Five sides to the Great Ocean Road

Many come for the magic of the 12 Apostles, though there’s only eight left now. They’ll visit London Bridge, the Gibson Steps and explore Loch Ard Gorge. Lots don’t make it to the lesser known but equally beautiful Bay of Martyrs and Bay of Islands.

The impressive Razorback looks like a ship liner docked in Port Campbell National Park

As beautiful as the coastal scenery is, there’s much more here than towering cliffs and spectacular rock formations. More than seaside towns that beckon with alfresco cafes that look onto blue waters. And there’s even more inland where blue ocean meets green forest in a place where nature is king.

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve driven the Great Ocean Road, yet it never loses its appeal. Regardless of whether it’s stormy or sunny, this road and all its treasures is undoubtedly one of Australia’s greatest drives. Countless stories have been written about it.

Last weekend, deep in the Otways, we began yet another story. For three days and nights we had a renewed taste of it’s many moods.

THE OCEAN SIDE

A deserted beach at Loch Ard – or is it?

This rugged coastline has a treacherous history of battered vessels, shipwreck stories and amazing rock formations … from the Apostles to the Grotto, the Arch and Loch Ard Gorge. The latter is named after the ship Loch Ard, which ran aground on Muttonbird Island at the end of a three-month journey from England to Melbourne. For all it’s wretched history it has one of the most stunning beaches.

Whilst it might look like we’re the only ones here, in the photo above, there are loads of tourists behind us, mostly from China. Every weekend thousands of visitors converge, many on tour buses.  However, if you stay close by and rise early it is possible to enjoy these sights by yourself, at least briefly.

Not far away from the Apostles, are the Gibson Steps, 86 of them, which lead down to the beach via a narrow stairway attached ominously to the cliffs.  Out in the water, is an up close and personal sight of an Apostle. It’s awe inspiring to be so close to the ever changing moods of the Southern Ocean. A tip: watch out for the tide that can come in very quickly.

THE GENTLE SIDE

Away from the ocean, the Otways National Park hugs and wraps you like a warm comforting blanket, even as you’re dwarfed amongst the ancient giants. In this pristine setting time slows down.

Walk through canopies of lush tree ferns and follow the sounds of trickling streams, that invariably lead you to a cascading waterfall. In winter you might be lucky enough, as we were, to enjoy a rainforest walk by yourself.

Step amongst towering Californian Redwoods at Beech Forest, a place that stirs the soul and leaves you feeling tiny yet infinitely at one with these giants of nature.

Yes, I’m a tree hugger. Dwarfed by nature

THE INVIGORATING SIDE

The Otways is waterfall heaven and at its best in winter. A walk to Beauchamp Falls, Hopetoun Falls and the stunning Triplet Falls awakens every sense.

Zipline through tree tops and walk high above the canopies at the Otway Fly. The 600 metre long and 25metre high elevated walkway is the world’s tallest treetop walk. For fewer crowds head to At Lake Elizabeth for a morning canoe ride where you might spot the elusive platypus. The 4km circuit walk around this lake is peaceful, that is if you’re not converged on by a pack of marathon runners.

Exhilarating, invigorating. All this exploring is enough to make a girl hungry.

THE GOURMET SIDE

Good thing we’re in the middle of a gourmet trail with plenty of mouth watering options. There are 12 producers on the circular food trail and you can start your tour of decadence from anywhere, Port Campbell, Timboon and an area known as Cooriemungle.

First up was Dairylicious where I met the affable Linda who’s gone from designing wedding dresses to making delicious fudge. This place was fudge heaven.

Not far away Timboon Cheesery (at Schultz Organic Dairy) has a great assortment of cheeses, yoghurts and small goods to sample. Hubby had recently serviced the dairy equipment at Schultz so it was a great chance to see firsthand where he’d worked.

Beer lovers will be in their element at Sow and Piglet and whisky drinkers shouldn’t miss the Railway Shed whisky Distillery at Timboon. For me, a certified chocoholic, Gorge Chocolates was a winner. By now I reckon you’ve got a good idea of the deliciousness of the area.

For more details on the 12 Apostles Gourmet Food Trail you can read a fabulous post by friend and fellow blogger Glenys here.

Enjoying a platter of local produce at Forage on the Foreshore in Port Campbell

THE WILD SIDE

You won’t find this track on any Great Ocean Road touring route. But if you have a four wheel drive and you like to explore off the beaten track this little detour is a ripper.

This is the Old Coach Road, so called because it was an old horse and cart track and once a busy route along the cliff tops. It was a route that took travellers between Moonlight Head and Princetown, often stopping at the long gone Rivernook Guest house. Today it’s a scenic alternative to the bitumen of the Great Ocean Road, but it’s strictly four wheel drive territory, especially if it’s been raining. There’s sand, mud, bogs, descents and a few climbs which made for some whoopy roller coaster moments.

