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The Great Ocean Road, Australia

The largest war memorial in the world and dedicated to the casualties of World War I, the modern version of the Great Ocean Road was built by returning soldiers from 1919 to 1932. The road was considered a pipe dream and was built in spite of insuperable odds, treacherous land formations and a few workers’ deaths. Since that time, the Great Ocean Road has become the largest tourist draw in the state of Victoria, and not without excellent cause.

The Great Ocean Road, Australia

The Great Ocean Road begins in Torquay, 22km from Geelong, and winds through lush rain forest with amazing wildlife and spectacular ocean views to Warnambool. Officially the B100 Freeway, many visitors will start in Melbourne, where they are often backpacking, and either rent a vehicle or, more popularly, go with a tour bus, and start the adventure with food included in the price. Alternatively, if one does drive the road, there are many restaurants along the way offering the freshest in seafood and Australian cuisine. Tour bus trips will already allot for stops and picture taking, but if you drive it with friends, leave plenty of time for pulling over and recording the magnificent sights.

The Great Ocean Road, Australia
The ride itself, without stops, takes about four hours from Torquay, where the large archway announcing the Great Ocean Road resides, to Warnambool, but for the sightseer, it is a full day’s escapade, and some tours will even break it into two days, with a campout in between. There are a good number of scenic spots just begging to be photographed, like Bells Beach, Otways Rainforest, Apollo Bay and Port Campbell National Park, which includes 12 Apostles, then onto Loch Arde Gorge and London Bridge. All these sights and more are along the way and usually included in guided bus tours. You will also want to look for the Ocean Road locals: charming koalas, striking Rosalia birds and other species, both shy and bold. The Rosalias are small, colorful parrots that can be hand-fed at the Great Otway National Park.
There are beaches to bathe at as you take the road at a leisurely pace, harbors and bays, rugged landscapes, fabulous rock formations, and abundant flora and fauna to be explored across this magnificent Road way. You can even hire a surfing instructor for lessons, mountain bike and canoe through the Otways, or hear the ghostly tales that still haunt the skeletons of smashed ships on Shipwreck Coast, where the Loch Arde Gorge awaits.
Most of the rock upon which the Great Ocean Road winds is limestone, and after its fierce weathering from the belligerent waves and winds, the cliffs have been carved into impressive shapes and structures, including blowholes, arches, gorges and rock stacks. There are some startling and iconic formations ready for viewing here, and ones you will certainly want to capture on film, digital or otherwise. At Port Campbell National Park, the Gibson Steps, originally hand carved into the sheer rock face of Gibson Beach, are now cement poured for safety. The beach itself is too wild and pounding for swimming, but extremely interesting for exploration. Arguably the most famous sight in all of Victoria, and easily tying Ayers Rock and the Sydney Opera House for most iconic in Australia, is 12 Apostles. Now eroded down to 6, these skinny buttes are courtesy the whittling effect of time and tide, carved out of the headlands to stand lone and huddled against the waves.
Two arches, sea sculptures both, also stand to the west of Port Campbell: the Arch and London Bridge, the latter of which really did fall down in 1990. Once a double-arched formation, the bottom arch broke free and collapsed into the ocean.
If you are in Melbourne or just in Victoria, this is an absolute must-see and a truly spectacular event to experience. An easy day trip that offers so much beauty is rare and certainly to be savored. Make sure you plan a trip down the Great Ocean Road into your itinerary.
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