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Collecting a hire car in Sydney, we were pretty excited to begin our first ever road trip in Australia!

Bound for the Great Ocean Road, it took us a little while to drive out of the city. We used this time to learn about the story of the Great Ocean Road, because it captures a unique time in the history of Australia. In September 1919, over 3,000 Australian ex-servicemen and others started building. For over 13 years, they connected previously isolated townships along Victoria’s west coast; the result is a breathtaking memorial to those who lost their lives fighting for Australia during World War One.

Once on the world-famous road, we passed Australia’s surf capital Torquay and Bells Beach, and wound our way through orange-cliffed Anglesea, and gum tree-lined roads into Lorne. All the time, we enjoyed views of dense forests to our right and the great expanse of sea to our left. Despite it being a cloudy day, the scenery was stunning and we could imagine how much more impressive it would all be under bright sunshine!

From Kennett River, the road closely hugged the coast for 22km until we reached our stop for a couple of days – a campsite overlooking Apollo Bay. With lush green rolling hills as a backdrop and the most extensive sandy beach we’ve ever seen in front of us, it felt like a dream!

From our pitch, we could hear crashing waves and smell the salty air; in addition, being able to try out the electric barbecues whilst gazing out to sea meant that our trip couldn’t have begun any better!

Waking up to a gorgeous sunny day was a bonus. The colour of the ocean took our breath away, and was far supreme to our imaginations of yesterday! Could we ever get tired of these views?

Running along the beach, swimming in the sea, watching the fishermen and exploring the town kept us busy until we (sadly!) left after only 2 nights (not enough!).

We journeyed on to Cape Otway (Australia’s second most southernly point), its lighthouse and rugged cliffs through a tunnel of tall gum trees.

With luck on our side, we spied a koala in a tree!! Upon closer inspection, we realised it had a cub on its back – so cute! We watched the furry pair graze on eucalyptus leaves and found it hard to tear our eyes away.

Onward, we passed more glorious beaches…

…and reached the Twelve Apostles that jut out in the ocean right off the coast. There aren’t actually 12 of them, but 7; however, it’s a good lesson on erosion, finding out what happened to them (and still, of course, is). Geography lesson 101 (not entirely accurate! We’ve no idea how many geography lessons the children have had since we’ve been away, we’ve lost count!!).

We were inspired by the poems (including haiku and cinquain) about the sea presented here, and have pledged to write our own! 

Stopping for a fish and chip lunch (yes, this exotic cuisine is as popular in Oz as it is in the UK!) in Port Campbell, we watched children learning to surf at the local Surf Lifesaving Club (SLSC).

We have since learnt that these clubs are everywhere, and it’s common for children to attend to not only learn to surf, but also learn about the sea, currents, safety, etc. We’ll be enrolling Lola and Albie for some lessons somewhere along the way, watch this space!

From here, we travelled inland to our next stop for a couple of nights: Camperdown. With no idea what to expect, having booked a homestay through Airbnb because the house looked lovely and the owner sounded friendly, we were absolutely delighted to meet the wonderful Wendy, her daughter, and her brother and his wife. We could not have been made to feel more welcome in Wendy’s gorgeously decorated home, filled with the scent of flowers and candles – totally up Tash’s street! Not only were our bedrooms cosy-ed up with mountains of pillows and the softest duvets (we’re surprised we managed to ever surface from their extravagantly luxurious depths!)…

but Wendy cooked us delicious (and huge) breakfasts plus dinner both nights we were there. So spoilt!

John, Wendy’s brother, drove us around and explained the town’s history; he also drove us up Mount Leura and around the huge volcanic lakes (Lake Bulen Merri and Gnotuk) that sit on the outskirts of the town; when high up, we were gifted stunning views of the magnificent volcanic landscape, including features such as basalt plains, scoria cones and many more lakes.

We really liked Camperdown, in particular its beautiful and incredibly wide avenues that were pretty devoid of cars. It was originally settled by three English brothers (the Manifold brothers) in 1839. It’s incredible how they could just choose an area (100,000 acres!) and claim it as their own in those days. Other settlers followed and the by 1859 Camperdown was well on the way to becoming a town. The pioneering Manifolds were great contributors to its development, providing funds for services such as a hospital, roads, the clock tower (still standing today) and a library. Descendants of the Manifolds still reside around the town today.

On our second day, we visited the charming town of Port Fairy. Settled in 1833 as a whaling and sealing station, it’s made up of wide tree-lined boulevards, bluestone and sandstone buildings, whitewashed cottages, a picturesque harbour, and cute shops. Not surprisingly, it was voted the world’s most liveable community in 2012.

We didn’t need longer than two days in her company to know that Wendy is one special lady, and we unanimously voted to adopt her as our Australian mum and grandma!!

With a campervan to collect back in Melbourne, we set off bright and early on our final day, ready for road trip numero 2!