If you are visiting Australia and plan to stay in Melbourne for a few days, a must do is a road trip on the Great Ocean Road. It is by far one of the most scenic set of roads one will get a chance to drive on and if you like driving, this 300km long road edging the Pacific Ocean is the Holy Grail. Many travellers plan to go on this road trip, but then decide against it thinking about the treacherous road and hassle of driving in foreign conditions and then many think that they can drive in Australia without a local driver’s license and think that renting a car is very expensive and difficult. All are wrong assumptions and hopefully I can guide you to one of the best road trips of your lifetime.
The first thing you need to decide when planning a road trip is the duration of the trip. I have found during my trip is 2 days is the best allocation of time for the Great Ocean Road which a night stopover in one of the towns on the road. 2 days gives you the perfect opportunity to enjoy the full experience without facing any kind of rush. There are many things to see on the road, and even in 2 days it will not be possible to see all of them, but at least you will be able to cover about 80% of what the Great Ocean Road has to offer.
The Great Ocean Road starts from the town of Geelong and the road sign is B100. Geelong is around 1 hour drive from Melbourne City and there are many road signs that will lead you to B100. Once you are on B100, you simply follow the signs and coast along. The road stretches up to a town called Warranambool and on the way there will be towns like Torquay, Lorne, Apollo Bay, Port Campbell, Peterborough etc. The main attractions of the Great Ocean Road are the 12 Apostles, which are basically rock formations on the sea floor which is a remarkable natural sight to behold. 12 Apostles is between the towns of Port Campbell and Peterborough.
I will share my experience here and try to cover all the details of the trip so that you can get an idea about this trip and plan yours accordingly. I also had a lot of reservations and doubts whether I can do this trip on my own without any locals and it turned out great. My major goal in Melbourne was the Great Ocean Road and so I landed in Avalon Airport, rather the main Tullamarine International Airport. Flights to and from Avalon airport are rare and there are also very few car rental options there as the airport is no bigger than our Jessore Airport in Bangladesh. But the major advantage was that Avalon is closer to Geelong and I can avoid the hassle of driving in Melbourne. If anybody is staying in Melbourne, they can rent cars from the airport or any outlets from the cities. Major car rentals include Hertz, Avis, Europcar, Thrifty, Budget etc. All of them have offices in the airports and also in the city. You will need a Driver’s License and an active credit card to rent a car, it’s that easy! The new driver’s license that BRTA is currently distributing is written in English and thus accepted by all car rentals in Australia. I picked a brand new Hyundai 4WD Santa Fe with GPS navigation and it cost me around $200 US for 2 days. My pick up and drop off location was different and so the cost was a little high. Fuel was my responsibility, I took a full tank and also had to return with a full tank. Once you sign the documents, they will give you the car key and car number and you pick it up from the parking lot and are good to go.
Driving in Australia is easier than in US or Canada as roads in Australia are similar to Bangladesh, they drive on the left hand side of the road and all cards are right hand drive. You just need to go through a basic driving instructions guide in YouTube and that should be good enough to get going. Once I got in my car I gave a quick glance on the controls and set my GPS to Torquay and was good to go.
My first destination was near the town of Angelsea, Split Point Lighthouse. Its 150 year old lighthouse with mesmerizing view from the bottom. They charge around AUD 30 to go up but I decided not to. The view from below was too good already.
From there I went back on the road drove for around 2 hours across some of the best landscapes in the world. The beauty of sea on my left and mountains on my right was a sight to behold. After every 10 minutes or so there are places where you can stop, get down from the car enjoy the scenic lookouts. The drive itself is also challenging, as it’s a 2 lane road similar to Bangladesh and it’s pretty busy especially on the weekends. And unlike Bangladesh, overtaking by going to the other lane is not well received here, you may have to drive behind a slower vehicles for miles before he gives you space to overtake in designated zones. You don’t have to maintain speed limit to the point, but they are a good pointers and you shouldn’t take too many risk on twisty hairpin bends and zig zag roads.
I crossed, Lorne and drove to Apollo Bay where there are many restaurants on the side of the road. I had lunch at an Italian place and also ate a beef pie from a bakery store. You will not find halal food here, so if you want to have halal food, you will have to live on snacks and vegetable sandwiches.
Most travel blogs suggested to stay the night in Apollo Bay as there are many options of hotels and restaurants here but I decided to stay in port Campbell which is about 10 minutes from 12 Apostles. It was a very good decision as I was able to enjoy the beautiful sunset at 12 Apostles and drive only about 10-15 minutes in the dark to reach my hotel. Having dinner afterwards could be an issue, as there are only 2-3 restaurants and they close after sunset. Also you should book hotel there beforehand as there are only a handful of available rooms.
The 12 Apostles are actually spread across the coastline and I found 4 great spots to enjoy them:
1. Gibson Steps (2 kms before 12 Apostles)
2. 12 Apostles Observation Point
3. Loch Ard and Gorge
4. London Bridge
I visited London Bridge the next day and then went to Peterborough to look around before starting back towards Melbourne. I am very fond of driving and so for me the Great Ocean Road Drive was a very immense experience. I loved every second of it and so I suggest everyone to go on this trip if they have the opportunity to do so.
Some Important Guidelines:
1. Summer is the best time to visit (Nov-Feb) but beware of Australian flies. They are a menace outdoor, and you will be constantly disturbed by them. No matter what you do they will be all over you and it’s something you just have to put up with.
2. The Entire B100 is 2 lane road and so take extreme caution when driving and avoid overtaking. If you are driving slowly, there are places where you can slow down and let the cars behind pass. Watch out for wildlife on the road!
3. When renting cars, check the car properly first for dents and damages and find out how to open the fuel tank lid.