For the final stop of our trip to Australia, New Zealand and Bali, we took a red-eye from Bali and arrived at 7am into Melbourne. Now for one thing, at this point in the trip, Nick and I were both really sick and our first stop upon arrival in Melbourne’s airport was the pharmacy. However after we got some of Australia’s version of DayQuil, kleenex and tylenol, we headed to a little cafe in the airport to grab some breakfast and of course, a flat white as this was our last stop in Australia. After a quick stop there, we walked out of the airport to the rental car center and picked up our rental car, a cut little Fiat.
When we knew Melbourne was going to be our last stop of the trip, I immediately thought of the Great Ocean Road as I’d seen so many photos of it on Pinterest when I was doing research for Australia. And while I’m sure the city of Melbourne is lovely, with only one day there, we opted to drive the Great Ocean Road instead and take in all the scenery that area has to offer over wandering a city – and I’m so glad we did!
After leaving the airport in our rental car, we headed up the freeway en route to the Great Ocean Road. Our original goal was to get all the way up to the 12 Apostles, but after a mishap in our navigation (we should have driven the freeway up further and started at the 12 Apostles and then made our way back down the way), instead we cut over too soon and by mid-afternoon we were exhausted from the red-eye and not feeling well, so we headed back to Melbourne. But in the time we did spend on the Great Ocean Road, it was full of incredible vistas, kookaburras and even many koala bear sightings!
It ended up being one of our very favorite days of the entire trip and one of those experiences where you think, wow, I’m out in the Australian wilderness, when you can look around and it feels exactly like it should in that country you’re in.
Tips for Driving the Great Ocean Road
-Rent a car with a decent amount of power and maneuverability. Even though we had a small Fiat, it had a good amount of power to get up hills and yet was really flexible on curves which you’ll need to drive this area as there are lots of curves.
-If you want to make it all the way up to the 12 Apostles (the most famous landmark on the Great Ocean Road), take the freeway farther then cut over to the coast. After that head back down toward Princetown and continue down the drive. We did the opposite, cutting over at Lorne, and didn’t have time to make it all the way to the 12 Apostles. So figure out what you want to see and take the freeway farther or shorter depending.
-Make sure to stop at the visitor centers in town. Each little town along the Great Ocean Road has great visitor centers with bathrooms, small snacks and great maps. Plus they will help guide you to what you want to see. We stopped in Lorne and they told us about a really cool vista with amazing views as well as where to see koalas!
-Bring snacks. Many of the small towns have restaurants but we found parking to be hard and we wanted to keep driving to see as much as we could, so stop and buy snacks to munch on while you drive.
-Don’t miss the Koalas at Cape Otway. Make the drive to the Cape Otway Lighthouse and on the roadway back into this area, there are dozens and dozens of koalas in the wild just hanging out in the trees. We spotted several, even one with a baby, and I couldn’t quite handle my excitement!
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