Saturday, 11 February 2012

Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is recognised as one of the world's best drives. Along its length are stunning coastal views, lovely seaside towns, the beautiful  and ancient rainforests of the Otway Ranges and a range of wildlife.

View of the Great Ocean Road from Teddy's lookout Lorne

Before the road was built most of the towns along the coast only had the sea as their link to Melbourne and Geelong.  From Lorne the coach road went through dense bush to Winchelsea where it met the rail line.

The idea for a road was around since 1864 but it only came about at the end of World War 1 when it was thought it would be a way to provide employment to soldiers returning from the war. 3,000 ex ”diggers” were employed to build the road and it was built as a memorial to those that died in the conflict.

Great Ocean Memorial Arch

Surveying began in 1918 and construction began in 1919 and finished in 1932. By 1922 the Eastern View to Lorne section was completed and the Lorne to Apollo Bay and Anglesea to Lorne sections were finished in 1932. The road is 243kms in total today.
The most amazing thing about the road is that it was built by hand with pick and shovel and the story goes that no-one died in an accident during construction.

Torquay is a popular seaside town with holiday makers and is the start of the Great Ocean Road. It was originally occupied by the Wathaurong people until white settlement occurred around 1871, before then picnickers visited the area from about 1860.

In 1891 the Joseph Scammell was shipwrecked off Torquay and her anchors are on display at front beach and the boat ramp. The surf life saving club opened in 1946 and is considered to be the oldest and largest club in Victoria. We've been lucky enough to see whales frolicking here as they make their way home after mating in the Southern Ocean. 

Due to its proximity to Melbourne Torquay has grown substantially and now has a number of golf courses and hotels including Peppers adjacent to the Sands Golf Resort and the Crowne Plaza. There are a range of restaurants, cafes and shops including a large and popular range of surf clothing outlets.

Torquay beach near the Surf Life Saving Club

Bells Beach is tucked away off the main road and is the site of the world's longest running Surf Carnival Bells Beach was originally part of farmland owned by a man called Bell and this was one of the best private beaches around. The Carnival is run every Easter and attracts competitors from all over the world.

Bells was also where the final scene of the movie Point Break was set although to the disappointment of a lot of fans it wasn’t actually filmed here.

The beach at Point Addis

Returning to the main road Anglesea is the next town where in the early 1900’s beach boxes lined the river bank and the dunes along the beach. The town started to grow in 1919 with the building of the Great Ocean Road. Today it still retains much of its village atmosphere and with patrolled surf and swimming beaches and the Anglesea River running through town there are lots of options for enjoying the water or strolling along the walkways along the river bank. 

Anglesea River
Anglesea has a history of fires with major fires occurring in 1966 and 1982 but by far the worst were the Ash Wednesday fires on 16th February 1983 when over 140 houses and several lives were lost. In the decades since the bush has regrown and the animals have returned.

Kanagroos draw tourists to the Angelsea Golf Course

At Aireys Inlet Split Point Lighthouse built in 1890 became a welcome relief for sailors trying to navigate the treacherous waters between Victoria and Tasmania. 

As with Anglesea and many other areas in Victoria the Ash Wednesday fires were devastating in Aireys Inlet, in fact they were worse here than most other places, practically wiping out the town, destroying over 170 houses. The town has been rebuilt and like most towns along the Great Ocean Road tourism is their main industry.

a la grecque is one of the few restaurants in Aireys Inlets. There is a cafe located near the lighthouse which is said to be famous for its scones.

Split Point Lighthouse

Lorne is situated on Louttit Bay, named after a Captain Louttit who sought shelter there in 1841 whilst retrieving cargo from a nearby shipwreck. Timber cutting started int he Otway Ranges and sawmills were established and tramlines ran out of the bush down onto the beach were the timber was transferred to ships and taken to Geelong or Melbourne.
The town has a number of historic buildings including the Grand Pacific Hotel opened in 1879 and the Lorne Hotel which opened in 1876 along with construction of the pier.

Lorne has a population of around 1,000 permanent residents but every New Years Eve this swells to around 13,000 and over the first weekend in January up to 20,000 people will come to watch around 4,000 compete in the Pier to Pub swim race. This is described in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest organized ocean swim.

Lorne has some of the largest accomodation providers along the coast including the Cumberland Lorne Resort, Mantra Erskine House and The Grand Pacific.

It also has a range of restaurants, cafes and shops. Qdos Arts Gallery located high on the hill behind Lorne has a gallery, cafe and sculpture park.
A great place to view the ocean and the Great Ocean Road is Teddy’s Lookout which is named after a local ranger who used to go up there to look for stray cattle. The rotunda dates from the 1880’s.
Kennett River is a small settlement between Lorne and Apollo Bay and a popular spot for tourists to stop and look for Koalas and Native Birds.

Birds at Kennett River

Koala at Kennett River
Apollo Bay seems to be the natural mid point along the Great Ocean Road. You can find out more about it on our  Apollo Bay blog

The Great Ocean Road starts to wind through the rainforest of the Otways before coming back to the coast and onto one of the most popular sights of the journey the 12 Apostles

On the beach at Gibsons Steps

The 12 Apostles like many of the strucutres along this part of the coasline show how the neverending force of the Southern Ocean carves the coastline over time.

Loch Ard Gorge was named after the clipper Loch Ard which was wrecked on Mutton Bird Island in1878 after a 3 month journey from England. Only two of the fifty one on board survived. The gorge has been the location for scenes from The Pirate Movie in 1982 and the 1992 TV series Journey to the Center of The Earth.


Loch Ard Gorge

Port Campbell is a lovely sheltered town named after Captain Alexander Campbell, a whaler who sought shelter there during a storm in the 1840’s. Even today it is still the only sheltered refuge between Apollo Bay and Warrnambool.

In 1882 the town became famous when someone decided that, with people worried (unjustly) about a Russian invasion, he would spread rumors of a so-called invasion and he told The Age newspaper that their fleet was ready to attack. Some other newspapers in Melbourne went as far as to report massacres and thousands of Russian troops making their way towards Melbourne. Finally someone sailed to Port Campbell to find out what was happening and instead found out the truth.

Port Campbell from a helicopter

London Bridge was a double span arch and resembled its namesake but in Janury 1990  the arch closest to the mainland collapsed leaving two people stranded out on the other arch. Some people now refer to it as the London Arch.


  1. We've been planning to 'do' the GOR for the last 2 years - but something always prevents us. Hoping 2012 is 3rd time lucky!!

  2. Hope you get there this year - its an amazing area with so much to see from swimming or surfing the beaches, to staying or eating at the range of seaside towns along the road, to the wildlife and beauty of the Otway Ranges. When you get there take the time to enjoy it all!!

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