every day, so there’s fresh catch coming home daily.”
If you want to learn more, you can ask the team here for a little tour. “We give all the tourists a personal tour of the factory if they want. They can view the lobster in the holding pens and they can even pick one out in the morning and we can cook it for them and they can pick it up by lunch time.” What a catch!
Sky Seafoods is open 7 days.
9.30am-4pm weekdays and 9.30am-2.30pm weekends.
Watch: Get up close and personal with the king of all seafoods
This travel feature was published in G’DAY Magazine.