A couple of weeks ago I booked a day trip out to the Great Ocean Road. I debated whether to do this and the Grampians as part of a several day tour between Melbourne and Adelaide when the time comes to make that journey but because I’m taking a little detour to Tasmania and I’m not yet sure I’ll be coming back to Melbourne or flying straight over I decided to do them both as day trips from the city over the next few weeks. This also makes it a bit more relaxing as I can come back to my own room and crawl into bed without having to stay at a hostel. Plus after nearly 4 months of being in the city I’m itching to get back to nature and this helped me to curb that desire for a little while longer.
It didn’t start well, which I can only blame myself for. See I decided to go to bed at 1am and had to be in Melbourne CBD for 7.30am, which meant leaving the house at 6.30am because there were no city loop trains to take me to my pickup point and I had to factor in the walking time. Needless to say I felt like one of the undead and had to purchase a huge coffee from the kiosk at Flinders Street Station. When the barista misheard me and thought I wanted two coffees I contemplated whether to correct her because I probably needed two.
I had booked my tour with Ecoplatypus and I stood waiting outside the YHA with tons of other people all going on trips with Bunyip bus after bus pulled up but not one that looked like mine. Luckily my tour guide actually got out of the bus and came looking for me (and 2 others so at least I know it wasn’t just me being dim) and then proceeded to bustle me onto a Wildlife Tours bus. I was a bit confused but went with it figuring as long as I was on some kind of Great Ocean Road tour it didn’t really matter if I’d crashed the wrong one.
There were only around 5 people on the bus when I got on but at the next stop everyone else got on at once. The bus ended up completely full of tourists from Asia. I didn’t realise this but apparently a lot of people travel when it’s Chinese New Year and so the tours were particularly busy. There were also an abundance of people in town for the Military Tattoo which took place on Sunday. There were one Australian couple and one American couple – here for the tattoo – and me.
Our tour was the one that did the Great Ocean Road in reverse, which meant that you missed the majority of the crowds and the big chunk of driving was done at the start of the day. You go right out to the twelve apostles and work your way backwards gradually getting closer to Melbourne. I’d recommend doing it this way as, although our guide pointed out, the history is a little more complicated to relay backwards, there were still a lot of people at each site so I imagine doing it the right way around would have just been way too busy!
On our big long three hour drive to the 12 Apostles we stopped for a morning tea break at Colac Park. There’s not much to see but there is a lake that our guide described as “not the most scenic lake in the world”. After that description I was pleasantly surprised. Plus it was here I spotted my first ever wild black swans.
After another hour and half on the road we reached our first stop to view the Twelve Apostles and found out that there were never twelve apostles. Originally there were eleven rock formations but people started to label it the twelve apostles because of the biblical reference and apparently it just stuck even though it was inaccurate. There are now actually only ten apostles because a small one crumbled into the sea a few years back and some of the others are expected to go the same way.
The next stop on the trip is Loch Ard Gorge where there are three different walking tracks. I managed to fit in two with the limited time we had. Our tour guide warned us we’d have to rush if we wanted to get to all three and the one ambitious member of our group who did was almost left behind. Amusingly his wife made it back to the bus and told us it was fine if we left him behind and our guide insisted that we all wave at him as we drove past in a faux-getaway. Unfortunately he completely missed seeing us so the joke fell a bit flat.
The tour usually takes in Gibson’s Steps or London Bridge as the next stop. Although we were originally going to Gibson’s we ended up taking in the lovely view of London Bridge instead due to time constraints. I missed both photo opportunities and the explanation as to why the rock formation is called London Bridge at this point on the tour because I was sidetracked by my lunch and sharing travel stories with the only other person of my age on the tour who had just moved to Melbourne from New Zealand. She traded me her tips for NZ for mine for the East Coast. If anybody would like to explain to me about London Bridge please feel free because I’m too lazy to research it.
The next interlude involved a brief wander in the Otway Rainforest, where I get the feeling we didn’t quite reach our desired destination because we seem to have ended up at a little stream where platypus lived without the intention of seeing any platypus. While the platypus have eluded me once again we did get to see some wild koalas! I have seen wild koalas but these ones were bigger and fluffier – what more could you want?
A couple of brief stops were next up – Lorne for a look over the picturesque coastline and Apollo Bay for some incredibly good coconut and marshmallow ice-cream (I wasn’t brave enough to try their vegemite flavour!) – we reached Memorial Arch. This marks the start of the famous winding coastal path of the Great Ocean Road, which is the part that the soldiers built when returning from WWI. There is also a commemorative statue here in tribute to the soldier’s colleagues who didn’t return from the war. We arrived here in the late afternoon and as such the sun was in a very inconvenient place for my photos, so the result…
What was great was that although this was the last official stop of the tour our guide took us around to some paddocks where we could see kangaroos in the wild. Again it never gets old! This was the first time I’d see kangaroos with the backdrop of the ocean behind them and also the first time I’d seen so many hopping around at once!
We stopped for pizza on the way home, which has happily satisfied a craving I’ve had for weeks now (it just seems a bit tragic to get a pizza alone no?) and also drove past the lighthouse featured in Round the Twist. As a child of the 90s I was the only person on the bus who knew of the show. Apparently it was shown right across the globe though – does anyone else remember it? Sadly we didn’t stop and judging by the reaction of the other people on my bus I can see why. It’s obviously not a huge tourist draw!
The tour that I took was the 1 Day Reverse Great Ocean Road run by Wildlife Tours which includes morning tea, lunch and dinner as well as pick up from your accommodation (if staying in Melbourne CBD).
They sell the tour directly through their website at $125.00. However I booked through EcoPlatypus for $119.00. It doesn’t make it clear that they’re selling the tour on behalf of Wildlife Tours but trust me it is the same tour. There are apparently a bunch of different booking agents all selling them at different prices, this is the cheapest one I came across.