Australia: An Epic Road-trip, Part 4
Part 4: The Great Ocean Road
In as much as I enjoyed the beach, our walks and short hikes, and the landscape in the Mornington Peninsula, I couldn't have been more excited to finally get to the next part of our road-trip: Driving the Great Ocean Road. I have not heard of the Mornington Peninsula before this road-trip, but I heard so many great things about driving the Great Ocean Road from fellow bloggers and travelers that I added it on to my bucket list. The Great Ocean Road Drive is one of the most scenic drives in the world. It features the Port Campbell National Park, the home of the Twelve Apostles, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Australia if not the world.
The drive from Mornington Peninsula to our accommodation in Port Campbell National Park could have taken us four hours if we had followed the horseshoe-shape route on the map. But we did not drive directly to Port Campbell or stop in Melbourne. Instead, we took a little excursion to Dandenong, a suburb in Melbourne, to see the Dandenong Ranges and eat at the famous Dandenong Market for lunch. Before you say, "wait what, not stopping in Melbourne, the food capital of Australia for lunch?" Well, let me tell you about our plan. Lenny proved to be a great travel planner. She planned that we finished exploring the National Parks in the mainland, stay in Melbourne for a few days to explore the food and the art scene before resuming our road-trip and exploring more National Parks in Tasmania.
It was overcast when we left the Mornington Peninsula and it rained on an off while we were on the road to Dandenong. Ron, the foodie, relied on his Garmin in front of him for direction while Lenni, the nature lover, relied on google map. Oddly enough, both of them used their device for direction at the same time. About an hour later, we found ourselves deep in the forested town. It was foggy, we could hardly see where we were going, and lost our phone connection at one point. Our little excursion to Dandenong did not turn out as they wanted. So, we continued to drive around looking for the visitor center. Ron pulled over to reset his Garmin when suddenly, hail rained down on us. It was followed by heavy rain that quickly subsided. Lenny and I stayed in the car while Ron went to look for the visitor center on foot. As it turned out, the information center was a local who asked him, "What do you need to know? This is the town center. If you're looking for place to eat, you'll find restaurants along this road." We saw a couple of restaurants, but they were closed. We did not want Ron to get h-angry so we stopped at McDonalds or Mackers (as it's called in Australia). I was just going to have coffee, but I messed up the order and ended up with an extra hamburger. Lenny did not want to eat something. After Mackers, the Garmin started working again so we stopped at the famous Dandenong Market. I didn't know what's the fuzz about it until I read from the billboard "Fresh and Vibrant since 1866". There was a variety of produce, exotic fruits, fish and nuts stalls and a small food court that offered a variety of ethnic foods. But I did not order anything as I was still full from eating the McD hamburger. I bought some fruits for the road.
The weather improved as we continue the drive on the Princess Highway to Colac where we connected to the Great Ocean Road. The scenery was mostly towering eucalyptus trees on the side of the road until we reached the most famous part of the drive, Port Campbell National Park. There were no hotels on the stretch of the ocean road. We were lucky for our accommodation, a country retreat motel, was less than a kilometer away from the Ocean Road Visitor Center and the entrance to the Twelve Apostles.
We drove through an unpaved road to get to our motel and saw a couple of kangaroos on the side of the road. We were greeted by a very friendly receptionist (a dog) who was so eager to play with me even before we got our keys to our room. Our accommodation really lived up to its name "country retreat". It had a welcoming surrounding with flower plants in front of each cabin and huge trees visited by colorful birds. And later that day, I was able to capture the sunset from my room.
After settling into our motel room, we decided to drive around. The unpaved road merged right on to the Great Ocean Road. We crossed the road and parked the car at the lookout and descended the Gibson Steps to the beach. Our first glimpse of the Twelve Apostles was amazing. I was able to record a 360 degree-view of the spectacular setting (click the video from the photo and video gallery).
We were all so excited about driving the Great Ocean Road that we forgot to get takeout food from the closest town. So, we ended having the ever-reliable instant noodles for dinner. The following morning, we went to the visitor center thinking that we could get something to eat from there. However, it was closed. So, we proceeded to go and see the Twelve Apostles. It seemed that we were the only visitors admiring and taking lots of pictures of the stunning rock formations. But as we returned to the visitor center, we saw droves of visitors going through the tunnel to see one of the most spectacular sights in Port Campbell National Park.
|The Twelve Apostles|
We continued the drive on the Great Ocean Road, stopping at lookouts to see more rock formations before reaching the town of Port Campbell where we stopped for lunch.
|Loch Arc Gorge|
After lunch, we continued the drive and saw more fascinating rock formations: the London Bridge, the Grotto, Bay of Martyrs and the Bay of Islands
|London Bridge has fallen down|
|The Bay of Martyrs|
|The Bay of Islands|
It was fascinating to see the limestone rock formations that were formed between 10 and 25 million years ago when the whole area was under the sea, proving that nature is the best architect.
|A rose-breasted cockatoo|
- Photos by the author and L. Odena
- The names of my travel companions have been changed in this article to protect their privacy
- I have no material connection to the products, brand names and tourist sites mentioned in this blog post.