Guide to the Great Ocean Road

One of the world’s most iconic road trips, the Great Ocean Road, which hugs Australia’s southwest coastline, is a must do on many bucket lists.

With only a limited amount of annual leave up my sleeve, the promise of a relaxing short trip with panoramic views of incredible beaches, lush rainforests and seaside towns, sounded ideal.

My trip was in July (mid-winter in Australia), the off-season for tourists, and it was better than I had imagined.

I would highly recommend this stunning drive to others, so here’s the stops I took along the way, highlights and top tips.

Shelley Beach, Great Ocean Road.

Day 1: Melbourne – Lorne

Werribee Open Range Zoo

After picking up the rental car in Melbourne, the first stop en route to Lorne was Werribee Open Range Zoo. It was amazing to see the animals in an open range environment and entry to the zoo includes a free safari tour amongst some of the world’s most iconic grassland animals.

Meerkats at Werribee Open Range Zoo.

Bells Beach

Bells Beach is one of Australia’s most famous surfing beaches, stopping in was a must, and I was excited to see what the break was like. Arriving later in the afternoon, it was cold and windy, but that didn’t stop the surfers who were out in numbers. We watched a few sets of waves and it was incredibly soothing, with an impressive cliff-face and picturesque views.

Bells Beach, Great Ocean Road.

Split Point Lighthouse

Have you ever…ever felt like this? Or watched Round the Twist growing up? If so, then you will want to make a stop at the Split Point Lighthouse, located outside of Airey’s Inlet. It’s a beautiful spot to stop in at for those who aren’t familiar with any of the famous lighthouse’s television or movie appearances. Also known as ‘The White Queen’, the tall white building’s bright red cap makes it a bold landmark on the south-west Victorian coast. After seeing the lighthouse and taking a few photos, it was on to Lorne.

Split Point Lighthouse, Great Ocean Road.

Day 2: Lorne

Lorne is a picturesque town and located right on the Great Ocean Road. With great cafes (for some hearty deliciousness try a burger from The Bottle of Milk), unique shops, art gallery and with Otway National Park on its doorstep, it was an ideal first overnight stop. It’s lovely to walk around the town, stroll the beach and along the foreshore to the pier, and then meander to lookouts nearby.

Teddys Lookout

A short drive up the hill behind Lorne is Teddys Lookout. Drive up to the picnic area at the end of George Street and spectacular views of the Great Ocean Road from the lookout.

Teddy’s Lookout, Great Ocean Road.

Erksine Falls

Drive 9km up into the hills and that’s where you’ll find Erksine Falls. There’s a car park above the falls, with the upper lookout an easy five minute walk from the car park and then the lower lookout at the base of the falls is a further 240 steps.

Erksine Falls, Great Ocean Road.

Day 3: Lorne to Port Fairy

Shelley Beach Circuit Walk

The first stop after departing from Lorne was the Shelley Beach Picnic Area in Great Otway National Park, where we went for a walk of the beach circuit. The distance was only 2km and it was a beautiful walk to an isolated beach, with no one else to be seen.

Shelley Beach, Great Ocean Road.

Maits Rest Rainforest Trail

A 30 minute self-guided boardwalk at Maits Rest provides an opportunity to see the Otways rainforest in all its glory with beautiful fern gardens and giant rainforest trees up to 300 years old.

Maits Rest Rainforest Trail, Great Ocean Road.

Cape Otway Lighthouse

We were intrigued to find out more about Australia’s oldest working lighthouse. A 14km detour from the Great Ocean Road, there is an extensive complex surrounding Cape Otway Lighthouse. It’s important to note that it is operated as a private business, so to get close to the lighthouse, entry fees apply ($19.50 for adults). I wanted to note this, as often road trippers try to stick to a budget. The history surrounding the lighthouse is fascination and you could easily spend half a day there if you had time.

Cape Otway Lighthouse precinct, Great Ocean Road.

The Twelve Apostles

And here’s where all the tourists are! After being pleasantly surprised with how quiet the roads were (even for it not being peak season), we arrived at The Twelve Apostles to see this iconic stop swamped with people. It’s worth the crowds though, with the massive limestone structures towering above the ocean. Having arrived before dusk, seeing the light soften across the eroded cliffs was awe-inspiring. It’s worth walking the boardwalk around the cliff tops, viewing the Apostles from the various viewing platforms, taking your time to soak it in, and snapping plenty of photos.

The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road.

Day 4: Port Fairy and onwards!

Our last stop on the Great Ocean Road, before leaving for the Grampians, was Port Fairy; a small, charming fishing village. Griffiths Island with its winding pathways and the spectacular lighthouse at the eastern tip, is a great place to explore. A short walk along the causeway from Martin’s Point gets you onto the island that has a secluded beach.

Griffiths Island, Port Fairy.

Accommodation

With a beachfront location and numerous facilities, the Mantra Lorne was a perfect spot to stay in Lorne, especially as we were looking for a relaxing experience. The booking was made through Luxury Escapes, a website that provides limited time offers at ‘insider’ prices. The Luxury Escapes offer included a voucher for the Manta’s restaurant The Larder – it was lovely sitting by the fire on a cold winter night and enjoying their signature Lorne cocktail.

At Port Fairy and afterwards we left the Great Ocean Road for the Grampians we stayed in BIG4 cabins. Extremely convenient and reasonably priced, with superb local tips from all the staff, it was a great choice. With over 180 parks all over Australia, there is no shortage of opportunities to stay with BIG4, so if you are planning at staying at a few, membership to their loyalty club is a good idea; you can save 10% on every holiday.

