One of the most memorable things about spending 20 days in Australia was the time spent driving along the Great Ocean Road. The GOR (for short) is an Australian National Heritage site along the south-eastern part of the country and it stretches over 151 miles (243km), from Torquay to Allansford. Now, most people who do the route start in Torquay and head east, but Jessica and my end goal was Torquay, so we had to do the scenery a bit backwards.
We got into our vehicle and headed to Port Campbell, which was as far east as we were going on the Great Ocean Road. The drive was about 3.5 hours away from Melbourne, which seems like a distance, but time passes fairly quickly when you’re carpool karaoking. Before we knew it, we had arrived to the Portside Motel, and I immediately loved our hostess because she was chatty and offered us information on a million places to go.
And go we did. We started at the Gibson Steps, which was about 9 miles (15km) from Port Campbell. Besides the eight thousand dead birds decorating the beach, the scenery was absolutely fantastic. From the Steps we saw gorgeous and violent (just the way I like ’em) waves and also a great view of the 12 Apostles. Next, we made our way to the Apostles themselves (and there are not 12 of them, more like… six). I don’t know if I built them up too much in my head, but I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be. Don’t get me wrong, they were still momentous, but the Loch Ard Gorge was even more stunning and it wasn’t even on my radar. I mean, I couldn’t create a more picturesque scene if I tried… and I have a FANTASTICAL imagination. 😉
After the Loch (which was my favorite thing along the Great Ocean Road) we drove through Port Campbell and out the other direction to the Bay of Islands, the Bay of Martyrs, the Grotto, the London Bridge, and the Arch. All were beautiful, but in their own way. The first bay was bigger and probably a bit more impressive, but the second was very colorful and scenic. Also, we hit them all at the right time of day because the lighting was gorgeous and we were the only ones at each. I love being in beautiful nature with no one else around because no one gets into my shots and it just feels more peaceful, like you’ve discovered some amazing, hidden secret.
The Grotto was also gorgeous. The waves were absolutely ridiculous- constant, almost angry-sounding, and it all smelled like the sea. The bridge and the arch were both pretty, but not as amazing, at least to me. I told Jessica that I don’t think I’ve seen that many beautiful, Australian things in one day before. (And I’ve seen the Thunder from Down Under.)
The next day we toured the Otway Fly (which is actually a few hours off of the Great Ocean Road) and then made our way to Apollo Bay. We had gotten lost in the morning, and it had been a slightly stressful day, so once we got to Apollo Bay it was nice to just relax and smell the ocean air. Jessica and I realized we have very different beach preferences; she likes beaches that are calm and beautiful, I like more aggressive beaches with rocks in the ocean, beaches that aren’t quite as swimmable. The Apollo Bay area was more Jessica’s preference, but I still had a great time just sitting in the sand and feeling that breeze on my face. After we were done sitting we went up to the Marriner’s Lookout and did a small hike and had a great scenic view of the town. I really like small hikes/trails that lead to a rewarding picturesque view. It makes me feel like I’m working towards something.
And Jessica and I had a wonderful driving/sleeping arrangement. I always get sleepy in the car (I think it’s a defense mechanism because I get motion sickness so easily), so she always let me sleep through the windy roads and would wakeme up when the ocean came into sight. No surprise, the ocean was absolutely gorgeous. The water glistened like it was a twilighty, vampire ocean and there tons of pull off and look out points to take photos from. We stopped at a few lookout points and a few beaches as well because, well, because we are in Australia. And because we could.
When we got to Lorne, we drove up the steepest road in existence (I swear it was a 70°+ angle) to get to a point called Teddy’s Lookout. The lookout…. looked out… over the city of Lorne and was a really breathtaking view. I couldn’t get over how blue the water really is there. I also lost my breath going back down the giant hill, then recovered with lunch and a beer at a little cafe along a busy street. Food is really expensive in Australia. I think we each paid $18 for a shared plate of little bites of pasta salad and goat cheese. We left the touristy ocean town of Lorne and moved on to Torquay, where my co-worker Anna and her family live.
We got to Torquay around 4:00pm and had a tour of Anna’s house and met her husband and children. The family was quite insistent that Jessica and I try surfing, and even though we were both reluctant, we wanted to be respectful and try. The second our resolve waivered from a “no” to a “maybe,” Anna and Dave whisked us away to Torquay Beach so Dave could teach us the ropes. (Literally, there was a “leash” tied from our ankle to the board.) And surfing was surprisingly fun! I can’t even get a skateboard to move while I’m standing on it, so I was positive that I wasn’t going to be able to stand up on the board. But after a few tries, I was able to stand and there was even a round where I rode the board for a few seconds before taking a magnificent spill.
For our last day in Torquay, Dave and Anna took us to the Jirralingah Animal Sanctuary, which was about 20 minutes away from the city. I was extremely excited to go, because I knew that there were koalas there and all I want to do is hold one.
…which I didn’t get to. Bummer. But I DID stand as humanly close as possible to the sleeping creatures and also got a photo, so I suppose that will suffice. I mean, apparently chlamydia is pretty common among them so, yeah. No thanks. We also saw a lot of other interesting animals, like cockatoos, spotted marsupials, fruit bats, penis-headed turtles (I don’t think that was their official name, but trust me), and wombats. Ermegerd, wombats are the cutest things ever. They are fat and were constantly eating, so I think they have a pretty cush life as well. We also saw a fox! Not super rare, but very exciting to me as they are one of my favorite animals. A highlight was getting pretty close to wallabies and kangaroos as well. I wasn’t able to get as close as I did to the koalas, which was sad, but on the plus side I suppose my risk level of catching an STD from of an Australian animal was slimmer because of that.
THE TRAVELIN’ SONG: More Adventurous (Rilo Kiley). Much love and deep thoughts are always shared when listening to Rilo Kiley. This is one of my favorite songs, and both Jessica and I felt adventurous being on this trip across the globe.
BUDGET: Most of the funding was paid for by Jessica’s company, but we probably spent around $800 on transportation, food, and activities.
TIP FOR TRAVELERS: Some places do not serve alcohol. But, bars and grocery stores will sell you beer or wine that you are allowed to take into restaurants.
DEFINITELY CHECK OUT: Try your hand at surfing. Australia is one of the best places in the world to surf, and you know, YOLO and stuff.