We landed in Melbourne in late October, having booked a last minute flight from Vietnam and declaring that we were ‘finished with South East Asia’… or at least for the time being. Having spent a week or so acclimatizing to the city and confirming that this was where we’d like to stay for a while, we had a few days between the date we needed to leave our airbnb and the day that we were going to move into our new apartment.
‘Let’s book a camper!’ I said. Conor, as always, mulled the idea over before agreeing that it would be good to see some more of the state of Victoria. What we hadn’t realised was it was the weekend of the Melbourne Cup. The Melbourne Cup is essentially a horse race, not unlike the Grand National, the difference however is that the whole state gets a bank holiday! Due to this, many of the camper van hires that we called (last minute of course!) had no camper vans left. However the final company we rang, Wicked Campers, confirmed that they did indeed have one camper left available for the next day so we excitedly booked it. What we didn’t realise was that this is what our camper would look like…
I mean, there were vans with the Beatles and Black Sabbath painted on the side, but no, we got this one. Children everywhere innocently wandering over to see the dinosaurs followed by horrified parents and us walking straight past the van if there were too many people around! There was also a broken mirror and a back door that didn’t close, never mind lock… but despite this, it took us safely along the Great Ocean Road and up to the Grampians.
Our first stop was the beautiful Torquay where we had a blustery walk along a bitterly cold yet beautiful beach. We watched on as surfers challenged the waves and children played in their wetsuits, far braver than either myself or Conor! In my head, I decided that I was going to purchase a wetsuit and learn to surf whilst here in Australia, although three months later and coming towards the end of summer, I’m no closer to this goal…
We were very conscious that camp grounds were going to busy that evening and we’d already gotten off to a late start as we had to buy some supplies and pick up the van so we left earlier than we would have liked in search of our free campground. After a very long drive up an very remote dusty track and the sight of our first kangaroo, we secured the last spot available at the campground. Perfect! We cooked some dinner and had an great nights sleep in our scruffy but cosy camper.
The next day we awoke early and made our way down the Great Ocean Road. The GOR is just breathtaking. It’s one of those drives where you truly feel blessed to be able to see such amazing things. Even at the times when the sun wasn’t shining (a lot on our trip!) it still looks spectacular.
Firstly, we passed through the beautiful beach of Anglesea. On this particular day, the climate probably wasn’t much different from the Anglesey in Wales so we decided to not spend too long hanging around! Instead we drove to the beautiful Aireys Inlet and walked along the rugged coastal path to see Split Point lighthouse. For those of you who remember this, it’s the lighthouse from Around the Twist! On such a fresh, chilly morning it felt more like we were in England or Ireland than in Australia… I wore two jumpers and a coat yet was still cold! The path is beautiful with lots of great views over the ocean and of course, towards the lighthouse.
As we were pushed for time and short of beach weather, we passed through Lorne and drove on to Apollo Bay. Apollo Bay is a quintessential seaside town, scattered with gift shops and fish and chip restaurants. Being from England, I didn’t believe that any of the fish suppers would even compare to back home but I’m not afraid to admit that I was so very wrong. We ate at Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe and ordered a value box. Two fish, two dim sums, two battered fish sticks and an abundance of delicious chips made us two very happy travellers! I’ve more recently found out that the Aussies are pretty good at making fish, but their ‘chippy chips’ are not quite there yet, so this place was a wonderful rarity. My only complaint was the sub parr cup of tea (you have to have a cuppa with fish and chips, right?) but I’ve accepted that nobody is going to make a brew quite like us Brits!
After lunch we took a walk along the beautiful beach at Apollo Bay and wandered through the pop up market stalls on the foreshore. Our next and final stop of the day was Port Campbell where we set up home for the night. We decided we’d visit the 12 Apostles early the next day. We stayed at Princetown Recreation Reserve which is a reasonably priced ($15pppn) campsite with hot showers and cooking facilities. There are loads of spots and it’s a great location. Throughout our trip we alternated staying in paid and free campsites (I’ve just got to have a hot shower at least every other day!).
The next morning we picked up some great take away coffee at Forage on the Foreshore and walked along the beach without a care in the world. I don’t think I have ever felt more relaxed and rejuvenated! Port Campbell is a tiny town with lots of character and the beach is gorgeous and if we had a little more time I could have happily stayed all day. However, our next stop, the infamous 12 apostles were calling us.
The 12 apostles are the most well known part of the Great Ocean Road and because of this, whatever time of day you go to see them expect lots of fools acting like clowns with selfie sticks (us included) and generally getting in peoples way. That said, despite the crowds, they really are a cool sight to see and no trip to the GOR would be complete without a trip here.
However, my favourite part of the journey was a stop between Port Campbell and the 12 apostles. Loch Ard Gorge is one of the most beautiful places I have seen. If, like me, you love cliffs and rugged coastlines you won’t want to miss this. Footpaths take you all along the cliff head where you can view the rugged rock formations and get a great shot of the beach below. You can then walk down on to the sand in the secluded alcove and take a look at some of the spectacular stalactites and stalagmites (and take some photos of course!).
After our stop at Loch Ard Gorge, we continued a little further along the Great Ocean Road to Port Fairy and explored the intricate rock pools before driving inland towards the Grampians National Park where we would explore over the next few days.
The Great Ocean Road is the first place in Australia that we did any exploring and it has set very high standards. The winding roads, fresh sea breezes, rugged coastline and delicious food offerings make it the perfect place to take a short road trip.
Have you visited the Great Ocean Road? Or elsewhere in Victoria? We’d love to make another trip in the near future so we’d love to hear any further suggestions!