The story appears on

Page B4

November 22, 2010

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

The Great Ocean Road Down Under

VISITORS to Australia are often daunted by the sheer size of the country and the abundance of sightseeing choices. The Great Ocean Road packs a lot into one of the world's great drives. Sam Riley takes the wheel.

The vast expanses of Australia can seem an impassable barrier to travelers wanting to discover the natural wonders of the world's biggest island.

But visitors to Australia can find venturing out on their own in a hired car both an inexpensive and rewarding way to discover the wonders of Down Under.

The eastern Australian state of Victoria has a wide array of tourist attractions including The Great Ocean Road - a 243-kilometer stretch of that is regarded as one of the world's great drives.

The road was built by 3,000 returned World War I soldiers as a memorial to their fallen comrades.

Started in 1919 and completed in 1932, the road starts in the surf town of Torquay and finishes in the coastal fishing town of Warnambool

Winding along Australia's rugged southeastern coastline, the road takes travelers through historic fishing towns, iconic surfing beaches and windswept cliffs ravaged by millions of years of pounding from the powerful Southern Ocean.

The most popular section of the road is around the fishing village of Port Campbell, where the so-called 12 Apostles can be viewed.

These towering rock stacks were formed by the relentless waves of the Southern Ocean slamming against the coast.

But there are many other things to see and experience along the road, including fantastic restaurants, chances to glimpse Australia's unique wildlife and some of the country's best rainforest scenery.

For those who want to strike out on their own, cars can be hired from a number of rental companies located in the Melbourne CBD for A$50 (US$45) a day.

While cheaper deals can be found, it is worth reading the fine print and opting for comprehensive insurance. Some car companies have insurance deductibles as high as 18,000 yuan. So a little extra money a day can provide a lot of peace of mind.

Many people begin the Great Ocean Road begin by driving to Geelong (55 minutes from Melbourne) before they go another 20 minutes down the road to Torquay, one of Australia's most famous surfing towns.

There are a number of ways to tackle the Great Ocean Road, with those pressed for time able to drive it and return to Melbourne in a day. However, this provides just a fleeting glimpse of its many attractions and it is best to allow between two and four days to take the time to discover the many interesting sites.

The beginning section has some of the country's best surf breaks. The local surfing culture gave rise to giants of the surf industry, Quicksilver and Rip Curl.

Here there are numerous surf breaks, including the famed Bells Beach, where Australia's most famous surf contest is held every year around Easter.

There are many places to stop and the picturesque coastal holiday towns of Anglesea and Lorne have popular beaches, quaint coffee shops and country bakeries.

Those seeking quieter spots may enjoy the small coastal towns of Wye River and Kennett River, with their secluded beaches and picturesque rivers.

During a recent spring trip, we took the unpaved Grey River Road that starts near the Kennett River caravan park and runs into the nearby Otway National Park.

Keen-eyed drivers can spot koalas resting in the eucalyptus trees along the side of the road.

Drivers should also keep an eye out for the undergrowth since we came across a large male koala swapping tree homes, just meters from the road.

A good place to stop is the sleepy fishing town of Apollo Bay. The sweeping azure blue bay is set against a backdrop of verdant green rolling hills.

There are many accommodation options, but during the busy summer months or on weekends it is necessary to book ahead since there can be full houses at many popular holiday spots.

Backpackers can be a good cheap option for accommodation along the Great Ocean Road. Prices are generally around A$27 for a shared dormitory-style bed or A$60-A$70 for a private double room.

One of the advantages of staying in a backpackers' inn is that they have shared kitchens and a considerable amount of time and money can be saved by preparing packed lunches and meals.

For lovers of seafood, the local Apollo Bay fish shop on the pier of the fishing village gets the daily catches from local fisherman, making cooking your own dinner a great way to taste the freshest produce.

The Surfside Backpackers run by Robyn Thomas is a particularly clean, well-run hostel, with good facilities for people with disabilities.

Thomas is also a good source of information about activities around Apollo Bay, including walks in the Otway National Park.

One of the more unique activities in area is the platypus tour run by Otway Eco Tours. Tour operator and biologist Bruce Jackson boasts a 90-percent chance of seeing a platypus (a semi-aquatic, egg-laying mammal with a bill and webbed feet) in the wild.

The unusual animals are located at Lake Elizabeth, near the old logging town of Forrest (1 hour from Apollo Bay). The lake was formed in 1952 when a landslide blocked the river. Jackson says six of the platypuses call the lake home. He takes people out in a canoe at dusk to see them as they feed.

The platypus is one example of the abundant wildlife that can been seen on an a drive along the Great Ocean Road; there are many sighting opportunities. Operators provide boat rides out to seal colonies, there are chances to swim with dolphins and visitors can also see kangaroos and wallabies if they are lucky.

About half an hour from Apollo Bay is a particularly beautiful section of the Otway National Park. It has a number of well-marked walks, ranging from 30-minute strolls through ancient rain forest to hikes lasting up to nine days and taking in sections of the windswept coast.

There are several spectacular waterfalls in the park near Apollo Bay, notably the stunning Triplets falls. There are also tree-top walkways and a new zip-line has just opened, letting visitors literally fly through the forest canopy while holding on to a pulley running along a metal wire.

Walking trails are easily accessible by car and it is possible to do several of the more interesting walks in a day and still make the 12 Apostles for sunset.

Just 20 minutes from Port Campbell, the 12 Apostles are limestone stacks formed after surrounding sections of cliffs were eroded through millions of years of battering by strong waves and currents.

Many visitors to the Great Ocean Road to return to Melbourne from Port Campbell, but those with an extra day or two can find very rewarding ventures to the quaint historic fishing town of Port Fairy (75 minutes from Port Campbell).

Bordered on two sides by the sea and with the meandering Moyne River winding through its suburbs, this is one of the best-preserved 19th-century fishing villages in Southeastern Australia.

In the 1850s, this town was the busiest port in the burgeoning new colony but now its relaxed laid-back charm makes it a popular spot for weekend holiday makers.

Visitors can stay in any number of quaint romantic bed and breakfasts in what were the homes of hardy 19th century seafarers.

Travelers who have four or five days to dedicate to the Great Ocean Road and surrounds can easily make it to the nearby Grampians mountain ranges from Port Fairy.

The two-hour drive to Halls Gap goes through rustic old farms nestled in the foothills. Walks in the Grampians National Park that take in stunning rocky lookouts of the surrounding mountains are easily accessible by foot or car. Along with some of the state's best hiking routes, the area has very significant ancient Aboriginal rock art sites.

Visitors to Australia are often confounded by the sheer size of the country and the wide array of things to see, given tight traveling schedules.

The Great Ocean Road offers a wonderfully diverse range of activities and beautiful natural landscapes in a very compact area, making it a rewarding choice for travelers wanting to venture out and discover the charms of Australia's countryside.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend