If you’ve never seen the Great Ocean Road and don’t visit when you’re in Melbourne, then you’re crazy. It is absolutely gorgeous and incredible to witness. I’ve already shared a couple of pictures on my Instagram, and am excited to share more with you now! This stunning 243 km road hugs the south-eastern coastline of Australia, stretching from Torquay to Allansford. It was built between 1919 and 1932 by soldiers who had returned from World War I. It was then dedicated to those Australian soldiers lost in battle, making it the largest war memorial in the world.
I had the opportunity to visit the Great Ocean Road with Go West Tours and had a wonderful time. Though I was their guest, my review and opinions are my own.
I was picked up bright and early directly from where I was staying, the Space Hotel, and after picking up the rest of the guests, we were off toward the Great Ocean Road! Torquay, said to be the surf capital of the world, was the first stop on our adventure. Ripcurl was founded in this little surf-obsessed town in 1969. Since then, it’s only grown more popular with surfers, and it’s easy to see why, the beaches are beautiful.
After a morning tea break of coffee and pastries, we headed off to the start of the GOR. There is a huge archway at the start that commemorates all the workers who built the road and the World War I soldiers killed in battle for which the road is dedicated.
The beach there is pristine and worth walking down to for a quick peek (and a jumping photo shoot for Instagram hehe).
This is the point in the tour where the road starts to hug the coastline and you get those stunning ocean views you’ve been waiting for. The water is the most amazing color of turquoise, it almost reminded me of the Caribbean. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:
The next stop was one of my faves: seeing wild koalas! We pulled off at a random campsite on the road, and sure enough, I found 5 of them up in the trees! I have been in Australia for 10 months and still hadn’t seen one in the wild, so this was a big highlight for me.
There are also many beautifully colored parrots at this stop that literally just come and land on your head and hands to be fed. It was pretty cool. Tip: pick some seeds off the ground and hold them out in your hand, the birds will flock to you!
Confession: even with all the amazing beach photos I got, this pic of the female King Parrot is one of my favorites from the whole trip haha!
After our wildlife encounters, it was back on the winding coastal roads. Around each bend was a new ocean and beach view as beautiful as the last.
At lunchtime, we stopped in Apollo Bay. Go West provides lunch for you. There were several options and they are able to accommodate any allergies or dietary restrictions. I had a Thai chicken wrap that was pretty good.
The beach here looked like a postcard with its golden sand, crystal clear water, and picturesque grass-lined walkways down to the ocean.
After lunch, we ventured inland from the coast to the Great Otway National Park. I was not expecting to find myself in the middle of the dense rainforest on this tour, but I’m so glad it was included! Allow me to nerd out a little, but the plants and trees were SO cool. Nature is pretty neat isn’t it?
The ferns were hundreds of years old, and the giant Beech trees were even older. It’s an easy walk, mostly on a boardwalk that snakes through the ferns and trees. I honestly felt like I was back in the Jurassic period.
Just to give you an idea just how massive some of these trees are:
The next stop on our tour was the iconic 12 Apostles. After an hour drive through towering forests and vast Australian bush landscape, we were back on the coast. I was so excited to finally get to view the 12 apostles in person after seeing so many amazing pictures beforehand. Unfortunately, we got there at just the wrong time, with the sun creating a huge glare on the water, ruining any hope for a really great picture.
They were still incredible to see and even more incredible to learn how they were formed. The ocean gradually eroded the limestone cliffs over time and formed caves, which then became arches, which then collapsed leaving behind the stacks we see today.
Funny enough, there aren’t actually 12 stacks, and there never were. After the collaps of one in 2005, there are now only 8 stacks. It was originally named, Sow and Pigs (Muttonbird Island represented the sow, and the stacks were the piglets), but that name didn’t seem to attract many visitors. So eventually it was renamed to Twelve Apostles, which I tend to think is a wayyy better name.
The next stop on our tour was the Loch Ard Gorge, named after the Irish ship, Loch Ard, which shipwrecked there in 1878. This was probably my favorite spot on the whole tour.
The lighting was just getting into the golden hour, so the amber-colored limestone glowed. The structures were also more interesting here than at the 12 Apostles (in my opinion).
You are able to go down on the beach at this spot, which was really cool. Though I wasn’t quite brave enough to dip my toes into the painfully cold water.
Then as the sun was just starting to sink low, it was on to our final spot of the day.
Gibson Steps, named for the staircase that leads down to the beach, was our final stop where we were fortunate to watch the sunset.
Normally, there is a separate “sunset tour” you can book, but I went during winter so the sun sets much earlier. Getting to see the sun sink behind the cliffs easily made up for the terrible lighting earlier at the 12 Apostles. It was a great end to such an amazing day.
The pink and purples of the clouds with the orange of the sun rays made for a beautiful contrast against the turquoise sea.
And getting to watch it from the beach, was just the icing on the cake.
I would absolutely recommend Go West for the Great Ocean Road tour. Callum, our guide, was wonderful. He was so knowledgeable about the area and the history, and being from Melbourne, clearly passionate about this part of Australia. I sat up in the front seat with him the entire day, we had great conversation and he was able to answer all my questions.
Go West does small group tours, which I prefer. It makes the experience so much more personal, and you really get to know the guide and other people on tour, which is one of the things I love about traveling — meeting new people and hearing their stories. Go West is Melbourne’s most highly awarded tour operator (they offer many other tours in addition to The Great Ocean Road), and after spending the day with them, it’s easy to see why.
I hope you enjoyed this post, keep a lookout for my 48 hours in Melbourne post coming soon! Have you ever been to The Great Ocean Road? What was your favorite part?