Cruising along in our Jucy car rental.

Car rental

There are tour companies that do it as day trips and short tours, but if you’ve got the time, and company lined up, driving yourself is the ideal way to see the Great Ocean Road in my opinion. Driving offers the flexibility of where you stop and for how long. We booked a car through Jucy, which has locations near the Great Ocean Road at Melbourne Airport, Melbourne City and Adelaide.

Wallaby on Griffiths Island, Port Fairy.

Four tips to help you on your Great Ocean Road adventure

  1. You need more time than you think. There were so many other places we could have stopped at, even just pull off viewpoints. Also, with the hook turns and only one lane each way, the amount of time it takes between stops in longer for people unfamiliar with the roads.
  2. Bring warm clothes. One common question on the return from the trip, many people asked if it was freezing. Although decidedly cooler than Queensland, with thermals and a jacket, it was doable.
  3. Be on the look-out for wildlife – we saw many wallabies, an array of native birds and more!
  4. I would recommend if you can only drive in one direction, as we did (returning to Melbourne via the Grampians), that you drive from east to west, so you are on the road closest to the ocean and able to pull off easier at the viewpoints.

 

Lorne, Great Ocean Road.

Have you visited the Great Ocean Road? I’d love for you to share in the comments your personal highlights, or what you most want to see!

Until next time,

My Eclectic Muse x

Trip to paradise: 5 tips for travelling to Fiji

Sunset on the Coral Coast, Fiji.

Sunset on the Coral Coast, Fiji.

For over a week I woke up in paradise.

Coconut trees, friendly smiles, crystal clear water and an array of colourful fish right next to the shoreline provided the perfect backdrop for a recent holiday, for which the main aim was relaxation…and utterly peaceful it was!

Located on Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu, The Warwick Fiji on the famed Coral Coast is where I stayed for my vacation.

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The Warwick Fiji.

When the sun came out after rainy conditions for the first few days, the water sparkled.

The lagoons provided incredible snorkelling right of the shore and free use of non-motorised activities including stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, plus pool and ping-pong tables, squash courts and more ensured plenty of fun.

Sitting reading by the adults-only pool certainly was tranquil and the general landscape of the resort was gorgeous.

I noticed that The Warwick was very popular with families during my stay. There were numerous weddings held during my stay as well.

Outside of the resort, it is clear that Vitu Levu is a place of intense beauty, but also a place of striking contrasts.

One of the first things I noticed when leaving the airport was that it was quite mountainous, very lush and green (due to the country’s high annual rainfall).

In 2009 a cyclone caused significant damage to buildings and washed away bridges (our driver pointed out an unfixed bridge). Poverty remains a significant issue (thus understandable why I found myself getting stopped by locals so often who were trying to sell something or drive you in their taxi) in Fiji and many people live in informal squatter settlements surrounding main towns.

The Fijian people I met were all incredibly welcoming, however you do notice that there are divisions between the native Fijians and the Fijian born people of Indian descent.

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Sigatoka, Fiji.

Staying at The Warwick Fiji

Pros:

  • Nice lagoon with amazing snorkelling and a clear bottom boat ride available off the resort’s beach
  • Good selection of kayaks, quality flippers and wide range of free land activities
  • Huge pools including an adults-only pool
  • Buffet breakfast had plenty of options
  • Friendly staff

Cons:

  • Located 90 minutes from Nadi International Airport, some people may revel in the isolation, while others may prefer to stay in Denarau or similar and have the option to access restaurants at other hotels near where they are staying.
  • The buffet was extremely overpriced. Also, there are a few charges you don’t realise until too late, such as water being placed on the table without any explanation that if you open it you need to pay $10 for it.

The funny thing about travelling somewhere is that you find out other people you know have travelled there too.

I enjoyed hearing different perspectives about holidaying in Fiji before and after my trip and thought I’d collate a few general tips for people who are looking at travelling there.

5 Fiji Travel Tips

Look for a special and inclusions

Usually you can find deals if you are staying at the same resort for over 4-6 nights. Also, look into the inclusions. For myself, having the buffet breakfast included was fantastic, while other people I have talked to had passes that included three meals a day or drink packages, etc.

Keep in mind the weather

Maintaining a balmy climate year-round, make sure you pack plenty of sunscreen. You can expect dry weather from late March to early December, while rainy season runs from December to April where heavy, yet brief downpours are common. However, there can still be showers in the dry season.

Take a day trip – Kula Eco Park is worth  a visit

There are plenty of sights to see on the different islands. Wandering through Kula Eco Park was one of the highlights of my trip and definitely somewhere I would recommend others to visit if they are staying on Vitu Levu. Positioned along the walkway and merging into the forest backdrop are large purpose-built habitats that form the park displays. Many of the enclosure are walk-though, with no barriers between you and them. You get to enjoy seeing birds, reptiles, bats, sea turtles, tropical fish and more.

Take the local bus

Buses are efficient and inexpensive in Fiji, so pick up a copy of the timetable.

BYO

Buying alcohol at duty-free and a few snacks can keep you going if you don’t want to eat out all the time, especially if where you are staying isn’t close to other towns. I went into Sigatoka for a day trip and bought some simple foodstuffs from a supermarket. Also, bringing your own beauty items, sunscreen etc. is recommended.

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Until next time,

My Eclectic Muse x

 

All images copyright My Eclectic Muse 2015.