Queenscliff pitches itself as a jumping off point for that most well known of  major tourist attractions in Victoria, the Great Ocean Road ( G.O.R. ), however that honor more accurately belongs to nearby Torquay. This world famous coastal road, stretching for 243kms from Torquay almost to Warnambool, was was constructed mostly in the 1920’s predominantly by returned WW1 soldiers and is now considered a permanent memorial to those who died in the war. A huge engineering feat in its time, the route shows off the state’s stunning coastline, connects formerly remote seaside communities and draws tourists from all over.

A map of the area. Torquay is indisputably considered the Eastern end but some claim the Western end extends beyond Warnambool to Port Fairy ( likely the good folks in Port Fairy itself ) !

The Twelve Apostles ( coastal rock structures ) are the primary attraction but there is also plenty of wildlife in the area – kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and all manner of bird life are easily spotted and we were fortunate enough to see them all. The route is usually covered in  a few days since there are countless opportunities for day hikes, taking in panoramic viewpoints, and various rainforest walks. We’d been before but still spent three days exploring it end to end….and could have spent longer !

Sign marking the start of the Great Ocean Road.

A short drive across the bottom of the Bellarine peninsula from Queenscliff soon had us in Torquay, the road’s Eastern starting point. Considered Australia’s surfing mecca ( RipCurl was founded there and still maintains its global headquarters in Torquay ), its a thriving “hip” town also known for nearby Bells Beach ( considered one of Australia’s finest surf beaches ).
Bells Beach was in fact preparing for a major surfing competition just as we passed by so we happened to catch quite a few surfers in the water showing their stuff. Just a handful of sightseers while we were there, but in another 10 days, the place would be absolutely packed.

Surfers, Bells Beach.

Over the next few days, the Great Ocean Road took us from Torquay all the way to its terminus just before Warnambool, delivering a plethora of outstanding coastal photo ops, more animal sightings than we’d expected, some super camping locations, incredibly coincidental meetings with other travellers and superb weather on the critical two days we needed it – it certainly did not look like we’d pull that off as we left Torquay. Since most our time on the G.O.R. was more or less a collage of photo ops I’ll keep the commentary brief this week and let the pictures tell the story – suffice it to say we absolutely loved the experience and could not recommend it highly enough to anyone that comes this way…..you’ll not be disappointed !

It was the animal sightings that we saw before we really got to see the more stunning coastal formations for which the G.O.R. is deservedly famous. Kangaroos and brightly colored Rosellas, were feeding right in front of us at the remote Hammonds campground in the mountains about 15kms inland from Lorne, well away from the traffic and nearby towns. In fact, we had the campground all to ourselves.

Kangaroos inside the first campground we stayed in near Lorne.
They stayed still for a short video.
In Cape Otway there is a rainforest walk which we really enjoyed, and shortly after got a nice koala sighting ( next pic ).
A koala in the wild spotted just outside Cape Otway Park.
A replica of the original marker starting the beginning of the GOR.
Coastal view from Teddy’s Lookout, near Lorne.
Beth ( US ) and Will ( Canada ) who saw us in the van and stopped to talk. Turns out they, too, had just completed the full Pan American highway ( in a truck/camper no less ) !
Beside the starting point marker is a memorial to the ex-soldiers who built it.
Seems there have been some problems with foreign drivers on the Great Ocean Road forgetting to stay on the left while in Australia. We saw this type of sign near every lookout and viewpoint.

The road briefly leaves the coast and passes through some very typical Australian countryside. Sheep grazing with a morning mist in behind, here just after our second night camping on the G.O.R.
The bugs were not bad at this time of year, especially in this area but we thought this was a good time to experiment with the bug screen we had made specifically for the sliding door of our van.. So far so good !

It was not until our third day travelling the G.O.R. that the sheer coastal formations and famous “Apostles” came into view – its is some of the prettiest coastline you’ll see anywhere. In a couple of places you can actually descend some pretty steep stairs cut into the cliffs and go right down to the beach ( being careful not to get stuck down there with no exit as the tide comes in ! ). Here, some of our better shots in no particular order:

Rock cliffs on the G.O.R.
Arches visible from a G.O.R. lookout on one of the many short walks.
Free standing “Apostles”.
One of the larger Apostles near Gibson’s Steps ( one of the few points where you can walk right down to the beach against a sheer cliff).
Us, at the bottom of Gibsons Steps.
Same view from a distance.
Video of same…..note the size of the people walking against the towering cliff.
Distant coastal view .
Lois bumped into these folks on a GOR walk – turns out they are from Penticton, just an hour from our home town of Kelowna.
Many Apostles have fallen, and more will in the next years but as the cliffs erode, so too more will more form.
A large Appstle.
“The Grotto” – as pretty a picture as we took on the GOR.
Us in front of a rock formation known as the “Grotto”.
Grotto video.

Following the GOR, our travels took us further west, on through busy Warnambool ( a huge cheese producing region ) and on to Port Fairy, a town that surely ranks as one of Victoria’s coolest little coastal communities. It’s an attraction in itself and probably deserves more time than we gave it but we overdosed a smidge on its more famous neighbour. Port Fairy is also the last major community on the coastal route to South Australia – our next destination.

Waterfront, Port Fairy.
Thriving Port Fairy, downtown. Could not find a park, every store and every cafe ( and there are many ! ) were full.

Till next week….