Although I spent the majority of my six week Aussie holiday in Melbourne, Gary and I put aside one week to cover a visit to Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands (it was a hard decision between that and Fraser Island!), and also one week to drive the Great Ocean Road. I’m so glad that we did – the latter turned out to be the best part of the entire holiday!
On the Australian National Heritage List (places deemed to be of outstanding heritage significance to Australia), The Great Ocean Road (GOR) starts in Geelong, an hour away from Melbourne, and winds 150 beautiful miles along the coast to the end point of Warrnambool. There are lots of different places you can stop at along the way; historic sites, famous landmarks, national parks, wildlife reserves, sleepy seaside villages, and artisan shops and farms selling everything from chocolate to cheese! We made sure we did some research beforehand to work out what we wanted to see and roughly where our stops would be. Due to its close proximity to Melbourne, you’ll find numerous tour companies offering trips to the GOR. We saw multiple ‘day trips’ advertised, where you are picked up early in the morning, driven along the coast stopping at some key points, before (usually) finishing at the 12 Apostles (about 3/4 of the way along) and returning back to Melbourne in the evening. I can’t stress enough: one day is NOT long enough! These one-day trips are very rushed and don’t offer any flexibility to explore – they are only worth it if you have very limited time in Melbourne or can’t drive/ aren’t with anyone who can drive. If a lack of driving is your problem, I would highly recommend choosing a tour option that allows at least three days. We spent a whole week covering the GOR and we were always on the go, doing something. If you have the time, hiring a campervan/ car really is the best way!
CHOOSING A CAMPERVAN
We booked our campervan approximately one month in advance and did a bit of shopping around online to see which company was offering the best deals for the week we wanted to go. I would advise you do the same if you are planning to go for the self-drive option, especially if you are going to be travelling during peak times.
TIP – Lots of companies offer a highly reduced rate for campervans on specific routes/ days. This is because, when people borrow the vans and drive them from one place to another, the van then needs to be returned to its start point. You can get some amazing deals if you are lucky enough to find a route that suits you – we found some for as little as $1 a day! Unfortunately you are unlikely to find this kind of deal for the GOR, as most people will start and finish in Melbourne, but it’s definitely worth bearing in mind for any other travel within Australia.
For us, it was Jucy vans that came out on top for the dates we were travelling. There are a couple of different van options depending on your needs and how many people you are travelling with. We opted for the Jucy Crib (2 Berth) which can be seen on their website here. It was equipped with everything we needed, including a double bed, gas cooker, CD player/ radio, DVD player, fridge and sink. We didn’t think we would get much use out of the DVD player, but a lot of the campsites offered DVD rental for a couple of dollars a night, which was great when we just wanted a quiet evening with a beer and a film 🙂
It also had a sunroof which came in very handy for koala spotting in national parks! It’s also a great size – it’s very compact so you don’t feel like you are driving a giant lump of metal, which was one of my concerns when we first started looking at our options.
DRIVING IN AUSTRALIA
I was a little worried before we set off – I can drive, but I hadn’t driven for around three years at this point, due to being at University. Plus, all the cars I have ever owned have been tiny and the van was an automatic, whereas I had always driven manual cars. On day three, after being repeatedly reassured by Gary that I won’t have ‘forgotten how to drive’, I plucked up the courage to take the van for a spin in an empty car park. After getting used to the weird sensation of driving an automatic (it’s like driving a toy car!), I realised I would be fine, and took to the road. Unfortunately for Gary, his time away from the wheel didn’t last very long as I soon decided that being the passenger was much more fun… I got to relax, take photos out of the window, be on koala/ kangaroo watch, and play DJ, choosing the cheesiest music on the radio (sorry Gary!).
Luckily, he enjoys being the driver and had actually been driving in Australia for six months by this point. This meant he was also familiar with road layouts and signs and had a firm grasp of what not to do… thanks to two driving fines! It’s definitely worth knowing what to look out for – for example, not having your seat belt on could cost you a hefty $250! You also need to keep your eyes peeled for suicidal kangaroos who will casually hop across the road in front of you as they please…. Gary was lucky to have me on wildlife watch! 😛
If you are thinking of driving the Great Ocean Road (or anywhere else within Australia), this Traveller’s Guide to Driving contains some useful do’s and don’ts and information on driving etiquette.
We stopped at the following places:
(Click the links below for posts about each area!)
- Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Lorne, Kennet River
- Apollo Bay & Port Campbell (including Marriners Lookout, Otway National Park & Lighthouse, Great Ocean Road Wildlife Park, Gorge Chocolates, Apostle Whey Cheese and 12 Apostles)
- Timboon & Warrnambool (Including Railway Shed Distillery and Red Duck Provedore)
- Back to Torquay