Cow pasture. Sheep pasture. More cows. More sheep. It was an interesting start to our over 560 mile road trip from the Barossa Valley to Melbourne, indeed. But it wasn’t before long when we started to see the Australian flare of Kangaroos and some Joey’s hopping, giving way to luscious shades of green, and crystal embers of blue coastline, when we finally realized, this is the Great Ocean Road. And great it was.
See, most people start in Melbourne and drive until Port Ferry before making a U-turn and heading back to the city of ‘Melbs.’ Our route, while a bit less traveled, took us through some of the most majestic and pristine quaint’s, what the locals refer to as old-fashioned, small towns, with equally stunning coastlines. Our first stop took us to Robe, which had we planned more than three days and two nights, we would have spent one of our nights there. There, we casually strolled down the city center flanked by charming boutiques and cool eateries and watering holes. We snapped a few pictures, hit the information center for some essential maps, which Leah can swiftly and precisely untangle like a human Ovaltine secret decoder ring, and off we went for our next stop, which we had yet to figure out.
One other thing to point out is we had zero accommodations booked, since we figured there would be more options than we knew what to do with. Wrong. It just so happened that we timed it perfectly to coincide with Australia’s second biggest holiday, Easter (Christmas takes the first spot), where they help themselves to a 4-day weekend (Easter Monday, really??) and two weeks if you’re a student. And of course they too travel along the Great Ocean Road. If the movie The Perfect Storm had a sequel it would actually be a documentary of our decision on how to time this road trip. But hey, that’s part of the fun; and fun is what we had when we rolled into the tiny town of Nelson after a quick eight hours of driving. After getting turned away from lodge after lodge either due to the fact they were insultingly expensive or wouldn’t be working the following day due to Easter Eve (no joke), we were literally strategizing how we would sleep in our car. Not this time, however, as the most happening pub/liquor store in town, which was the only pub/liquor store in town, had rooms in back! $65 AUD gets you your own room with a quasi-waterbed and a shared bathroom. It couldn’t have been a more perfect ending to our day and the people who ran the bar and restaurant couldn’t have been more friendly and welcoming. Truly a fantastic experience, especially when you think about how we ended up there. We give Leah credit for her sixth sense to even ask them if they had rooms.
Waking up bright and early for day two, we started to see the GRO come to life even more with stop offs for the Bay of Isles and 12 Apostles. We enjoyed some of the most scenic beauty of our trip with jagged rocks jetting out and rising up from the ocean. So ridiculously beautiful. As we moved east towards Melbourne, we planned to stop in Port Ferry and Apollo Bay. Port Ferry was amazingly quaint. This place probably has more forgotten charm and character than most places will ever know. It literally had us saying “wow… this place is unreal”. After all, it is appropriately named “The World’s Most Livable Town.” This is another place we would have made a stopover at; and if any of you do this drive, you must make time for this town. So far everything was going according to the unplanned and Apollo Bay was to be a lunch spot before rolling into one of the other cities we had pegged as stopovers for the night in Anglesea, Lorne and Torquay (pronounced Tor-Key).
Why those places you ask? Well for one, Torquay had to be a stop on the third day before we headed to Melbourne so Skyler could watch the Rip Curl Pro at the famous Bells Beach. See, we told you we timed everything up perfectly, right? And while Skyler’s limited knowledge of surfing is only rivaled by his lack of surfing ability, we just had to make this a stop along our journey. The other towns were described too awesomely in our guide books to miss out on. Plus, we had finally hit some of the best the GRO had to offer, which was beyond cool with its long stretches of glittering beach. But we hit a bit of a hiccup in Apollo Bay as the whole hotel room thing was an issue. We were faced with a potential evening in one Hyundai coupe or driving pretty much all the way to Melbourne where we had to end up anyway. Things were not working out. Before giving up entirely, we thought we’d stop at another pub and hope they had rooms. And when we asked about accommodations, Simon, whose ear Skyler would end up chatting off, simply stated that they’re a pub, not a motel, but there was one across the street we could check out. Oops. Anyway, we walked across the way and grabbed one of the last two rooms they had available. Jackpot! We then went back to the pub for some much needed grub.
On the third morning, things were going swimmingly. The clouds lifted and gave way to immaculate sunshine. We drove through a Sherwood Forest-like patch of road with trees leaning over each side as if they were knighting us in the form of a tube and spitting us out right to Bells Beach for the Rip Curl Pro... that was cancelled that day. Seriously guys? Oh well, we still spent the $2 to park and walk down to the beach to see the locals show off their skills. Pretty bitchin’ to see perfect sets of waves pumping into a small cove of beach. Plus, the city of Torquay was incredibly rad as well. Home to the founders of Quiksilver and Rip Curl, it reminded Skyler of what North County (San Diego) must have been like in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
As we drew closer to our destination of Melbourne, we were smiling from ear-to-ear deeply feeling how cool our little road trip was, the unbeknownst adventure and awesome people we met along the way. We could have spent a week doing the GRO, as it seemed that every 50 miles there was a turn off to indulge in one memorable activity after another, but it just gives us, and hopefully some of you, a reason to get out there and see it again or for the very first time.
On to Melbourne. Check back soon for more…