We found this detour just out of Princeton, turning off at Gellibrand River, near the Princetown Recreation Reserve which we had to check out and that’s now firmly on our camping “to go to” list.  There’s no crowds out here. Out on the tracks the only traffic we came across was the four legged variety: wallabies, a fox and a whole lot of cows, quite possibly the best fed moos in the country!

After about five bumpy kilometres we reached a campsite designated for Great Ocean Road Walkers doing the trek along the coast. The Great Ocean Walk is a 100km walk from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles, that can be tackled in sections or in its entirety.  It’s a great way to see this beautiful part of the country, though I think I’ll stick to driving!

Of course there’s more than five sides to any story, let alone the Great Ocean Road: there’s more adventure, wildlife encounters, farmstays, luxurious clifftop hideaways and lighthouse tours. You can camp it, glamp it, trek it, stroll it, cycle it, take to the air, go koala spotting, you can even go night searching for glow-worms.

If there’s one tip I’d give, it’s don’t rush it. You need time to soak up the magic. Unless you’re a local, and you can do it again and again.

No matter how many times we visit we still view it with new eyes. And that goes for any destination … so enjoy the journey, wherever you are. Don’t be reluctant to return to places you’ve been to before. You never know what new things you’ll find. Remember too, half the fun is getting there.

As the sign below says … “You are here for one small moment in time” so make the most of it. Live, laugh, love, take chances and lots of pics and always remember to look out for that magic. It’s all there along the way, just waiting to be discovered.

Head to the Bay of Islands at sunset where you’ll likely be the only one there

Happy exploring, wherever in the world you are.

In love and light


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104 thoughts on “Five sides to the Great Ocean Road

  1. And if you’re a runner, try and visit in May and June when you can run or walk the Great Ocean Road on the one day of the year it is closed to traffic (mid-May) or run in the Forrest Running Festival – an exhilarating run down to and around Lake Elizabeth on the mountain bike trails and then back up again (okay, the uphill is not quite so exhilarating) on the June long weekend.

    Living reasonably close to the Great Ocean Road, it has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember from annual family holidays to Lorne to road trips with friends as far as Port Fairy and waterfall walks with my own children. It’s truly a magical place. Thank you for sharing so much of what this amazing area has to offer.

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    1. Oh yes, I know all about the Forrest run, we did the complete circuit of the lake with the runners coming up behind us. That’s for another post! It really is a beautiful area, the whole of the Great Ocean Road. Lucky you, living so close by. Magical is absolutely the right word for it!

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  2. What a magical place, Miriam! How my heart tugged when I saw your images just wishing I was there too. Fantastic photography portraying a place that is phenomenal. How I enjoyed not only reading your post but scrolling slowly through each and every picture. Thank you so much!! Lucky you that you can travel! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

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  3. Wonderful post, Miriam. I loved the part about the food…I must be hungry as I am reading this with my coffee before breakfast! All kidding aside, it looks like a lovely and dramatic stretch of coastline, sort of like drive the coast of rocky Maine here. With quaint villages and jawdropping views along the way. I particularly like your suggestion to not be afraid to revisit places you’ve been before…you always see things with fresh eyes and new perspective. And you always see things you missed the previous time(s). Kind of like watching a movie again; you always notice something you missed the first time or make connections you hadn’t before.
    And I didn’t know that Australia had California redwoods!

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    1. Hi Nancy, we actually have two Californian Redwood forests in Australia, and they’re both here in my state. I agree with how you likened seeing a place again to watching a movie a second time. In fact sometimes it’s even better the second time round. Thanks so much for your comment. Hope you enjoyed that coffee and you’re having a great Sunday!

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  4. How I love to get lost in your travels! Your post is very descriptive, well written, too! But I’m in it for the experience! I continue to live vicariously through your adventures! One day… thanks Miriam for always letting me come along on your out and about! xo

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  5. Wonderful adventure my friend! I love the photos of the ocean, so long I don’t go close to one. We have lots of lakes around here, but it isn’t the same. I love the sand, salt and wind mix.

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  6. Tremendous post! So many reasons you shared here to head out on the Great Ocean Road. We’ll get there eventually, and when we do, thanks to posts like this, we won’t be thirsty, hungry or wondering what to do – thanks, Miriam!

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  7. Great post! It certainly put the Great Ocean Road back on my bucket list to explore all aspects rather than just the coastline. I’m hungry thinking about it – for the delicious food and the stunning forests and scenery.

