Upon hearing we would be visiting Melbourne, multiple people told us we should not miss the Great Ocean Road, a 243-kilometer (151-mile) stretch of highway running along the coast to the southeast of Melbourne. When we emailed our Melbourne hostess that we were thinking of renting a car and doing this, she replied that she would drive us because whichever one of us were driving would be hard-pressed not to be looking at the scenery. Add driving on the left to awesome scenery, and the sum is likely to be an accident. Recognizing this fact, the Australian highway folks have posted these signs at every scenic overlook from which people might be merging back onto the road.
The Great Ocean Road formally runs between Torquay and Warrnambool, though we went a bit further in order to spend the night in Port Fairy. While we took two days to see the road, some tour buses do just the highlights in one day which I imagine is a long one. The two days we took allowed us to spend some time at each of the highlights, stop for coffee and meals, and not drive at a breakneck speed. (The speed limit for much of the way is 80 kilometers or about 50 miles per hour.) If we had wanted to stop at all the scenic overlooks and other attractions (a walk through the canopy of one forest, for example), it would have taken more than the two days we allotted. And for the really energetic souls with time on their hands, the 104-kilometer (65-mile) Great Ocean Walk parallels part of the Road.
There are some pretty amazing trees along the way, including these two at the start of the Road.
There's also this one a bit past the end.
I tend to think of Norfolk Island pines as houseplants, but it would take quite the house to hold this one. There were also birds, as readers of this earlier post might expect.
The emus shown above were at a wildlife sanctuary at which we stopped. There were some other animals there as well, like wallabies.
There were some koalas, too, doing what koalas do best, sleep or eat.
There was scenery, particularly inland, that reminded me of Europe.
Mostly, though, there was some incredible ocean scenery.
We even had a rainbow follow us for a long while on the first afternoon.
There was some mist, too, on the inland side, another reminder of European landscape I've seen.
One of the highlights of the Great Ocean Road is a site known as the Twelve Apostles, although Mother Nature has reclaimed four. Since "the Eight Apostles" just doesn't have the same ring that "the Twelve Apostles" does, there are still a dozen in the naming sense. It was getting dark as we approached the Twelve Apostles on the first day. With plenty of the road still to drive, we decided to see the Apostles as the sun set then get back on the road and drive to Port Fairy, where we had rooms reserved at a pub. We figured that we could drive back to the Apostles the next morning and see the sites on that end of the road along the way. The next four shots are from the evening visit.
The next morning, we had a superb breakfast at Rebecca's in Port Fairy.
Before heading back to the Great Ocean Road, we took the time to walk around the harbor at Port Fairy.
We also saw a bird of a different sort there,
though having read "The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner" way back when in high school, I can't imagine ever naming a boat "Albatross."
The scenery that we'd driven by in the dark on the way from the Twelve Apostles to Port Fairy was in many ways superior to that around the Apostles, despite their being probably the main tourist attraction along the road.
The formation below is now called London Arch; its former name was London Bridge. Yes, the middle fell away transforming a bridge into an arch. And yes again, there were people on the far side when it happened. Fortunately, no one was on the part that fell away when it did.
The husband also got his share of amazing land- and sea-scapes including two panoramic shots.
Most of the above photos came from a place called Loch Ard Gorge. It's named after a clipper ship that ran aground on an island there in 1878. Only two people in their late teens survived, a crewman on the ship and a female passenger. Loch Ard Gorge is about a ten-minute drive from the Twelve Apostles, and we thought it the more beautiful spot, but don't tell that to the busloads of tourists at the Apostles daily. Many of those tourists are from Asia, explaining the one stall with a squat toilet at the visitors' center there.
For those who remember my mentioning the squat toilets in Hue in an earlier post, well, they weren't this one. This one, I would not mind at all using if there weren't a sit-down version available.
The number of Japanese tourists at the Apostles also gave rise to one of our great stories from the trip, how I passed as an Australian. While I was waiting at an overlook to shoot a photo, a Japanese couple approached and started gesturing at me with the camera that the husband was holding. I thought that he was asking me to take a photo of the two of them with the view in the background. But no, he wanted to take a photo of his wife with a real Australian. The next thing I know, there are people standing in line to have a photo taken with me.
Needless to say, I kept my mouth shut, though there's no way of knowing whether my American accent would be recognized as such. The husband and I posed for our own shot while we were at it.
The walkways let you get various views of the Apostles on either side, and you are trusted to stay on the paths.
I'll end with a few more shots of the Apostles, which should show that the sweaters we had on in the earlier photo were, indeed, appropriate that day.
After the Twelve Apostles, we actually left the Great Ocean Road and drove back to Melbourne via the inland route. The higher speed limit there got us back to Melbourne in time for a rollicking dinner of fish and chips with a group of our hostess' friends.
Coming up next, a day out in Melbourne and some ending reflections on the trip. It's been almost two months since we got home meaning that it's time to put this trip to rest and start thinking about another.