A road worth travelling

The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia's most scenic drives with an endless amount of sights and activities to be enjoyed along the 243 kilometre stretch.

The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia's most scenic drives with an endless amount of sights and activities to be enjoyed along the 243 kilometre stretch.

A friend of mine is in a 'long-distance' relationship in Sydney.

She lives in an apartment in Bondi Beach, while her partner lives in the western Sydney suburb of Marrickville. 

It's a distance of 18 kilometres but it takes the pair over an hour to travel to each other’s place - slightly longer in peak hour traffic.

If your proximity is closer to Sydney than Melbourne, you're forgiven for assuming this sort of snail-pace commuting is standard for a big city.

It came as a shock when I realised it takes the same amount of time to travel from the north of Melbourne to Torquay, the glorious doorstep of The Great Ocean Road, just over 100 kilometres south of the city.

The Great Ocean Road spans 243 kilometres along the south-eastern coast of Victoria between the Torquay and Allansford.

It's a drive you could compress into one day, but why would you want to? The Great Ocean Road is best travelled over three days, with overnight stops along the way in places like beach town Lorne, fauna-abundant Cape Otway and charming regional town Warrnambool. 

Fishos Torquay serve the most delectable seafood with a view of the ocean complimentary

Fishos Torquay serve the most delectable seafood with a view of the ocean complimentary

We began with lunch in Torquay, at a place called Fishos that only just squeezed us in. A cool twist on a regular fish-and-chippery located on the esplanade with a view of the ocean, Fishos is a much-loved local favourite.

Melt-in-your-mouth grilled barramundi was served on crunchy hand cut chips with a pea and sage salad on the side, perfect with an ice cold Corona.

The first half of the drive is the part of the heritage-listed road worth dragging out, when the road wraps around the craggy golden cliffs of the south coast of Victoria. 

The sights switch between weathered cliff faces, hidden bay inlets filled with washing rockpools, white sand beaches and rocky platforms with views that leave you a little quieter than before.

We stopped at the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie, which was brimming with every sort of cocoa-laden treat imaginable.

Truffles galore at The Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie

Truffles galore at The Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie

We were greeted by three welcoming mounds laid high with tiny chocolate bites (dairy milk, white and dark) and a sign below each that read ‘complimentary’. The walls were stocked high with lavish chocolate bars, nut clusters, chocolate sauces and even a chocolate therapy beauty range.

A dangerous hot chocolate made from real liquid fountains was the final straw in a sugar-induced stomach ache that we left with, along with bulging pockets.

Stopping at Anglesea for a swim was irresistible when we caught sight of the long stretch of white sand met by a clear flat turquoise sea unruffled by surf. 

After a day of cruising we stayed overnight in Lorne, and found many accommodation options with ocean views starting at $120 a night. The sleepy town also has a stunning outlook spot known as Teddy's Lookout, just a 15 minute trek uphill from the town centre. It's best seen at sunrise, where the winding blue inlet is cast in glowing amber colours.

Teddy's Lookout provides a striking view, particularly at dawn

Teddy's Lookout provides a striking view, particularly at dawn

An hour further south is Cape Otway, only accessible through the koala-laden forest of Cape Otway National Park and home to Australia's most significant lighthouse.

The Cape Otway Lightstation was established in 1848 and is perched on towering sea cliffs 90 metres above where Bass Straight and Southern Ocean collide. It's an ideal whalewatching spot with a rich history, including the lightstation’s use during WWII and a lifetime of tragic shipwrecks hidden beneath the isolated and rugged coastline

The drive from Cape Otway to The 12 Apostles travels along mostly inland roads with rolling Victorian farmland lining either side.

The 12 Apostles are a collection of limestone stacks, though despite the name only eight of the original 12 remain after the ninth collapsed in July 2005.

It’s a visually-striking scene – particularly when imagining that the isolated stacks, some up to 50 metres high and so far removed from the main land mass, were once attached.

Centuries of ocean erosion left the soft limestone as caves within the cliffs, which slowly eroded to arches and then collapsed into what they are today – forlorn land masses surrounded by washing surf. 

Thousands of years of erosion has created the pillars that line the coast

Thousands of years of erosion has created the pillars that line the coast

Warrnambool is located a further hour drive and is a charming Victorian regional town with a surprising amount of delicious dining options.

Breakfast at Graze was as good as any trendy inner city Melbourne haunt, with a house special of homemade baked beans with spinach and shaved smoked cheddar perfectly accompanied by a side of crunchy bacon.

The drive back to Melbourne is usually taken via the quicker, inland route, taking about three hours.

The same amount of time it takes when my friend from Bondi leaves her sunglasses at her partner’s place and doubles back. 

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