The Great Ocean Road stretches for 250 km along Australia’s rugged southern coast. Built by soldiers returning from World War I and dedicated to their fallen comrades, it’s the world’s largest war memorial. It also has some of the best scenery in all of Australia. After having such a good time cycling in Tasmania, I was keen to tackle the tight turns and steep climbs of the Great Ocean Road but I hadn’t counted on the intense traffic (thousands of tourists came during Chinese New Year). After my first day, I decided to leave the bike behind and simply enjoy this stunning place as a road trip.
I have to admit, it was nice to sit back and watch the scenery go by from the comfort of a car, but I did miss the challenge and freedom of cycling.
There are lots of nice short walks along the Great Ocean Road and these kept me sane among all the hours of sitting in the car. Perhaps the most famous of these is The Twelve Apostles. These stunning limestone stacks soar out of the crashing sea like remnants of an ancient world. Ironically, there are only eight sea stacks, not twelve. The site used to be known as the “Sow and Piglets” until 1922 when it was renamed to the “Twelve Apostles” in the hopes of boosting tourism. It worked.
One of my other favourite sites along the road is called “London Bridge”. To look at it now, it’s hard to see how it got the name. Before the 15th of January 1990, though, it did look a lot like its namesake with two big arches connected to form a long bridge. Suddenly, the first arch collapsed into the sea, leaving two tourists stranded (and probably wondering if the rest was going to collapse too). Imagine how frightening that must have been. A helicopter arrived some hours later, much to their relief, I’m sure.
The scenery along the Great Ocean Road is truly amazing. I only wish I’d been able to cycle the whole thing. I did discover, though, that there are some longer multi-day walking tracks. Much like Tasmania, I just might need to come back.
All that rugged natural beauty (and any trip to Australia, really) wouldn’t be complete without one more thing… getting to pet a koala! On the very last day, we got to do exactly that. The Jirrahlinga Koala Wildlife Sanctuary is just a short drive from the Great Ocean Road and does important work rescuing animals and working toward re-introducing them back into the wild. The recent bushfires along the road left a lot of koalas hungry, injured, and without habitat. It’s great to see such dedication to protecting these and many other animals.