Sunday, 27 August 2017

Great Ocean Road, Australia | May 2017

When my friend Kylee got engaged at the end of 2015 and told me in NYC that her wedding is planned for May 2017 in Melbourne, Australia, I knew that I wanted to include the Great Ocean Road tour as part of my Melbourne itinerary. It would be my second trip to Melbourne and I missed the opportunity during my first trip simply due to lack of time.

I booked a day tour with a company called Go West Tour, which I discovered from Trip Advisor. It is a very long full day tour but it is worth it given the price point. The tour included pick up from and drop off at hotels located centrally in Melbourne City Centre. The group is small too, which is what I liked about it; mine consisted of nine individuals. There was just enough balanced between meeting new people and having conversations during the tour, but equally, the group was easy to manage and not much time was wasted on waiting on other people.

The all-day Great Ocean Road tour included a stop at Kennett River, which is one of the best places to spot koalas in their natural habitat, a chance to admire the natural beauty of rock formations at the 12 Apostles at Port Campbell Park, and a walk through the rainforest of Great Otway National Park.

The Great Ocean Road stretches over 240 km, it starts at Torquay and finishes at Allansford. The road was built by former soldiers returned from the WW1 and is dedicated to soldiers who died during the war, which is something I learned from the trip. It is a great way to explore the particular stretch of South Australia, and while it is very popular amongst tourist you won't feel suffocated given its length and scenic route.

As you drive along the Great Ocean Road, it is worth stopping by Kennett River, which is a gem of a place to spot koalas in their natural habitat amongst the eucalyptus trees. If you don't already know, koalas sleep a lot so do not expect a lot of movements. It is believed that they sleep between 16-18 hours a day, to conserve energy from their low calories diet of eating eucalyptus leaves only. Some thought they were just 'high' from chomping down those leaves. This is a myth by the way! While koalas are the main attractions at Kennett River, one also gets a chance to feed colourful birds whilst there.

The walk through the rainforest at Great Otway Natural Park was really a nice surprise for me. Firstly because I completely forgot that it was part of the itinerary, but more importantly, how much I enjoyed the tranquility I experienced. While I was certain that our walk only scratched the tip of the iceberg, it was more than enough for me to immerse myself amongst the diversity of plants, ferns, fungi, as well as gigantic trunks of old trees and I was completely mesmerised.

Finally, the climax of the tour for me was without a doubt Port Campbell National Park, where I got to see the highly talked about 12 Apostles (although I only spotted eight! - once an auditor, always an auditor...) I do wonder if there were 12, to begin with? The 12 Apostles is a group of limestone pillars which looked like they have risen out of nowhere from the middle of the ocean.

Overall, the Great Ocean Road one-day trip was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Melbourne this time (the first was obviously Kylee & Ricky's wedding). While I enjoyed the food and coffee culture which Melbourne City had to offer, spending a day outside the City was definitely worth doing. If you are planning a visit to Melbourne, I would recommend that you factor it some time to drive along the Great Ocean Road as part of your itinerary.

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