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Ocean Road
03.07.13

There’s more to the Great Ocean Road (GOR) than just the drive. Good onya (good for you) if you do some advance planning. Read these tips to find out when to go, what to pack and where to find koalas, gas and a good microbrew.

GOR Logistics

Although you can take day tours from Melbourne to see the Great Ocean Road, spending at least one night at a mid-point like Lorne or Apollo Bay gives you time to stop and not just drive. With 21 state and regional parks, coastal parks, game reserves and marine sanctuaries to view on the 151-mile stretch of road (not to mention stellar walks, wine tastings and quaint beach towns), you need at least three days to enjoy it all. Book accommodations in advance, especially during high season (December to March; January is peak).

GOR Amenities

Basic necessities are available along the Great Ocean Road, but because many of the small towns are separated by long driving distances, it pays to plan ahead. During the off-season (May 1 to October 31), some shops and restaurants in smaller enclaves like Lorne are closed. On the flip side, hotels and B&Bs provide off-season deals during that time. If you’re driving, fill up on gas and snacks when you’re in town since stations and stores between towns are scarce. Some stations also don’t take credit cards, so carry cash just in case.

GOR Resources

The state of Victoria provides some excellent resources for trip planning:

  • Visit Victoria: Lists all the sights, events and accommodations, from farm stays to retreats and resorts around the state of Victoria; also lists deals and locations of visitor information centers
  • Great Ocean Road: Provides information for GOR attractions and events
  • Parks Victoria: Gives comprehensive information about the GOR’s national and state parks searchable by both name and location

GOR Gear

To enjoy your road adventure to the fullest, be sure to take along these essentials:

  • Flashlight: Handy for camping and finding room numbers, keyholes or glowworms by night, our PocketFlex LED Booklight doubles as a reading aid
  • Rain Poncho: Pack a lightweight model—like our Kiva 100% Waterproof Convertible Poncho —for sudden showers
  • Walking Pole: Our Adjustable Folding Cane is simple to operate and easy to pack
  • Walking Shoes: Appropriate walking shoes are a must for slopes, steps, sand and roots; waterproof shoes are best since some walking trails may get muddy
  • Fleece Jacket, Hat & Windbreaker: Be prepared for coastal fog and wind by dressing warmly. You’ll find a large selection of jackets, hats, gloves and scarves at TravelSmith.

GOR Wildlife

Sea eagles, owls, whales, dolphins, kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, echidna and the elusive platypus all make their home along the Great Ocean Road. You can see many of them on the Great Ocean Walk. Here, we’ve listed specific spots to see your favorites up close:

  • Australian fur seals: Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary in Apollo Bay; Lady Julia Percy Island offshore of Port Fairy
  • Blue whales: Cape Nelson & the Cape Bridgewater Blowholes near Portland (December to May)
  • Emus, echidnas, waterbirds, koalas & kangaroos: Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve (between Warrnambool and Port Fairy)
  • Fairy penguins: Beaches around Peterborough
  • Glow worms: Melba Gully
  • Kangaroos: Anglesea Golf Club & grassy hillsides
  • Koalas: Grey River Road in Kennett River, Wye River & the road to the Great Otway Lighthouse
  • Platypus: Lake Elizabeth in Great Otway National Park
  • Southern Right Whales: Logan’s Beach (mid-June to early October)

Weather

The Great Southern Ocean brings cool conditions to the Victorian coast. Although fog, icy gale-force winds and rain can show up at any time, the Great Ocean Road generally enjoys the following seasons:

  • Spring (September to November): Fluctuating cool to warm weather; splendid wildflower viewing; average temperatures range from 46°F to 70°F (8°C to 21°C)
  • Summer (December to February): Warm to hot weather for the best swimming conditions; average temperatures range from 53°F to 79°F (12°C to 26°C)
  • Fall (March to May): Long sunny days with cool air; good for trail hiking and sightseeing; average temperatures range from 48°F to 75°F (9°C to 24°C)
  • Winter (June to August): Cold, windy and wild weather with days of brilliant sunshine bring big surf as well as blooming pink heath, Victoria’s state flower; average temperatures range from 42°F to 57°F (6°C to 14°C)

Diving

Although a car offers the most flexibility to explore the Great Ocean Road, drivers should be aware that the road is very curvy and travels along sheer cliffs (the westbound lane is closest to the coast). In addition, traffic may be slow as unfamiliar drivers negotiate turns and ogle the spectacular scenery on the one-lane highway. If you’d rather not drive, consider a bus tour (day trip or multiple-day journey). Escape Discovery Adventures concentrates solely on the Great Ocean Road. And, of course, there’s always walking. See our Inside Track on the Great Ocean Walk.

Wine, Food & Fresh Finds

The Great Ocean Road has great options for your taste buds. Try fresh seafood in any of the coastal towns, and be sure to visit the fishing co-ops in Lorne and Apollo Bay. You can also try local delicacies like cheese, chocolate, beer and berries. Food and wine touring routes, which include maps and information, make it easy to locate the best of the best. Here’s a list of local sources to get you started:

Milk Bars

In Australia, a “milk bar” is a convenience store. Popularized in the 1930s, milk bars were places where young people went to buy food and nonalcoholic drinks, and just hang out. Videogames, tables and chairs later replaced pinball machines and jukeboxes. Fast-food chains and malls later replaced milk bars as social venues, but these convenience stores still exist in the suburbs as a traditional place to pick up sweets, ice cream, soft drinks, newspapers, bread and—of course—milk.

Liquid Gold

Popular and potent, Australian beer must be tasted on a journey Down Under. The GOR region is home to several great microbreweries that make their own ales, porters and stouts with fresh water from the Otway rainforests. If you can’t get to the breweries, buy a beer or two in a retail outlet or try one from a local menu. Here are a few options to get you started:

  • Forrest Brewing Company: Family-owned brewery in a former general store in the Otway hinterlands; beer on tap and casual dining with locally sourced foods; 30 minutes from Lorne or Apollo Bay.
  • Prickly Moses Handcrafted Beer: Craft brewery built within the premises of the Otway Estate winery; 11 beers and Forbidden Fruit apple cider made onsite.
  • Red Duck: Located in a renovated old dairy, which was home to the area’s first pioneers who settled in 1838; brews eight regular ales and a host of limited release ales—all without chemicals, additives, sugar or filtering.

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