We were picked up at 7:20 am by Lee of Go West Tours for a full day of touring the Great Ocean Road in a small bus, along with 17 other guests. He made a point of asking everyone’s name as they boarded and introducing them to the rest of the group, a really nice touch. Most of the other folks were from parts of Australia, though there was one young woman from Germany, and a couple from France and China.
Lee told us upon boarding was that the Great Ocean Road was built to emulate our Highway 1 from San Francisco to LA. Seems that the person who engineered it was inspired when he toured the California coastline in the early 20th century. There were lots of “familiar” views as we drove along, many reminiscent of the Big Sur coastline.
The first exciting thing that happened was spotting a group of kangaroos along the road—kinda made me feel badly about that Roo Burger I ate in Melbourne! The next point of interest was a structure decorated with primitive art that turned out to be toilets near Bells Beach, a famous surfing area.
From there we drove through what is the official beginning of the Great Ocean Road. The next,
stop was to a picnic area in Lorne, a little beach village, for Devonshire tea – traditional morning (and afternoon) tea with little pastries, in this case three different kinds of pound cake.
After being refreshed by our morning tea, we continued up the coast and stopped in an area where koalas (if was made clear that they are NOT bears but, rather, marsupials) and wild parrots were usually seen—and indeed we saw both. It was really cool to see not one but two koalas fast asleep in the crook of some eucalyptus trees.
Next we stopped for a short walk through a rainforest. Because it was drizzling, we didn’t linger as long as we might have, but we certainly marveled at this magnificent show of Mother Nature’s plant life.
After a stop for a Thai lunch in a small beach town, we went on to The Twelve Apostles, one of the famous landmarks on the Great Ocean Road. The “Apostles” are rock stacks that were created by erosion of limestone cliffs beginning 10-20 million years ago along what is now the Southern Ocean.
The next view stop was at the Loch Ard Gorge, where the ocean has carved huge channels into the limestone cliffs. This is one of the most magnificent examples of nature’s power I’ve ever seen–very much like our Grand Canyon.
Our final stop on The Great Ocean Road was at a site called “London Bridge.” This is a rock formation that originally was one piece that split apart in the 1990s. There is an amusing story about two tourists being on the rock that were stranded for a number of hours after someone sounded the alarm that “London Bridge is falling down!” There are several conflicting versions of who the stranded couple was and why they were there (use your imagination), but the truth does involve a helicopter rescue after several hours of being stranded.
The drive back home was long, even though we took the motorway, as we had traveled about 150 miles from our 7:30 am pickup in Melbourne to the London Bridge. When we finally got back to our little studio, we were welcomed royally with a magnificent sunset.