Since we arrived in Melbourne a month ago, most of our exploring has taken place around the city. Moving from Wellington, a city of 400,000 and just over 100km², to Melbourne, with its 5 million inhabitants and almost 10,000 square km, there is plenty to see and do within the city limits. However, we obviously much prefer to get out into nature, and so over the weekend we took a day trip out along the world-famous Great Ocean Road.
The Great Ocean Road is 243km long (plus an hour or so drive from Melbourne to its start) and features a number of beaches, towns, and other sights to see, so ideally you would do it over at least two days or as many as five or six. However, our spur-of-the-moment planning meant that we only had a day; we will definitely head back at some point to see more, but we still got to hit the highlights and I think the trip was worth it for sure.
We began with an inland drive to the end of the Great Ocean Road, correctly assuming that most tour buses would be driving the other way and we would encounter fewer crowds. The Bay of Islands was our first stunning stop, sapphire-blue waters and impressive sea stacks creating an incredible view.
We continued on to London Bridge, a natural rock bridge a few hundred metres off shore. Then it was on to Loch Ard Gorge, the site of a historic shipwreck and the location of some beautiful beaches and more magnificent sea stacks.
Our next destination was the one that everyone had come to see: The Twelve Apostles. This set of limestone stacks (there are actually only eight now, with four having collapsed over the years), rise out of the water in a line and creates a spectacular display. This is also where we ran into most of the tour buses—there were so many people! However, the crowds were good about making space for everyone to get their views and their photos.
Because of our limited time, we bypassed some other attractions like the Cape Otway lighthouse and the Apollo Bay beach, saving them for next time. Instead, we headed slightly inland to the Maits Rest walk, a 30-minute loop trail through a lush rainforest area marked by massive Ash trees.
Then we made our way to Kennett River for one reason: I had read that it was where we would have our best chance of seeing koalas in the wild. We had already been lucky enough to have a kangaroo hop across the road ahead of us earlier in our drive, but we had yet to spot a fluffy ball of sleeping bear nestled in the crook of a tree branch.
Sure enough, we weren’t far into the area when we spotted several cars stopped on the side of the road, their occupants peering up into the branches above. We stopped as well, and there were two koalas, fast asleep in the late afternoon. I imagine that by the time we’ve spent a year in Australia, we will not be so amazed to see kangaroos or koalas, as apparently they are pretty much everywhere once you get outside the cities, but it was my first time seeing either in the wild so I was pretty excited.
It was well into the evening by this point so we forewent further stops and headed home, with a quick stop for dinner Aussie-style (takeaway fish & chips). It was nice to get out of the city for the day, and we will definitely be back to explore more of the Great Ocean Road.