The Great Ocean Road, which wiggles and squiggles along the southern coast of Australia just west of Melbourne, offers one amazing experience after the next. Here are a few places we loved along our journey.
What We Loved: This is where the Great Ocean Road begins! Plus, Doc Hughes serves chai so good that I went back for a second cup.
Winki Pop (aka Winkipop)
What We Loved: The name — what’s not to love about a spot called “Winkipop?” And we had a great time watching the surfers out on the break.
What We Loved: Split Point Lighthouse (you can climb to the top!)
What We Loved: Koalas at dusk — and if you’re willing to drive up, up, up the hill to the Grey River picnic area, glow worms at night!
What We Loved: The Most Significant Lighthouse in Australia, the history, the wind-swept terrain, and more koalas
The Great Ocean Walk
What We Loved: That there’s a 110-kilometer walk all along this tremendous shoreline … and that you can stroll along just a tiny fraction of it if you haven’t planned for more.
The 12 Apostles
What We Loved: The views, of course (though you can find less crowded places with views just as spectacular) … but what we really loved was that, if you wait until it’s nearly dark and you’re half-frozen into a popsicle, you can watch a colony of little blue penguins trundle up onto the beach to sleep for the night.
Loch Ard Gorge
What We Loved: Cool rock formations, great walks, shipwreck history … I wish we’d spent more time here.
What We Loved: Stairs labeled “Stairs,” The Port Campbell Lolly Shop (try the crazy-good Caramel Logs), mochas at the Grassroots Deli Cafe, carrot cake at 12 Rocks Beach Bar Cafe (the best of the trip), and watching the surf crash on the rocks from the jetty.
What We Loved: A great rock structure and a spectacular sunset
What We Loved: A cliff, a cave, and spectacular colors
What We Loved: Driving inland on Curdievale-Port Campbell Road and stumbling on propane tank art (and camels — this farm has camels!)
Bay of Islands
What We Loved: A wild walk at the top of the cliffs
What We Loved: A long stretch of beach all to ourselves
What We Loved: Vividly colored rocks at another completely empty beach (also, the friendly folks at Childers Cove Cheese Company are right nearby)
What We Loved: Trekking out to a rock that is somehow holding its own against the ocean
The Great Ocean Road technically ends just ten minutes north of this, but we kept heading west — and I feel like I would be remiss if I failed to mention three more amazing places:
Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve
What We Loved: Koalas and emus and kangaroos, oh my! We saw so many animals here, often at close range. In addition to the larger creatures, we saw all sort of tiny birds, including Eurasian coots, European goldfinches, golden whistlers, and grey fantails. I am a huge splendid fairywren fan.
What We Loved: One of the most stunning sunrises I have ever seen from the bedroom of our wonderful Airbnb, followed by a morning walk to a long, flat stretch of rock-strewn beach
What We Loved: Nineteenth century buildings, cozy cottages, cute shops, good food. We could happily have spent multiple days here.