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  8. Miriam, as soon as I read one of your recent posts that mentioned the Great Ocean Road, I googled it immediately to see more. Now, I find this post. I love it. This is a slice of inspiring heaven. Thank you so much for sharing tihs.

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    1. It’s my pleasure Drew. It really is a stunning coastline. And I love what you said in your last comment “Inspires poetry to last a lifetime”. So true. Thank you my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Miriam we visited Melbourne about 20 years ago and took a drive along the Great Ocean Road including stopping at the National Park. Such a beautiful drive and as you say so much more than just the coastal scenery. it was the first time I took a helicopter ride and it was stunning. Have a beautiful week and thanks for starting my week with a gorgeous part of the world. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re very welcome Sue. It really is a wonderful drive isn’t it and seeing it from the air is something pretty special too. Doug and I did the same thing pre-kids and it was absolutely thrilling. Have a wonderful week. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  10. It is indeed a scenic gem of oz and you’ve included so much in this post Miriam … you omitted cycle it!
    I did from Warrnambool to Geelong camping out, we didn’t have the energy to seek out this gourmet trail if it indeed existed back then 🙂
    Your posts always bring back fond memories, thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know! I only realised after I published it. Naughty really seeing as the Great Victorian Bike Ride is heading down there in a few months. Might have to do a quick edit! 😊 Glad this brought back memories Kate. Have a great week! xx

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  11. Yes, there is always more than the well-known places to visit anywhere in Australia. We love doing treetop walks so I’ll add this one to our list. And of course, it’s always great to know where to get delicious food and where the nice campsites are. I like the look of that four wheel drive track – so much fun.

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    1. Yes, that track really was fun. We would have kept going except it was getting late in the afternoon and we still had places to get to! Still, a fun little side jaunt and one we’ll get back to one day.

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  12. You’ve reminded me we really must revisit this area as we haven’t done so for years (well not past Lorne anyway). It really is a great coastline! Good tip about getting there early too1

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  13. I love how you’ve broken it up in to five many areas Miriam and your descriptions are spot on. It is an amazing place to visit and definitely shouldn’t be rushed! I really must go back one day soon. Just perfect!!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Such beautiful sights and lovely photos. It is so nice to discover your part of the world through your eyes Miriam. Although, I wish one day I will see the Port Campbell National Park with my own eyes. Meanwhile, I’ll gladly keep travelling along with you. Curious to find out our next destination. 😊 Keep well dear friend.

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  15. What a stunning place to spend time! The beaches look gorgeous, and those forests are beautiful. I love that you have California Redwoods there! (as I live in CA)… never would imagine you’d have CA redwoods in Australia! Totally off the subject, I’ve been meaning to tell you I tried your Banana and Berry Cake, and it was delicious!!! I made it a few weeks ago when I hosted my writer’s group, and everyone loved it. I’m making it again today because I have a ripe banana to use. I also have fresh peaches and blueberries, so there you go! Perfect. Thanks again for the recipe. Hope all is well, Miriam! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jenny, yes I’m well, thanks for your great comment. I agree, those Californian forests are pretty special. And yay about the cake! I’m so glad you tried it and enjoyed it. Must admit it’s become my go to recipe. It’s so easy and tasty and I’ve made it so many times I could practically make it in my sleep! I’ve never tried it with fresh peaches though. You’ll have to let me know how that one turns out if you make it. xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Just made it today, and it’s sooo delicious with fresh peaches, blueberries, and of course, the banana. Enjoying it right now with a cup of tea for my afternoon snack 🙂 I definitely recommend it! xx

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        1. Oh yum, well now you’ve inspired me too. Fresh peaches aren’t in season here though, wonder if canned would work. It’s such a versatile recipe isn’t it? Thanks for letting me know. xx 😊

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        2. I think canned would work too, or frozen peaches. I cut my fresh one up in small chunks. I love how versatile it is! Whatever’s in season, or frozen works just as well. Thanks again, Miriam!

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  16. Great post Miriam. Brings back so many memories of our week on the Great Ocean Road as we took it slowly and tried to see as much as we could. Beautiful scenery and so much to see. Love your photos.

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  17. This was a wonderful tour, Miriam! Thanks so much for taking us along!! The beauty is just magnificent! I’d love to have a chance to visit someday. xx

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  18. Miriam I have never been to Australia, perhaps never will (since the flight is so damn long). For that reason I am grateful for your blog. The beauty of your country is truly stunning. Your words and posts always remind me of that Louis Armstrong song “What A Wonderful World.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Drew, well if you never make it to Australia I’m so very grateful that I’m able to transport you here, at least virtually. Thank you for your generous words my friend. It is indeed a wonderful world. 💙

      Liked by 1 person

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