Having arrived into Melbourne the night before my day started off pretty early when I was picked up at 0740 by the tour bus.
I joined at the last pickup so we were quickly heading out of the city across the West Gate Bridge (Australias longest bridge) out past Geelong and onwards towards the Great Ocean Road. Throughout our journey our guide (Bex) kept us all amused with her lively – extremely happy – commentary and stories, not to mention her DJ skills.
Our first stop was around an hour from Melbourne at Bells Beach where we stopped for tea and coffee, toilets and an opportunity to take some photos – in the summer this is probably a great place to go for a swim but in June it was a bit too chilly. After a break here we continued on our way making several stops along the Surf Coast for photos, including at the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch.
We made a stop at Kennett River where we saw Koalas up in the trees and lots of very friendly wild birds which are clearly used to the tourists as they happily flew down and landed on some of us!
For lunch, we stopped at the town of Apollo Bar for around an hour at a place called Thaihouse, which also gave an opportunity to purchase some souvenirs before continuing away from the coast into the Otway Mountain Ranges where we took a 40-minute stroll through the rainforest at Maits Rest.
From here it was just over an hour drive through the mountains before we rejoined the coast road and arrived at Port Campbell National Park and the Twelve Apostles which is why I really wanted to come along the Great Ocean Road. The Twelve Apostles are a series of limestone rock stacks just off the coast where the stormy Southern Ocean has gradually eroded the limestone cliffs of the mainland forming caves which eventually became arches which ultimately collapsed leaving behind some amazing rock stacks up to 45 metres high. Unfortunately, there aren’t actually twelve anymore as the sea has gradually worn some of them away but they do still make an amazing sight, especially around sunrise and sunset when they change colour.
We made a few other stops for photos and to watch the sunset over the ocean before we started the long drive back to Melbourne. On the way back our guide went a more direct route and we stopped off in the town of Colac so she could have a break from driving and we could grab something to eat. From Colac, it was around an hour and a half until we started heading back across the Westgate Bridge into Melbourne.
A lot of the reviews of tours going to the Great Ocean Road complain about the length of time spent on the bus, while this is obviously true as the Twelve Apostles are 280 km from Melbourne I found the stops that we made at the various places nicely broke the journey up and we were given more than enough time at each place to wander around and take photos. Our guide’s commentary and funny anecdotes, as well as the amazing scenery, made the time driving between places fly past as well.
I booked my tour in advance having done some research on TripAdvisor and I strongly recommend if you are heading to Melbourne and plan to do a tour to the Great Ocean Road that you do the same, even off season they tend to be busy and fill up. I used Go West Tours and you can book directly with them online, I was drawn to them because they use small buses carrying a maximum of 20 people and there were a few solo travellers on the bus with me. As a bonus all the Go West buses have wifi and they will pick you up / drop you off at your hotel if it’s in the CBD area (or a nearby hotel if there’s a number of people at different hotels in the same area).