We took to the Great Ocean Road as an adventurous side trip from Melbourne before heading up the beautiful East Coast of Australia.
It was a choice between a quick Great Ocean Road side trip and Phillip Island to see the famous penguins. Since I am a surfing wannabe and we had already experienced the pinnacle of land based penguin sightings in Boulders South Africa, we opted to head up the coast for 2 days.
Even on a short two day trip with a single night stay in Apollo Bay, it was worth the effort.
Leaving Melbourne will have you wondering what is so great about the Great Ocean Road all the way up until the small coastal surfing town of Toroquay. We stopped there to take a peak at the famed surfing museum where we were chatted up by a friendly local whose grandson was a pro surfer on the world junior tour and were family friends with the lineage of surfing legends that started locally owned Aussie brands – Quicksilver, Rip Curl and Billabong.
They also provided us with a ton of information and free local guide maps and recommendations. It was well worth the stop.
5 minutes up the road from Torquay is Bell’ beach – the surfing Mecca and home of the Rip Curl annual ASP world championship surf competition. Although there was little surf to be had the day we visited it was just great to bare witness to such a famed spot of surfing lore and legend.
It was just after Bell’s Beach that the road became a bit more windy and a bit more exotic; revealing the crystal clear turquoise waters of the southern east coast and the soft, silky yellow sand of it’s pristine beaches.
We made short stops at the famous Split Point Lighthouse at Aireys Inlet, the slightly upscale (yet surprisingly kid-friendly) town of Lorne and a couple hours in Kennet River where we were bedazzled by our first wild Koala sittings and a spectacular array of beautiful Cockatoos, lorikeets and exotic tropical birds.
We had a blast. (hint – if you stop at Kennet River you can purchase bird feed for about 2 bucks at the small grocery store right across the street)
From here we headed about 30 minutes up the road to Apollo Bay where we made camp at the spectacular Big 4 Holiday Park for just one night. We enjoyed the free flying fox, the kids playground and basketball court and the amazing views of the beach right from our doorstep.
We went into town for some food, enjoyed the evening sunset and in the morning took a beautiful morning run down the coastal trail and onto the beach where I was welcomed to find interesting rock formations and some interesting tidal pools.
We left at noon the next morning and made our way back up the Great Ocean road and to our next stop Lakes Entrance.
People compare this stretch of prime Australian real estate to Highway 1 in California. But they are very different indeed. Having driven from The Great Ocean Road all the way up to Sydney I would say this is definitely the most scenic portion of the entire coastal drive. Simply because it is one of the only “true” coastal drives along the coastline. What I mean by this is that it is one of the only portions of highway where you can see the Ocean from your car window. Also, the stop in Kennet river and our stay at the Big 4 in Apollo Bay made it 100% worth the drive.
We did not make it to the famed 12 Apostles which many consider to be sacrilege. But for us, adding 3-4 more hours of drive time onto the already long road trip wasn’t worth it with the kids in the back seat and our short amount of time. The good thing is that now I have a reason to come back in the future.
Best Kid Friendly Budget Accommodations in Apollo Bay