The Great Ocean Road (“GOR”) is one of the prime tourist destinations in Australia. The long and winding road takes you past surf beaches with cool temperate rainforests and waterfalls and then onto the beautiful Twelve Apostle stretch of high cliffs constantly being eroded by the powerful waves and winds of the Southern Ocean, which caused many a ship to wreck in the first century of Victoria’s settlement.
This region is incredibly busy during school holidays, especially over summer when the locals use it to escape the heat and enjoy the surf, and even over Easter, it becomes both a prime camping destination and the host to world championship surfing event at Bell’s Beach.
My recommendation to overseas tourists wishing to experience this stretch in optimum comfort conditions with minimal traffic is to come in October:
- very few local holiday makers and less traffic (although there are always crazy, unpredictable tourist drivers!)
- plenty of accommodation options at lower prices
- comfort of walks – not too hot, not too cold, delightful sunny days (at times – although it is the most cloudy and windy month), no annoying bush flies to attack your eyes as occurs from Nov-March (there are a multitude of native insects and flies but these don’t bother you) – but you do have to keep your eye out for snakes along the less walked coastal paths, and you still need to bring sun protection, warm clothes and drinking water
- there are a multitude of Spring wildflowers out in full bloom giving a riot of yellows and purples scattered through the sand dunes and providing a lovely counterpoint to the lovely textures of the native grasses and bushes, and the wind blown gnarled small trees.
- the midday sun is not yet too high in the sky so one can still get nice sunny day shots without waiting for the golden or blue hours
Although one can do the whole GOR in one day, it would be like trying to see 6 art galleries in Paris in one day – possible, but you will be exhausted and everything will blur into one and you will not have been able to relax, take in the scenery and ambience and escape from the main tourist sites (which thankfully have not been commercialized other than by the many tourist bus arrivals and are free to explore) and explore the less well trod paths.
At each township, you could easily spend a few days exploring, experiencing different weather conditions – after all, southern Victoria and Melbourne is famous for its rapidly changing weather.
If you have a hot sunny day, or a cold day with strong south-westerly winds, you can avoid the exposed coastal areas and explore the forests and waterfalls. On warmer days one can laze on the beach and paddle in the surf (but beware, the currents and rips are extremely dangerous, so swim only in those areas designated and patrolled by surf life guards).
If you are returning to Melbourne, consider the faster inland route which will take you through some interesting volcanic geology such as around Camperdown (and of course there are some interesting sites further west near Port Fairy and Warrnambool such as Tower Hill and Mt Eccles).
The following are some of what can be seen at the west end around Port Campbell.
These were all taken over a few days with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark I and mark II Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras with a range of lenses used – Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye, Olympus mZD 7-14mm f/2.8, Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8, Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 and the amazing Olympus mZD 300mm f/4 lens. The Sony a7II stayed in the car! Click on the images to see larger versions.
My personal favorite region – the Loch Ard Gorge site:
The very narrow Razorback taken with the fisheye lens:
This one is not easily seen, hidden though bushes, and at the right tide, the waves form a waterfall between the cliff edges which is not visible by those above it who are looking east across to the Razorback:
Loch Ard Gorge beach – a wonderful little cove, with limestone stalactites, areas of shade if one wishes to get out of the sun, and some gentle waves in which to cool your feet.
Even the fisheye comes in handy! This is why you shouldn’t walk closer than 5m from the cliff edge – they are unstable and there may be a tunnel underneath with not much supporting you!
And just west of Port Campbell:
Childers Cove – an off the track, remote location some 30 minutes drive west past Peterborough: