Driving by the ocean

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The Great Ocean Road offers a sample of Australia’s diversity bundled together in one glorious corner. Lee Grewal takes to it on a weekend drive

Much has been written about Victoria’s vast stretch of magnificent coastline and the many exciting things to do and see along the way. But what many visitors to this southeastern Australian state do not know is how much more there is to discover in its countryside. Still called the Great Ocean Road, it could very well be one of the most enchanting countryside drives you can set off on.

Torquay

Taking the M1 and Princess/A1 highway out of Melbourne to join the coastal drive, you’ll reach the first of many picturesque towns along the Great Ocean Road. Torquay is the official start point of the seaside drive and famous for its surfing beaches. It is the birthplace of Australia’s iconic Rip Curl and Quiksilver surf lines, two of the largest and most prestigiouss surfing gear manufacturers in the country.

Lorne

But it was Lorne where we first stopped for morning coffee. And though the many pretty hillside cafés offer plenty of choices, we asked the locals where to find the best spots. Dotted with playful mismatched-coloured chairs and tables, the Swing Bridge café faces the white suspension bridge and the beach. Its simple menu of organic juices and fresh burgers is a perfect start to your afternoon drive. If you want to stay a while longer, there are many beautiful walking trails and waterfalls to explore nearby.

Apollo Bay and the Otway Mountains

The next stop before the Twelve Apostles (a collection of magnificent limestone stacks) is Apollo Bay. Located at the foothills of the Otway mountains, this panoramic bay is a popular spot for horse riding along the beach at sunset, and is a short drive away from Australia’s oldest mainland lighthouse. With its striking red, white and blue naval theme, the walks at Otway Lighthouse take you on a spectacular journey along the coast. If you love adventure sports, take a treetop walk with the Otway Fly (a two-km-long and 30-m-high steel treetop canopy walkway) to view the ancient mountain ranges and one of the world’s densest rainforests.

A few less than 12 Apostles

Though there are no longer 12 of them staring out across the secluded bay, the Apostles is the reason why everyone takes the long shoreline drive. No matter how many postcards their image appears on, seeing the 12 Apostles for the first time is breathtaking. They are the remnants of limestone caves arched into the cliff faces that have weathered thousands of years of harsh weather, and have been eroded into ever-changing formations. From the Port Campbell National Park, it’s an easy stroll to the main lookouts, where, with a little time, the changing lights reveal an array of golden hues.

A few more lookouts

A little further along the Great Ocean Road there are plenty of stops from where to see blowholes, offshore limestone stacks and towering cliffs of the Loch Ard Gorge. This place is a treasure trove of natural beauty, coastal wilderness and maritime history. According to local lore, it was the 1878 wrecking of the ship Loch Ard that gave the bay its poetic name. Visit at dusk to watch the short-tailed shearwaters (muttonbirds) fly home.

So, the next time you plan a holiday to Victoria, make sure to include a drive through this spectacular stretch of road dotted with quaint villages, marvellous natural formation and spectacular spots for surfing.

The author is an avid traveller and the views expressed in this article are her own

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