Discovering the Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road of Australia is more than a stretch of highway. It is the world’s largest war memorial, dedicated to the many casualties of World War I. It is also one of the world’s most beautiful and scenic routes which winds 243 kilometers (151 miles) from Torquay to Warrnambool in the state of Victoria, Australia.
The Great Ocean Road is just that, a great road that follows the coastal path along the ocean on Australia’s south-east side. It takes you along a dramatic and changing landscape that is nothing short of breathtaking and inspiring. As you drive along mile after mile you’ll find yourself in an ever-changing environment. Rain forests, beaches, jagged cliffs, wildlife, and quaint villages take you into a new and different world the further you go.
Along one stretch of the Great Ocean Road is a section called Shipwreck Coast due to its inhospitable shores that claimed many ships in the late 19th century. At least 638 are known to have perished and only 240 have been discovered. It’s been suspected that some shipwrecks were a result of foul play, so there are many fascinating and dark tales these shores could tell.
The wildlife along the Great Ocean Road is as diverse as the landscape. From koalas, emus, and kangaroos to right whales, dolphins, and platypus, as well as innumerable species of birds, the coast is a haven for animals you may never see elsewhere outside of a zoo. Keep your camera ready so you don’t miss a great shot.
Throughout the Ocean Road region you’ll find many national parks worth visiting. There are more than twenty located along the coast and further inland. Point Addis Marine National Park is along a rocky coastline with limestone and sandstone cliffs and where the ocean waves clash fiercely along the rocks. From here you might observe dolphins and seals and other marine life like sponges and a colorful variety of fish. Melba Gully is a rain forest known for its glow worms and dense growth of ferns and mosses. It is also known as the Jewel of the Otways and is said to be one of the wettest places in Victoria.
If you’re the outdoor adventure type, you’ll find many places and activities that will challenge you and take you to parts along the Great Ocean Road you won’t be able to navigate by car. For fun on the ground, go hiking, camping, cycling, or horseback riding. If you’re more of an adrenaline junkie, there’s skydiving, a tour by helicopter or airplane, or four-wheeling on one of many challenging courses. For fun on the water, go fishing, kayaking, canoeing, or surfing.
Don’t forget to stop and wander through the many towns along the Great Ocean Road where you’ll find friendly people and attractions like museums, galleries, and public art displays that highlight the stories and history of this region of Australia. Through many artistic mediums and artifacts you’ll learn about the people and the seaside villages’ rich maritime and farming history.
Construction on this historic road began in 1919 and the last leg was completed in 1932 when the section from Lorne to Apollo Bsy was completed. It was not without a heavy cost, as many workers died on the job. Their sacrifice brought together parts of Victoria that were isolated from one another due to unforgiving terrain and forests. It was a spectacular feat of hard work and perseverance under extreme conditions.
The Great Ocean Road should be experienced at least once in a lifetime, but you’ll soon be telling yourself that once is not enough.