The Great Ocean Road, Australia’s beautiful scenic drive comparable to California’s coastal Hwy 1, follows the striking Victoria coastline southwest of Melbourne. Starting at Torquay, the 243 km. drive winds through cliff tops to breathtaking headlands, crossing rivers and rainforests and meandering down onto coastal beaches to open to stunning panoramic views before ending just east of Warrnambool.
This dramatic, windswept region covers an incredible range of surroundings, taking in surfing beaches, historic ports, and whale viewing points, spectacular national parks, rainforests and mountains. The most impressive section is perhaps the stretch between Lorn and Apollo Bay, where sheer cliffs drop away into the ocean, commanding views of swelling waves crashing onto the rocks below. At Apollo Bay, water sports and great adventure travel activities abound, with surfing, sea kayaking, snorkeling, swimming and fishing being most popular.
From Apollo Bay, the Great Ocean Road winds through the Great Otway National Park, studded with some of Victoria’s most striking scenery of ancient rainforests, tall wet and dry inland forests, slopes and woodlands. Wildlife is abundant throughout the park with 36 species of native mammals, including koalas, kangaroos, emus, and Australian fur seals. At Melba Gully, thousands of glow worms provide a spectacular light show, and a dawn canoe trip on Lake Elizabeth offers views of platypus in the wild. Mountain biking, horseback riding and walking trails lead to dazzling waterfalls, the most spectacular being the Triplet Falls.
Great Otway National Park is also home to the 91 km. long Great Ocean Walk, with its diverse landscapes of towering cliffs, white, sandy beaches and thick forests. From here, the long curving road rejoins the coast at Shipwreck Coast, near Port Campbell, which highlights perhaps the most dramatic of the coastline sights – the Twelve Apostles. These giant rock stacks, rising majestically from the Southern Ocean, were created over millions of years by the constant erosion of mainland cliffs, blasted by winds, waves and salt. Of the twelve apostles, only six remain, but these provide particularly impressive views from sunrise to sunset with their dark, foreboding- to brilliant ochre colors changing with the sun’s light. Among the other remarkable natural rock formations here are the London Bridge and The Arch.
Towards the end of this scenic route, at Warrnambool, whale and dolphin watching are especially popular with children. Here, Southern right whales abound and bottlenose dolphins can be spotted from the shore while Australian Fur Seals loll on the beach. The Great Ocean Road ends shortly thereafter at Port Fairy, a charming, small fishing village.
The spectacle of rugged coastline, breathtaking forests, waterfalls and cliffs, combined with abundant wildlife and a wealth of activities on offer provides families with the best of Australia’s wildlife travel experiences and adventure outdoors.